My heart was anguished for their sake;
I could not frame a word;
But they described my sunken face
And seemed to read therein, and trace
The news which Pity would not break
Nor Truth leave un-averred.
From “The Cave of the Unborn” by Thomas Hardy
Tim was a pretty patient person. Only a very few things would set him off.
Having to wait in line was a big one.
On his once a month ventures into town, he enjoyed the occasional stop at the local McDonald’s Drive-thru but if there were more than three cars in front of him he would opt to go to the diner instead. Same was true if he encountered traffic along the roads, which seldom if ever happened. He had been known to turn his truck around and go way out of his way just to avoid the five to ten minute wait a small jam might result in.
If he was stuck in a situation where he wouldn’t be able to move, he would get antsy, anxious but most of all mad, and if it was one thing he tried to avoid at all costs was becoming mad so he stayed away from lines as best as he could, choosing to go to places right as they opened or right before they closed. Anything in between would prove too risky.
He once shoved an older lady out of his way after waiting for almost thirty minutes in a checkout line at a grocery store. She had been arguing with the cashier about the price of lemons. Tim had smiled at first, thinking it was cute but after about the first ten minutes he found himself going into his pockets and offering to pay the difference in cost just so she would go away! She had said it wasn’t the money but the principle of the thing as she shook her finger in his face. As they were leaving the store, he had never taken his eyes off of her. She was walking slowly to her car. He thought about hitting her with his bag but decided on a nice firm shove instead. She fell to the ground and he kept walking.
He cried about it that night. He felt bad and never ever went back to that store again.
He looked over at his very sick passenger and placed his hand on Nick’s shoulder. He was slumped off to the side with his head resting on the window of the passenger seat.
“How are you doing?” He asked softly.
Nick grunted something, it was hard to make out so Tim just shrugged and smiled. He really didn’t like the idea of giving up Nick. He was afraid he would never see him again, even knowing that the other guy was acting as his place holder.
“You do like living with me, right Nick? I mean you are coming back to Howie and Me, right?”
Nick forced himself to sit up and nodded at Tim, “Yes.” Was all he managed to get out.
This made Tim a happy camper, “Okay, good because I would hate to have to hurt your friend. You know, I was originally going back to that van to kill all of them.” He felt like this was the time to come clean, do as Kevin suggested, making him sound like a hero. “I was just about to pull the trigger and everything when it occurred to me how bad it would make you and Howie feel.” He paused and decided to add a nice big sigh before continuing. “So, I couldn’t go through with it.” He looked at his new brother then, taking his chin in his hand and forcing him to look his way, “I love you too much to hurt you.”
He felt bad when he saw how frightened Nick looked. He really didn’t mean to scare him. He just wanted him to see how much he had sacrificed just to make his new family happy. He let go of Nick’s chin, “Don’t be scared, Nick. I didn’t hurt Kevin or your other friends. What were their names?”
Nick took two large breaths before he was able to answer, “Brian and AJ.”
“Yeah, they are all fine. Please don’t be afraid of me. I hate it when people are afraid of me for no reason.”
This was another thing that made him tend to lose his cool, when people feared him just because they misunderstood his intentions.
After his dad shared all his secrets with Tim at the campsite, he began bringing him along on his little adventures. He had always wondered what his father did when he left the cabin and would be gone until the next morning. When he confronted his mother about this, she claimed he had business to attend to, but once Tim found out the truth, he realized his Mother was probably as in the dark as he was and just pretending to know what was going on.
There was something wrong with his father. He had slowly come to realize this, the older he got but it wasn’t until the campsite that he truly figured it out. As his father would untie the canvas bag that contained the random girl he had chosen to kill, Tim would just stand and watch as his father had them beg for their lives. He claimed he enjoyed taunting them as if they were his cat toys. He never tried to rape them or anything, it wasn’t sexual and he loved his wife too much to do that. He just needed to take out his frustrations on someone. He had explained to Tim, “Isn’t it better that I am killing them instead of your mom, son? Think of the sacrifice I am making just to keep your mother happy and to keep you happy.”
His father would taunt his victims for hours, holding a knife to their necks or pretending he was ready to let them go only to drag them right back towards him. He refused to gag them. He wanted to hear them scream and beg for their lives. They would look at Tim and call him a monster and ask him why he was letting this happen as if he had any control of the situation at all. They would beg him for help and tell him they’d do whatever he wanted as long as he let them go.
