Kevin drained his 5th or 6th glass of scotch, he couldn’t remember which as he poured himself a 6th or 7th glass. He rolled the .38 callibre around on the table in front of him. He felt nothing but grief, loss, pain and anguish. He looked around the bare room. Besides the chair and table he was using the only other piece of furniture was a mattress. There was a tiny bathroom behind the door in the corner but that was it. This was all he could afford. The walls were dark gray and peeling. He had taped some of his sketches to the wall but besides those it was bare. He had nothing left. He had lost everything. He lifted the gun with his right hand and held it’s mouth against his temple. He didn’t feel like living anymore.
November 12, 2011
He sighed as he pulled into the driveway. He was finally home. He had started to hate working at the firm but with a mortgage and a family of three kids and a wife, he couldn’t exactly quit. Jobs didn’t come knocking at the door. He got out of his car and entered the house. He had barely shut the door behind him when Luke, his youngest son ran up to him and hugged him.
“Hey little man!” He said laughing as he steadied himself to prevent them both from falling.
“Welcome home Dad”
“What’s up champ?” He said as he playfully scuffled the 8yr old’s hair.
“I painted a picture of you at school today Dad. Ms. Walker said to paint a picture of our hero. Optimus Prime is harder to draw but you’re cooler. Come see. Mom pasted it on the fridge.” Luke said as he held his hand and led him to the kitchen. Kevin laughed as he followed Luke’s lead.
Grace was in the kitchen chopping carrots. She lifted her head when Kevin and Luke walked in. “Welcome honey!” She said.
“Thanks babe.” He said as he followed Luke to the fridge. “Wow!” He said when he looked at the painting. “Nice one buddy! It looks great. I’m glad you think I’m cooler than Optimus Prime.”
Luke laughed and asked if he could go watch tv. Both Kevin and Grace nodded and so he skipped out of the kitchen.
“Where are Josh and Amy?” Kevin asked Grace.
“Amy’s in her room studying for a test she has tomorrow and Josh is grounded. He and a couple of friends beat up some kid for no apparent reason or at least none that he’s telling me. He has been suspended for a week. The principal told me that if Josh gets into any more trouble, he’ll be asked to withdraw.”
Kevin sighed. “Ok, I’ll go talk to him.”
He made his way upstairs but headed to Amy’s room first. Her door was slightly opened. He let himself in but she didn’t notice. She had earphones in her ears and was poring over a number of books. This was the family genius. She never got into trouble. He let himself out and shut the door. He didn’t want to break her concentration. He’d talk to her when she came down for dinner.
He headed to Josh’s room, stopped for a few seconds at the door and let himself in. Josh was lying on the bed with earphones in his ears but he took them out and sat up when he noticed Kevin walk in.
“Hey Dad”. He murmured avoiding Kevin’s eyes.
“Josh. So you beat up some kid today. Wanna tell me why?” Kevin asked with a straight face.
“I didn’t beat him up.”
“So how come you’re suspended from school. Is the principal lying?”
“I didn’t beat the kid up.”
“So who did? A ghost? Your ghost?” Kevin asked with sarcasm.
“Gavin and Tyson. I was only there when they were beating him up. I didn’t touch him.”
“So you just stood there and did nothing. You cudda walked away Josh. Now you’re an accessory to assault. You’re lucky no charges have been filed because you’d be just as guilty as Gavin and Tyson.”
“This isn’t a court Dad. I’m not one of your clients.”
“No you’re not. You’re my eldest son and you’re falling short. Amy never gets into any trouble and you live in the same house. Can’t you learn anything from her? Luke looks up to you. Don’t mess it up for him. You’re gonna go over to that kid’s house tomorrow to apologize and I don’t want you ever speaking to Gavin or Tyson again.”
Josh stared at the floor and didn’t say anything. Kevin sighed and left. He went to the bedroom he shared with his wife, changed his clothes and made his way to the kitchen to join Grace.
“I’ve spoken to him.” He said as he walked into the kitchen. She was stirring something in a pot on the cooker.
“Thanks. He worries me.” She said with a frown.
“He’s 17. He’ll be okay.”
“Kev, that man called again.” Grace said with fear in her eyes.
