Parent Trap

by Justin Hills

“If you left me, I’d kill myself,” my Father says soberly. Briefly, our eyes meet. They were angry, black-brown eyes transformed into soft, vulnerable windows.


“How can you sa—” I stammer, but his broad shoulders turn and his heavy feet tramp towards his refuge, the only place in which he was safe from a world that was always asking him to do things he didn’t want to do, and to be things he didn’t want to be. He left me standing alone in our living room. My fifteen-year-old, acne-riddled face left frozen, my body jello.


How can he say that to me?


I fall onto my couch and choke back tears, how can I leave him now?


I  can’t


I need to


I won’t


After all, I do love him. After all, I have to help him. I’m the only one he will listen to, the only one that’s close enough, the only one that can save him.


“Quit crying, man up,” orders the voice inside my head. The voice sounds a lot like his. I stand and walk to the kitchen, my feet are cinder blocks and my knees buckle with each step—I shed winter layers off my sweaty body along the way. Short, quiet, purposeful steps lead me past the stairs to the basement. I glimpse the stout, dark blue glass being brought to his lips and the can of Miller High Life that follows it. He smirks and begins typing to one of his online friends. Nothing has happened, nothing at all.


Looking at my phone I realize there are no messages, and with a sigh I lock it and put it away—I’m alone. He won. He always wins. I pace the kitchen floor. Round and round I go, the granite island the only constant in an otherwise tumultuous life. Opening the stained, stainless steel fridge I find no food and certainly nothing to drink. What did I expect. As I crouch, still looking into the fridge, I let my backside slide down the side of the island and I sit there staring into its barren insides.


“Close the goddamned fridge!” Dad shouts from the basement. And I slowly close the goddamned fridge, my heart nearing my feet. “And stay the fuck out of my beer!” he follows. He had heard me open the garage door; I go anyway. Counting the beers I realize there are too few for him not to notice one missing. One wouldn’t help me anyhow. I turn and look at the ragged, Nike baseball bag hanging loosely from a crooked hook. The bag resembles a black widow; the spiderwebs and dust do their best job to hide its red and black coloration. It is just as poisonous.


Once, at about 10 years old, when my parents were still married, I came out into the garage looking for my Dad—he was always out there smoking. I opened the door and saw my Dad struggling on the tops of his toes to shove a bottle of Grey Goose (he had more money back then) inside my brand new baseball bag. I closed the door behind me and stood watching him, “What are you doing? I thought you weren’t drinking anymore?” I asked.


“Nothing. You didn’t see anything you hear me? Not. A. Fucking. Word.” he threatened, his fat, yellow finger an inch away from my nose. I hated the smell of that finger.




“No buts! One fucking word out of you and you’re dead.”


It was then that I realized that my father had never stopped drinking; he had just gotten better at hiding it. But, more importantly, I learned where he hid it.


Later on, when I was having a sleepover with my best friend Marc, I decided to show him what I had learned some two odd years ago.


“Will he notice if we drink some?” he asked me.


“No, I do it all the time,” I lied.


“Then you go first.”


“Why, you scared? Like I said, I do it all the time.”


“Okay fine give me it,” he said and took the biggest gulp I had ever seen. His face looked like a prune. “Ueeeuuuckkk” he coughed and spat, “That was disgusting!”


“Was it really that bad?”


“I thought you, ‘do it all the time?’” he mocked.


“Sure I do, watch,” I said as I tried to beat his gulp. I gagged and spat, “See, it isn’t so bad, you’re just a pussy.”


“Fuck you, give me it again,” he said. And with that, we began taking turns choking and gagging, until we decided we wanted chicken nuggets and to jump on my trampoline. That was the night I discovered my crutch.


I continue to look at the ratchet old baseball bag. Nothing is in there, he has his bottle downstairs. I try to ease the bag off the hook, but the whole thing crashes down and the hook is ripped out of the wall. I cough up concrete shavings and wipe the grime from my face, “God damnit,” I mutter. I sit and wait, there is nothing to do but wait. He must not have heard. I see the silver cap of a Skyy bottle poking out the bag and a wave of relief washes over me. Maybe there is a God. After doing my best to repair things to their old state, I grab one of the High Lifes and bring it inside along with my prize.


Safe and in my room I open the bottle, and peel off what my Dad calls, “the fun stopper,” with a pocket knife. For the next few hours I lay in my bed drinking and thinking and crying and feeling incredibly bad for myself.


“You deserve this you know,” the voice said to me. “Everything is your fault, you know it is.”


I sit with my back against the wall at the foot of my bed, my childhood desk at my left. My room is Chicago Bears-themed and an enormous portrait of Walter Payton is on the wall across from me. He looks right at me. I pick up my pocket knife and begin to play with it, rubbing my thumb across the blade. My Dad always told me that to test the sharpness of a knife, rub your thumb across it horizontally, not vertically. The knife is as sharp as I have ever seen a knife be—I sharpen it all the time. I look down at my left arm; its covered in scars. Baby little pussy scars. All horizontal. How does the saying go? Horizontal for attention, vertical for results? All these scars have ever gotten me is ridicule from Dad. It’s a fad, he said. Like baseball cards or afros or cocaine were when he was young. He says I’m weak for hurting myself; I need to be a man. Does a man cut vertically? My neck isn’t strong enough to hold my head, it bobbles all over the place. Everything is blurry and spinning. I see clearly. I want results. With my eyes half closed I reach for the knife and fall onto my bed.


