When Stanton Parks was diagnosed with testicular cancer, his first thoughts were of his father. His father’s always blood-shot eyes bulging out of his always blood-choked face, and crawling out of his toothless mouth the same slimy four-legged profanities which he spat at persecutors dead or imagined. But during the darkest hours of his bullshit, Stanton Parks’ father spewed doom-laden prophecies concerning a curse that afflicted every other generation of his kin. The formula of the curse was simple: death before fifty.
Stanton pulled his Jeep into the over-grown driveway behind the rusty ass of his father’s Ford pickup and killed the engine. He opened the glove compartment and was relieved to see that the .357 Blackhawk he’d bought from his friendly neighborhood crack dealer hadn’t chewed its way to freedom.
He sat staring at the weeping windshield for maybe a minute, maybe more, pondering his intentions, and his life. He hadn’t accomplished shit; he had dropped out of college twice, no lasting relationships and it was only until he joined the marines well into his twenties that he was filled with clarity for the first time in his life. He found a movement, a meaning, and shortly after enlisting, a lump on his right testicle. Little did his short-lived Brothers-In-Arms know; better to be blown to pieces under a foreign sun, forever haunting the heart and head of your wife, than the humiliation of wasting away alone. But such apprehensions were worthless now, all thanks to a prison-riot in his nut-sack. He popped three Vicodin, shoved the Blackhawk into his pants, pulled his sweater and jacket over it and got out.
The raindrops were the size of bullets, and the front yard was overwhelmed with weeds as tall as men. His fathers trailer loomed out of the negligent chaos, a giant abscessed tooth. As he approached he heard a guttural growl rising above the rain and the weeds. He ignored it.
But it was Lucy, Lucy the German shepherd of his youth. Lucy, long thought dead. Lucy why are you still alive? Stanton could see that she was blind, with milky moons for eyes. Her mange had gotten so bad, she had begun to mutate into a Kimono Dragon.
Stanton threw her a few soft kisses and she growled again and then sniffed the drowning air. Recognizing his scent and his sickness, she mewled softly and hobbled toward him. He took off one of his gloves and slowly knelt down, holding out his right hand, which she tentatively sniffed then licked. He stroked her softly on the place between her armpits that used to make her melt. She mewled again, and Stanton shook a Vicodin out of his pillbox and fed her one. She inhaled it and licked her lips. He pulled his glove back on and started toward the front porch.
There was only one porch step remaining, which whined when he stepped on it. The deck wobbled like a waterbed. A bare bulb burned a half a foot over his left shoulder. The screen door was locked, even though all the glass and mesh were gone.
Stanton was drenched at this point, with rain, with loathing, with hate. Then the door behind the screen frame suddenly opened and the raw reeking glory of Robert Parks stood before him; greasy blizzard of hair and beard, pork colored skin, and cat-green eyes embalmed in blood. He wore a blue flannel robe garnished with cigarette burns. The robe hung fully open and Stanton caught a glimpse of his father’s dick, feeble and final, huddled like a bum in a frozen bush.
At first he squinted at his son in suspicion, but then his eyes widened in recognition and he smiled.
“It’s been awhile boy, come on in.”
“Yes it’s been awhile.”
He unlocked the screen door and let his son in, making no attempt to close his robe.
Open arms of rotting air greeted Stanton. A teaspoon of bile surged onto Stanton’s tongue.
His father’s abode under more bare bulbs: Small mounds of maggoty bones lay everywhere, on the kitchen table, the kitchen counter, on the coffee table in the den. Empty liquor bottles stood around the putrid piles like bodyguards. Dead armies of cigarette butts overflowed from glasses and bowls. The radio was on but was so poorly tuned that for all Stanton knew his father was receiving transmissions from aliens.
Robert Parks walked over to the fridge like a man whose limbs were being remote controlled by a three year old. He opened the fridge and pulled out a tall Boy of Budweiser.
“You want one?”
Stanton felt like wiping his fathers face off the blackboard of the universe right then and there, but said “sure,” and took the beer with a trembling hand.
His father took another one out of the fridge, popped it open and drained the whole damn thing in six slugs. He belched and tossed the can onto a pile of others that overflowed from the kitchen sink. He opened the fridge again and this time extracted a fifth of Aristocrat vodka. He gestured with the bottle toward the couch. “Make yerself at home.”
Curled in the far right hand corner of the couch was something gray, glistening and breathing. Stanton took a ravaged copy of Field and Stream from under an empty vodka bottle on the coffee table and threw it over the unknown mass before slowly seating himself.
His father collapsed onto a brown leather Lazy Boy across from him. He still made no effort to close his robe. He took a swig from the bottle, bathing his son in a red unblinking gaze. “Been awhile.”
