“Erik? Wake up, my boy.” The door muffled his father’s voice, but not his sarcasm.
“Yeah?” Erik pretended that he was only half-awake. The door inched open, and what little light was shining from behind his father’s large
silhouette, made his eyes burn.
“Good morning! I hope that your overnight slumber was deep and refreshing.”
Erik so badly wanted to tell his dickhead of a father to fuck off, how he wished everyday that the accident would have killed him instead of his
“What do you want?” Erik’s fear had been replaced with hatred.
“Listen to you. I was nothing but polite, and you greeted me with such a hostile tone. I thought I taught you better than that.”
His face became clearer as Erik’s eyes began to adjust to the dark, reminding him just how hideous his father was.
“You didn’t teach me shit. Everything I’ve ever learned came from Mom.”
“You little bastard; I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that because I have something more important to talk to you about.”
He held something up in his hand.
“What the hell is this?”
He knew exactly what it was. His father had always done laundry on Thursday mornings and Erik didn’t realize that yesterday was Wednesday.
“I can’t see it.”
His father switched the lights on. “That better?”
“I don’t know. Mike told me to hold it for him last night when he was skateboarding and I forgot I had it.”
The glass pipe exploded on the wall behind Erik’s head, sending broken glass raining down upon his bed. Erik buried his face in the pillow and
covered his neck, just like in elementary school tornado drills. His father approached the bed, his footsteps sounding twice as loud as before.
“Don’t touch me!”
A sharp pain shot down his spine as his father’s icy hands wrapped around his neck, jerking him to the floor.
Erik looked up into his father’s eyes, six feet, five inches away. He knew that he was going to get beaten no matter what, so he decided he might as
well try to stand up for himself.
He grunted in pain as his father’s boot connected with his ribs.
Erik struggled to his knees, coughed and looked up again. With every passing second, his detest multiplied. He mustered up what strength he had
left and staggered to his feet. The pain in his ribs kept him from standing straight up. He reconnected with his father’s eyes.
“You have anything to say?” The smell of Jack Daniels curled Erik’s nose hair.
His father drew back a fist, and stopped. Usually Erik closed his eyes at this point, but not today. His eyes were open wide, almost inviting his
father to hit him. They stood there in silence, waiting for the other one to make a move.
Finally, his father dropped his hand; leaned into Erik’s face and growled “Don’t you ever let me catch you with anything like this again. If I do, you
bet your ass that I’ll do more than kick you. You understand me?”
“Yeah I do.”
His father stayed for a couple seconds, trying to think of something to say. When he finally left, Erik eased down onto his bed and thought to
himself, too bad there won’t be a next time.
“So, they’re just expecting me to drop everything and pick up this new project? What about East Nineteenth?”
Michael was juggling a cup of coffee, a bagel, a briefcase, a tube of blueprints and his cell phone at the crosswalk.
“Well, yeah, but I promised the kids that I would take them camping this weekend. And I…”
The light finally changed, and the flock of half-awake pedestrians drifted across Wacker Drive.
“I realize that, but I’m just saying, I’ve been working really hard on the Nineteenth building and now I’m supposed to just dive right into the
Holland and propose a design by Monday? What am I supposed to do, just pull it out of my ass?”
Cars, some sounding their horns, were backed up from light to light, despite the day being less than seven hours old.
“I don’t know. What am I supposed to do? Tell him no? Then he’ll fire me and we’ll have to live on the streets. Although I guess we could just
tell the kids we were going camping for a while.”
He finished his bagel and sipped the last of his coffee down. He discarded his cup in the trash can.
“I guess I’ll just do it, but now I have to go all the way to Holland tonight to look at the site.”
Michael could hear the disappointment in his wife’s voice as she reminded him of their dinner plans for that evening.
“Well, you could come with me. We’ll just go from there. It’ll be fun! You can watch my architectural genius in action! Okay, it’s a date!” He
extended his hand to open the door to Johnson and Siyoko, Inc. “Well I’m at the office now, so I have to go. But I will see you at the house after
work. Okay. Love you too.”
He placed his phone in his pocket and walked across the marble floor to the elevator, his footsteps reverberating off of the stone walls.
Erik didn’t mind that he missed the school bus. It actually saved him from having to stay up all night, waiting for his father to go to sleep so he
can sneak to the car. His father drove a 1998 Chevy Malibu that used to be white, but is now more of an ivory shade and he was way too proud of
it. He thought that any car made after 1995 was a new car and wanted everybody to know that it cost him eighty-eight hundred dollars new.
