J. Scott Smith


No please. No begging. It wasn't a request.

It was a command.

"Oh, shut up, would you?" He'd had enough of the old man's crap for one lifetime. "You're not the boss of me!" He didn't know where that came from. Probably from some memory of when he was five and argued with his sister. Regularly. Frequently, even, as in constantly.

Now, like then, he spat it out with all the conviction and belief he could muster. "You're not the boss of me!" Never mind that he'd been afraid of his sister, he'd stood up to her. Toe to toe, necks straining until they were nose to nose, outdoor voices set to ear-splitting-scream. And sometimes, he'd win. Not often, but sometimes.

But this prick, he was another story. Not only was Lester afraid of him, he'd never won. Not once. Not even close. But not again, not this time, not ever again. Maryann might win a few more. He was okay with that. But not the old man, not the bastard, the intruder in their lives. This is the end of the line for him. Lester was going to see to it.

The old man recoiled. He hadn't expected the little twerp, to... to... well, to not be intimidated. It had always worked before. After all, since the boy was three he had been "The Old Bastard"—yeah, he knew that's how the runt and that little bitch sister of his referred to him—and he had been able to rein the kid in with nothing more than verbal assaults. That is, that's all it took once they had been backed up a few times—carefully, while the boy's wet noodle of a mother wasn't around—by demonstrating his threats weren't empty, but promises. Not so different, come to think of it, from the way I got that pretty little whore under control.

So, this was how it was going to be. The young buck taking over, trying to put him out to pasture. The little turd figured he could play the hero and save not just himself, but mama and sister, too. Like it wasn't already too late for them. A real man would have been a hero long before now. But Lester was anything but a real man, and certainly no hero.

Normally, he wouldn't be worried, but this wasn't normal. Normal was a war of words and wills and a willingness to be the bigger bastard. Some shouting, some shoving, but in the end he always came away with the win and sent the kid packing. But Lester was learning, it seemed, all too well how to be the bigger bastard.

This time, as the old saying goes, he'd brought a gun to a knife fight.


"Look, son, I get it. You're eighteen now and nobody's the boss of you. Not even me," he held his hands up, classic surrender position, "I get it." It was weak, but it was all he could come up with at the moment.

Lester stood there, hate in his eyes, rage in his face, and not so much pointing as waving, or rather involuntarily waving the gun in the general direction of the old man.

At my right chest, he noted. In his anger Lester forgot the heart was on his victim's left, not his own left. Lester was pointing the gun to his own left. The Bastard gave a mental sigh of relief. It would hurt like hell, assuming the twit had the balls, but it wasn't likely to be fatal. Stupid, kid.

"I AM NOT YOUR SON!" The sound wasn't so much Lester's as that of a demon caged fifteen years and finally set free. "DO. NOT. CALL ME! YOUR SON!!"

Lester cupped his hand over his right ear, and with the gun covered his left. He began to moan, a low wail that seemed to get stuck somewhere around the Adam's apple and squeeze out with a volume that did not match the emotion.

The hand on Lester's left ear felt strange. His right hand was smooth, soft and warm—almost hot!—from the hatred that consumed him. His entire body was on fire, an inferno set to consume the Bastard. The left hand, though, it was hard and cold. Not even human.

Lester wasn't exactly sure why that was and frankly didn't have time to sort it out. There was a job to be done. At least he thought there was a job to do. Lester had to pause a second and try to remember: Was there a job, and if so, what was it? Sometimes he had trouble keeping all the pieces in one place and the plot would unravel.

The old man simply looked at him, watched him, studied him. He wasn't sure what the boy was trying to block out. No one ever was. The only one screaming was Lester, and the old man was pretty sure Lester could hear his own screams, no matter how he tried to cover his ears or how much he moaned. But it was more than that. As he watched, for just an instant the boy's eyes glazed over and went blank, masked over by that dull look of confusion he knew so well. Whenever they had one of these rows, there was always a time or two when, like now, just for an instant Lester lost the plot.

Just for an instant.

But it was all he needed. He might have been old and out of shape, a desk jockey for the last decade, but he still had to qualify. He still did qualify. And that meant he was faster than Lester. Fast enough, he hoped, to put a stop to this madness.

While the boy was still clamping his skull in his hands and moaning his odd-sounding wail, the old man's right hand shot straight out from the shoulder and his fingers wrapped around Lester's and the gun. With a sharp twist he turned the barrel straight into the boy's temple and in the same instant jammed his thumb between Lester's index finger and the trigger guard... and squeezed.

Lester saw the old man's arm shoot toward him, quicker than he ever thought the old man could move. Then, as the rough, dry hand clamped around his and the barrel scraped the side of his head, the pieces fell back into place and Lester figured it out. He remembered the job. He knew the plot.

He also understood the plot had just changed.

"Damn, you really are a Bastard," he thought as the hand tightened and the thumb pressed over his finger. His mouth tried to echo his brain's epithet, but all that escaped was "Sh..."

The old man let go before the surprise had drained from Lester's face, and the boy fell with a thud to the living room floor, painting a red swath across the carpet. The old man noticed that, thinking what a pain in the butt it was going to be to get the mess out of the carpet. And the furniture. And off himself.

Still making an inventory of what could be cleaned and what would have to be replaced—and what had to be cleaned now, right now—he hit speed dial 3 on his cell. Funny, he thought, that's not easy to do left-handed.

"Celeste? Celeste, it's Pete... Yeah, that Pete... Hi. Look, you have to send someone over here, to my house... Yeah, right now... What?... I just came home and found my wife's kid on the floor. He's been shot... Yeah, he's dead... No, looks like he found my old service revolver and put one in his brain... Yeah, suicide... Okay, thanks."

Pete clicked off, pulled up the dialer again and this time pressed 2. As he walked to the garage and the utility sink, the phone at the other end of the connection started to ring.

Sharon and her little bitch were going to be difficult, he was sure of it.

December 2011
Plain Text


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