Anthony Caden Lewis was a fifth grade student at Kerrisdale Elementary. Each morning at seven thirty his nanny took him to the school care program. For a modest fee, five young men and women watched the kids and fed them snacks before and after school hours. That year Anthony was the oldest and largest child.
Tag was forbidden because he hurt several children the previous year. So he made the third and fourth grade kids play poker for dollar bets. He got twenty dollars off Ryan Ling before Ryan’s parents complained. After he had to give the money back (he’d had to borrow from his dad because he’d already spent half) he played for toys, comics, and pokemon cards. At the end of the game - a bastardized form of poker with changeable rules - he’d reach across the table and rake in his winnings. Sometimes the smaller kid tried to keep it from him and he‘d gash the kid’s ankle with his foot. He made a point of winning Ryan’s DS in two hands. He kept the loot in a schoolbag by his coathook and never checked it. He made a bet with himself that no one would ever get into his schoolbag, and it was a bet he always won.
By the New Year he ran things. The supervisors were young and didn't care as long as no one got hurt. Even the littlest kids got used to the new reality.
One morning, a few minutes before the bell, a father walked in with a little boy and a tiny little girl of three. Anthony was hunting down a grade one French Immersion kid who wouldn’t give up his Bionicle. The Immersion kid darted out from the coatracks and Anthony thundered after him. He was average size during school hours, but in the care program he was gigantic.
The French kid ran between the tables and the racks, and the little girl got in Anthony’s way. Anthony was only thinking of the Bionicle and didn't even slow down.
A large hand came out of nowhere and clotheslined him. His feet swung out from under him and he fell on his butt. When he looked up the little girl’s dad was standing over him.
“Watch out,” said the dad. “You could have hurt her, dude. Not smart.”
One of the supervisors got off his phone and rushed over. Anthony got up and brushed himself off.
“Anthony, how about you say you’re sorry?” said the supervisor.
Anthony looked at the floor. “Sorry.”
“Be more careful in the future,” said the dad. He left with his kids and Anthony didn‘t get a good look at him.
A week after the collision in the lunch room the after-care kids were at the jungle-gym. The school-day was over and Anthony and the smaller kids were playing grounders. When he tagged someone, he liked to grab the skin beneath pants and shirts and twist hard. The result was a commonplace bruise, but it hurt like hell. Cats hated it. Kids rarely complained about that sort of pain and he was good at it.
Anthony was in the upper section of the jungle-gym, pretending to close his eyes, deciding who to hurt: the little blonde girl with the fat chest that looked sort of like adult tits or the new kid with the bowl cut who didn’t speak English. Across a set of guy-ropes was a plastic castle with ladders and steep metal slides. Going up and down those slides was the little girl from last week.
He noted she was wearing a jacket made from a smooth material, and that her pants were synthetic fleece, the sort his teacher said was made from recycled pop bottles. Against metal, fleece became like slick ice.
He calmly traversed the guy-ropes over to where she stood, all the while looking away from her. The girl with the tits and the Mongoloid would have to wait. When the little girl was at the top of the slide, he planted a foot in her back and kicked out hard.
She flew airborne like a bullet from a rifle and landed in the middle of the slide with an impact that shook the jungle-gym. She shot down the rest of the way with astonishing speed, became airborne again, met the ground with her face, and did a summersault before coming to rest on her back. He happily sat down on the slide and slid down after her.
Before he was halfway down, the girl’s father was crouched beside her. The father looked at her for maybe a quarter of a second before he turned, rose to a height of what seemed eight feet high, and looked straight at Anthony. Anthony reached the bottom of the slide, leaned backwards, and shrank onto his side. Remembering this moment, he would reflect that he didn’t help things by appearing both vulnerable and quite guilty.
The dad was a big man, slightly balding with a stubble that ran down into his neck. He had olive skin and dark deep-set eyes that were hard to read. Amid the screaming of the little girl, a dog barked, like a counterpoint, loud and frantic.
“What the hell was that about?” shouted the dad.
“I - I was just playing,” said Anthony. Another terrible mistake. Should have played dumb. The master of the care program should not slip up this badly.
“You could have hurt her. And I remember you, sonny. You nearly knocked her down last week as well. In the lunchroom, remember?”
“I was just playing,” said Anthony again. What was called? A get-out-of-jail-free card. Every kid had one. He wanted one. Owf-owf! OWF! With each bark a tendon in the dad’s neck twitched.
A supervisor approached . Rob, who could be counted on to be cool. He studied social work part-time. Anthony’s dad had told Rob to go into law; it was the only thing worth taking these days.
“This was an accident - right, Anthony?”
“I didn‘t mean it,” said Anthony. He was still curled up on his side. The dad stared down at him and Anthony couldn’t move. The little girl stood and the dad turned and picked her up. She was quite blonde and looked nothing like the dad. Anthony’s eyes finally found the dog. Big black thing, with a blunt thick head and massive curly tail that whirled madly. It looked to the dad and bared its teeth in an attempt to smile. Far above them, something flapped great dark wings and croaked hoarsely.
“Say you’re sorry,” said Rob, in a voice that hinted that he’d done this for Anthony thousand times too many. Rob was not behaving himself. Was it something about that dad that made him that way?
“Sorry,” said Anthony.
The dad, who now held his daughter in one arm, looked like he wanted to say more. But the out-of-jail card had worked. A kid can do anything and say sorry.
“Hey,” said Ryan Ling. “Anthony’s smiling.”
“I am not,” said Anthony.
“He is too; I saw it,” said Ryan.
“Ryan, he’s said sorry,” said Rob.
The dad turned and walked away. His son and dog followed. Rob left to check on the other children, and Anthony looked to see where the little Ling-Chingy snitch was going. After a a moment he saw Ryan ducking behind a tree. Hide all you want, thought Anthony. Me Chinese, me tell joke, me put pee-pee in your coke. His dad taught him that one. He walked towards the tree, warming up his hand. He was going to grab something through clothing, and this time it would be Ryan’s balls.
A hand fell on his shoulder and spun him around.
The dad loomed over him. Broad shoulders and up close his skin was lined and looked almost bullet-proof. Anthony looked around frantically but Rob was a hundred feet away, talking on his walkie.
“I just wanted a word with you alone,” said the dad.
“Yeah?” said Anthony.
“Yeah,” said the dad, and made a small thin smile. He waited and Anthony fidgeted. The dog sniffed at a tree.
“I know what you are,” said the dad. “didn’t take me too long to figure out.”
“What are you talking about?” said Anthony.
“I predict I’ll be reading your name in the papers ten or fifteen years down the road. But that’s if they catch you. You look like a pretty slick guy.”
