Short Fiction by Kevin Keating published in Vol 4 Issue 2
Zoloft Cost, On the steps of his front porch, resting his head against the top stoop, George Fenner smokes his last cigarette and marvels at the shifting shapes of passing clouds. The early morning rain that came sluicing sideways out of the sky has given way to brief glimpses of rusty sunshine, but in the distance, far out over the lake, an immense wall of dark clouds pushes ever closer to shore, rumbling weirdly with thundersnow. To George the soaring cloud tops look solid and muscular like figures masterfully crafted from massive sheets of steel, a three-headed hellhound, maybe, bounding toward heaven, eager to taste the tender flesh of angels' wings. The vision seems all the more real thanks to the mangy dogs that trot up and down the narrow brick lane in front of his house, lifting their hind legs to mark their territory, shitting on the sidewalk, pillaging trash cans, competing for non-existent scraps of food. George feels no pity for them. Like every creature condemned to live among these streets, the dogs must learn to accept suffering. Winter is almost here, spring a million years off. Soon there will be no escape from the punishing cold and constant hunger unless, of course, death whisks them all away to an even colder grave.
The change of weather doesn't seem to trouble Billy. In a red cape and blue tights, the boy runs back and forth across a muddy patch of lawn, chasing after the grackles that haunt the rotten windowsills and mossy roof peak of the vacant house next door. At his approach the birds flutter away, easily evading his desperate lunges. A few even make a game of it. From the low branches of a stately maple at the center of the yard, the birds hop up and down and screech at the ungainly biped that comes stumbling through a swath of dead yellow grass. Billy stops to study the birds, his eyes unblinking and inscrutable as a cat's. He bobs his head as they do, makes little chirping sounds, tries to find a way to ingratiate himself with them, but his efforts only make the birds squawk all the louder. They run nimbly along the limbs of the tree and kick acorns on his head. With a grunt of exasperation the boy adjusts his Halloween costume, yanking the tights from the crack of his ass, and suddenly charges, his arms pin-wheeling, his shiny black boots slipping sideways in the muck.
Sensing disaster, George sits up and shouts, “You goddamn birdbrain, watch where you're going!”
But the warning comes too late. The boy collides with a crooked fencepost, and for a long time he lies on the ground, his face buried deep in a pile of moldering leaves. He might be unconscious, he might be dead. George checks his watch and waits for a hopeful sign.
It's only four o'clock. His wife won't be home from the foundry for at least another hour. With a long yawn, he bundles the collar of his jacket around his throat and wonders how he will survive so many days tethered to this wretched madhouse. Trying to find different ways to idle away the dwindling hours of October daylight has become his sole occupation, or perhaps preoccupation, since boredom has become a living thing in his life, a chittering, winged serpent that coils on his chest while he sleeps and waits for him to open his eyes each morning. All day long it hovers over him, and because he has no hobbies, no skills, no friends to visit, he cannot defend himself against it or silence the sound of its flapping wings.
Now he opens the plastic bag at his feet and tosses a handful of candy near the boy's inert body. The birds ruffle their iridescent feathers but dare not swoop down to investigate. After a few minutes Billy lifts his head and from his bruised face peels away a mask of wet leaves. Had another child been injured--a normal child, thinks George--there would have been a high-pitched scream, inconsolable wailing and blubbering, but from his son there comes only a strangled, drawn-out hiss, the sound a vampire makes after it has been cornered in a crypt, its forehead seared by a crucifix, its glassy, black eyes maced with holy water. In his four years of life Billy has never uttered a word, not a single one, and seldom moves his lips with make-believe speech.
Sometimes George actually pities the boy. There are even moments when he wonders if he is personally responsible for Billy's mysterious affliction, if he damaged the child during one of those infamous lost weekends--dropped him, shook him, put whiskey in his bottle instead of milk, vodka instead of formula. Sobriety should help George remember these things, so say his fellow alcoholics during the weekly AA meetings in the smoky church basement, but the past will not give up its secrets so easily, and for that he is grateful.
