Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hunger Strike

Genre: Horror 

Daniel Skye

Amy Larson’s husband had not touched her in six months. Not so much as a pat on the back or a kiss on the cheek. And though she took his lack of affection as a personal insult, she was relieved he hadn’t raised his hands to her either. Six months earlier, if she so much as spilled a drop of water, Dennis would’ve blackened her eye faster than she could get a towel to wipe up the mess.
Dennis Larson was too preoccupied with Roscoe to even acknowledge his family’s existence beyond the dinner table. Amy would swear he loved that dog more than he did his own wife and child. Roscoe was a Saint Bernard that Dennis had rescued from the Greenville shelter, looked just like the dog from those Beethoven movies. The week he brought Roscoe home, Dennis spent five hundred dollars on a dog house, bed, personalized collar, and a cage for when a visit to the vet or kennel was required.
While the family scrounged and scraped to survive, Roscoe was treated like royalty. When they went to the beach, Roscoe rode shotgun. While the family dined on macaroni and cheese, Roscoe munched on raw sirloin. There was nothing too expensive for that adorable little mutt.
Dennis let Roscoe roam free whenever he pleased, which angered some of the neighbors. But they were too afraid of Dennis’s awful temper to speak up. When it rained, Roscoe would track mud in the living room and shake himself off, soaking the furniture or whoever was unfortunate enough to be standing in his way. Dennis thought this was adorable. Amy found it to be a pain in the ass seeing as she was the one expected to do the cleanup.

It was a grey December afternoon when Evan Larson strolled in early from school. His brown jacket was stained red, his knuckles skinned down to the bone. He had been in another fight. Ten years old and he was already taking on kids twice his size.
Evan used to stay up late to watch amateur boxing on the sports networks. He loved it so much that on his ninth birthday Dennis bought him gloves and a punching bag. He figured wailing on a heavy bag wouldn’t hurt anybody and might help work all the aggression out of his boy. But the bag didn’t quell Evan’s rage; it only seemed to feed it.
This recent incident involved a young boy named Ronnie Henderson who pegged Evan in the back of the head with a dodge ball during gym glass. Evan leapt over the dividing net and threw the first punch, which crushed poor Ronnie’s nose. Kids were going around school saying when it was over Ronnie’s face looked like raw hamburger meat, all mashed and bloody. The verdict was in on Evan: Permanent expulsion. The doors of Greenville Middle School were closed to him forever.
“What were you thinking?” Dennis shouted, his face turning beet red. Roscoe got so worked up over his master’s fury that he started barking along with Dennis’s screams. “Do you know how hard it’s going to be to find a new school? And what about the kid you sent to the hospital? His parents are probably going to sue us.”
“It’s not a big deal,” Evan shrugged it off, shaking his hands to alleviate the pain from his throbbing knuckles.
“You can’t go around beating people up. It won’t solve your problems.”
“It seems to work on mom,” Evan remarked. That snide comment sent Dennis sailing over the edge. Amy was preparing supper in the kitchen and heard the crinkle of leather as Dennis slid his belt from his jeans.
“Boy, I’m going to whip the skin off your ass.”
Amy turned her back in the kitchen, fearing that Dennis would belt her too if she interjected. As Dennis raised his belt, Evan planted his fist in his father’s gut. Roscoe jumped up and sunk his teeth in Evan’s forearm. Shaking Roscoe off, Evan swung again. This time Dennis was prepared and as he ducked, Evan’s tender knuckles smashed against the wall.
Dennis’s belt swung through the air and snapped across Evan’s back. Roscoe backed away as Dennis lashed his boy again and again until his son’s back was raw as his knuckles.
“Now get your worthless ass upstairs, boy. If you thought that was bad, let’s see how you like going to bed without your supper.”
“You can’t starve me,” Evan protested.
“Like hell I can’t. Until we find you another school, you’re going on a mandatory hunger strike. Now move it!”
Defeated, Evan retreated from the living room without further resistance. Dennis kneeled down and petted Roscoe behind the ears; gave him a treat for helping out.
In the kitchen, Amy trembled like the last leaf on a dying tree. Dennis and her son had their disagreements in the past, but it never came to blows before. As many times as Dennis raised his hands to her, he never raised his hands to his boy. 

Evan rearranged his room looking for a source of food. A stale bag of chips or stray candy bar he had brought up and forgotten about. A whole night without food and even the church shoes in his closet were starting to look appetizing.
Dennis retired that evening with a big smile plastered across his chubby face. His son had stepped out of line with him, and he had remedied the situation in his own savage way. Was it any wonder where Evan got his anger and violent tendencies from?
Amy lied awake in bed, reading silently. She never once mentioned the incident. She didn’t even bother to ask Dennis why Roscoe wasn’t planted at the foot of the bed like usual. She just enjoyed the silence, took it as a brief reprieve.
Evan’s room was side-by-side with his parent’s bedroom. Dennis pressed his ear to the wall, expecting to hear his boy snoring away. Instead, he could hear Evan chewing softly, slowly. Whatever he was munching on, he was really savoring the flavor.
“You’ve got to be shitting me,” Dennis yelled, making Amy twitch again. “I think he’s eating in there. I’ll teach him, that little bastard. Where’s my belt?”
“What the heck could he be snacking on?” Amy wondered. “There were no leftovers. And there’s nothing else in the fridge. I haven’t been shopping since Sunday.”
Dennis Larson’s eyes widened. “Roscoe,” he whispered, and a single tear sprawled down his cheek.

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