Anthony went cold. He was only ten, and at that age even he believed most things an adult would say. The man’s words hung in the air like a pall of grey smoke, and the sounds of the playing children faded away to murmurs. The wind hissed through the trees and the dark came in from the east, and still Anthony did not move. Beyond his sick fear he was curious. This man knew what he was? Even Anthony didn‘t know that.
“Like I said, Sonny, I know what you are. I’ll be talking to your principal tomorrow.”
Anthony nearly lost it. Principals, teachers, doctors, this dad after him. And he suddenly knew what the dad was talking about. A terrible memory had surfaced: one of his cousins crying over something small and dead; Anthony’s mother crying as well. We can’t let daddy know. You can‘t ever do this again.
“No. No, don’t do that, mister.”
“Don’t act innocent with me. You think you can trick me, don’t you? You’ve been tricking people all your life. Your parents don’t want to know, and I don’t blame them. I don’t know what I’d do if you were my son. You don’t care about anything, do you? Not too long ago you’d be strung up. You ever go near my kids again, I’ll find out where you live and I will burn down your fucking house. You‘re a psychopath.”
Anthony’s head snapped up straight. He had clumsy, unlovely features that made him look like a middle-aged boy. His eyes stopped shifting and looked like two raisins in pale dough. His face became still and calm, and he felt almost relieved. The dad smiled, but the smile didn’t come near his eyes. It was the rueful smile of a man whose saddest theories have come to pass.
“Now that’s better,” said the dad. “No more masks. That’s your real face. Maybe they’ll offer you some help. I advise you to take it. You’ll be better off than if you cross me, my friend. We clear?”
If he’d been older, he might have likened his state of feeling to a musical child who has first touched a piano. A trap of sorts had been pried open and the trigger set. Other children were nothing like him. Other children got mean and angry like him, but only for a moment. Anthony was nothing else but that moment. Now this dad, this bald, thick-faced jerk, had finally told him he was different.
“Yeah,” said Anthony. “I’m clear.” He offered up his best smile.
“Your smile looks weird,” said the dad. “While they’re trying to fix everything else, maybe they can fix that. And get a haircut. That greasy mop makes you look like a mental patient.” With that he walked off. A card dropped from his jacket pocket and Anthony didn’t bother to tell him about it. The little girl had her head buried in her dad’s shoulder. The older brother followed after without looking back and seeing Anthony watching. The dog limped ahead and peed on a tree. A huge lump sat on its chest near the armpit. Lumps grew on its belly. An old, heavy dog.
Anthony picked up the card. Henry Morgan - Native art and design. World-renowned. A tidy, primitive design of what might have been a flounder in a pleasing red played beneath the dad‘s name. http://www.henrymorgan.com/.
Anthony put the card in his pocket, went back to the playground and played desultorily, feeling sulky and numb. He kept to himself so much even Ryan Ling emerged from his hiding spot and joined the other children. Anthony’s dad soon arrived, clapped Ryan on the back and drove him the four blocks home.
He waited until after dinner, after his mother had gone to meet a few friends at the club, and his dad had settled down with a drink in front of the TV. Then Anthony went to the computer and googled the one word that dad had said that he didn’t understand.
It was a strange word: He thought it began with an S and he spelled it out as best he could with a K somewhere as well, and the Internet asked him: Did you mean psychopath? He clicked in assent.
It wasn’t really a bad word, or a bad thing. He was just missing something. The capacity to know right from wrong? He knew the difference. He found one website with a series of mug shots - mostly white men, with greasy tangled hair and black motionless eyes. Black and brown ones must have existed too - but for some reason people remembered only the white ones, like it was always such a great surprise. Some of these guys had fan clubs! But he couldn’t understand why: they got caught because they did stupid things like kill their moms. They burned down buildings. A few just walked into schools and shot a bunch of people and then shot themselves. The most famous killed lots of women and children and left bodies everywhere.
Psyche meant breath, soul. Path just meant ability. Long ago someone had taken the word and pasted it on people like Anthony. There were tests that measured psychopathy, but only convicts took them. To put murderers, losers, dictators, CEO’s, and independent-minded bad-tempered boys such as Anthony under the same awful word was pointless.
Other things he found that night: In many Caribbean islands, the population is so mixed that no one is black or white. Black means the colour of coal, or the absence of light. It means other things, but perhaps the term is unfair to all the shades. On the islands, each shade is give a whimsical term to explain a person’s colour - café, café con leche, India Clara. Black is no help. Psychopath is unfair and means nothing if used to describe a million dissimilar men and women. Anthony wanted a word, a term. That dad, whom Anthony hated, had recognized him but used too general a word. Henry Morgan might as well have called Anthony a boy. Just what was he?
He went to Henry Morgan’s website. Slick, well-produced. He was a member of a Native band that Anthony couldn’t begin to pronounce. He made small sculptures of soapstone, wood, sodalite, and glass - mainly animals such as ravens, bears, eagles, crows. He set his sculptures on stone bases or choice pieces of driftwood, affixed with a metal plate that held the title of the work. They were expensive and very rich people bought them. He kept thinking about the words, the titles, and thought Henry Morgan was being unfair. He probably thought long and hard about what he called his own creations, but he didn’t put too much care into naming the kid who pushed his daughter off a slide. And she was too young to have been there in the first place, Anthony thought.
For a week he thought of nothing else. He wrote a paper about words that was five pages long and gave it to his teacher, even though the assignment had been on rainforests. It was about words, and how they mean one thing but end up responsible for a hundred different things. It’s easy to call someone a Hitler, or Hitler-like, a fascist, a psycho, a psychopath, gay, a fag, without thinking. But if the definition is wrong, the mistake often hurts the word as much as the person. The word becomes foggy, and all words suffered as a result. He got an A. His teacher wrote: I wasn’t expecting this, but it was interesting and passionate. Good Job, Anthony. I can see great things in your future if you pursue your interests like this. His teacher was a tall trim man with eyebrows neater and more narrow than the female teachers, and before the horror that occurred several weeks later he began to look kindly upon Anthony and pay special attention to him.
He showed the paper to his mom and dad. Dad yelled in delight, and mom went to the bedroom and stayed there for an hour.
I can see great things in your future. Take that, Henry Morgan. You don’t know what I am. I know what I am. I’m something great, and I’m going to show you.
In celebration His dad took him out to the Cactus club that Friday. His mother said she wasn’t feeling well and stayed home. They went late, and all the waitresses wore short skirts, and tight, low-cut shirts, and his dad tipped like a king and they flirted with Anthony all evening.
On Monday he come to school glowing and triumphant. Just before the morning bell he spotted Ryan Ling go into the bathroom. He followed him in, and when he got into the bathroom he made sure they were alone. Ryan was peeing in the urinal. Anthony walked swiftly up behind him and hooked his arm around Ryan’s neck and pulled him away. Piss sprayed in a frantic arc onto the floor and Ryan‘s pants, and in some way Anthony couldn’t figure the mess made it better.