His wife, however, is not the type to forgive and forget and is only too happy to remind him of the terrible things he has done. A deeply religious woman, she believes in the redemptive power of shame and spends long hours recounting, often in meticulous detail, his innumerable failures as a father and husband. Without asking his permission, she goes to the rectory where she consults the Jesuits about their son, but the priests only offer their usual crackpot diagnoses, use the cryptic words “solipsism syndrome,” and suggest that Billy is merely speech delayed, nothing more. “Prayer will solve the problem, sure enough,” the priests tell her. They lounge in an enormous parlor, shielded from reality by ornate tapestries and heavy brocade curtains, as Ms. Higginson, their surly housekeeper, serves tea, pours the cream, counts out the lumps of sugar, attends to their every need, all the while listening to the conversation with special interest.
George does not approve of these clandestine meetings, and he isn't particularly interested in the Jesuits' armchair psychology. He believes the boy is disturbed, plain and simple, and he isn't afraid to say so. The neighborhood has a tendency to breed monsters. Newspapers tell grisly tales of murder, incest, rape, a veritable decameron of horrors not to be believed. The people here are diseased, their brains warped from breathing the poisoned air and drinking the tainted water.
“I should have a say in these matters,” he told his wife that morning at breakfast. “I'm still the head of this household, and I believe the boy needs to see a proper physician.”
“Head of the household!” His wife laughed bitterly. “Well, aren't you old-fashioned?” She crushed out her cigarette in an egg yolk and then laced up her steel-toed boots. “We can't afford a doctor. We lost our medical insurance when you were fired, Zoloft canada, mexico, india, remember?”
“Laid off, you mean.”
“Right, laid off. Sorry.”
Trying to ignore his wife's sarcasm, George focused on his plate, sopped up a pool of bacon grease with a triangle of burnt toast and crammed the whole thing into his mouth. “Those priests are no better than witch doctors!” He had a bad habit of talking with his mouth full and sprayed his words across the table. “Mortal men claiming to speak for God. They can't even look you in the eye and admit that the boy is daft, that he isn't right in the head. Look at him, Zoloft Cost. You'd think he was reared in the wild.”
Billy Fenner tugged violently on a scrap of overcooked sausage and slobbered down his chin but otherwise seemed to watch the scene with perfect indifference.
His wife tousled the boy's hair. “He's fine. He knows when to keep his mouth shut. It's a sign of intelligence. He's a prodigy.”
“Oh, sure, a real fucking genius!”
George chuckled, busy mopping up more grease with a fresh piece of toast, but he should have known what was coming; marriage had conditioned him to be aware of the dangers, but he didn't realize what was happening until he heard the crash of dishes and felt the fork pressed firmly against his neck, Zoloft treatment, the dull prongs dripping with egg yolk and puncturing his flesh.
“Billy is a gifted boy,” she hissed, pushing the fork ever closer to his ceratoid artery. “He's smart. Zoloft Cost, He knows a lot more than you give him credit for. Do you know what I think. I think with just a little more encouragement from his father, Billy can accomplish some extraordinary things.”
Billy gnawed at a leathery strip of bacon with great determination.
George nodded and, through clenched teeth, whispered, “Yes, dear, yes, you're absolutely right…”
His wife seemed to be mulling over her options, contemplating the benefits and drawbacks of murder. Her eyes twitched with something primordial, barely mammalian, as if one of the gray moles nesting in the tangled weeds around the front porch had scurried into the bedroom late at night and tunneled deep inside her brain, gobbling up every last morsel of her compassion and sanity.
The clock began to chime.
“Dammit, I'm going to be late for work.” She threw the fork down on the table and then hurried to the closet to get her lunchbox and welding hood.
