THE PRESENT - MARK JOSEPH KIEWLAK
I made my way through the trailer park and found the right one and opened the door and went inside. Christmas lights were hung throughout the park and it was beginning to snow. Inside the trailer it was dark. There was no sound. I found Peter in the bedroom standing at the window holding the slats apart watching it snow. His other arm hung at his side. In it was a gun.
At first he had no reaction to my presence. Then he nodded toward the bed and whispered, “They were passed out drunk when I got home.” I looked over and saw in the shadows two people sprawled in the bed. Clothes were strewn on the floor and some were still atop the sheets. There was the smell of sex in the air.
“This is how I find them every night,” Peter said. “Every goddamn night.”
“Peter, what’s the gun for?” I said. I was whispering, too.
“They shouldn’t be like this,” he said. “Not tonight. Not any night, but especially not tonight.”
I didn’t say anything. More snow fell and Peter didn’t move. The night was almost over.
“What about if we get out of here?” I said. “Take a walk. You and me.”
Peter didn’t say anything. I took a step closer to the bed. I didn’t hear any snoring.
“It isn’t right,” he said. “The way they live. They’re like animals. They fuck like animals.”
The profanity sounded strange even in this environment. The whole world was a church tonight.
“You’re not going to leave,” he said. “Are you?”
“No,” I whispered back.
“I want you to leave.”
He raised the gun and pointed it at me. He was still whispering. “Fuck sorry,” he said.
I didn’t say anything. I didn't move.
“‘Sorry’ is all I’ve ever heard,” he said. “‘Sorry for this. Sorry for that.’ Fuck sorry. People shouldn’t do the things that they’re sorry for.”
I turned away from the bed to face him. “What are you sorry for, Peter?”
He took his hand from the window slats and wiped his nose with the back of it. “I'm sorry I was ever born.”
He made a small disgusted snort. “Why?” he said. “Fucking why. I’ll tell you why. If you’ve got all night.”
That caught him a little off guard. “Well, I don’t,” he said.
“Because I have to pack.”
He gestured to the room around us. He was still pointing the gun but he was starting to forget about it. “Would you stay in a place like this?” he said.
“I might. If someone I loved lived here.”
“I don’t love either one of them,” he said.
There was still no movement or sound from the bed. I smelled the air hard for gunpowder.
“Every night I come home to this,” he said. “That’s a fucked up world I don’t want to live in.”
“I don’t blame you,” I said.
“I don’t blame you for wanting to leave.”
“It wasn’t always like this,” Peter said. “They used to have fun. We all used to have fun. But it didn’t last. My mother got lonely because she was here by herself all day. I don’t blame her for that.”
“What about your father?”
“I never had a father,” he said. “I never knew him.”
I nodded. “If you leave,” I said, “you’ll never be able to come back.”
He was startled by this. “Why not?” he said.
“Because they won’t be here.”
“You’re wrong,” he said. He was barely whispering now. “They’ll always be here. And they’ll always look just like this. This is who they are now. They’re not the people I used to know. They’re animals. Both of them. Fucking animals.”
The gun was pointing at the floor now. The light outside was getting brighter and there was a wind to the storm.
“Did you hurt them, Peter?”
He didn’t answer. He sniffled but he didn’t answer. I waited. “They hurt me,” he said finally.
I strained to hear any breathing from the direction of the bed. “Are they okay?” I said. “Will you let me check on them?”
“Keep your voice down,” Peter said. “It’s a holy night.”
“I know,” I said.
He was sniffling again and wiping his nose more often with his hand. “You don’t know anything,” he said. “She was my mother. She’s not allowed to act like this. Nobody’s mother should ever do the things that she does.”
“Why did you let her do it?” I said.
“You could’ve stopped her,” I said. “Right when it started you could’ve stopped them both.”
Again he was startled. “She was my mother,” he said. “I couldn’t stop her from doing anything.”
“Not even this?”
“Fuck you,” Peter said. “I want you out of here.”
“You’ve got to tell me if they’re okay,” I said. “You’ve got to tell me what happened before I got here.”
“I should’ve never called you.”
“But you did.”
“The woman gave me your number. She said if things went bad you could help.”
“Sometimes I can.”
“Why bother?” Peter said.
“Because in the morning things look different,” I said. “It’s almost morning. You should wait and see.”
He looked over at the bed and showed no emotion. “I’ll be gone by then,” he said.
“Will you let me go to them?” I said. “If you won’t tell me, will you at least let me go to them and see for myself?”
“They’re dead,” Peter said. “There’s nothing for you to look at over there.”
“Dead how?” I said.
“I smothered them,” Peter said. “I found them passed out and I got sick of it. I couldn’t take it anymore. They were always there anyway so I thought they should be there forever. I put the pillows over their heads and pressed down. They were too drunk to fight.”
“Just let me go check,” I said.
Peter raised the gun and pointed it at me. “Keep your voice down,” he said.
“Where did you get the gun?”
“It’s a trailer park,” he said.
I nodded. “You said you were out earlier tonight. Where were you?”
“I have to go now,” Peter said. “Don’t make me hurt you.”
“Okay,” I said. “I won’t stop you.”
“Aren’t you the police?”
“No, I’m not the police. Not anymore.”
“Who are you then?”
“I help people. That’s all.”
“I don’t need anymore help,” Peter said. “I’m leaving.”
“Remember,” I said. “You can’t ever come back.”
“I don’t think I want to.”
“I’m going to pack,” Peter said. “If you’re not leaving I want you to wait outside.”
“I’ll wait right here.”
“I’ll shoot you,” Peter said.
“You can shoot me,” I said. “But I’m not leaving this room.”
“Fine then,” he said. “You stay.” He left the room and I heard him with a gym bag digging in the hall closet. A gym bag would hold just about everything in the trailer that was his.
I stepped over to the bed. There were pillows over the heads of the two bodies. I lifted one. Underneath was a boy, a teenager. He was a little older than Peter and there was a strong resemblance.
“I told you not to go over there,” Peter said.
I turned back and he was pointing the gun right at my face.
“He’s your brother,” I said.
“It’s a trailer park,” Peter said. “It’s where we live.”
“How long was it going on?”
“As long as I can remember,” Peter said. “I told you she was lonely.”
“Where were you earlier tonight?”
“Stop asking me that,” he said.
“Before you came home you were out somewhere.”
“I’ll blow your face off.”
“You were shopping,” I said.
“The hell I was.”
“You were buying presents.”
He started to sniffle again and the gun was shaking in his hand.
“They’re fucking animals,” he said. “You don’t buy presents for animals.”
“But you did.”
“I’m going to leave now,” he said.
I reached out and he let me take the gun from his hand and he fell to his knees sobbing. He tried to keep it quiet and that made the sound all the more painful to hear.
“What, Peter, what?”
He looked up at me and the release was coming. It would all pour out of him in a moment. It was dawn outside and the wind was howling.
“I was going to leave,” Peter said. “I really was. I just came home... to give them their presents.”
BIO: Mark Joseph Kiewlak has been a published author for more than fifteen years. In the past eighteen months, his work has appeared in more than two dozen magazines including Hardboiled, Plots With Guns, Pulp Pusher, Thug Lit, Muzzle Flash, Powder Burn Flash, Clean Sheets, and many others. He was privileged to have served as judge of the 2007 Wild Violet Fiction Contest. He has also written for DC Comics (FLASH 80-PAGE GIANT #2).