“Hell of a deal” he always added with an obnoxious smirk on his face.
Oh the irony. Now Erik was the one displaying the smirk. He just had to wait for his father to pass out from drinking, usually around four thirty
or so. That gave him about two hours.
He glanced over at the brown paper bag in the corner, and relished in the ease with which he had been able to steal the ingredients. He just went
into the chemical room in Chem Lab while his teacher was helping someone, found the sulfur, potassium nitrate, and antimony sulfate, all of
which were clearly labeled, threw the containers into a brown paper bag and exited the room. He was in and out in less than thirty seconds.
Erik grabbed the bag, a light and a balance that he got at a yard sale four months ago for fifty cents. He turned off the overhead light, closed the
blinds, switched on the desk lamp and pushed all of the papers and dirty dishes and clothes onto the floor, replacing them with the bag and
balance. He pulled a clean spoon and a calculator from his desk drawer and laid them next to the balance. Okay, breath in, hold…hold. Breath out.
He knew that he needed at least eight ounces to make it worth his while, and the recipe called for 70.6 percent potassium nitrate, 23.5 percent sulfur
and 5.9 percent antimony sulfate. Doing the math with the help of his calculator, he determined that he needed 160.118 grams, 79.3786 grams and
0.472 grams, respectively. He knew it was going to be difficult with only a table spoon and he was probably going to get frustrated. But that’s why
he had started so early and all he had to do was remind himself of the events to come. There was no turning back now.
“Yes, Cameron, I realize that, but what I’m saying is you have to have at least two pilots for each song if you want to have a free façade. There’s no
way that only one could support the weight of the entire façade, especially if you want to make it out of brick. So, either find a lighter material, or
add another pilot.”
Michael was amazed at how all of the ‘architects’ that they hired fresh out of their internships were all the same. Wanting to be the architect that
‘breaks the mold’ with his ‘chic edginess’ and really ‘change the criteria for the architectural profession.’ Even if it involves ‘ignoring the laws of
physics’ and ‘putting all of the building’s occupants’ lives in danger.’
“Ok, I guess you’re right. Thanks, Mr. Kissinger.”
He stopped in the doorway on his way out.
“Oh yeah. Uh, me and some of the other guys are going out for drinks tonight after work. You’re welcome to come if you want.”
They always wanted to be your buddy, too.
“Where are you going?”
“Well, I’d love to, but I promised the wife we would go out to dinner tonight. And I have to go to Holland to check out the site; maybe next
Cameron turned and disappeared around the corner and Michael spun around in his chair to face the window. It was just about two now and the
traffic was still constant. That’s one thing he noticed since he moved to Chicago. There really is no “rush hour”. The traffic is shitty all day. But he
didn’t mind since he lived close enough to walk home. He couldn’t stop thinking about how bad he was going to feel when he told his kids they
couldn’t go camping this weekend. He had already had to postpone the trip twice and was hoping that they wouldn’t start losing trust in him
already. He was hoping they would at least wait until puberty, like all the other kids.
Erik leaned back in his chair and glanced at the black powder on his desk. That’s it. That’s what’s going to solve all my problems. That pile of dust
will undo all of the problems of the last six years. He’ll never beat me again.
He threw back the blinds and opened his window to get the awful aroma of sulfur out of his room, welcoming the smell of fresh air and cut grass.
He took in the warmth of the sunshine and asked himself if the day could get any better. It was five thirty and now all he had to do was make sure
that his father was asleep. He took one last glance out the window and as he turned to go to the door, he heard the hum of a small motor and
what sounded like someone banging on a door and at first thought nothing of it. But then it hit him and he ran to the window to make sure that
he was wrong. The noises stopped and a white trunk emerged from the garage, followed by the rest of his father’s Chevy. Damn it! I knew it was
too good to be true! He ran down stairs to the kitchen. His father would sometimes leave a note on the table, and sure enough this was not one of
those times. But he did leave behind a trail of evidence. Erik noticed the refrigerator door was cracked open and that an empty egg carton was on the
table next to a package of bacon that appeared to have been mauled by rabid wolves. He knew exactly where his father had went and ran upstairs,
stepped into his Chucks, bottled the concoction and ran out the door.