He hissed in Ryan’s ear: “Lingy, don’t snitch on me. I’ll burn down your house, with you and your sister in it. You got that? You got that, in case you get the urge to run your little Lingy mouth?” He threw Ryan to the floor.
He left the bathroom and went outside to go back through the other door, in case he needed to tell someone where he’d been the moment Ryan had been in the bathroom. Walking down the street were the little girl and her mother.
He didn’t know for sure, but it could only have been the mother; the woman looked just liked the little girl but in different colours. The mother was beautiful. Anthony never really thought of anything as beautiful, but this lady - long dark hair, dark lips that curved perfectly around straight white teeth, a chin like a scoop of ice cream. Tall, slender spare body, without all the pillows on top like his mom. Her body reminded him of the fancy metal spikes tomatoes crawl up in the garden. Best of all, she looked nice. So perfectly nice she’d never imagine anyone near her bad, or unpleasant. He knew she was the type who saw evil on TV, but could never see it in front of her. To Anthony she looked like a world of good.
He followed her home, and that way he learned where Henry Morgan lived. They had a fine house, but that wasn’t a surprise; she wouldn’t belong anywhere else. He started to think of all the nice things she expected, and all the wonderful events in her life she might expect as her due, and he really tried not to be angry with her. Like him, she probably was defined by a single word that explained her perfectly.
She drove a Volvo SUV, and when the mailman came by she said hello to him, as if she trusted that he would never look at her without permission. She took Anthony's breath away, and he wondered about her Word again. Ryan was a Lingy - he just looked like it. Anthony didn’t know his own Word. But she was Beauty. Her Word was Beauty. He planned on learning her name soon, but that was secondary. He knew her word and as soon as he learned his, he could discover how all the Words ran together.
The weekend went by slowly, which was good and bad: he was impatient to do what he wanted to do, but he needed time to figure out the details.
On Friday his dad drove him home from school.
“What’s with you?” said his dad. “You’re jumpy, pally. You gonna write another paper? Just say the word and you can use my computer all weekend.”
“Let me walk to the library by myself,” said Anthony. “I need to do some research.”
“We’ll go there together.” His dad’s Word was Litigator. A lot of people had the same Word as his dad.
“I’ll get embarrassed if you hang around. I won’t be able to work.”
“You’re growing up awful fast. Where the hell did the time go?”
Anthony didn’t like his dad getting like this. If his dad wimped out they’d probably lose the house. Anthony knew he lived in a very expensive neighborhood.
“Let me go tonight and we can go to the bookstore tomorrow.”
“I’ll buy you Gray’s Anatomy,” said his dad suddenly, and Anthony had no idea where that came from.
“So you’ll let me go? I’ll only be a few hours.”
“You will take a phone with you.” “Of course, dad, I’m not dumb,” said Anthony. He looked away. His father seemed to be in one of his sorrowful moods, and when he got like that he looked old, and an old dad is always so tiresome.
“What on earth is in your knapsack?"
“Big project. I rolled it up.”
After diner his dad took him to the library. He went inside and looked out the window. When his dad drove off, he left the library and cut across several alleys to get back to his own neighbourhood. The streets were deserted. He made it to the Morgan house in twenty minutes.
The shades were up, which didn’t surprise him one bit. She probably felt she had nothing to hide. He gritted his teeth and sighed as he watched her bake, and then wipe down the table before making a small pot of tea. She walked out from the kitchen into the living room. The dog was on the couch, and next to the dog was the great, gleaming dome of the dad’s half-bald head. He was reading a book in front of the TV, and she sat down next to him and cuddled her feet in his lap. He reached down and began to rub her feet in a way that suggested he had done this a thousand times before. She smiled in pleasure, and Anthony nearly ran screaming home.
She spoke to the dad, her face frowning. Anthony frowned with her, remembering that he’d just seen her rooting around the fridge. The dad put his newspaper down and rose, walked to the door, and put on his coat and shoes. An enormous furry back appeared, the tangled curly tail wagging back and forth, but he patted the dog’s head and shook his finger. The dad then opened the door and walked outside.
The dad walked downhill. Anthony was already across the street, hiding behind a car. He shadowed him and the dad never once looked over his shoulder. What Word was this man? Anthony wandered. Father, guard. Knower - perhaps that was it. Anthony followed him down the hill until they both came to a place where the streetlamps were off and the houses, large and crystal-white, were stark and empty. Anthony reached into his knapsack.
He crossed the distance between himself and the dad in a tight run on his tippy-toes. His dad once told him that even the rudest, most interruptive child knows how to move in utter silence.
When he was ten feet away he said, “Hey.” Just the one word and not at all loud. The dad turned.
Anthony had found the axe on the grounds of an abandoned house. It was heavy but it was also long, and perfect for the height of a boy of ten. He held the handle by the end, in both hands, and he swung it overhead in a long, whistling path through the hair. The dad only looked, perhaps not afraid, or so surprised that he had no time to decide to be frightened. The head of the axe struck him straight on the forehead with a dry whack and he fell backwards. Anthony nearly fell over and the axe flew from his hand and flew into the dark with a clatter. He ran off and fetched it up in his numb hands. He ran back, the axe raised high.
The crotch of the dad’s pants were soaking wet, and vomit with bits of spaghetti mixed in flowed from his mouth. Great gouts of blood pulsed from his forehead and down his face. But his eyes were open and one stared frantically at Anthony while the other roamed around on its own and then travelled upwards and disappeared. Anthony put down the axe and soberly watched. When his heart stopped hammering he knelt down beside the man, careful to keep away from those knowing, powerful hands.
“You told me you knew what I was - remember that?”
“Tell me. I want to know. Did you make a sculpture of me? I know you did. Where is it?”
He leaned down. He wanted to yell but that might give him away.
“Tell me. Just one word and I’ll leave you to… get on with it. Whatever you’re gonna do. Just tell me.” There was no reply, so he said: “I’ll kill your kids. There’ll be nothing left except crying grandmas. Tell me what I am; tell me the Word or I’ll kill them.”
But the dad was still. The blood had stopped flowing and the gargling ceased. Anthony looked up and down the street and then kicked him the ribs.
He was quiet for the next two weeks, just quiet and he let the wailing in the halls wash over him, and watched all the moms and dads who now walked the kids to school. The dictionaries and history books were a great help, and he wrote down many words. All words had roots, from Latin and Greek and the Saxon langauges. Words from Latin and Greek roots were often long and important, words from the Saxon roots were often only three characters in length and frank as anything.