“You can’t, your Dad needs you.”


“Dadddd? iss Thaat you?” I spit out. I look towards my door. Nobody is there. I fall asleep.


. . . . .   


“If you left me, I’d kill myself,” I say to my 15 year old son. I try to look him in the eyes but can’t—shame grips me like a vise.


“How can you sa—” he begins, tears welling in his eyes. My back is turned, I don’t want to hear it. What would your Mom say?




 Don’t think about it.


You never think about it.


There is a lump in my throat as I sit down at my desk, my chest is heavy. Am I finally having a heart attack? I wouldn’t care. The bottle of Skyy behind the monitor sees right through me. It always knows when I’m lying.


He’ll get over it.


With the drink poured and the open beer beside it my chest decompresses, and with a smirk, I take a long lengthy swig. “Everything’s fine,” I say under my breath, and I grin at the blank computer screen. He’ll never leave me now. The world of warcraft start engine looks promising; I dive into my favorite escape. My guild has a big raid tonight, they’ll need their best mage.


“Your son needs you,” the voice nagged. Is that you Mom?




Or maybe God?


Fuck ‘em all. The ice in my glass pops as I refill it.


“Close the goddamned fridge!” I yell. The little shit would leave the thing open all fucking day if I wasn’t here. “And stay the fuck out of my beer!” I add. Little fuckin’ thief.


“Who was the one who started giving him beers, who drinks with him all the time?”


“Oh shut up,” I say to myself, and take another swig. The picture of my mother stares at me. The dried, yellow rose from her funeral sit in front of it. She deserved better than a rose; she deserved better than me.


One of the last memories I have of my mother is the one that haunts me the most. It was before her and my father moved in with my sister. It was before the cancer had completely immobilized her, and my Dad was left without someone to take care of his lazy ass. I had driven up there with my two boys, but they didn’t want to go. For them, the best part of the trip was Mom bitching at Dad to give them money. I was stressed. I’m always stressed. Tania and I (my ex-wife and the boys’ mother) were fighting–we were always fighting. I was running out of money and I was being audited by the goddamned IRS; those assholes are always coming after small businesses.


“Jeffrey, come here,” my Mother called to me as I walked to my truck.


“Yeah, Ma?” I said as I approached her. “You wanting another hug?” I joked, wanting to leave. My buzz had been gone for nearly an hour.


“Jeffrey, you need to do something about that windshield of yours. It’s not safe for the boys or for you to be driving around like that,” she said as she pulled out her checkbook. My dad stared at me from his LazyBoy in the living room. “Here, take this,” she said, handing me a check for five hundred dollars.


“Ma, I can’t.”


“Please, Jeffrey, I’ll never be able to sleep knowing you’re driving around like that.”


“Okay, Okay. I love you momma,” I said, tears in my eyes.


“I love you too, Jeffrey.” She kisses me.


That was 7 years ago. My windshield still isn’t fixed.


This is what I think about every time I look at the dried, yellow rose. It’s what I think about every time her stupid fuckin’ cat hisses at me. If it were up to me, I’d go drop that cat off in the forest, but Justin loves it. He says I owe it to my mother to take care of the goddamned thing.


Man, I’m good. I run my main (character) and 3 alts (other characters) at the same time during my guild’s raid. Nobody else does that. Nobody else can do it. That’s why they all love me. I guess nobody else has this many maxed out characters either, but I’ve put a lot of time into the game—and a lot of money too. I only leave my chair to go out and grab another beer, and maybe to have a smoke in the garage to get some fresh air. Since my wife left, I started smoking inside. Justin doesn’t mind cause he smokes too. Shit, he smokes almost as much as I do—I have to hide my packs if I want to have any left. Huh, I wonder what he’s up to; I don’t think I’ve heard a peep outta him since like five hours ago.


I walk upstairs to go grab my reserve Skyy bottle, and, sure enough, it’s gone. Did I drink it? Nah, no way. That must be why I haven’t heard anything out of him—he’s just like me. With each step the stairs creak, and I grow angrier. I want him to hear me coming. My fist clenches and I try his door knob; it’s locked. “Open the goddamned door you fucking thief,” I shout. “You’ve got three fucking seconds before I bust in there and beat your ass!” No response. Where in the fuck does he get off. Who does he think he is? I stand there for a minute, thinking about what I want to do. Finally, I lower my shoulder and bust the door in.


“Justin you godd…” I start, but he’s asleep. He’s not asleep, he’s passed out drunk, isn’t he? How could a guy as smart as me have such a dumbass son? I walk over to his desk and grab the handle of Skyy. He drank half the bottle—I guess he is my son. For a fifteen year old he sure can drink and snore loudly, too. I find my missing pack of Marlboro Reds next to the bottle and I light one. For a while, I sit there and smoke and look at him. Where did I go wrong? How did he turn into this big of a fuck up? I notice a pocket knife out on the desk and I fold it and put it in my pocket. He’s so dumb he thinks cutting himself is cool—all the kids are doing it these days. I don’t know what’s wrong with his generation. I let out a big sigh and move him onto his side; I can’t have him choking on his puke. I always told him not to sleep on his back when he’s drunk, but he never listens. If only he listened.