Take It Easy
by Garrett Calcaterra
Jeremy kissed his mother on the forehead and pushed her back onto the bed. “I’m calling Dr. Stevenson. You’re exhausted, and with... with all that’s happened you’re getting paranoid.”
“I’m not being paranoid. It killed him, Jeremy. It killed your father.”
“It was an accident, Mother.” One hell of a gruesome accident, he had to admit, but an accident nonetheless. From what the police could piece together, his father had been standing up on a stool to get something from the kitchen cabinets and slipped. As he fell, his hand caught the cutlery block, flinging it up into the air, and five knives came down right into his neck and chest.
“It wasn’t an accident,” Jeremy’s mother insisted. “The police found that thing in the kitchen. It pushed your father over and stabbed him because he tried to make Davey get rid of it. It’s got poor Davey brainwashed. You don’t know because you haven’t been here. It’s evil, Jeremy. You have to get rid of it. Take it out back and smash it to pieces. Burn it!”
She was near hysterics and Jeremy recognized his own anger welling up inside his chest. Dad was dead — her husband of forty years — and here she was blaming a toy, a two-foot tall plastic robot. It was so like her to obsess on something nonsensical whenever something bad happened.
“Kill it, Jeremy. You have to kill it.” Her voice was reaching a high-pitched squall. Jeremy found himself wanting to slap her to make her stop. Take it easy, we’re both just upset about Dad, he told himself. It’s not her fault. Take it easy... Take it easy.
* * *
“Enter,” Davey said before Jeremy even knocked on the bedroom door. Jeremy walked in to find him sitting on the bed, staring blankly at the wall. Robbie the robot sat in the corner at its recharging dock, a blue LED flashing on its chest. Hundreds of intricate models and electronic gadgets were scattered about the room. Davey had built them all. They were the closest things he had to friends, from what Jeremy could tell.
Davey had been the one to find their father in the kitchen. The kid seemed to be coping well, but Jeremy was never sure with Davey. For all his advancements, Davey rarely showed any outward emotion. Jeremy wasn’t sure whether it was the kid’s designer genes that made him better able to cope with stress or if some of their parents’ DNA had slipped through and plagued him with their penchant for denial and repression.
“Don’t take Robbie, Jeremy,” Davey said. “I need him.”
Jeremy sat on the bed next to Davey, trying to shake the feeling that the kid could read his mind. “What makes you think I’m taking Robbie?”
“I heard Mom yelling.”
Jeremy nodded. “She’s pretty upset about Dad. Dr. Stevenson is coming to give her some medicine. Still, if it’s all right with you, I’d like to put Robbie in the garage for a while, just till she’s feeling better.”
“In the garage?”
“Yeah, he’ll be safe there and he’ll have Dad’s power tools to keep him company.”
“You’re not going to hurt him?”
“No, I promise I won’t hurt him.”
Davey nodded. “All right.”
“Yeah?” Jeremy asked.
“Good man.” Jeremy tousled his hair. “So, how you doing with all this? You okay?”
“Dad and I got in a fight.”
“I know, kiddo. It’s all right.”
Davey looked up at Jeremy and there were actually tears in his eyes. “I was real mad at him. He wanted to take away Robbie, and I tried explaining—”
“No, no, take it easy,” Jeremy said, repeating his own mantra and hugging Davey close. “Don’t blame yourself, kiddo. Take it easy. It’s not your fault. It was an accident. Just take it easy.”
“Why’d Dad want me to get rid of Robbie, Jeremy? Why doesn’t anyone understand that I need him?”
“That’s just the way Mom and Dad are. They’re too worried about appearance. You’re ten now. They think you’re too old for toys. It was the same with me. Dad always wanted me to have short hair and wear nice clothes in case someone from the club stopped by. I got a tattoo, pierced my lips, did all kind of crazy stuff just to piss him off.”
“Is that why you hurt that kid and went to jail?”
Jeremy nodded. “Yeah. That was sort of when we all realized we needed to change some things. That’s when...”
“When Mom and Dad decided to have me,” Davey finished, “decided to have the doctors engineer me.” Tears trickled down his face.
“What’s wrong, Davey?”
The thin electronic voice startled Jeremy. Robbie had waddled over to the foot of the bed, blue chest LED glowing. A three-fingered, articulated hand grabbed at Davey’s pants leg.
“Hey, Robbie,” Jeremy said, bending over and grabbing the little plastic robot. “How’d you like to go take a vacation in the garage?”