Some books were flowery and full of latin-style words, and others just used short words. Anthony took a few home from the library and read them - one was about some silly old Russian college professor with no teeth, but it was funny and full of big words that Anthony had to write down and look up. Another was a short book, like the words it used, about a wrinkly old man who catches a massive fish only to lose it bit by bit to the sharks before he reaches the shore. That one he read in one night and couldn’t stop thinking about all those little three and four letter words, but they painted the sun, and the sea, and those white-bellied sharks. He wrote down a bunch of words from the book, and thought more than a few might be Words. Rope. Cut. Line. Used in the right order, they almost glowed on the page, as old as the paper was. But the books didn’t tell him his Word.
I know what you are.
Henry Morgan had spoken those words and Anthony came into his life. What was Anthony’s Word? Henry Morgan made things and titled them. Somewhere in his house he must have written what Anthony was, either in paper or embossed on metal.
Day by day the halls calmed down. The kids began to talk of other things and soon the day came the day of Henry Morgan’s funeral.
His funeral was held across town. Anthony took the bus over and shadowed the procession into the graveyard. The graveyards was ten blocks long, and full of thick trees and ancient gravestones big enough to hide behind. Anthony was able to sneak within fifty feet of the burial.
The mother had her sunglasses on and she looked ten years older. Anthony expected the sunglasses, and he knew she’d look a little older from all that shock. How could this happen to me? - that was what Anthony imagined she’d be thinking about now. That and missing her husband, and worrying about how her kids were going to grow up. Dads are useful as long as they don’t run afoul of the wrong people.
The dog was right there beside her and the two kids. It sat like a massive chunk of coal on the grass, occasionally twitching and dispelling the illusion that it was all one piece with no limbs, and once, and only once, it craned its head back and for a long time looked towards Anthony. He wanted to wave his hands, but that might have distracted it, made it stand, and the mother might have looked back and seen Anthony. That would ruin everything.
The mother was beautiful even in grief, and Anthony spoke her Word over and over again. The rollers and the nylon bands began to move and the casket sank into the earth. The mother suddenly grabbed her children close to her and they all shook as the last gleam from the varnish dimmed and lowered. The dog stood and wagged its tail desperately, and pushed its nose in between the boy’s cheek and the mother’s arm, and the boy stood back and allowed the dog to join his family’s embrace. Among the sobs came the soft keening of the dog’s cry.
Two weeks later he walked by her house.
“Excuse me,” he said to her politely. “Did Henry Morgan live here?”
She was on her knees, working at the front garden a little too strenuously. Yellow gardening gloves; old blue jeans with her underwear riding up as she bent over.
“He did,” she said tonelessly. “Did you know him?” He was happy to see that she did not smile. Death should have changed her a little.
“When he was picking up his kids from school, he used to talk to me. He was really nice.”
“Really?” she said. She stood and brushed the dirt from her pants. “I didn’t know that. Everyone is telling me all these nice things about him that I never knew. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, you know? I’m waiting for the bad things. But they never come. I was lucky, I guess.” She turned away, breathed deeply for several moments, and turned back. “What did he tell you?”
“Read lot of books.”
“That sounds like him. He loved to read books. He’d read anything. I used to get offended because I thought he was shutting me out. But now I’d give anything to see him read again..” She began to sob. “I just can’t think that any day I could walk by whoever did this and not know it.”
“What books?” said Anthony.
“What do you mean?”
“What books did Henry read?”
“He liked to read trash, and then he’d spend an entire summer reading something old and complicated. I used to think it made him feel smarter than everyone else to read a book by Dostoyevsky, but I forgive him for that now. What’s your name?”
“Anthony, I want to tell you something.”
Maybe she’d tell him about Henry’s books.
“When someone dies,” she said, “ you must try to remember the good things. Every day I cry and think of all the things about him that used to make me mad. What meant so much at the time turned out to mean nothing. Remember that. When you’re mad at your mom and dad, think of all the good things they do and say instead. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to never take anyone for granted again.
“I wish I’d known Henry better.”
“When did he talk to you?”
“After school when he was waiting for his son.”
“He must have know you needed someone to talk to. He was like that. He was very quiet but you could always count on him. Would you like to see some pictures of him? I’ve… I’ve had the albums out a lot. The old pictures and all the ones on the computer. Would you like to see them?”
“I’d love to.”
The house was slightly messy, as if someone had to leave in a rush. By the ancient couch a stack of books and magazines lay on a coffee table, and on the floor were old children’s books. From upstairs came the thump of playing children. He almost stepped on the sleeping mountain that was their old black mutt. It woke, looked at him sleepily, a skin tag hanging down into its eye, and then went back to sleep almost instantly. Henry’s sculptures were everywhere; all dark and etched by some precise metal tool. He walked closer to them to see if any walked on two legs. One did, but it was fishing and Anthony had never fished.
She ran upstairs and called to the children to play a bit more. When she came back down again, she was bearing a laptop and an armful of photo albums, and he was on the couch. “I’ve got juice-packs in the fridge. Would you like some?”
When they were settled on the couch (juice for him and wine for her), she opened the laptop and the albums. Anthony looked at far too many photos and he had trouble remembering them all. He saw that Henry Morgan once had more hair, that the two children had once been small, and that the older brother used to be an only child before the daughter came along. Otherwise, he saw an endless parade of trips, grandparents, a great-grandma in a hospital bed looking so old and demented to seem almost inhuman, a past dog now long dead, and some ancient photos of when Clara Petrovic and Henry Morgan were in university. In those oldest photos they looked so young and fresh they barely seemed older than Anthony himself. Anthony hummed occasionally, said wow in all the right spots.
“You know, Anthony,” said Clara Morgan. “I like you. I can see why Henry singled you out.”
“Why?” said Anthony, perhaps a little too intensely, but Clara did not notice.
“You’re polite; you know how to listen. You’re a respectful young gentleman. My mother would have been all over you. I think that if Henry had known someone like you when he was growing up, he would have been jealous. You’re very self-possessed.”
Remembering something his father often said, Anthony said, “You give me far too much credit.” He couldn’t remember exactly what it meant, but it often had a magical effect. Credit, used in this context, was a Word. He knew he was right when Clara smiled.
“You’re modest too,” she said. “Did you say he was always telling you what to read?”
“He had thousands of books. I’m drowning in books and sculpture.. I can’t keep them all the books, just the ones that mean something. I’m sure he’d have wanted you to have some.” She waited a few seconds, and then said, “If he’d known what was going to happen.”
“Where are they?” said Anthony. All the pretending was exhausting.
“They’re all around. They take up more room than everything else. Come take a look." She was right. Henry Morgan went to second-hand bookstores every day, ordered rare editions off the internet, and made a point of pride to never pay more than thirty dollars for a book now matter what it was. He’d made most of the upstairs walls bookcases, and the bedroom (so Clara told Anthony) was almost completely taken over by homemade shelves, and rough stacks that grew like weeds on the floor. Old-fashioned books on grammar and etiquette, oral railroad histories, spines where the titles were only a little darker than the jackets and the letters in Byzantine fonts. Anthony looked for books on magic, lexicography, lexigraphy, murder, hunting, genocide, dictators, psychology. Anything that might give a hint.
