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Family Blood

August 26, 2013

This is a short story I wrote for 1:1000, http://www.oneforonethousand.com/2013/05/family-blood.html .

 

Freddie MacNamus sat in his truck and looked down at his hands. So many stains. Blood, sweat, and tears covered those hands. And black oil that would never come out from under his thick, yellow fingernails.

But mostly blood.

His boy once told him that blood ain’t red inside you. It ain’t red ‘til it hits the air.

Well now Freddie knew a secret. The pits of hell sure ain’t black. When you walk through those places where nightmares are born, all you see is red.

It’s mostly blood.

His boy was smart. They gave him a fancy name at birth. Kissed his wrinkled, old-man head and said, “Prescott, all we gots to give you is a name. It’s your leg up. Reach high, son. Maybe you’ll make it to some other family tree.”

But blood runs thick, and old habits are hard to break. Within a year, Prescott MacNamus was just Mac. Plain and simple. But boy, was he sharp.

It damn near stopped Freddie’s heart, the night he saw all that thick, red blood pouring out of Mac, staining the pine slats of their front porch.

Freddie knows deep down he done it.

He was so mad that night. So God damn mad. And the sad thing is, he didn’t have nothing to be mad about. His boy would sit at the supper table, making his wife laugh til’ she begged him to stop, tears rollin’ down her face, sayin’ her insides hurt. They were happy. But Freddie couldn’t be happy. Just livin’ made him mad back then.

Bein’ just a mechanic. Selling just tires. It wasn’t enough. He always thought he should be doing more. His family deserved more. He felt guilty every time he looked at ‘em. So he stayed mad. And he stayed away. Always sippin’ that awful, burnin’ drink.

And the night they were killed, he wasn’t there to help.

It hurts to think about it now.

He can’t take more than three breaths without prayin’ to God they died quickly. That they didn’t see it coming. That they weren’t scared.

Freddie figures, lookin’ back, that he got home about twenty minutes too late. ‘Cause Mac was still warm when Freddie scooped him up. He ran to the truck, piercing the still September air with his screams. Pleadin’, “God. Please God. Please.”

He thought his boy might have a chance. ‘Cause he could still smell the milk and cookies on his breath, see, and lil’ Mac had his dinosaur jammies on, and Freddie was pretty sure those were his favorites. They were the ones Mac was always wearing when Freddie tip-toed through the house late at night after another bender, to peek through Mac’s cracked bedroom door and love him from afar.

He layed his boy down across the seat of the truck. He’ll never forget the way those tires squealed as he ripped out of his driveway. Surplus stock from the shop. He’d put ‘em on a few weeks ago, shooin’ Mac away when he asked to help.

He drove like his own life depended on. And it did. But after a mile or so, he couldn’t see the road. He couldn’t see Mac.

It was all blood.

He opened the door and puked. Whiskey and snot came out between wails. The putrid mixture hit the dirt road only a few seconds before Freddie did. He lay there, heaving, sobbing, covered in family blood, til a State Trooper pulled up.

Somewhere along the line, they realized Freddie wasn’t a killer. Just a worthless piece of shit.

They let him go. His penance? That the world kept turning.

He had to keep showin’ up at the shop. Keep on sellin’ tires. Every day he stepped into that place, the smell of old rubber filled his nostrils, reminding him he ain’t got nothing left to work for. He made barely enough to keep his home, but not enough to sell it.

So at night he’d come home and lie on that porch. Put his head down on that dark brown stain. If he was still enough, he could feel heat comin’ off the planks of pine. It was because the porch soaked up the western light all afternoon, but Freddie liked to think that warm spot was Mac.

And this morning was no different. Until it was.

He got out of bed. Got in the shower. Smelled his wife’s shampoo. Gently closed its cap. Then he put on his blue coveralls and went to work.

But when he got there, he couldn’t walk in the door. He walked out back, tore an old piece of tarp in half, and wrote “Closed” in clumpy motor oil on it.

He stepped back and looked at it. The shame of everything he’d done–everything he was– hit him hard. He couldn’t keep nothin’ alive.

He threw it out and started over on the other half.

He thought for a second, and wrote:

Moved to 1897
Metropolitan Park
Flea Market Plaza

Freddie didn’t have enough room to finish the word “park.” It didn’t make no difference. Something he made would live on, even if it was just for a day. Even if it was just for an hour. Even it was a lie. Soon enough, somebody would find out the truth. But that shop, the one Freddie never thought was good enough, was the only shred of worth he had left.

Sitting in his old truck, Freddie finally felt some peace. He couldn’t wash his hands of what he’d done, but maybe God would clean his soul.

He looked out the driver’s side window one last time, then put the truck into drive.

He turned onto the dusty highway, and slowly pressed the gas. He didn’t let up as he watched the speedometer reach 60, 70, 80, 100.

The pedal ground against the metal floorboard. There was nowhere else to go. Freddie jerked the steering wheel to the right.

For a second, everything was quiet, and then the deafening sound of blood rushed into his ears. And right before everything went black, he saw his wife. And his Mac. But mostly blood.

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