The baby bat
Screamed out in fright,
‘Turn on the dark,
I’m afraid of the light.’
“Batty” by Shel Silverstein
~ 7 ~
A Love Story, of sorts…
In his life, Tim had only ever loved three things.
His first love of course was his family. His mother had meant everything to him growing up. Before they abandoned their old life and headed for the hills, his favorite part of the day was coming home from school. His mother would be sitting at the kitchen table waiting for him with a freshly made batch of her famous chocolate chip cookies and some milk. She knew how much he hated homework so she would sit by his side and rub his back as he tackled his math problems head on. Whenever he was about to cry in frustration, she would push the cookies and milk towards him and distract him with poetry. Reciting the words to Roald Dahl’s “Augustus Gloop” from memory by changing her voice as she spoke “Augustus Gloop, Augustus Gloop, the great big greedy nincompoop…” by the time she was done, Tim would be ready to finish his work with a smile on his face and crumbs dangling off a freshly worn milk moustache.
After they moved to the cabin, the bond between mother and son became even tighter. They were each other’s only friend. Conversation soon changed from things a mother might say to a son into what two friends might talk about while their kids were in school. It was during those conversations that Tim started to see his dad in a different light. He had never really been close to his father, in fact he had feared him, but after hearing his mother talk about his late night drinking and interludes with other women a new emotion took its place and that was hate.
Sometimes he wished that his mother hadn’t shared as much information as she did because it was much better living in the dark then the light. But then again, he was grateful for some of the knowledge that was imparted, especially after she died. Without knowing about what tended to trigger his father, he most likely would have been dead by now and not sitting beside his newly adopted brother.
As they pulled into the parking lot of the brand new Target which ironically enough sat right across from Wal-Mart, Tim was convinced that he had made the right choice taking Howie and Nick. They seemed like the perfect addition to his family, at least he was sure this one was. Heck, they even kind of looked alike.
Nick didn’t answer and Tim was a little disappointed when the kid tried to deflect the reassuring pat given on the shoulder.
“What? Can’t I give you a friendly love tap? That’s what my dad used to call that,” He did it once again and once again Nick tried to move away from his hand, “A love tap.” Tim finished his sentence a bit annoyed.
He hated the look of fear in Nick’s eyes but also knew that in time it would go way. Once his new brother got to know him, he would soften up and maybe even look forward to spending time with him. “You know, I’ve always wanted a little brother and it’s nice to know I’m finally getting my wish.” He gave his most reassuring smile followed by a wink but all his traveling companion did was stare with those same horror filled eyes.
Tim tried to shake off the awkward vibe he was picking up, “So, if I take you in there with me, do you promise to behave yourself and not try to get help?”
This time, Nick did finally look over at him and even smiled a little, “I promise.”
He looked his new brother up and down, making sure that he wouldn’t draw too much attention to himself. The fact was he just might. His gray tee shirt was a little ripped and bloody by the neckline and his black sweats had a tear right above his knee. Then there was his actual face with coagulated blood just above his right eyebrow and down his ear a little. “I don’t know little buddy, you’re not looking too healthy. I’m afraid you might attract some attention if I take you with me. Maybe it’s best if you just hang here in the truck. I won’t be long, I promise.”
Nick looked as if he was about to cry which confused Tim. “Please take me in there with you.” He sounded like a child begging for ice cream.
“Why? What’s the big deal?”
He could tell Nick was trying to figure out what to say and once again, Tim became annoyed. Was he being deceived? He hoped not. “I don’t want to be alone. I don’t like being left alone.”
Tim let out a laugh that made Nick recoil, “Aren’t you a bit too old to be afraid of being by yourself?” Before the kid had a chance to answer, Tim continued, “Sorry buddy, I made up my mind. You’re staying here and as long as you promise to behave, I won’t have to tie you in the back seat and gag you. Do you promise to just sit here and behave?”
A few tears streamed down Nick’s face which made Tim think that maybe he was telling the truth. Maybe he really didn’t want to be left all alone.
“What about my friends? Are you going to help them?”
“Let’s see how this goes first, okay? Now sit tight. I’ll be back real soon.” He grabbed Nick’s hands that were already bound and attached another rope that connected to the steering wheel. This caused him to have to lie down on the front seat and out of the view of the window.