She took him to Henry’s studio in the basement. Tools in neat racks, calendars for Henry’s shows, books of animal photos, a dreamcatcher in one of the low windows, antlers and what looked like an old wolf hide on the wall, a single eagle feather on his raked desk where Henry sketched his sculptures before he moved on to the wood, chisels, mallets, hammers, at least ten sizes of planes, a folio of sanding paper that graded down to an almost impossible level of fineness. There was no recent work that had even the beginning of a boy’s shape. An idea that might portray Anthony was not here in this room. Anthony had no interest in art and he didn’t want to look at Henry’s workshop anymore. He followed Clara upstairs again, pretending to listen to her talk all about Henry’s life, and searching for anything Henry might have said in the days before he died.
A thud of feet came from upstairs. The son walked down, followed by the daughter. Anthony froze.
“Tara, Casey,” said Clara. “Introduce yourselves to Anthony.” To Anthony she said: “I’m not going to point out rudeness right now. Not after what’s happened. I’m sorry they’re staring at you… Come on, now - shake his hand.”
After more cajoling from Clara they finally shook his hand. Afterwards they stared at him with great moon eyes. “I‘ve heard about you two,” he said to them.
“Anthony’s going to be coming around for a little while,” said Clara. “Daddy had so many books, and he would have wanted Anthony to have a few. Just a few, Casey.”
“But you said I could have all of them,” whined Casey.
“Daddy had thousands of books. Some of them are old. He didn’t even read a lot of them; he just liked having them around. Other people might like them. You can’t keep them all in your room, Case.”
“I don’t want him taking my books."
“Don’t want him takin my nooks eether,” said the little girl. Although Casey seemed to have forgotten the time at the playground, Tara still seemed frightened of him.
“Tara," said Clara. “you never had an interest in them until just this second. My goodness, you two - there’s enough to go around. We’ll always have them with us. But daddy would have wanted the world to enjoy them too. You do understand, don’t you? Now let‘s go downstairs for a snack. God know you haven‘t been eating well.”
They responded with silent, reluctant nods.
Anthony didn’t mind, but he could not stop thinking about what Casey might be hiding in his bedroom. Children’s books, adventure? Or perhaps he gotten up late at night to pee, and seen Henry Morgan poring over a particular book and making notes. If you wanted a piece of your dead daddy, then wouldn’t you want that book? Even if you didn’t understand a word of it, that would be the book you’d want.
And what if Casey learned Anthony’s Word? That made Anthony think of the axe. But only as a threat at first. He wouldn’t made the same mistake as he had with Henry Morgan. If he couldn’t find the Word in the books Casey had taken, then he would have to get the axe out from its hiding place. It was up in the nook of a tree.
Anthony visited the Morgan house four times before he finally had a chance to talk to Casey alone.
“Casey,” he said. “Could I see those books that belonged to your dad?”
Casey had been warming up to him. Tara had nearly but not quite forgotten about being pushed down the slide. But the slightest shadows still would dance over her face when he entered the Morgan household
“Maybe,” said Casey doubtfully. Casey's word was Inert - he had no special abilities, and aside from those books in his room he had no value.
Clara was Beauty; Casey was Inert. Anthony’s dad was a Litigator. Little Tara - well, she might be special. Had Tara and Casey’s ages been reversed, things might have been different. She was smart, bright like a hard and bumpy ball of tinfoil, and she’d never quite accepted Anthony. He might have been insulted had he not known that was her nature. Anthony suspected her Word might be Leader. That was fine for him because she was only three. A inquisitive and advanced three, but still only a little girl who had been toilet-trained for less than six months. All it took to get her flustered was to hover by the bathroom door near the stairs, and the way from her room to the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms was blocked. When she wet herself she wasn't a Leader anymore.
The day he’d asked Casey about the books, Clara was asleep after three glasses of wine. Once he mastered the corkscrew, he liked to bring her an extra glass in the early evening, delivered with a private and slightly naughty smile, as if they shared a secret.
“Were they only kids’ books?” said Anthony to Casey.
“Some of them. I got a book on ocean fish he always used to read to me also, and a book on dogs. He loved dogs and he wanted me to love them too.”
“Of course he did,” said Anthony. “How about you let me take a look at those books?”
“It’s private,” said Casey.
Anthony grabbed Casey’s arm and sunk his fingers deep into the muscle. Since he’d learned about Words he’d noticed great flexing ridges appear on his forearms. He was growing down there as well - thickness, length, all accompanied by kingly curls of gold-tinted hair. He’d become taller and stronger, and his dad had joked that he could now take on the old man.
“Oww,” Casey said. “Let me go!”
“Listen to me, Casey,” said Anthony. He relaxed his face muscles and showed Casey his real face. Anthony had seen it in the mirror. He had a heavy face, with a broad nose and thick lips, and when he let his concerns go, his face took in his true character - blank, like the shiny, smooth surface of a screen. His mouth hung flatly and his eyes lost their colour and became dark still pools. How many people had died seeing a face like this?
“I don’t want to hurt you. But you keep stonewalling me. Your father might have written down something very important in those books. I’ve looked through the other books - but they’re not the right books. But you might have the right books. All I need to see is if he’s written down one word. If you don’t help me here… look at how things are right now.”
“Things are okay,” said the boy. But his lip began to tremble.
“Your mother is asleep. She goes to sleep every afternoon while your at school, and she puts Tara in front of the TV so your sister won’t wander off into the road and get herself killed. But she's awake when Tara's in preschool. A man from down the street comes over when your mom is alone in the house, Casey. He comes over and he plays your dad’s guitar, and he brings her lots of stuff to drink so she’s silly when she picks up you and Tara from school. In two months this man's going to come live in the house. He’s going to bring his own kids with him, and they’re going to take your father’s money, and the money your mom will inherit from your grandma. This man has two teenage boys. The next time grandma visits they’re going to slip something in her drink that will slowly kill her, and no one will ever find out. And when this man and his sons have your mother drunk all day, they’ll turn to you and Tara. Because you’ll be in the way of this man. He wants the money and your mom all to himself, so she can cook and clean for his sons. I could stop him but thats up to you.”
“Who’s the man? Who’s the man?” Casey shouted.
“There is nothing you can do, Casey. All you’ve got is me, and I’m getting angry with you. All I want is a little help. I can’t decide what I want to do, Casey. I don’t know whether to stay, or leave and let the man come. Him and his boys - they’ll want these bedrooms, of course. They’re not gonna sleep on the couch. The boys will have you and Tara’s bedrooms, and the man will sleep with your mother. Soon it will be his room though, Casey, if you don’t let me into your room and let me see the books.”
