by Morris Collins
Every morning I throw a brick through my father’s front window, and because I’m his son and because he’s sleeping with my girlfriend, he never calls the cops. This morning though, he’s waiting for me. Standing out there in front of the window on the lawn.
Look, he says. Son, this has got to stop.
He’s wearing his usual get-up: a black military sweater with reinforced elbows, gray cargo pants with about a thousand different pockets, and a green fedora. It’s the only outfit he has.
Get out of the way, I say. I’ll just come back later.
He shrugs, looks down, and steps aside.
This has been going on for two weeks. Since I found out. I know that in the arithmetic of familial love there are a thousand ways to damage your children without even trying, but I believe my father has set a new precedent. I mean, really: to rewire all the buttons in the car so that when your son takes the driving test, the lights start to flash, the heat to blow, the radio to come on at two hundred decibels (which is just louder than the state trooper is screaming) while the windshield wipers, turned on now, try to swish it all away? That in itself, that little experiment in dashboard reconfiguration, could represent my father’s myriad sins of inconsiderate science. Worse even than the time he tried to make our dog faster with his own blend of protein supplements and then hoped to bring back its suddenly failing eyesight with electronic retinal stimulus.
Because at sixteen, in Houston, with an eighteen-year-old girlfriend, you need a car.
But beyond that, after sabotaging your son’s driving test, to seduce and steal his girlfriend while driving her home, which your son can’t legally do now—that sets the bar pretty fucking high.
So yeah, because my father values energy conservation above all else, and because he is, for now, in the glass business, I throw a brick through his front window every morning and know that when he comes home he’ll repair it, make it whole and new and just right for me to break the next day.
The problem is that now they’re waiting for me, both of them: my father on the lawn and Kayleigh on the other side of the window—as if that might stop me from throwing this brick even harder. But actually it might, because though in a perfect universe where the window could blow in and out at the same time I’d love to see them both covered in splinters of glass, there’s no way that I can throw this brick and then hop on my bike, my big red bike, the way I usually do, and peddle away. I mean, how would that look? Me hauling ass on a bike, riding off like a little kid, while my dad stands there, wipes his hands on his pants, and gets out his tools. You know what’ll happen then, you know he’ll say, as they watch me shrink to a pitiful red zit on the horizon, I built that bike. Built it from scratch when he was just a boy.
And it’s true, he did build it. My father’s a genius. There’s nothing he can’t do perfectly once, and also nothing he can do much more than that. They say that fathers wound their children with their accomplishments, with all they force them to live up to, but also they hurt them with the tripwire crossbows they rig to kill the possums that drink from the kiddie pool, or with the line of chewing gum they concoct out of horse marrow and wasp venom, or with the way they try to devise a water-efficient system of showering that involves dousing oneself with a solution of lye and dry ice. What I’m saying, is that even if the individual manifestations of my father’s brilliance are short-lived, they leave scars that are not the scars of misdirected love. And yeah, right now he’s on to glassmaking. Blowing, pressing, repairing. When he’s done with that, and it’ll be soon, I’ll have to find something else to wreck.
I look up to the window, Kayleigh standing there, pressing her hands to glass and what I want to say to her is, can’t you see he’s wearing a fedora? A fedora over a fucking pony-tail? Though I’m sure by now she’s noticed and accepted that, maybe even come to see it as some symptom of his genius, some sure sign that he is indeed the man he imagines himself to be. And seeing Kayleigh there, just beyond the glass, watching us both with her perpetual expression of sudden wounding, I feel a weird affection for my father because I remember the weekend my mother left, finally, after she found all the dishtowels made out of the dog’s fur, the weekend when my father, still sort of crying, still sort of a wreck, told me he’d take me hunting.
What I didn’t know then—but should have guessed—was that I was going to be his assistant in his newest venture, which was exterminating the wild boars that roamed the Houston suburbs. It’s harder than you’d think to catch a hog, because they’re smart and stealthy—you can’t sneak up on them. What you do, of course, if you’re my father, is invent a poison that will weaken and disorient, and then hide it in everyone’s garbage on trash day. Come dawn you wander the streets and try to ignore all the raccoons and armadillos and possums that are lying dead in the road, ignore the twitching housecat or Labrador retriever. You ignore all that, leave everything, as you always do, in your wake, and follow the grunting until you find a boar in someone’s backyard, trotting in circles, falling over. Which is when you strut up to it and cut its throat and watch as it bleeds out into the swimming pool.
And now, seeing Kayleigh watching us both through the glass I intend to break, I know that certain things from that day will remain with me: the way you had to cut deep and fast because a hog’s squeal sounds a lot like a human baby’s, the way the first drops of its blood hitting pool water flowered like fireworks blossoming into a perfect summer sky, and the way after it all, after we killed and field dressed it there in the yard, we stood and saw ourselves—father and son covered in gore—reflected in the back window, and my father seemed suddenly to smile, nod his head a little like he was already beginning to spread out his next dream, the one of blowing such pure glass into the world that it could give a family, bloody and wounded as they were, back to each other as clean and good as new.
A Boston native, Morris Collins received his MFA from The Pennsylvania State University in 2008. His fiction and poetry recently appeared in, or are forthcoming from The Los Angeles Review, The Saranac Review, Nimrod, and Lake Effect, among others.