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Dead Horses

by Shelly Evans

Part 1 appears
in this issue.

I jolted awake. Opening my eyes as I sat up, I found myself staring directly into the blood-stained eyes of my father. He must have splashed a whole bottle of Old Spice on himself to cover the reek. That was the smell I dreamed about. Alex and I always bought him the same cologne every Christmas.

Someone had placed me on the couch, and he was standing on the other side of the small living room looking over the shoulder of the rather large woman who had comforted me. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor holding Alex’s head in her lap.

Two paramedics were there too. One was attaching something to Alex’s arm while the other one readied a cot to transport him on.

When I turned my head to the right, I saw the man who had burst in, one of our few neighbors who happened to live across the hall from us, talking to a police officer. The woman holding Alex’s head was his girlfriend I heard him say.

The officer was jotting something down on a notepad. When he finished, he snapped the notebook closed and slipped it and the pen into his front shirt pocket. Looking past the man, he stared directly at my father, shook his head, and sighed.

The paramedics put Alex on the cot, lifted it and snapped it at hip height, so they could wheel him out to the ambulance. When they headed for the door, my father tried to follow, but he was stopped by a hand on his shoulder.

“Mr. Drummer,” said the Sheriff, “will you please come with me?”

My father’s head jerked around as he noticed, for the first time apparently, that there was an officer in the room. “What do you want,” stammered my father. “Can’t you see that my son is hurt? I have to go to the hospital with him!”

“What about your other son?”

My father looked confused for a few seconds. His face was like an open book. Everything he thought seemed to parade across it like words on a page. “Oh, I forgot.” He rubbed his face hard with his hands.

“Your injured son is in good hands, and he’ll be well taken care of. I’ll need you and Vince to come down to the station with me. I’ll give you both a few minutes to get washed up and dressed.”

My father looked at me and numbly nodded his head. We headed for our bedrooms. It was comforting that Ed, the County Sheriff, happened to be the officer on call that night. He was well-liked throughout the county for his ability to make everyone he met feel comfortable around him. He told Alex and me once that his motto was, “There is good in everyone, and there is bad in everyone, so if you treat people with respect and kindness, you are more apt to reach the good parts in them instead of the bad.” That is what he did for my father and me that night. He reached our good parts.

That didn’t mean that there weren’t any consequences for our actions. The bullet went through Alex and was lodged just under the skin making a bulge on his back. Alex said that they turned him over on his side and slit the skin with a scalpel, and the bullet plopped out onto the metal bed beneath him with a ping not unlike the sound of a bullet against a tin can.

He developed an infection and was in the hospital for quite a while before they released him. Our father was sent to an Alcohol Rehab Center to get dried off the whiskey, and I was sent to a boy’s home in Denver.

Eventually, Alex was allowed to go home with our mother; who had shown up out of the blue just like that. I was forced to stay in Denver where I met with a psychiatrist first daily and then weekly, and where I was terrorized by the other unlucky boys who shared the home with me. The state took custody of me away from my parents, and I became officially “a ward of the State of Colorado,” and according to them, a danger to myself and others.

A few months later my father went to court over what to do with me and Alex. My mother, Alex by her side, showed up too. According to Alex, she sat quietly in the second row, straight-backed, with her lovely chin jutting out ever so slightly. After a time, she timidly raised her gloved hand and held it up until the courtroom became silent and all eyes were on her.

The judge looked down at her and nodded his head granting her permission to speak. When she parted her sweet lips, it was to ask the judge if he would award her custody of me and Alex.

The judge frowned and stated, “Mrs. Drummer, you are aware that the court has ruled that it would not be in the best interest of Alex or Vince to let the boys live together?”

Our mother nodded her head yes.

“This means that the boys may never, under any conditions or circumstances, live under the same roof again. If I was to award custody of Vince to you, then Alex would be required to live with Mr. Drummer indefinitely.” And quickly holding his hand up to silence my father, he added, “And Mr. Drummer, I will never award custody of Vince back to you. Understood?”

Our father nodded his head, humbled beyond words, and turned around in his chair and looked at our mother. She was silent for several minutes, and then, to Alex’s horror, she said, “Then let it be. I’d rather rot in Hell than let any son of mine be raised by the State!”

Alex burst out in tears and begged our mother to let him live with her, but she said that if she let him, they would come and take me away and put me back in the home in Denver, and wouldn’t that be a shame?

Alex and I would talk on the phone every Friday evening. I lived in Nevada with my mother and her new husband, and Alex moved to Arizona with our father. He told me that they lived in a tiny town called Mammoth, and since our father was hardly ever at home, he spent his time riding his dirt bike, catching Gila monsters in paper bags, frog-gigging, and hanging out with his friends.

They lived in a small two-bedroom trailer with white-painted tin sides. I didn’t tell him about our four-bedroom house with the pool in the back yard. And I didn’t tell him how I was riding the little bay gelding they gave me for my eleventh birthday in 4-H and Saddle Club, and how I was going to get to advance from the Cub Scouts into the Boy Scouts by earning my Arrow of Light, and how I wouldn’t stop until I became a high-ranking Eagle Scout. I didn’t want to rub my good fortune in. I cared about him too much.

Alex didn’t tell me that our father had started to drink again. He didn’t tell me that as punishment for being caught smoking weed, our father would make him kneel on the floor in the kitchen, place the tip of his pistol in Alex’s mouth, and threaten to shoot his brains out if he ever did it again, because no son of his was going to be a long-haired, dope-smoking hippie, which he hated almost as much as he hated Mexicans.

Alex began to call him the “Old Man” behind his back. And after each outrageous punishment for whatever “sin” he committed that day, he began to hate him more and more. Alex kept all of this to himself until the fateful night he called me and sobbed his story into the pay phone’s receiver. He then told me that we had made a mistake. I should never have shot him, he said. We should have shot that S.O.B. instead, but not to worry, because he had rectified the situation. I didn’t know what “rectified” meant.

“What are you talking about, Alex?” I asked.

“Come on, Vince; put your thinking cap on. What I am saying is that the Old Man will never hurt me again.”

“I’ll talk to Mom and see what we can do to help you get out of there. We’ve got to get him off the booze again. Maybe you can come stay with us until he is sober,” I replied, stupidly.

“You’re beating a dead horse, Vince,” he replied, “I’ll never be allowed to live with Mom as long as you are there, and anyway, it’s too late. Like I said, I’ve rectified the situation. See you around kid, and keep your nose clean!”

And with that he hung up leaving me slack-jawed, horror-ridden, and wondering if I would ever see my brother again this side of Hell. My eyes wandered across the table to the wall phone above the kitchen counter — the cord stretched taut between my hand and it — where the baseball mitt lay. The one I had received in the mail that very afternoon. I had forgotten to thank him for remembering.

Copyright © 2012 by Shelly Evans

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