Tim felt bad for them, he really did but he wasn’t sure what they thought he could do. He was a good boy and good boys did what their parents told them to do. They never got that part. He once even asked one of the girls right before his father came back from the truck with shovel in hand, “Don’t you listen to your mom and dad? Would you ever refuse to do what your parents asked you to do?”
She ignored his words and spit in his face, telling him he was going to rot in hell next to his deranged father.
This happened time and time again. It got so hard to deal with, he would beg his father to leave him home, but every time he would say no. “This will help you become a man.” He would say, “Otherwise you might just stay the mother loving wussy you are now.”
So he put up with all the taunts and name calling of his father’s victims even though he was really his father’s victim as well. They didn’t understand and after a while he stopped trying to make them. He would just find himself smiling as he watched his father choke the life out of them, all the while secretly thinking better them than me or mom.
As Tim turned off the small gravel road, he once again looked over at his passenger. He was sitting up as straight as possible and just staring ahead. “What’s on your mind?”
Nick glanced his way, “I miss my fiancé.”
Tim rolled his eyes, “You know in the end you’ll probably thank me for breaking you guys up. My father always said that God invented woman only to separate the strong from the weak.”
“Is that what you think too?”
Tim shrugged, “I guess. I’ve only ever loved my wife.”
“You were married? I thought you said you only had one girlfriend.” Nick said this in a very accusatory tone which Tim did not like at all. The same type of tone those girls would use when they called him names and didn’t believe what he was telling them.
“She was my girlfriend. I married her after she died.”
“Okay” Nick answered before falling silent once again.
“I don’t like being accused of lying.” Tim said sounding very hurt.
Nick glanced over at him, “I didn’t mean to make you feel that way. Sorry.” But he didn’t sound very sorry at all. He just sounded scared.
Tim tried to shake off the anger he was feeling and decided to put on the radio, “You like music?”
“Good.” Tim started to flip through the channels trying to find something he wouldn’t mind listening to while trying to calm himself down after being called a liar. He landed on his favorite country station while still brooding.
That was probably the biggest thing to set him off. Being lied to or being accused of lying.
Tim’s father never believed anything his son ever told him. His dad would ask him a question like, “Did you remember to bring the shovels?” Tim would nod but then It would be followed by an “I don’t believe you, I’m going to go check and you better be telling me the truth!”
When he was being punished and asked to throw his favorite books into the flames, after reading the title, his father would bitch slap his son across the face and claim he was lying! The book didn’t mean enough to him. He was probably just throwing some random book out because he was such a selfish little prick!
Luckily his mother believed every word he said, so he felt bad on those occasions when he had to lie to her. She would ask him what kinds of things they did when they went on their camping trips and he would make up elaborate stories about bird watching, fishing and bonding. She always had a huge smile on her face and would say she knew they’d end up being best friends, just like every father and son are supposed to be.
Tim had only ever hit his father once and it was on the last camping trip they ever took together. The cat toy of that particular night was named Annemarie. She was about the same age as Tim and by the time his father had let her out of her bag she already had a mascara streaked face and a bad case of the shakes. Just like everybody before her, she begged for her life the entire time but the difference was her demeanor. While the others would scream and cry she just calmly asked and used his name. He had been taken back by that at first, thinking she was a witch or a psychic but she admitted it was because she heard his father call him that.
She seemed nice and Tim decided just once, he was going to ask his father to spare someone. Annemarie smiled and said thank you. He could tell that when this thing was over, they would be friends forever. He was going to invite her to the cabin for dinner and then maybe they’d head into town for a movie. When he presented the idea to his Father, he just sat there for a few minutes with a huge smile on his face, “Of course son!” He said with a lot of confidence and pride, “Just because you asked, we’ll let this one go.”
He was so ecstatic he actually moved in to hug his father before forgetting how he hated to be touched. When he told Annemarie, she was so happy she cried and fell into his arms. The feeling made him excited in places he wasn’t used to feeling that way about. When Tim asked if he could untie her, his dad let him and he even let her eat some of the hot dogs and beans they had brought along.
She went from being a cat toy to being Tim’s new friend. This was the best camping trip ever.
Right before they set out their sleeping bags, his father asked him to go to the truck because he had forgotten his flask filled with whiskey, his version of sleeping pills. He gave Annemarie a hug and set out to find that flask. He hadn’t realized his father was holding it when he asked. He would later find out that it was all part of the joke.
He had been scared to tell his father he couldn’t’ find the flask in the truck, but when he heard the screams he forgot about that and just started running towards the site. There was his dad stabbing his new friend over and over again as her blood spewed all over his shirt. “My son lied to you! He knew I was going to kill you!” He heard his dad say to Annemarie as she slowly gave up her fight and looked his way.