He knew who she was talking about. He knew the man. Kellan Smith. The man he had defended 3yrs ago for the murder of his wife and 4yr old daughter. Kellan had insisted that he didn’t do it. Kevin hadn’t believed him. He had been arrested in a bloody shirt that had his wife’s and daughter’s blood on it and his prints were found all over the murder weapon, a hammer. The crime scene pictures were gory and there was evidence that Kellan’s wife had been planning to run off with their daughter. There was also evidence that he had been treated for psychotic episodes in the past. It was an open and shut case but he tried his best to help Kellan but he was sentenced to life and Kevin had declined to represent him in an appeal. The calls had started two months ago and were getting frequent. There were emails too but he couldn’t tell Grace.
“He’s in prison G. He can’t do any of the the things he says.”
Her eyes were moist. “He asked if Luke was eating his vegetables and that if he wasn’t, he could make him.”
“Look G, forget about it. He’s locked up for life.”
“Can’t we report to the police?”
“I have. Countless times. They don’t consider it a real threat. He hasn’t done anything.”
“Yet. He hasn’t done anything yet. This is all your fault Kev.”
“I told you not to represent him. I told you it wasn’t gonna be worth it. Now each time the phone rings, I’m half wondering if it’s him. What if any of the kids pick up?”
“You’re blaming me?! I was doing my job. The case got assigned to me! Would I have us go through this intentionally?”
They argued and argued. Grace was scared and Kevin was upset. Kellan Smith was becoming a problem but there was nothing he could do. She blamed him for the phone calls and then for their move to Chicago. She hated it and wished they had stayed in Texas. He blamed her for not getting a job to support him when they were in Texas as if she did, they wouldn’t have had to move. They stopped arguing when Luke walked in.
Kevin stormed out of the kitchen and took his keys from the key rack. He was going for a drive. He needed to cool off. He drove around for 30 minutes, blaming himself for everything Grace blamed him for and hating himself for letting their argument escalate to the level it did. He knew she was worried and scared and that she didn’t mean any of the things she said. He also didn’t like the fact that Luke had walked in on them. He didn’t want to set a bad example. He drove back to the house deciding to apologize to Grace for everything and to have a sit down with Luke to apologize for losing his cool and yelling at his Mom.
Fear clutched his heart as he turned into their street and saw the police car, fire truck and ambulance parked in front of their house. It was on fire! Grace, Luke, Amy and Josh! He rushed out of the car and tried to make his way to the house but the firemen stopped him. Their neighbour, Mrs Carson was trying to talk to him but he couldn’t hear a word. Apparently, it was she who had dialled 911. It took 40 minutes for the firemen to put the fire out. Their house looked like a shadow of itself. Grace, Amy and Josh had died in it. Their bodies were badly burnt. Luke died as he was being carried out of the house. All attempts at resuscitation failed. Kevin was numb. The entire thing played out like a movie. He didn’t get a chance to say a word to Amy and he didn’t like his last words to Josh or Grace. The way Luke looked at him before he had stormed out of the kitchen…his knees felt wobbly. A police officer was asking him some questions but he couldn’t hear a word. Then he couldn’t breathe.
He woke up a day later in a hospital and as he remembered the events of the night before, he curled himself up into a ball and wept like a baby. He wept for Grace, the love of his life; for Josh, his stubborn son who was every bit like he was at that age; for Amy, his genius, the star of the family and for Luke, his bubbly, adorable son who could do no wrong. He wept until he fell asleep and he woke up and wept again.
The report of the fire came back a week later. The fire had started from the fuse box. The fuse box he had insisted on fixing when Grace had insisted that he should call Carl, their electrician. He had joked about being good with his hands and said a fuse box was a piece of cake. She had laughed but told him to still call Carl. He ignored her and did it anyway. He had also forgotten to do anything about the smoke alarms. Grace had noticed that they didn’t go off when she had an episode of smoke during one of her culinary experiments the week before. He had caused the fire and robbing his family of a chance to quickly detect that something was wrong so they could evacuate the house. He felt like someone had twisted a knife in his heart. He had practically set his family up for death and left them to die.
He wished he hadn’t survived. He wished he had died with them. It had been six months to this day that he had lost his family in the fire. Six months to this day that everything that mattered to him died for his mistakes and negligence. It was only right that he joined them.
He shut his eyes and squeezed the trigger as he held his breath. The gun clicked. He opened his eyes. He was still alive.
With 1 bullet, he had at most 5 more tries before he died and 5 more reasons to wish he was dead.