“I don’t want the man to come here,” cried Casey. He started to sob bray, and fell to the floor clutching his face. “Help us, Anthony. Help us stop the man.”
“Your mother already loves him, Case. She’ll never even admit she knows him, not until the time is right - no matter how much you scream and cry. He’s told her to tell you nothing until he comes into the house. He’ll make you carry his suitcases. But I won’t help you if you don’t show me your father’s books.”
“All right! Allright! I’ll let you see them.” Casey dashed into his room and Anthony followed him.
The books Casey had picked for himself formed a small stack in the corner. Anthony guessed Casey had never read them, and only kept them around to make himself feel better. About twenty books - comics, a few graphic novels that were surprisingly adult (“He told me I could read them when I was older,” Casey said), and about five godamn books on dog breeding. Even if the dog books were written by different people, they were all the same - colourful, old-timey paintings of dogs in show-poses, with glistening pelts and muzzles pointed skyward, and looking nothing like the shambling old mutt that now slept by Clara’s bed. Beside each painting was a description, in categories, of each respective dog. Withers, muzzles, bitches, sires, champions - it was pointless. Naming exercises for old biddies and fags. The books showed Anthony nothing.
“This is all?” he said.
“These are the books that reminded me of my dad,” said Casey.
“Casey, this does not help me.”
“Did the man kill my dad?”
“Did who… what?”
“The man who’s going to come into my house and marry mommy and get rid of me and Tara - did he kill dad?”
Anthony looked at him queerly and nearly forgot where he was.
“Yes,” he said finally. “I think he did. But no one can prove it. No one saw it happen.”
“I wish my mom would wake up.”
“Your dad had other books, Casey. Tell me where they are.”
“I don’t know,” said Casey. “I don’t know!” He plugged his fingers into his eyes and nearly dug them out. By now Anthony knew a few things about limits - when a boy starts to finger his eyes, he’s gone. He’s escaped somewhere he thinks is safe. He’s of no further use.
“I’ll come by tomorrow, Casey.”
“Can you stay over? Please. We can stay up and guard the house.”
“You need your sleep, Casey. If we’re going to fight that man, we need rest. I’m going to go home and eat a good meal.”
“Mom’s asleep. She can’t cook for us.”
“She hasn’t had that much to drink. Wake her up.”
On the way out, he saw Dory poking around his schoolbag. “You wanna see what’s in here?” he said. “Huh?” Dory wagged his tale, and Anthony reached into the bag and brought out a steak that he had slit open and packed with chocolate chips. Dory happily took the steak and ran off to quietly eat it in his favourite corner. Chocolate was mildly toxic to dogs, and he would have the runs all night. Dory had been Henry’s, and Anthony wanted Clara to see that Dory was becoming a burden. He left another piece of chocolatey meat on the front porch as he left.
He went home, and finally he thought of it. He thought of a plan - how to find the Word, have Clara all to himself, and get those kids out of the picture. When he’d fleshed out the details, the Word just came to him.
What a fool he’d been to wait for his naming! The Word was right there - flapping its giant black wings in the trees, in statues all around town staring at passers-by with hollow carved eyes. Henry had made a number of the things - to a great many native cultures it was a legendary, powerful Word.
Raven. The Trickster. Ravens had flown above Henry Morgan on the schoolgrounds that day. He’d seen Anthony enough times to know his Word.
But that’s if they catch you. You look like a pretty slick guy.
But he’d never said it, and in so doing brought the questioning Raven to his house. Now he was dead, and Anthony was roosted there, pecking about with his shiny, steely beak.
He wasn’t a psychopath, or a mad boy. He would be eternal, and sit above all else, still and black, with glittering, unreadable eyes. He would always exist and he was as natural as a sharp rock hidden on the beach.
Now that’s better. No more masks. That’s your real face, Henry Morgan had said.
Raven. He repeated the word a hundred times, first silently with his mouth, then within his mind. That night he felt down towards the furor between his legs and craned his mouth blackly towards the ceiling and tried to sing a song without words. His mother and father remained asleep, so he crept, snickering and giggling all the way, down to the kitchen and helped himself to a few things.
Saturday morning. He’d arrived at the Morgan house and discovered that Clara had started drinking without him. He brought out the wine bottle from his bag and set it on the kitchen island. The rest of his things he kept hidden.
“Anthony, you are a one,” she said. “I can’t tell you how understanding you’ve been to me during this time. A lot of men would pay money to take lessons from you. And for a ten year-old boy you have such fine taste in wine.”
“You’re too much,” he said.
“But that’s not all,” she continued. “Casey’s behaviour has improved since you’ve been coming to the house. It’s hard to believe you don’t have an ulterior motive.” She smiled at him, and for a moment he thought she might lick her lips.
“I do,” he said.
She looked at him. Then she laughed, throwing her head back and showing her lithe strong throat and her straight teeth. He felt so excited he was nearly sickened, and he also felt younger than his ten years.
“Oh Anthony,” she said. “What on earth were you thinking?” she said. “You’re only a boy. A very sophisticated boy, but that doesn’t mean much.” She paused drunkenly for a moment, her brow furrowing, and here shoulders began to heave.
She said: “It’s me who was misguided. I let my demons get the better of me, Anthony. I started drinking, and you brought me wine just to please me. I led you on. I’m sorry - what’s happened to me? Is this what happens when my husband dies - I start manipulating any male that walks in the door? That’s great,” she snarled, “I’m batting five hundred now. My mother is laughing at me from her grave.”
She began to cry, louder she’d ever before, and he thought she was more upset that when Henry had died. She had finally realized how bad things had gotten. He decided to give her something else to worry about.
“I saw who killed Henry,” he said.
She stopped right where she was, and her voice, gutteral and savage, rose up.
“What did you say?”
He felt as the Raven might feel: a giant wingspan shot through with hollow delicate bones. He could imagine her giving birth to each child, the cords on her neck in relief, screaming, and she was terrifying. A mad woman giving life to rage.
“I saw who killed Henry?”
“Why didn’t you say anything?” she said in that terrible birthing voice.
“He warned me not to,” said Anthony. “He said he’d kill my parents. And he’d kill you. That’s why I’ve been coming here.”
“You’ve been lying to me.”
“Yes,” he said quietly. “I didn’t want anyone else killed. He said he’d kill your kids if I told anyone. I believed him.”
“Who is it?” she said. “Who killed him? Who?”
“A man. Just a man. He knows where I live. I don’t know who he is. He watches us every day. There’s no point in calling the police. He’d just go into hiding and kill us one by one, no matter where we hide.”
“How did he kill Henry?” she said.