“Ugh, I hate traffic. I think they should make cars illegal. If you want to go anywhere, you have to walk. That way we could cure obesity too. It’s
win-win.” Michael glanced at Kelly out of the corner of his eye as they sat motionless at the light. She was smiling. “Are you excited? I heard that
this restaurant is real good. You should feel privileged.”
“Why is that?”
“Because I blew off the new guys at work to go out to dinner with you; I totally got invited to go drinking tonight.”
“Oooh. Sounds like you’re the privileged one. Thanks for gracing me with your presence.”
She leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. It reminded him of when they first began dating, when they used to give each other surprise
kisses on the cheek. He looked over at her and she had the cutest playful smile on her face, the tip of her tongue exposed between her lips.
“I love you.” He said, glancing back and forth between the road and his wife, who was still as beautiful as she was on their wedding day twenty-two
“I love you too. So what kind of food does this place serve?”
“Well, that’s a surprise. But you like this kind of food, I promise.”
“You promise?” She faked worry.
“Did I stutter? Hell yeah I promise!” They both laughed as the light changed green. “Finally! I think I evolved a third nut while we were sitting
They laughed even harder as their Malibu drove away.
Would it kill him to eat a fuckin’ salad every once in awhile? Erik was amazed that his father’s eating habits hadn’t killed him yet. He couldn’t
remember the last time he had seen anything green go into his father’s mouth, aside from the beer last St. Patrick’s Day. He passed two children
shooting basketball in their driveway and remembered the time his father tried to get him to play football. He went to the first day of practice and
refused to go back. He and his father argued for hours, but that was before the accident, so his mom was there to defend him. He gave the helmet
and shoulder pads back to the coach the following day. That his first and last memory of any sports.
“I’m really sorry. I don’t know what the hell this about.”
Michael and Kelly stood at the doorway of the restaurant for which they were supposed to have had reservations. They were both staring at the sign.
“Are you sure this is the right place?”
“Yep. I triple-checked the address and I called last night to make sure that they still had us booked.”
“Well, what did they say?”
“They said ‘Yes, Mr. Kissinger, we have you down for two at five o’clock. We’ll see you tomorrow.’”
The neon glow from the ‘XXX’ and ‘live girls’ illuminated the confusion on Michael’s face and the annoyance on Kelly’s. After a couple of seconds
of silence, they turned to one another, and exploded into laughter.
“Well, shit. Now what do we do?” Kelly said, gasping for breath.
“Well, we could just stop at Safeway on the way home and get stuff to make our own dinner. Your thoughts?”
“You know, that’s actually a good idea. We haven’t cooked together in a long time. What…like three weeks? I think we should.”
“Let’s do it. Now the only question is chicken or fish.”
They held hands as they walked back to the car. Michael opened the door for Kelly and as he was running around to his side, she opened the glove
box to get the key for him.
Erik saw the Holland Safeway sign glowing in the twilight as soon as he turned onto Greenland Ave, like a beacon in the night. Bingo! He could
feel the anticipation building in his stomach.
“Hey, what kind of chicken do you want? I was thinking either teriyaki or sweet and sour.”
Michael knew what she was going to say, but he asked anyways.
“You pick. I still want to be surprised.”
Damn it. He walked to the sauce section and stood, puzzled, for minutes.
Before he went through with this, Erik wanted to make sure that he had the right car. It would be just my luck to blow up some poor little old
lady. He first made sure that the doors were unlocked and then he checked the glove box where his father always hid the key. Erik smiled as he saw
the gold key shining in the glow of the dome light. He popped the hood.
“You know, the babysitters have the kids until eleven tonight. It’s only six now. What do you think we should do?”
Kelly picked up a package of sausage. She gained the attention of an older overweight man reaching for a package of bacon.
Michael smiled. “Gee, I don’t know. I think we still have Lord of the Rings III.”
Erik crumbled up the bag and threw it in his pocket. There. That was easy. The hardest part was finding the igniter. As he started to walk away, he
turned and took one last look at the car. So many memories. He took his driver’s test in that car. He and Mike Tills had almost gotten hit by a semi
in that car. He got to third base with Brandi Milford in that car. His flashback was interrupted by the automatic doors opening, and he quickly
ducked between two cars and emerged onto the sidewalk. He didn’t look back for fear that his father would see him. Now who’s beating who? As
he approached the corner, the dim evening sky was illuminated in a bright orange flash, like lightning in a midnight thunderstorm. His ears were
ringing. Well pops, I guess I’ll see you in Hell.
|Bacon and Eggs
by Cory Shaffer