“Sorry buddy, but I just can’t take the chance that you’ll try to get someone to help you. Think of Howie and his safety. This is for your own good.”
Nick tried to muffle his cries as Tim placed a loving arm on his head and pet it like a dog. “It’ll all be okay.” He then opened his door and locked the car.
Tim’s second love was reading. His mother had instilled in him a love for books at a very early age. By the time he was four, he was able to not only read but recite Harold and the Purple Crayon from memory. It was a game he and his mom played right before bed. She would pick out a story for him to read and then the next night, if he was able to recite it back from memory, he was rewarded with a new toy. Nothing ever that extravagant, usually from the five and dime but even still a new toy was a new toy.
After they got to the cabin a new toy was replaced by pets. Not real ones like the dog he had left so many years ago, but smaller ones like a frog or a firefly; something that he was able to call his own. Memorizing children’s books was also replaced with poetry. Poetry was his mother’s first love, even more so than his father. It was poetry she turned to when she was down. She used to write her own but her favorite thing to do was recite poems to her men after dinner. It was their form of entertainment since they didn’t own a television. She would allow her son to pick a book of poems off the shelf and then she would spend an hour reading and explaining the more intricate ones. Tim’s father didn’t really enjoy it, he would usually leave mid-sentence and head outside for a smoke or drink. Tim however, could listen to his mother for hours.
It was through her that he began his own love affair with poetry. After she died, to feel closer to her he would spend hours going through volumes and volumes of some of her favorite poets like Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson. He had read her favorite Dickinson poem “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” as a eulogy on the day she died, right after him and his father threw her in a ditch and called it a grave.
He found himself standing by the book aisle, staring blankly as his memories gave way to the here and now. He wished they had a bigger selection to choose from. Nothing looked good but he very well couldn’t leave without buying at least one, so he scanned the shelves looking for something maybe Nick or Howie might like. He didn’t know their tastes just yet but eventually he’d be able to bring them into this place and let them pick out whatever they wanted.
His eyes landed on a Stephen King book, even though he wasn’t a fan himself he had a feeling Nick might be, so he grabbed, “Joyland,” and put it in his cart. He moved out of the book aisle and towards the medicine knowing this is where he would be spending most of his allotted money on this trip.
His third love was Candice. Before she walked into his life, he had only ever heard about the kind of love shared between a man and a woman through stories his mother would tell him regarding his parent’s early courtship. When she first came to stay, he was afraid to get too close, for the longest time, he ignored her completely. That was back in the time when binding and gagging her was necessary. After a while curiosity got the better of him and when he was sure his father wasn’t looking, he would go into the bedroom and take her gag off not caring that the action would be met with contemptuous words and a spit in the face followed by tears, lots and lots of tears.
Tim always urged her to calm down, once she stopped fighting, his father would ease up and eventually let her go. He never meant leave but she took it that way. After a few weeks she did stop struggling and within time she was able to wander around the house free of her own will as long as she never tried to go for the door. On those few occasions, she would be locked in the bedroom, tied to a chair as punishment.
Eventually she just became part of the family.
Tim took her under his wing, much the same way his mother did for him. After dinner he would let her pick out her favorite book and he would spend the evening reading it to her as she closed her eyes and lay beside him on the couch. He would experience urges that his father warned him about but he never acted on them, instead choosing self-gratification in the privacy of his bathroom. Candice was a lady and he wasn’t going to do anything to change that. Maybe when they were married it would be different. He wasn’t sure when that would happen, but he knew it would eventually come. He was finally going to know happiness and true love.
His father had changed all of that with one shot to the head.
He looked down at his cart and all the supplies he had bought and couldn’t help but shake his head. Maybe doing this would be the thing that would get Nick on his side. Helping his friends out would win him brownie points. He still wasn’t quite sure if he would or not, but at least he could hold it over the kid’s head for a while.
As he walked to the checkout he passed a cardboard display, he just glanced at it briefly and shook his head. “I hate pop music,” He declared as a teenager picked up “In a World Like This” and placed it in her own cart bouncing with delight that she was able to find it in stock.