Carefully, and wondering whether he had ruined everything, he said: “He hit Henry in the head with an axe. Just once. I was coming back that night from the library. I tried to run, but he caught up with me. Once he made me tell him my name, he let me go. But when I left for school that morning, he was there. After school, the same thing. One day he told me to visit you and be your friend. I think he was looking for something.”
“What did he say he was looking for, Anthony? Try to remember everything that he said.”
“He wants you, Clara. He says he’s always loved you.”
“What did he look like?”
“White guy. He was older… I don’t know how old he was. He always wears fancy clothes, and he drives a beemer. He looked a bit like a lawyer. He said he had it all planned out. He said he wanted all of Henry‘s money.”
“Oh,” she said suddenly, “It must be…”
“No… that’s ridiculous. It can’t be him. Not him.”
“Henry’s lawyer. Our lawyer. He’s always been so nice to us, and he’s always been so nice to me. Giles has always been so respectful. But…,” and she looked upwards. He wanted to give her another glass of wine so she would be faster at coming up with stupid things that helped him. “He’s been even nicer since Henry died. And he knows everything. He knows how much Henry was worth, and he knows about the insurance policy. He knows exactly how much I’ll be worth. On his invoices he bills for less than half the hours he worked for me, and he says he’s doing it out of respect for Henry. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before! I always assumed Henry was killed by a junkie, or he was murdered because he saw someone committing a crime. I never assumed it was someone we knew.”
“This man never gave me his name. But he’s always around, Clara. ”
“Giles lives nearby,” she said faintly. She went to the kitchen island and poured herself another class. She drank half in one swallow and topped the glass up again. When she returned she smelled heavily of wine. “What do I do, Anthony? What if it’s him? He’s a lawyer. He plays golf with the chief of police. I can’t prove a thing. All I’ve got in the world is you.”
“You can’t ever be alone with him,” he said. “Not ever.”
“He’ll want to know why. And that means he will come after you next.”
“I can take care of myself,” he said, almost angry at a man whom he’d invented.
“If he kills you, I don’t know what I’ll do, Anthony. You’ve been my only friend in all this. All the women in the neighbourhood act like I’ve got a disease and they might catch it. I’ll be all alone - he could just walk in the door and say I’m his, and I don’t think I’d be strong enough to do anything about it.”
“You can’t ever be with him!” said Anthony.
She sat down in a stool. Her rage was somehow gone and she looked tired and ill.
“My mother always told me I was no good without a man, Anthony. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars in therapy, because she used to tell me I’d latch on to any man, and if I was with a man I’d latch on to one who was taller, or richer, more handsome. But this time, Anthony, I swear I never did anything! I never cheated on Henry, not ever, and I never led Giles on. I don’t know what I would have done to make him think he had a chance. Or maybe I was leading him on and couldn’t help it, because I’m that way and I’ll never change. And now you - you’re a boy, and I’ve got you defending me like you’re a white knight. It’s all my fault, Anthony! Henry’s dead because of me! I killed him!”
She was screaming now and the last thing he wanted was the children coming down to see what was the matter. He needed to end this quickly.
She finished the rest of her wine as he crept up beside her, his knapsack already unzipped.
She leaned over, almost falling. “Someday you will make a girl very happy,” she said. Her breath was sweet and warm, and he breathed it in and envisioned a raven perched atop a giant beached ship.
She turned around, and he reached into his bag and brought out the cut oak branch. He tapped her, very judiciously, on the top of the head, and she reached up, groaned, and then fell to the floor and lay still. For a horrible moment her breath stopped and he nearly fled the house. Then it started up again in long, wheezing snore and she hummed for a moment before falling into a deep sleep. He leaned over, kissed her on the lips, and gripped a tit in each hands and roughly shook them. Then he firmly gripped the oak branch and walked upstairs towards the sounds of the children.
Casey had to go first. He walked into the boy’s room and found him reading some of Henry Morgan’s books on dogs. Casey looked up and said, “Anthony?”
Anthony hit him harder than he had hit Clara. But the branch missed and hit him on the shoulder, and making sure to remain near the door, Anthony had to chase the screaming boy about the room before catching him once on the head, which slowed him down, and then twice more. He dragged Casey out to the hall and laid him facedown.
Last night he’d chosen several knives from his mother‘s gourmet set. He'd used the knives when he got then to the bathtub, where it would all end. Then evidence would have to be tracked, handles to be wiped clean. The vacuum cleaner, wipes, bleach, bags, lots and lots of duct-tape. He’d planned it all.
The door to the other bedroom creaked open and Tara peeked her little eyes around the edge. She weighed about twenty-five pounds, and in half and hour she would weigh eighteen once he was through with her.
He ran at her hard, hitting the door before she could back away and close it. The door’s edge struck her in the temple and she flew backwards, screaming. He burst inside and straddled her and she wet herself. Her platinum hair was nearly see-through over her beet-red forehead as she screamed and screamed, and he grabbed a blanket off her bed and threw it over her face. The blanket was thin enough to fit between her teeth and he stuck a big hunk in there and struck her little head several times with the stick. She stopped screaming, convulsed once or twice, and then was still. He through the blanket off and looked at her face, noted her red-hot body, and dragged her out to the hall. The bathtub for both of them. Grab the hair and bend back the head until the throat is bared and the skin stretched like a warm elastic band. Then he would cut. He almost, but not quite, wanted to take a picture.
It occurred to him that he was dead tired. Somewhere out there in the world were men who with their bare hands killed hundreds a day; he supposed men like had felt fatigue at first and then became accustomed, and noted all the ways a person meets death. The sounds, the begging, hisses, gagging, snoring, begging, or somtimes staring straight ahead with impatience. How do the old, the young meet death? Most importantly, how do the beautiful meet death? Ask yourself questions like that all the time and killing might not make you so tired. He got a drink of water from the bathroom and wandered back into Casey’s room. The books on dog breeds were touchingly spread out on the bed. Where was that stupid lump Dory, speaking of dogs? He would burn all of Henry Morgan's books when he had the time. He saw the edge of one book under Casey's pillow and he pulled it out. Yet another breeding book, the same as the others. Why did Casey keep this particular book under his pillow? He opened it.
Henry Morgan had made notes in the margins on all the dogs that bore any resemblance to Dory. The Black Labrador, the Newfoundland, the Portuguese Water Dog, the Flat Coat Retriever. Even the Golden Retriever had been noted. Anthony threw down the book and it fell open to the inner side of the back cover, which was blank. Henry had covered it in tiny, clear script, both pages.
What is Dory? We volunteered at the shelter for a year because we wanted just a dog to prepare us for kids, and so in his way he was our first child. All the other dogs in the shelter were too dirty, too savage, too unpredictable. I suppose there was a reason why they were in a shelter. We came upon this great gangling black beast with diarrhoea and a muzzle covered in sores. When we walked him we knew right then he would be coming home with us. We thought he was a sweet elderly dog, but he was merely starved and ill. He got younger once he got regular meals. He might have been only eighteen months old. We’ll never know for sure.
