I really can't stay…
Baby, it's cold outside.
I've got to go away…
Baby, it's cold outside.
Dean Martin was crooning through the minivan's speakers, and it made it hard to hear what was outside. But Rat Pack Christmas was the only thing that calmed Douglas down. Donald was sitting next to him in his car seat, wailing and screaming for me.
"Help me, daddy," he said. "Help me!" But Donald was the baby, and he was more dramatic. He laughed and cried easily. Nothing seemed to really get to him. I never worried as much about Donald. Douglas, almost four then, was serious and quiet and thoughtful. The whole world seemed too much for him sometimes. Anything could break his heart. He was absolutely silent and wide-eyed in the back, and he understood enough to know he should be scared.
"Are you okay honey?" I asked, looking at him in the mirror between glances at the row of white front yards and black-windowed houses. He nodded and didn't mean it. I went back to my business, searching in the sweep of the headlights as the van turned. I held tight to the wheel, and we skidded on the ice. The trucks hadn't sanded the back roads and subdivisions out here in the county, and the snow had been falling heavily since early that morning. As the van slipped I heard the hiss of glass chips sliding across the back seat. The rear window was completely smashed. Through it, a draft of wind slipped in and made the minivan's cabin numbing in spite of the heater. I had enough time to grab blankets to wrap Donald and Douglas. But I didn't have time to dress. I was in my boxers, a T-shirt, and shoes without socks. I'd gotten gloves, but discarded them. They made it hard to work the Mossberg, thumping around down on the floor of the passenger's side.
I kept one foot touching it to know its location in case I had to get it quickly. But on the passenger's seat was the revolver, and that seemed a quicker reach.
This evening has been…
So very nice.
I'll hold your hands; they're just like ice.
My nose was still bleeding. Every time I snorted I could taste rust. When I coughed or breathed too deeply, a rib let me know it might be cracked. Bruises covered my body. And none of that was as bad as the nub of the hunting arrow sticking out from my shoulder. I'd broken off as much of the shaft as I could. The head had hooks though, and I wouldn't be able to get them without pliers and time. I had neither - not then. So I hunched to keep that part of my back from touching the seat, but now and again I would brush it and the shiver of pain was exquisite. I discovered so many things, things I never suspected, but I never found out quite who the fuck shot me with the arrow.
"I can't help you now, Donald," I said as evenly as I could. "But I bet we can sing a song together…"
The kid shook his head and his face crinkled up. I sang along with the radio to get him interested, even though I could tell it wouldn't work.
I wish I knew how… To break this spell.
"I'll take your hat; your hair looks swell," Dean and I answered.
"No sing!" Donald said, "No, no, no!"
"Donald, please. We'll drive out of here, and then I promise you…"
"Donald, why don't we…"
"Donald!" I shouted, but I never finished. Because then something bumped up against the window right next to his tiny head, and I saw it in the mirror. I didn't see it long, but it had eyes and teeth and it looked right at my son, and then it was gone. Startled by the sound, Donald stopped crying. And then he broke out laughing and laughing like it was one of our games, and I'd just surprised him.
Douglas didn't even change expression. Just stiffened a little, and soon I smelled he'd pissed himself. But I wasn't looking directly at them. I turned around in my seat, straining to see it, but the thing was somewhere beside the vehicle, just out of sight, and moving toward the open window in back. I hit the accelerator and the van jerked forward. I made it to the end of the street and spun around, almost toppling the vehicle. Whatever was out there could outrun us. I knew that. There was only one thing to do. I clicked on the high beams and sped back, aiming for a trash bin and a clump of cardboard boxes with a shadow behind them. I barreled into that mess, taking most of my neighbor's trash halfway down the block. For a second I thought I missed it, but then there was a thump from the grill and right tire, and it felt right. I pounded the brake and fishtailed to a stop. Then I backed up about fifteen feet and hit it again, trying to put my wheel right onto its head.
Silence and stillness. Nothing but the curtains of headlight and street lamp spotted with snow. The cell phone buzzed in the side pocket, jolting me. I picked it up with my left hand. I kept my feet on the brake and my right hand free to reach the gun. I was ready to see something terrible rise up, and I knew I'd have to shoot it without hesitating.
"Is everything okay?" Ellen wanted to know, "I called the landline." She'd been away for awhile, and she worried on nights like this.
"Oh yeah, honey," I said. "I had them in the bath."
"It's really late for that."
"I know, I know. They wanted to watch Airplane, Airplane. And then they wanted to watch it again, and I just, I just couldn't say no…" I chuckled unconvincingly.
"You sound strange."
"Just a lot of… stress. It's nothing."
She murmured sympathetically. It had been a strange day. But it was difficult to be a stay-at-home dad. It was always worth it, and I loved my family, and every day was an adventure of course. Still, some days were harder than others.
"Don't worry," Ellen told me. "You've got all the important stuff." It's something we reminded each other when we ran low on money or our work got hard. Because if your kids were okay, and you were in love with your wife, then you really couldn't worry about anything.
"I know you're right, honey," I told her. "Now, I gotta…"
"You have to put them to bed."
"You too." She hung up. I dropped the phone. Even Donald was quiet then. Whatever was down there in front of us hadn't moved. It was time to kill it if I could. I almost reached for the Mossberg, but changed my mind. The revolver. Because it had silver bullets…
The hidden full moon glowed softly from somewhere behind the clouds. The interior lamp chased it away as I popped open the door. The trash was everywhere - old plastic bags, an empty can of corn, unopened junk mail envelopes splotched with dark liquid. And beneath them, a torn sign:
Rand Paul 2016
I'd been seeing them all around now. Everywhere. It made a crazy kind of sense. The gatherings of college-aged white men in identical sport coats in hotel conference rooms. Arguing with each other. Spreading out over the country to give you pamphlets and tell you this theory to explain everything. And you knew they weren't actually going to put anyone in office. So what were they really up to? What else could it be?
"Daddy's got to do something, kids, and then we'll go have ice cream, okay?" Donald smiled weakly. Douglas nodded a little. I punched the emergency brake and stepped out to finish it off.
Note 1: More to come.
Note 2: THE BLACK BOOK OF CHILDREN'S BIBLE STORIES is about faith and loss, and a haunted house hidden so well you didn't notice you'd been living there your whole life. And it is FREE today. GET IT HERE.
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