Her Dying Wish – Flash Fiction Piece
Friday Sunday and time for another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge! This week’s topic: Bad Dads.
Not something I have experience with, so a little outside my regular zone, but I would just like to add, for any Marvel employees reading this, it is totally a work of my own creation and absolutely not inspired in any way by any psychotic anti-hero origin stories. Please don’t sue me.
Her Dying Wish
Wayne Milton laughed, a happy, unrestrained sound, as musical as the glass which shattered and fell tinkling to the hard concrete ground. The laughter was infectious; it spread from him to Two-Knives Tommy—eldest of the gang at seventeen, and its de-facto leader since he’d kicked the shit out of Mincey (aka, Michael Mincer) three months ago—to little Johnno, the twelve year old baby of the gang, and from there to the rest of the young men who comprised the South Side Skrimmers. None of them knew what a skrimmer was, except that it sounded cool.
“Betcha can’t hit that top one!” said Two-Knives, pointing at the highest window in the abandoned factory; the only one untouched.
“Yeah? Watch!” Wayne said, a grin creeping across his face. He looked around for the right sort of rock. Not all rocks were good for throwing; they had to be the right size, shape and weight to travel any distance. Finally, he found one, and he knew it was the right rock for the job by the way it fit so well into his hand, like it belonged there. He pulled his arm back, moving the balance of his body to one leg, then launched his arm forward, releasing his crude missile. It seemed to fly on wings… but fell several feet short of its mark.
“Haha, crap shot!” Two-Knives mocked, though he himself had never come that close to smashing the window.
“It’s ‘cos my arm’s tired from throwing rocks all day,” said Wayne. “I’ll do it tomorra, before school.”
Two-Knives pulled his face. He’d dropped out of school at fourteen, and fallen off the grid. Social workers didn’t bother going to his family’s house anymore; even when his parents were home, they were too hung over to function. “Let’s see what’s goin’ on at the park,” he suggested.
Wayne nodded. There was usually something to see at the playground. Or at least, usually somebody to antagonise. He liked the feeling that came with making other kids cry, enjoyed seeing them run to their parents with soil in their hair or grazes on their knees. It was vindication for all the times he’d cried himself to sleep alone in his room, his aching sobs going unheeded.
As they walked, the rest of the group fell in line behind Two-Knives and Wayne. The leader produced a bottle of vodka from his bag, taking a swig before passing it on, whilst Wayne pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and sparked up, enjoying the taste of tobacco as he took a long drag. This was the group way; they shared their spoils of war, things they’d stolen from shops and supermarkets, and Wayne knew how lucky he was to have found such good friends. Military families moved around a lot, and he’d only been here five months. Making friends was difficult, but the Skrimmers had accepted him easily enough. Probably helped that he had quick fingers, and a mean left-hook.
By the time they reached the park, Wayne’s mind was buzzing in a warm alcoholic haze, and half the smokes had gone. Two-Knives elbowed him, and nodded at a teenage girl playing with her fluffy white dog near the jungle-gym. Wayne smiled and nodded. A game of keep-away sounded like fun.
Halfway across the park, Wayne froze in terror. That voice. The Skrimmers stopped and looked back, and Wayne risked a glance over his shoulder. His father was storming across the green grass, his face all dark, furious thunderclouds. He was still wearing his USAF uniform, which meant he’d only just got back from work. Trying his best to surpress the terror, Wayne attempted to pocket the packet of smokes, but only succeeded in dropping them on the floor.
The Skrimmers scattered, and Wayne remained frozen on the spot. Even if he’d not been too terrified to move, he wouldn’t have run. He knew that running would have made his father angrier. It was better to stand still and accept what was to come.
“I told you to stay in the house, Wayne,” his father said, bending down and picking up the packet, pushing it angrily against Wayne’s chest. “Instead you steal my cigarettes and spend the afternoon playing truant? Don’t think I don’t know what you’ve been doing, and—is that alcohol on your breath? Have you been drinking, boy?”
Wayne shook his head, but his father grabbed his collar and hauled him out of the playground, frog-marching him down familiar streets. The neighbours stopped and stared, and Wayne was forced to listen to a familiar tirade. So disappointed in you. Irresponsible. Ruin your future. Bring shame to your family name. Vandalism, drinking… ought to call the police.
They reached home, and Wayne was slammed into the front door, winded. Then he was slammed into the wall. He didn’t know at what point the walls became fists; he closed his eyes and tried to block out the pain. His father wanted a response, but Wayne wouldn’t give him one. No response he could ever give would be good enough for Lieutenant Colonel Bradley Milton.
* * * * *
Brad Milton put the flowers on the grave, and crouched down in front of the tombstone. Every time he failed his family, he came here to beg for forgiveness.
“I’m sorry, Mary.” Unshed tears moistened his eyes. “I promised I’d raise our son to be a good man, but every day, I feel like I’m losing a little more of him. I can’t talk to him, I can’t make him see sense… I don’t know what else to do. I wish you were here. You made a better mother than I do a father. I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better… next time.”
He kissed his fingertips, touched them to the tombstone, then left. Back home, his son was waiting for him, a living reminder of his greatest challenge, and his greatest failure.