“They’re just so nice,” she says, getting into her pyjamas.
  “Yeah,” I respond distantly, looking around my old room, “I guess they are.”
  It’s weird being back here, surrounded by my past, a past I all too often forget I have. There’s a stack of comics in the corner, mostly regular fare, only Marvel, no DC. My abandoned Super Nintendo sits on the desk, alone, still freshly unplugged from the television set I took with me when I moved out, a copy of Contra III sticking out of the top. I must have been masochistic when I was younger. As Emma sits down on the bed I wonder if the couple of skin mags I had hidden under the mattress are still there, but now is not the time to check.

  “I’m not really feeling sleepy just yet,” I say to her, “I think I’m gonna go downstairs for a bit. Shoot the shit with the old man”
  “Okay hun,” she says, wriggling down under my ninja turtles duvet, “can we spoon when you get back?”
  I laugh, “Em, we’re gonna have to spoon when I get back. That bed’s tiny. You’re the first girl to have ever been in it.”
  “Maybe we should christen it then?”
  The offer is tempting, aggravatingly so, but I really didn’t get a chance to talk to my dad today, or Bobby for that matter. It’s such a rare occasion that I want to make the most of it, so I politely decline. She yawns, indifferent, it seems – she was probably a bit too tired for it anyway, whether she knew it or not – and fades quickly into sleep as I shut the door behind me with a soft click. My parent’s room has its door shut down the hall, my mom having crept upstairs a half hour ago and never came back. The wine got to her as quickly as I remember it always did. I head downstairs.

  Bobby and Dad are sitting on the couch, the TV illuminating them and the otherwise dark room in washes of blues and whites. The infomercial channel is on but it’s muted, a colourful background to their conversation. I crash heavily into the armchair adjacent to them and click the footrest up with the push of a button. after fifteen years, it’s still so cool, I think.

  “Speak of the devil,” Bobby says, grinning at me as I work into the grooves of the chair.
  “Oh yeah?” I say.
  My dad passes Bobby a beer from the cooler next to him and Bobby passes it to me and as easy as that we’re back to how things used to be. 
  “Well,” my dad says, “your guest, actually.”
  “She rocks” Bobby adds.
  “That she does, son,” my father adds. They’re both looking expectantly at me.
  “Yeah, she’s great?” I say awkwardly, wondering what appeasement they’re searching for.
  “So?” My dad asks.
  “So what?”
  “Oh puh-leeze,” Bobby chips in, “what’s going on with you two? Is it serious?”
  “Come on guys,” I say, “what does that even mean? We’re having fun together. She’s a nice girl.”
  “Nice?” my dad asks, affronted, as if this was a personal insult.
  “Okay okay, she’s special, what more do you want?”
  Bobby spits beer over his lap as he laughs.
  “Dad, not really an option.” I say.
  “I don’t care if they’re imported!” he assures us seriously, as if we were talking about parts for his car. Bobby laughs even harder.
  “Jesus, dad.” Whatever I was expecting, I wasn’t expecting an interrogation of this magnitude – or ridiculousness, for that matter.
  “What? all the celebrities do it. J-lohan and that girl from friends.”
  “Dad – you’re so far off the mark I can’t even begin to set you straight,” Bobby says, still laughing. 
  “Look,” I say, holding up my hands to stop the conversation before it goes any further, but before I can there’s a definite click that comes from the kitchen. We all hear it and freeze.
  “Wha-“ Bobby starts but dad silences him with a glance instantly. We all sit very still, listening intently, nothing left of the jovial mood that filled the room not ten seconds ago. Sure enough, there’s another click, so soft this time that we would have missed it had we not all been waiting.
  “Son of a bitch” my dad hisses under his breath, “this is the third time this year-” He stands up slowly without explaining and approaches the chest that’s sitting in the empty, closed up fireplace. I recognize it immediately as the one that used to reside in the attic under lock and key. It was the one thing that when Bobby and I were kids we weren’t allowed to touch, so, naturally, we spent most of our childhood finding ways to get into it and being punished accordingly. Inadvertently acting out Genesis.

  Back in the present and Dad lifts the lid slowly and there, amidst medals and photographs and papers, lay a couple of hand guns. As the noises from the back door continue my father silently passes Bobby and I a pistol each. Bobby, who used to go on hunting trips with pop when we were younger, in no way reflects the absolute mortification I’m feeling in my gut at being handed a firearm or the terror in regards to the intruders in the next room slowly unlocking the back door. Indeed, he looks determined and prepared. I suddenly wish I hadn’t been such a pretentious, self righteous douche when I was a teen and just gone and shot some deer with them.

  There’s a hunting rifle above the mantle and my father proceeds to delicately lift it down. He seems to make a couple of quick checks before locking it hard against his shoulder.
  “Think they can come into my home and steal what they have no right to,” Dad is mumbling quietly to himself, “bastards will get more than they bargained for today.” 
  The entire process of arming the family took no more than half a minute but it feels like another lifetime altogether, people with different characters and a plot that’s wholly alien to me. Dad turns off the television set, plunging the room into darkness, and I can barely make him out as he points us over towards the door with the barrel of the rifle – a silent command that even I understand. We all make our way carefully towards the wall. When we’re all up against it he nods at Bobby, who’s on the other side of the door, waiting for the thief to enter. Bobby nods back. I look from his hands to mine and try to imitate the way he’s gripping his gun. We hear the back door finally unlock and feel the quick burst of wind whistle through the house before they shut the door again with the softest of sounds. They are inside. I’m behind my dad and he turns to me, resolute and caring at once, and nods.

  Despite everything, I nod back. What else can I do? 

Here we go, boys and girls Final part out tomorrow.


~ by Joseph Blame on September 25, 2010.

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