It took a few minutes before George realized he was bleeding. With a paper napkin, he gently dabbed at the thin trails of blood trickling down his neck and pooling in the hollow around his collarbone. He trembled at how very close he'd come to confessing everything, every terrible detail of the past few months. From now on, where can i order Zoloft without prescription, he would have to proceed with caution. He had no desire to be blinded or castrated. There were women like that, women who were capable of maiming a man; he'd known a few in his time and had the scars to prove it. Concealing the truth from his wife had suddenly become a matter of life and death. The risk was especially dangerous since it involved their son. Still, he had no choice but to carry on. The alternative was to remain completely dependent on her. She held the purse strings and seemed more determined than ever to turn his existence into a grueling spiritual pilgrimage to the impossibly distant shrine of sobriety.
Before leaving the house, she kissed Billy on the cheek. “I'll see you tonight for trick-or-treat.” Then without acknowledging her husband, she stormed out of the house and marched down the street to catch the bus.
The phone starts ringing (another creditor, more likely than not, calling to harass him), but George considers any phone call a welcome distraction. Brushing cigarette ashes from his coat, he stands up and shouts to his son, “Hey, Superman, don't fly off anywhere!”
He goes inside the house and picks up the phone.
“That you, Fenner?”
He pauses a moment before responding. “Ms. Higginson. How nice to hear from you, Zoloft Cost. It's been awhile.”
“You sound a little uneasy, Fenner. Discount Zoloft, Something wrong?”
“My wife. She's not over there at the rectory, talking to those priests, is she?”
“Haven't seen her since last week.”
“Well, then, everything is just fine.”
“Not quite everything.”
“What could possibly be wrong?”
“Don't be dense, Fenner. You know.”
“Afraid I don't, Ms. Higginson.”
Zoloft Cost, There is a long pause before she finally says, “Boiler is on the fritz again.”
“Ah, so that's it.”
“How soon can you be here?”
“Could it wait till tomorrow. I'm in charge of my boy today.”
“Poor child. He's probably running wild in the streets.”
“Everything's under control. Billy is always safe when his daddy is around.”
“Well, bring him with you. If he's still in one piece.”
“I'm not sure that's such a good idea. It's Halloween, Zoloft Cost. My wife wants us all to go trick-or-treating. It'll be getting dark in another hour.”
“I'll gladly call another repairman, if you'd like. Plenty of men looking for work these days.”
“Oh, don't do that, Zoloft pictures. Matter of fact, I was thinking of heading out the door anyway. Zoloft Cost, Just finished my last cigarette. Gotta go to the corner store and stock up.”
“Better get a move on then. The priests will be back soon.”
“Must be a desperate situation, eh, Ms. Higginson. A real emergency.”
“I wouldn't go that far, Fenner. The boiler's overheating, Zoloft Cost. That's all. It happens sometimes. You should be grateful.”
The line abruptly goes dead.
After hanging up the phone, George struts over to the mirror above the mantle. Using his fingers he plucks the coarse black hairs sprouting from his nostrils. He regrets not having showered or brushed his teeth that morning, but he never expected to leave the house. Unemployment has turned him into a recluse.
He steps outside and walks over to the garage. The place is a wreck, and in order to reach the makeshift shelves hammered into the back wall he must scale a treacherous deadfall of plywood and particleboard. He has been meaning to build a tree house for Billy but hasn't gotten around to it yet. Under a pile of greasy rags, he finds the adjustable wrench, pliers, Where can i cheapest Zoloft online, channel locks, a chisel, tools so old and rusted they can no longer serve any practical purpose, but he can't very well show up at the rectory empty-handed. A proper tool set, no matter its condition, makes a man look professional and gives him an air of authority. People passing on the street are more likely to regard him as an honest tradesman, one who has fallen on hard times perhaps, but a tradesman nonetheless, a skilled laborer who is willing to work long hours for a day's wages.
After securing the latches on the toolbox, George goes to the front yard and finds his son racing around the maple tree, the mud-splattered cape billowing up behind him.
