The two a.m. bathroom break, tip-toeing across freezing cold hardwood in the hall. Mom and Dad’s door open a crack, yellow light spilling out like a puddle of piss. Everything looks like piss when you have to go so goddamn bad.
Dickie, three weeks shy of nine years-old, stopped and focused on the sounds. A little grunt, a squeak of bedsprings. Could it be? Were they . . . ?
He had to look. He couldn’t not look. He didn’t want to see, but then he couldn’t pass up the chance to see what so many other kids at school had talked about like a regular occurrence.
But his parent’s didn’t still . . . did they?
Years of silent walking to the laundry room at night to dump urine-wet sheets made him stealthier than a ninja. He reached the open door. He moved one eye into the light, keeping his body back and in the shadow.
Dad was on top. His pit-stained t-shirt still on. Boxer shorts still around his waist. Mom was almost entirely blocked by his bulk. The duvet still covered her body to just below her armpits. A sliver of skin showed through the gap between the top sheet and the pillow Dad held over her face. A strand of dark hair drooled out the side like a trickle of . . .
Piss. He was standing in it. Warm liquid slimed down his leg and the gathering pool on the floor caught the glow from the bedroom lamp on Dad’s bedside.
Another grunt. Mom didn’t fight back. There was no more fight in her.
Death. Dickie never knew it could be so quiet.
Dickie thought about retreating back to bed. Ignore it until morning. But he’d left his watermark on the hallway floor.
His stealth training kicked in again. Clean up piss without anyone knowing it, even at two a.m.? Piece of cake.
He worked quickly. The towel from his bath was still damp. It soaked up the puddle silently. He checked the door, glancing at the figure of his father, hunched over and pressing down long after he needed to. Making sure or just enjoying it, Dickie wasn’t sure.
Dickie slid his PJ pants off, stepped out of the soaking wet underpants and balled them up with the towel and the whole wad went into the hamper. If anyone would notice the piss-soaked smell it would have been Mom and, well, she . . .
He shifted the contents of the basket, putting older dirty laundry on top and pulling an old pair of underpants from the bottom of the basket to step into. Tricks of the trade.
One crisis averted – then a thought struck.
Dickie wasn’t aware of hearing Mom fight back at all. The screams would have been muffled, the middle-of-the-night timetable to Dad’s plan assured a surprise attack.
But some sound woke him up. A hazy memory like a dream half-remembered nagged at his thoughts. He might be peacefully pissing his bed in ignorance if Mom hadn’t managed to knock a book off the nightstand or scream loud enough to penetrate the goose-down pillow smothering her.
Was her last breath a cry for help or a warning to Dickie?
Was he next?
Even if Dad had no idea what Dickie had seen, was this phase one of a murder/suicide or even just a double murder? Was Dad planning his escape and Dickie merely the final detail? Kill the little bed-wetter and finally be rid of this miserable family?
Ninja-toed, he moved down the hall toward the stairs. He slipped by the shaft of light as Dad lifted his knee from his straddling position over Mom. Dickie made it downstairs so quietly the cat didn’t even stir.
Into the hall closet, to the top shelf, standing on the basket that held the extra shoes, he opened the small wooden box with the .38 inside. The box he never would have known was there if Dad hadn’t pointed it out and told him never to open it.
Up the steps, down the hall, over the piss-puddle spot. He felt the wood with his toes. Dry, but a touch warmer that the wood around it. A detail no one would notice.
Dickie heard a sound from Mom and Dad’s . . . Dad’s bedroom. Dickie hugged the wall of the hallway and watched through the opening. Dad sat on the edge of the bed holding the pillow in his hands, tearing it down the middle. His large, machine shop worker hands making easy work of the cotton, the feathers spilling out the way Dickie imagined seeing a killing should look, not the quiet stillness of his Mom.
Dickie gripped the gun in his fist and silent-walked back to bed.
A half hour passed. Dickie’s legs were cold, but he didn’t dare get up to replace his long pants. The handle on the gun had grown warm from his hand as he clutched it tightly under his pillow.
A floorboard creaked. A hinge squeaked like a baby mouse. Dickie heard breathing.
He tightened his grip on the gun, slid his finger beside the trigger.
Dad’s heavy feet brushed the carpet with calloused skin. In the silence of the night it was a brass band to Dickie’s ears.
A small trickle of piss moistened Dickie’s underpants. There’s always more somehow.
Dickie slid the gun out from under the pillow so quietly even he couldn’t hear it with his ear pressed into the pillowcase. Dad advanced another step that anyone could hear.
Dickie heard the pillow rustle in his Dad’s hands, the cushion of feathers making a dry leaves racket.
Dad tried his hardest, but he wasn’t the ninja Dickie was.
Dickie tightened his finger on the trigger and made the loudest sound of all.
Eric BeetnerJB Kohl). His award-wining short fiction has been anthologized in Discount Noir, Murder in the Wind, the upcoming Pulp Ink, D*cked and Grimm Tales as well as Crimefactory, A Twist of Noir, Needle magazine, Pulp Pusher, Thuglit and many others. Visit ericbeetner.blogspot.com for more.