“Yes, it has.”
“I want you to tell me that story again.”
“About the time you were stationed at the Mekong Delta, what you saw, what you felt, what you thought.”
“You know I don’t like to talk about that shit.”
“You know why?”
Because you’re fullavit.”
“Full of WHAT?”
“What you yourself just called it, SHIT.”
Robert Parks took a long pull from the bottle, rose from his Lazy Boy and staggered over to the kitchen table. He took another slug and sat the bottle down. He tied his robe shut and lit a Winston with palsied hands. “Boy, you don’t know nothin’an you never have.”
“Then educate me, what year where you stationed there?”
His father took a French draw on his cigarette and blew smoke at the ceiling. “ It was summer, in ’68 I believe it was. Operation Sealords. I manned the 40-millimeter on the MK1 and we were under hostile fire at least seven times.” He took another slug of the vodka, and walked back to the Easy Boy. “After all these years, this is what you came here to talk about?”
“Did you ever believe you were going to die?” Stanton persisted, with the lifeless tone of a lawyer.
“Why? With all these bullets flying past you, mortars even probably, why didn’t you fear for your life?”
His father smiled like a man who owned some priceless secret. “Because I knew it wasn’t my time.”
“How did you know that? How were you so sure?
“Because my daddy died from a heart-attack at the age of forty-seven.”
“The curse,” Stanton said, no longer hiding his contempt. The magnum under his sweater remained as cold as his mothers hand on her deathbed.
“You remember then,” his father said leaning back in the recliner, popping out its footstool. He stretched his legs on it.
Stanton’s father had the feet of an athlete. They seemed like a mirage in comparison with the rest of his ravaged physique. Stanton’s own feet looked like things swapped from a swamp witch. He despised his father’s feet almost as much he despised his father.
“Do you remember that hunting trip we went on in Winnabow, on Christmas Eve? I think I was seven or eight or thereabouts.”
His father shifted uncomfortably in his seat and took another pull of his precious piss. “I imagine I do.”
“We were alone on a very high tower, it was the one of the most favorable ones. I remember we got there so early to get to that damn thing before all the others, that all the stars were still out.”
“I remember something like that.”
“Do you remember the buck that walked without a care in the world out of the bushes right in front of us, acting like death was something a million miles away?
“A care in the world,” his father repeated.
Stanton rose and walked towards the fridge. He took another tallboy, the last, and cracked it. His hands no longer trembled and he felt his cock growing hard beside the barrel of the Blackhawk. He took a long pull at the beer and walked back over to the couch. The ragged copy of Field and Stream beside him had begun to gently pulsate.
“You remember when that buck came out and you raised your 30’6 to take aim and when you did that buck looked up at you and you fired, you fired and didn’t hit a goddamn thing except an old pine behind it, hit its trunk about ten feet above that buck?”
“What are you gitten’ at?”
“What I’m getting at is that you’re a goddamn liar and the truth ain’t in you.”
The rain began falling harder now.
“I think you need to leave now,” his father finally said as he leaned forward pushing the footstool back into the chair.
“You want to hear what mom told me right before she died?”
“No I do not.” He rose from the Lazy Boy swaying.
“I just have one more question,” Stanton said, as he sat the tall boy down.
“Alright, one more question and your sorry ass is out the door.”
“What’s the maximum speed of a DBR MK1?”
His father’s lip began to quiver. “Thirty knots.”
“I’m sorry Robert, but the correct answer is twenty-five knots, you lying sack of shit.” Stanton drew the Blackhawk and fired. The magnum roared like a monster, ripping open a great red all-seeing eye in his father’s chest.
Robert Parks’ body blew backward as if struck by some supernatural force, crashing on the Lazy Boy, popping its footstool out as his head cracked open the window behind him.
Stanton walked into the kitchen and began rummaging around. After a couple of minutes he found what he was looking for. As he went to work on his father’s balls, Lucy began barking at the front door.
He rose and opened the door, letting Lucy in. She mewled as she sniffed her owner’s corpse. Stanton went back into the kitchen, rinsed out a bowl, and dropped his father’s testicles into it. He walked back over to the Lazy boy to find Lucy gently licking blood off his father’s dick. He slowly sat the bowl down at the base of the Lazy Boy. Lucy sniffed at the bowl it and mewled again before gobbling up her owner’s balls.
When he reached the interstate, the dying sun had breached the clouds and washed his face and mind clean for about a minute before the storm front regained its throne. His body and balls were no longer sore, and he felt something warm and hopeful flower within his belly, but that was probably the Vicodin talking.