“Hey, you, stop monkeying with them birds!” With an impatient huff, George yanks the boy by the arm. “Let's go. We have a job.”
Father and son start the five-block journey to the rectory on Dickinson Street. Billy struggles to keep up, his grunts becoming more pronounced with every step. George turns to him and says, “Listen, you're going to do exactly what I tell you, right, Zoloft forum. Zoloft Cost, If you follow my directions, we should make out like bandits. This is going to be a lot more fun than trick-or-treat. Now here's the plan…”
Standing behind the elaborate cast-iron gate, Ms. Higginson looks not unlike one of the statues in the overgrown cemetery across the street, an imposing monument of a middle-aged woman carved from an enormous block of gritty sandstone, perfect in her bleak solidity. Broad shouldered and flinty-eyed, she watches over the rectory like a sentry guarding a house of the dead. She seems so totally impervious to the world and its distractions, so rigid and immovable, that George is surprised a pigeon hasn't fluttered down from one of the corbelled turrets to light on her head and drape her in flowing ribbons of white excrement. Without saying hello or commenting on little Billy's Halloween costume, she opens the gate and directs father and son through the shadowy courtyard and into the house.
“Hurry along,” she says.
George winces. The rectory smells of incense, cheap aftershave, chicken broth, formaldehyde. It has been a few weeks since his last visit (for some reason the word “reconnaissance” comes to mind), and as he passes through each of its enormous rooms, he lets his eyes linger over the curious relics prominently displayed in cabinets and pedestals--a triptych of martyred saints painted on three wooden panels; a crucified Jesus stretched across a cracked canvas, the savior's bloody fingers struggling to pry loose the nails driven deep into his shattered palms; chalices of silver and gold etched with ancient symbols; an ivory cross; shiny amulets; ridiculous jujus. Museum pieces of inestimable worth.
Upon reaching the end of a long hallway, Zoloft steet value, Ms. Higginson calls to Billy. “Over here, boy!” She opens a door and points. “Wait for your father down there. It shouldn't take him long.”
George whistles. “The basement, Ms, Zoloft Cost. Higginson. Seems a bit spooky for a child, don't you think?”
She puts her hands on her hips. “I won't have some rambunctious boy wandering around this house.”
“Aw, can't he wait in the library?”
“Out of the question. He'll make too much noise.”
George shakes his head. “He won't say a word, I promise you that.”
“Down he goes, Fenner, or I'll call Malachy McSweeney and ask him to do the job.”
“Him!” George shrugs. “Alright, alright. You heard the lady, Billy. No time to waste.”
Zoloft Cost, He shoves the toolbox into the boy's hands and pushes him toward the stairs. With a little yap of fear, Billy begins the steep descent. In the darkness, the boiler skirls and screaks like a steel dragon chained to the floor of a steamy dungeon. The galvanized pipes overhead cast ominous shadows across the boy's face. He stands against one of the sooty cinderblock walls and with imploring eyes looks up at his father.
Before slamming the door closed, Ms. Higginson hits a light switch and says, “If he knows what's good for him, Fenner, he'll stay right where he is.”
“Oh, yes, Zoloft pics, he's a very meek child.”
She leads George into the kitchen where the table has been set for dinner, the white tablecloth and napkins neatly pressed, the silverware polished, the fine bone china dried by hand to avoid spots and streaks. George marvels at this fancy presentation, a still life that could easily grace the cover of a magazine, and wonders what's on the menu tonight. A big pot of chicken soup simmers on the stovetop, but George knows that for an appetizer the priests always eat their God, served in the form of a small, white wafer of unleavened bread. It is forbidden to chew him, but chew him they do. This causes god to become wedged between their tobacco-stained teeth and cemented to the roofs of their mouths. With palsied fingers, with toothpicks, with dental floss, the priests try to loosen their delicious deity, but this only complicates matters and creates a particularly thorny theological question. As God hangs wetly from the floss in small beads, almost like some culinary rosary, the priests wonder if they should consume the remnants before discarding it. Surely it's an abomination, a sacrilege of the highest order to throw god into a garbage can or to dispose of him in a toilet bowl. Since they aren't in the habit of reading every papal encyclical, Get Zoloft, the priests aren't sure what the Church teaches on this matter. Even for staunch defenders of the faith, canon law can be a most troublesome thing.
