Clay is a teenager with anxiety and depression issues. His father, Don, is an abusive alcoholic. This scene begins with Clay having received a concussion and a rib fracture from a fight. His dad is angered by the inconvenience of his injured son and takes it out on him through his alcohol. Clay’s best friend, Mick, is called later in the scene. The novel is fantasy, but the scene does not exhibit this.
Clay tried to maintain his stare at his dad, but it lost its effect as Clay shrank away from Don’s shaking fist. After what felt like an hour, his dad turned and walked into the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of amber liqueur and marched out onto the back patio. Clay only allowed himself to exhale when he heard the screen door slam. He focused on his breathing, trying to slow his heart rate. He reached for his medication, popped two, and quickly fell asleep.
He woke up that night to a barrage of popping and smashing, yelling and stomping. The pain in his head and side throbbed with no mercy but he scattered his hand towards the lamp on the side table and flicked on the light.
His dad careened around the kitchen, the refrigerator door open, all sizes of clear and amber alcohol being pulled out and flung into the walls. Next were the dishes. He hollered incoherently, to improve his acceleration or accuracy or vent his rage on the world, Clay didn’t know. He just knew it was time to get the hell out of dodge. He threw the blanket off of him and grabbed his pills from the end table. His dad seemed to have realized that someone else was, miraculously, awake. He gained his balance after flailing into the kitchen sink and paused. Then he looked up and met Clay’s gaze. Don ran at Clay. Clay braced himself for a couple seconds then threw himself to the floor. His dad lunged where Clay had been, his fists outstretched. Instead of any human contact, Don face-planted into the vomit-and-Coca-Cola sofa.
Clay grunted and grimaced with pain as he desperately crawled towards the wall, away from his drunken father. A hand gripped Clay’s ankle and he cursed. He turned and faced the monster that had awaken inside his dad. Clay would never have said that he and his dad were close, but the face looking back at him was not one Clay even recognized. Madness and anger burned in the eyes, the mouth hung open, the nose and eyes blood-red from years of hosting the devil’s ambrosia. Clay knew his dad was in that state of black-out drunk, but his grip was like a vice.
“It was you,” his dad mumbled.
Clay knew better than to engage his father in this state, but this was a new pronouncement and Clay reactively whispered to himself, “what?” His dad responded with rage.
“It was you!” Don screamed. He released his grip on Clay’s ankle and flailed his arm again, reaching for Clay’s waistband. “It was you! She left because of you! You weren’t good enough for her—she didn’t love you, didn’t want you, and so she left!” His drunk punches were half-assed and light, but on Clay’s ribs they pierced like a knife.
Clay grabbed his dad’s hand and flung it back at him. Don’s body toppled off the couch and he landed on his side, rolling onto his stomach.
“You drove her away, you piece of shit. You don’t deserve to live. I’ll kill you.” Don mumbled into his slobber-covered arm. Clay edged away, praying that sleep would take his dad. He looked around and found his cell phone only inches from his dad’s salt-and-pepper head. He quietly leaned over to grab it and called Mick, forcing himself to breathe slowly in through his nose and out through his mouth, to slow the tide threatening to engulf him, and to end the hiccups and hitches before they began.
“Mmm?” Mick garbled.
Clay could feel the tears pricking his eyes, but he reeled them in. “Dude, you gotta come get me.” The fear and panic in his voice was enough to tell Mick what had happened. Mick let out a sigh.
“I was afraid of this. Are you okay?” Mick sounded wide awake now.
“I’ll be fine.” A slight tremor in his voice game him away.
“Did he hit you this time? That piece of–ugh! I’m gonna kick his ass.”
“Dude, it’s fine. Just come get me.”
“Gimme five. Get outside now. I’ll go in and get anything you need. Just wait for me.” Mick hung up. Clay dropped the phone next to him, and the tears burst forth.
Clay woke up the next morning aching from head to toe. He immediately reached over and took his pain killers with a swig of water that Mick had set there the night before. Clay eased back onto the guest bedroom pillow and closed his eyes.
Okay, now what? He thought. He reflected on the last night’s events and felt his insides just deflate. How much longer could he live like that? He knew the answer. He couldn’t. He had to get out. Where would he go? Just then, Mick leaned into the doorway, his long brown hair hanging in limp, wet strands and a pristine white towel wrapped around his waist.
“You okay, man?”
“Yeah, I’m good.”
Clay was lying. He was torn up inside and wanted to talk, about the fight in the arena, about how nervous he was to be scrutinized by this clan, about what happened with his dad said last night…
It was you.
The words rang in Clay’s ears as he sat outside waiting for Mick last night, during the ride to Mick’s house, and as he lay down in the unfamiliar but welcome bed, until exhaustion overtook him.
Did his mom leave because of Clay? He only had one picture of her. She was kneeling in front of the white fence outside their home, wearing denim overalls and gardening clogs, holding her gloved hands up to show the rich, dark soil slathered on them. Her hair was a dirty blonde, but in the sunlight, it shone like a halo around her face. She was looking down at a toddler with a look of utter surprise and glee on her face, her mouth in a large “o,” her eyes wide as well. The toddler was plopped onto his chubby butt, wearing baby overalls. The baby’s feet and hands were also covered in dirt, and it looked up at the happy, blonde woman with an expression of confusion. The sunshine barely lit up the baby’s head, it’s golden hair all but a whisper on his round head.
Thoughts of his mom hadn’t plagued him for a while, but now… He didn’t know where she was, what she was doing. Was she even still alive? Why had she left? Was what his dad said true?
“Are you sure, man?” Mick snapped Clay back to reality.
“Yeah, I’m okay,” Clay said, not looking at Mick.