“I didn’t!” He yelled to her, running close. “I swear I didn’t know!”
She blinked once or twice and then closed her eyes forever. When she stopped struggling, his father dropped her to the ground and wiped some of the blood off of his face. “That was the best one yet, thank you for that!” He said out of breath. “Now go get the shovels.”
“You lied to me.” Tim said in quiet disbelief, “You told me you’d let her live.”
His father laughed, “I can’t believe you actually thought that could happen. Let her live, so she could go back home and let them know what we did to her?”
“She wouldn’t have done that! She promised me!”
“She was lying to you. You’re such an idiot, Timothy! No one would ever just leave and not say anything; I don’t care how beautiful or sweet they seem. She had to die. Now go get the shovels!”
“LIAR!” he screamed as his rage took over and he punched his father in the face.
His dad fell to the ground and again found himself wiping blood off his face, but this time it was his own. It was also collecting on his teeth so he spit before he spoke, “Well well well…looks like my boy is finally becoming a man.”
“I hate you!” He sneered, “I told her she would live.”
“I guess you and I are both liars then.” He paused, “Now go get a shovel. You’re going to bury this one all by yourself. It’ll give you time to think about what you just did.” Tim looked at the dead body of his best friend and wanted to cry. He would never do that in front of his dad though, so he just started walking back to the truck, “That was the last time you’ll ever touch me and live to tell about it, Timothy.” His father shouted after him.
That night as he shoveled the grave for Annemarie he kept picturing his father’s face as the dirt. He placed the picnic table over the freshly made grave as a makeshift tombstone and decided to sleep in the truck.
He never visited that camp site again.
Suddenly those words his father had spoken to him rang in his ears, so Tim asked Nick once more, “You promise you won’t tell anyone about me and what I did to you and your friends? You promise me you’ll be back when you are all better?”
Tim could tell Nick was nervous by the way he was breathing. It wasn’t the labored breath like before, it was the kind one takes when one is about to lie.
Suddenly Tim found himself doubting his passenger, what if he was lying? What if he didn’t really like Tim at all and was just waiting for the opportunity to rat him out, “My dad told me not to trust you.” He said as he clenched the steering wheel tightly, “He said no one would ever leave and not tell what happened.”
The country station they had been listening to as background noise broke into “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” just as Nick reached over and placed his hand on Tim’s arm.
Tim was surprised by the show of affection so he unclenched his hands and looked over at his new brother, “Tim, I promise you. I will not tell one single soul about you or the guys. I just need to get better so we can get back to the cabin and Kevin can go get his ankle fixed, okay?”
He said it so calmly and sure he was able to put Tim’s mind at ease. “Okay, I’m sorry I doubted you. This has been hard for me, Nick. This whole thing isn’t easy. The things I do for you, I swear.”
He moved his hand off the steering wheel and gave a pat on the head to his baby brother. It was the first time Nick didn’t try to move away. Tim smiled. Maybe things would work out after all.
They drove in silence while listening to Charlie Daniels have a fiddle battle with Satan. When the song was over the DJ claimed “Seems like the hunt for that missing boy band is over, not that anyone listening to me even knows what a boy band is…”
“Can we change the station?” Nick suddenly asked.
Tim was particular about his music; it was either classic rock or country, but He nodded, “No problem, you like oldies?”
Nick nodded as the DJ continued talking about boy bands. “Anything is better than this.”
“We’ll have to change your dislike of country when you come back home, little brother!” He laughed and changed the station. For some reason, Nick seemed very relieved. Tim guessed he really really didn’t like country!
The oldies station was in the middle of a news story, “Backstreet Boys AJ McLean and Brian Littrell have been found. The search for Kevin Richardson, Howie Dorough and Nick Carter is still on. If anyone has any information regarding their whereabouts…” Hearing the names made Tim actually come to a screeching halt right in the middle of the street. Did he just hear that right?
“Howie, Nick and Kevin?” He said out loud before looking over at his passenger. “Are they talking about you and your friends?”
He didn’t even need an answer because the look on Nick’s face as he listened to the news was enough. “You lied to me.” He said shaking his head. “You’re a liar!”
“SHUT UP!” he shouted as he back handed Nick across the face and then grabbed onto the steering wheel as tears welled in his eyes.
“I can’t believe you lied to me!” He kept saying over and over again. “I trusted you and you lied to me!”
He then turned the car around, “Where are we going?” Nick asked in tears and near panic as he wiped the blood off his face.
“Good thing I still have my shovel!” was all he said as he sped away.