Well, no one can follow all of the rules all of the time, as George Fenner can attest. When he spots the bottle of red wine at the center of the table, for instance, he claps his hands and then reaches for one of the crystal glasses.
“Don't!” Ms. Higginson says.
“Why shouldn't I?”
“The priests mark the bottle.”
George laughs. “Those tight-sphinctered devils, they get plenty of this stuff every Sunday, I promise you that. Blood of Christ, my foot.”
“I thought you gave up the booze.”
“Let's just say there are occasions, Ms. Higginson, when I feel justified in taking a sip or two. It gives a man strength.”
“Is that what you tell your fellow drunks at the weekly AA meeting?”
“Everyone cheats now and then. Maybe you should have a little for yourself, Zoloft Cost. Might help you to relax. It can hardly be paradise, working here for these curmudgeons.”
“They're good men, Fenner. They do a lot for this community.”
“You're starting to sound like my old lady, Zoloft interactions. She has this crazy notion that the Jesuits are miracle workers who can cure our son. Laying of the hands and all that.”
Zoloft Cost, Ms. Higginson huffs. “Is that what you think. That your wife comes here to consult the priests about your boy?”
“What other reason can she possibly have?”
“She comes here to give me the evil eye.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“She's no fool, Fenner. She knows what we've been up to, you and I.”
“Like hell she does.”
“Women can sniff out treachery. She's toying with me, waiting for me to break down and confess my sins in front of the priests.”
George takes a step forward and whispers in her ear, “But you won't confess, will you, Ms, Zoloft Cost. Higginson?”
She uncrosses her arms and shoves him against the table. With her calloused housekeeper's hands, she unbuttons his flannel shirt and pulls it from his back. He smiles, kisses her neck, lifts up her heavy wool skirt. Physical intimacy transforms her from a cold statue into a scratching, writhing hellcat. She pants and whimpers and grinds her powerful hips against his gyrating pelvis, but before things can really get started she digs her nails into his shoulders and gasps, “Dear God in heaven!”
“What's wrong?” asks George.
“Your little boy…”
“Ha, he doesn't mind.”
“But he's watching us.”
Standing in the doorway, clinging to his red cape and sucking his thumb, is little Billy Fenner. He gazes with indifference at his father's grizzly buttocks and Ms. Zoloft from mexico, Higginson's muscular, white thighs.
“Get outta here, you!” George grabs his flannel shirt from the floor and lobs it at the boy's head. “Back into the basement!”
With a loud bellow and croak, the child scampers down the gloomy corridor.
Ms. Higginson says, “Maybe we should stop.”
But George pushes her down so she is sprawled across the kitchen table like a ritual sacrifice, and in no time at all the two of them fall into a mutually satisfying rhythm. At the Jesuit school, the chapel bells begin to chime. Soon the priests will say grace and break bread at this very table. It's an image that gives George Fenner such a perverse sense of pleasure that he nearly climaxes prematurely.
Thirty minutes later, father and son hurry back home through streets teeming with groups of neighborhood children in their Halloween costumes.
When they are no longer within sight of the rectory, Billy nudges his father and places a small rectangular object in his hand.
George pats the boy's head. “Ah, the cat burglar strikes again.”