Robbie swiveled its head to look at Davey.
“I’ll take Robbie downstairs,” Jeremy told Davey, “and then what do you say we order some pizza?”
* * *
They were halfway through a large pepperoni pizza when their mother walked down the stairs to join them.
“Locked in the garage.”
“Jeremy, you promised.”
“Mom, no,” Davey pleaded.
“Take it easy. It’s fine, Mother. Just sit down.”
“Not while that thing is still alive. I’ll take your father’s hammer and smash it to pieces.”
Davey jumped up after her as she made to head for the garage, but she shoved him aside and he hit the dining room floor with a yelp.
“Goddammit, Mother, stop!”
Before he realized what he was doing, Jeremy had her arm twisted behind her back and was about to slap her. He caught himself. Take it easy. Take it easy. Three times he had to say it, just like he’d practiced in his rehab sessions. Take it easy...
His mother was terrified, but not of him, Jeremy realized. He could see it in her eyes. She was trembling. “Kill it Jeremy. It’s evil.”
“You’re evil,” Davey said.
“Mother, go upstairs.”
“Go upstairs. Dr. Stevenson said for you take a hot bath if you get upset. Use the whirlpool jets, lock the door if you want, I’ll let you know when he gets here.”
She opened her mouth as if to protest more, but the air seemed to slowly seep out of her and she turned away.
* * *
Jeremy wasn’t supposed to drink anymore, but he needed something to calm him, and one beer would hardly get him drunk. He had iced the lump on Davey’s head and sent him upstairs to do his homework. The whole time, the kid had just sat there staring at the floor; he didn’t cry or say a word about their mother pushing him down. The only thing he asked was that Jeremy promise not to hurt Robbie.
The doorbell chimed, startling Jeremy from his reverie, and he set the beer aside to hurry to the door. He was halfway through the foyer when he heard his mother scream upstairs. The doorbell rang again, then another scream from upstairs, followed by the lights flickering and a heavy thud.
Jeremy forgot the door and bounded up the stairs and into his mother’s bedroom only to find the bathroom door locked. “Mom?” He could hear thudding and splashing inside. “Mom!” He kicked the door in and tripped as he rushed forward.
Jeremy looked back from where he lay sprawled out on the floor to see Robbie near the doorway, toppled over and trying to right itself onto its feet.
The thudding and splashing noises commanded Jeremy’s attention, though. He scrambled to his feet and there was his mother, kicking in the tub, an electric drill sending blue sparks through the water. Jeremy yanked the electrical cord from the wall.
“Mother? Mom!” He shook her head, grabbed at her closest hand, but she was stiff, lifeless.
“Robbie?” Davey asked from the doorway, cradling one arm against his chest. “What happened!”
“Davey! Call an ambulance.”
“But Robbie” — he was bending over his robot — “you’ve hurt his arm.”
“Dammit, Davey—” Jeremy turned to see Davey holding Robbie up to him. Robbie that Mom had begged him to kill. Robbie that should have been locked in the garage with all of Dad’s tools.
Jeremy roared and snatched the toy from Davey’s hands, smashed it into the vanity mirror. The deep-paned glass cracked and Davey screamed. Jeremy slammed the stupid robot into the mirror again, and again.
“No! No!” Davey cried, and he clawed at Jeremy’s arms to get the robot back.
Jeremy flung him aside and bashed the robot into the mirror with renewed fury. Robbie’s plastic head cracked to pieces, the mirror shattered. Jeremy squeezed Robbie’s neck and the blue LED on its chest slowly dimmed to nothing...
Take it easy. Take it easy.
When Jeremy opened his eyes, all was silent. His mother lay dead in the tub. Robbie was a shattered plastic corpse in his hands. And Davey was crumpled on the floor against the bathroom door, his skull smashed, his face blue.
“No, no,” Jeremy trembled, not believing his eyes. “What have I done?”
Heavy footsteps approached from the bedroom and Dr. Stevenson rushed around the corner to peer into the bathroom.
“Jeremy? My god, what have you done?”
“No. I didn’t do it.”
Dr. Stevenson already had his phone out and was dialing the police. “Stay back!” he warned Jeremy. “Please, you don’t need to hurt anyone else.”
“No, it’s not what you think,” Jeremy pleaded, stepping towards the doctor. “Just give me the phone. Take it easy...”
Copyright © 2011 by Garrett Calcaterra