(A man comes back from prison and finds chaos at his home. At breakfast he accidentally killed their kitten by pushing it off the table. He’s struggling to stay clean but the stress is getting to him.)
The children were crying. I was torn with sorrow as I looked at the dead kitten. Then I saw Cress, their mother, staring at us from the hallway.
“Daddy’s a fucking killer,” she hissed at the kids. “He should go back to prison. He killed the kitty on purpose.”
My chest ached, I was torn by compassion for the kids, mixed with hatred for their mother, I cradled the kitten in my arms. Jeannie and Donald stared at me and I knew that they could not, would not understand.
I asked the kids to help me lay the kitten to rest in the field in back of the house. I told them that we could pray for the kitty and my words echoed hollow in the terrible terrain of my mind.
Cress popped open a warm beer and chugged it down. She glared at me and I was not looking forward to what she would say. I found a shovel and walked out to the field with Jeannie and Donald. Jeannie held the kitten in her arms. The dogs pulled the chains out to full length and snapped back as they tried to follow us into the fields.
I dug a hole. Put the kitten in. Got down on my knees and said a prayer. Jeannie got down on her knees too. Sniffled back her tears.
“Is the kitten really with God?” she asked.
“The kitty is just dead!” boomed Cress’s voice from nearby. She unhooked the dogs and they bounded over and sniffed at the open grave.
“Jesus,” I said, “couldn’t you have waited till we buried the kitten?”
“Why,” she said, some animal is just going to dig it up and eat it anyway. You can thank daddy for this.”
The kids cried and I felt all my muscles tense up. One of the dogs went to pick up the kitten and I whacked it on the rump with the shovel. It yelped and ran.
“See,” Cress said, “see how daddy is! That’s why I hate him.”
I shoveled the earth over the kitten while the kids watched. Cress disappeared into the house. I tied two sticks together and stuck them into the ground above the grave. We stood quietly by the grave for a little while. Jeannie kept looking at me and then back to the grave. Donald was watching a beetle walk across the grave. He poked it with a stick and I walked back to the house.
Cress went out for a short time and brought back a bottle of Jack Daniels. I cleared the breakfast table and tried to wipe the memories of the morning away.
Jeannie sat quietly on the porch. I looked towards the back yard and saw one of the two dogs digging back in the field. Donald tore some of the pages out of the coloring book and they blew across the front lawn.
Just then Lisa pulled up in an old rusty pick-up truck. She got out and walked over to the porch. With a bottle of beer in one hand and a joint in the other.
Jeannie watched as she handed me the joint. I took a deep drag. Jeannie’s eyes widened in horror and she began to cry. And I remembered. I remembered the look on her face four and one-half years ago when the police handcuffed me and took me away.
It was the same look on her face.
I took another drag on the joint and asked Lisa if she wanted to go for some more beer. She nodded and I got into the truck.
I looked over at the house. Cress took a slug at the whiskey. Donald tore another page from the book. Jeannie curled up on the floor of the porch and I saw her small body shaking. The two dogs were tearing apart a small object in the field.
Lisa punched the gas pedal and handed me the joint. I took a drag and reached for her beer. She smiled and passed it over to me. The liquid slid down my throat but the taste in my mouth was sour. Only a shot of heroin could get rid of that taste. The terror of things slipping away ate to the core of my being.
The truck straddled the country road. I watched the white line in the center of the road disappear beneath the vehicle as we hurtled down the highway like a meteor out of control.