After several weeks of training, Billy has become a true master of deception, conveying to one and all an air of dim-witted innocence. If he puts his mind to it, he can creep through any house virtually undetected, and over the past few months he has managed to pilfer numerous odds and ends from the homes of relatives and acquaintances. Occasionally his work yields big dividends--prescription pills, bags of marijuana, a collection of rare coins, watches, credit cards, canada, mexico, india, a book of blank checks. The Tanzanian shopkeeper pays handsomely for the looted goods, tens and twenties are the standard rate of exchange, and he never asks questions. With the proceeds from these sales, George is able to maintain some semblance of a social life, sneaking a few pints at the local brewery while his wife works at the foundry.
But now, after a string of successes, disaster suddenly strikes.
“What the hell is this!” George cries. “No cash. No booze. No pills?”
Zoloft Cost, Rather than find anything of real value, Billy has engaged in a sort of spiritual espionage. While having no monetary value, the boy's startling discovery does prove one thing: that the old men, stooped and bent with the unyielding cynicism they harbor for their fallen parishioners, are no better or worse than anyone else--they have their weaknesses, their secrets, their forbidden pleasures. George considers turning around and confronting them, just for the small pleasure of watching the priests choke on their guilt and indignation. “What sorts of disgusting things go on here?” he wants to ask them as they sit down to dinner. “You monsters, you're to blame for my boy's troubles. It's you who have traumatized him. I've known it all along, and now I have proof!” At this point, George would step forward and hold up the deck of pornographic playing cards for all to see.
Billy lifts his head and growls at his father.
George stops, glances back at the rectory, pinches his chin. “I dunno. We should probably get home. It's getting pretty late. And your mother isn't a very patient woman.”
He flips through the cards one last time and then tosses them to the ground. Billy lets outs a high-pitched squeak and chases after them, an orgy of big-titted, suntanned harlots engaged in carnal acts with mustached kings, leering jacks, and a cross-eyed joker, his erect penis painted in motley and adorned in cap and bells.
When they finally get home, they see a figure sitting on the front steps. George's wife yanks the bandanna off her head, releasing a shower of graphite dust, and then crushes out her cigarette with the heel of a steel-toed boot. She immediately lights another and exhales an iron spike of smoke.
George smoothes back his hair, searches his pockets for a stick of chewing gum. He can still taste Ms, Zoloft Cost. Higginson on his lips. For the first time in months he looks at his wife with a tinge of remorse, Purchase Zoloft online, with something that might even be described as old-fashioned Catholic guilt. She's a scarecrow of her former self, shockingly thin, with dark circles of exhaustion under her eyes. She struggles every day to provide for the three of them, but somehow George suppresses this knowledge and has learned to live with his immaturity, his irresponsibility, his selfish pursuit of women and drink. The trick, he finds, is to turn his sins into virtues.
“No overtime tonight?” he says with a timid wave of his hand. He tries not to blink, not to turn away from his wife's lethal stare. “Ah, you bought some cigarettes, I see.”
“Where the hell have you been?”
He grins. “Glad you asked. I was doing a good deed. For the Jesuits. The boiler sprung a leak. Over at the rectory.”
“At the rectory?”
“Is this true?”
“Is what true?”
Zoloft Cost, His wife glares at him. “I wasn't speaking to you. I was speaking to Billy. Well. Was your father fixing the boiler?”
George laughs. “You know damn well the boy doesn't talk. It's your fault, if you ask me, buy cheap Zoloft no rx. You treat him like an infant.”
“He may not talk,” she says calmly, “but he tells me things, all sorts of things. Everything worth knowing, anyway. I've trained him, you see, trained him well. Didn't I, Billy?”
George feels a small but noticeable change in the air. His smile fades, his stomach tightens. He wants to hurry down the street to the brewery, but since he is flat broke, he can only stand before his wife like the accused before a jury, helpless to defend himself against the trumped up charges. With mounting horror, he watches Billy approach his mother. He looks like a toy soldier on the march, chin held high, shoulders back. A terrifying vision of precocity, a diabolical scourge. Suddenly the boy whirls on his heels, points an accusatory finger at his father and, flashing a malevolent grin, holds up the deck of playing cards..
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