Saturday, November 5, 2016
THE BAD MAN
THE BAD MAN
By Daniel Skye
Candy wrappers were scattered all across the kitchen floor. There were enough miniature Twix and Kit Kat wrappers to form a crude rug over the ceramic tiles. When the children shuffled through the kitchen, it sounded like they were walking on dry leaves.
There were chocolate smears on the wallpaper, and chocolate smears on the corners of their mouths, too. The doorbell had been ringing sporadically for three hours, but the children had nothing to share with the trick-or-treaters. They had devoured every piece of Halloween candy they could get their tiny hands on.
The boy sauntered past the dining table, ignoring the gutted pumpkin. He’d carved the eyes and started on the mouth, but gave up halfway through because the knives were too dull. It had taken him an hour just to get the eyes perfect.
“Do you think mommy and daddy will be mad at us?” the girl asked. “For eating all the candy?”
“Nah, they won’t mind,” the boy said, using a stepstool to retrieve a glass from the cupboard. The boy was ten, but still short for his age.
He examined the glass and saw the circle of dust that had formed around the rim. He wiped it clean with the tail of his ill-fitting G.I. Joe T-shirt. Then he jumped down from the stool, candy wrappers crunching underfoot, and he filled the glass with Coca-Cola. There wasn’t much left, so he finished off the bottle.
“What if I want some?” the girl asked.
“We’ll share,” the boy said, taking a small sip.
“No way!” the girl exclaimed. “I don’t want your cooties!”
“How many times do I have to explain to you there’s no such thing as cooties?”
“Then what are germs?”
“It’s not the same thing. Germs are real, they can make you sick. Cooties is just a made-up word.”
“Germs sound like cooties to me.”
“Fine, suit yourself,” the boy said, taking another sip and covering his mouth as he belched. “More for me. Besides, you were the one who ate all the Reese’s and the cookies.”
“Hey, I didn’t finish those cookies off by myself,” the girl said. “I had help.”
“I vaguely recall eating a few of them,” the boy said.
“A few, my ass,” the girl said. She was two years younger than her brother, but she knew every word in the book; though her brother did not condone her swearing. Despite their nontraditional upbringing, the boy still had some principles, strange as they seemed to his sister. He didn’t curse in front of her. He didn’t curse at all. The boy found it to be sophomoric and immature. That, and he didn’t need the use of four letter words to illustrate his point.
The girl, who was quite self-conscious for her age, admired herself in the magnetic mirror on the side of the fridge. The girl was as skinny as a rake. But it was by circumstance, not by choice. The boy seemed to have more weight on him, but only because his belly was perpetually bloated from drinking too much soda.
She adjusted the charming and costly gold necklace around her collar. Then she held up her right hand to see the diamond ring sparkle in the mirror. The ring was so big, she had to wear it on her index finger. Her pink T-shirt had sparkling, glittery text that said PRINCESS in all capital letters. The shirt was baggy and loose like her brother’s shirt. But the majority of their clothes were donations.
The boy brushed his long, shaggy hair out of his eyes, finished his drink, and said, “Aren’t you supposed to be watching the windows? The Bad Man could be back at any minute.”
“Relax, I’m on it,” the girl said, shuffling from the kitchen to the living room, dragging Reese’s and Nestles Crunch wrappers under her shoes. The boy remained in the kitchen, rummaging through the bottom drawers for any candy or treats they might’ve overlooked. He heard a few faint, muffled noises from the living room, but he paid no attention to them.
He didn’t find any treats, but he did find a book of matches, and two long white candles for the candelabra on the dining table. It was getting dark, so he lit the candles and repositioned the candelabra so it was nowhere near the windows.
The boy had turned off all the lights, closed all the shades and blinds to ward off the Bad Man. The boy didn’t want anyone to know they were home.
The Bad Man had been gone for two days. But he was due for another visit any day.
We can’t have that, the boy thought. Who knows what the Bad Man will do to us if he finds us in here?
There were kitchen knives at his disposal, tools in the basement. But the boy was clinging to a five-iron that belonged to his dad. Well, his new dad.
“Hey!” the girl shouted from the living room. “We’ve got company.”
“Is it him?” the boy said, feeling a tight knot form in the pit of his bloated belly.
“Yes,” the girl said, whispering now. “It’s him…it’s the Bad Man.”
The boy tiptoed to the living room and slipped past the front door. He stood on the other side of the door, his back pressed to the wall, clutching the five-iron with both hands now.
A key jingled and twisted in the door. The boy watched as the knob slowly turned.
“Mom, dad?” the voice of a young man called out. “Are you home? Why is it so dark in here?”
The boy let waited for him to close the door and take a few steps into the house. As soon as he reached out for the light switch, the boy struck him in the back of the knee. There was a loud shriek, followed by the sound of a thud as the young man dropped to his knees.
“Please!” the young man cried. “I’ll give you anything you want! Just don’t hurt me!”
The boy stepped in front of him. Now that he had him at a disadvantage, he wanted the man to see his face.
“Fore!” the boy shouted, swinging the club with such fury that it cracked the man’s skull. He flopped to the ground, twitching like a fish out of water. Blood rained like a faucet from the deep gash above his left temple.
“I always wanted to say that,” the boy added as he tossed the bloody club aside.
The man was still alive, still twitching involuntarily. The heels of his shoes scraped against the ceramic floor tiles as his arms flailed around at his sides. He turned his head slightly, though this movement appeared to be voluntary, as his eyes drifted above the fireplace, to the picture frame on the mantle.
But the boy and girl were absent from this photograph. What the picture showed was the supposed Bad Man posing with a married couple in their early-fifties.
“Mom…dad…” he whispered before he drifted off to everlasting sleep.
Muffled sounds emanated from the corner of the living room. The girl ran her hand across the wall, found the switch, and living room lit up like Yankee Stadium.
An older man and woman were sprawled out on the floor behind the couch; bloodied, battered, and terrified. The boy had used zip-ties to bind their wrists and extension cords from the basement to tie their legs. Black electrical tape had been wrapped several times around their heads to stifle their cries for help.
“Don’t worry,” the girl said, leaning down to pat the woman’s silver hair. “We took care of the Bad Man for you. Now you’re all ours. You’re our new mommy and daddy.”
“Some mom and dad,” the boy scoffed. “It’s Halloween and we’re already out of treats. What are we supposed to do now?”
The glare of the headlights cut through the slits of the venetian blinds. The girl, standing on her tippy-toes, peeked out and saw a green minivan backing into the driveway across the street. A family of five exited the vehicle; the mother and father carrying bags of groceries.
The girl watched as a handful of trick-or-treaters approached the house. Even at night, the girl could spot their bright, colorful costumes from down the block. The three kids waved to the trick-or-treaters and followed their dad inside. The mother set her groceries down and came back with a bowl of candy, handing out full-size Hershey bars to all the trick-or-treaters and sending them home happy.
The girl’s eyes lit up like tiny jack-o’-lanterns. “Problem solved,” she told her brother.