He loves to run and swim, and chase balls. He’s never cared to hunt, but he’ll go after coyotes, gulls, crows - the meaner, scavenger species - but he can walk by a flock of chickadees and starlings and not even blink. He will defend the house but Tara has sat on his head for ten minutes and he’ll just lie there and do nothing.
He doesn’t conform to any breed, but he has to be something. His fur is too perfectly black, and his head and body too symmetrical, and he doesn’t possess that blurriness you see in mixed-breeds, although that observation is on my part likely pure anthropomorphism. He came house-trained, and able to sit on command, as though he came from a secret ranch that invented his breed, trained him, and was about to send him off to a reclusive millionaire’s island before he escaped and landed in the pound.
He was a perfect dog, and when the kids were born he backed away and accepted his loss in status without ever complaining. When I come home and he’s sleeping, I sometimes wonder if he’s been defending us from terrible dangers while we’ve been out, and never resents that we‘ll never know. He’s old now, and sleeps most of the time. I wish I knew what he was and where he came from.
The only way I can honour him is to sculpt him. He has none of the mythical qualities of the wild animals - he’s no bear, or dogfish, or beaver or wolf or coyote. But he’s something, and if I have to name him, in order to put down a breed that has existed in one instance, then that’s what I’ll do. The work will have Dory’s name on it, and a word that best describes him. That’s one thing I’ll do before the old guy dies.
And where would it be? thought Anthony. Tara is too young to appreciate art. Anthony looked up on Casey’s shelf, and there it was.
It was made of some sort of black stone. It had black empty eyes, like the wooden ravens seen on totem poles, and it was on all fours, with blunt ears and rounded legs, to accommodate the single piece that was its body. It had been mounted on a slab of beachwood so that it seemed to be mounting the crest of hill or dune, and pausing to watch for something. On the slab was a plate, with letters stencilled in capitals. Anthony climbed onto the bed, put down the oak stick, and reached up with both hands and grabbed the wooden totem dog. The first word was Dory’s name. The second word was below.
The growl came from behind him.
Anthony turned. Dory, the dog of indeterminate breed whose origin his owner had long searched for, stood in the doorway. Perhaps ten years old, he was covered in lumps and strange skin tags that are the province of big old dogs. It bared its teeth, and Anthony saw that it was angry, and perhaps a bit ashamed that it had let things get this bad. An old dog; seventy in human years. Every day it had done its job, and then the Raven came, the little boy with the strange helmet-hair of insanity, and killed the master. So now Dory had come to the door to do what was right.
It charged. Anthony leaned down and tried to grab the oak stick. He got his hands on it, but Dory bit down on it and pulled. Thinking it was his only chance, he never let go of the stick. He weighed one hundred pounds. Dory weighed one hundred and twenty, and had a long, thick neck. He pulled the boy off the bed and both of them crashed to the floor. Anthony broke something in his hand and he let out of high scream. A great tumour bulged out from Dory’s armpit as he quickly stood and grabbed Anthony’s thigh in his jaws. He bit down, and Anthony moaned sickly, already in shock, and looked for the stick. The dog’s growling had brought out some ancestral memory, and all he could think of was the huge, cracked brown teeth in its mouth as Dory let go, straddled his legs, and bore down on him. Dory breathed hot, stinking gusts of air on him, and then he had Anthony by the throat.
He pulled and shook his head, and pulled again until the boy stopped screaming and began to gurgle. When Anthony stopped moving, Dory rose, left Casey's room, and lay down next to the two children.
He sniffed their faces, and waited for them to wake up. Gradually a time of peace drifted through the house. The two children began to stir and Tara let out a sick yell. Downstairs, Clara woke and clutched her head, then stumbled upstairs.
When she saw the two children lying near the stairs, she forgot her pain and rushed to them. Dory looked up and wagged his tale. She took Tara to her bed and called the police. When Tara was under the cover, she gathered up her six year-old son and carried him to her room. When she came for Casey, she saw Anthony lying dead on the floor. Gore from his torn throat had soaked into the carpet and Casey’s hair clung to the oak stick by his body. She screamed and carried Casey into her room and put him in bed beside his sister. She locked the door against Dory, who seemed to understand and remained on the floor, looking ashamed as only dogs do. Clara called the police.
The police came thirty seconds later, knocked once, and then broke down the door. Two constables came in with guns drawn. They secured the bottom floor and ran upstairs. Dory, dead tired and not feeling all that well, greeted them by vomiting a pool of blood on the carpet. Clara opened the door from Tara’s bedroom and screamed at them. She smelled of alcohol and looked insane, and she frightened the cops more than when they found Anthony’s body.
Clara couldn’t speak, but only cradled her two children until the ambulance came. The police thought she had beaten her children and killed a ten year-old boy. When the wine wore off she told them as much as she knew. They impounded the dog, who went with them silently. They put him in a cage, where he had once been found when he was barely full grown, and he settled down on the concrete, not expecting much.
He waited two days, sickening, and began to pace. On the morning of the third day, when he was lying in his own urine, the door opened and Casey came running in. The door to the cage opened and he staggered out. Clara took him home but he never got better. A week later, under the grieving gaze of Anthony’s mother and father, who had taken to parking their camper outside the Morgan home, the vet came to Clara's door.
Clara had taken Dory to the back deck. He was dehydrated and breathing in short, tiny gasps, and as the vet approached and said soothing words, his tail thumped on the boards twice and then fell silent. Casey had the carving of Dory in one hand, and Tara held his other hand as the vet put the needle in Dory’s neck. Afterwards Clara and the vet wrapped the big dog in a blanket and hefted him into the back of Clara’s van.
Clara and her children drove Dory away. Casey had left his father's carving on the front step when he locked the door. It stood on its slab of beachwood, its outsize empty eyes looking over the front lawn. A few crows gathered in the branches, watching the hunched thing warily. A raven came, the great black bird apart from the crows, looked at the stone statue with its carved teeth, let out a deep squawk and flew off towards the river, never to return.
I've been writing stories for years. I think I'm a good writer and I'm willing to bet you'll feel the same way. So here they are. Enjoy them, comment on them, tell your friends about'em, reblog them, retweet them, reread them. I have four stories in my archive so far:
"One day on the Mountain", a story of Lycanthropy, a father, and a son.
"The Boy", a story of a very ambitious and sociopathic fifth grade boy.
"The Easy Girl, A story of infidelity and unpaid sexual debts. This story is very dark.
"Brick The Mighty", a story of an aging superhero.
Although this is primarily a blog of horror, I also write about things that are important to me. I have more stories tucked away; they just need editing. There's even a few novels. There will be more to come.
PS. Feel free to leave a comment. I love comments.