Free Write Friday #19: Wrath/Gratitude- Part One
It was a warm summer night shortly after he turned thirteen when something inside him snapped and he let loose the wrath that had been building inside of him for years.
The back door to the house crashed open and Dad staggered in, drunk as usual. Mom had become a master of hiding her emotions and reactions to Dad, but now he could see it. The way she stiffened- ever so slightly- tensed up, knowing that this was going to be another bad night- a really bad night if the stench of whiskey emanating from Dad was anything to go by.
“Where’s my dinner?” Dad pulled the chair back from the table and sat down.
“It’s coming,” Mom replied.
“What is it?” Dad said.
“Mac and Cheese,” Mom replied.
“Mac and Cheese? Again? Is that all you know how to goddamn cook?” Dad turned his head and spat on the kitchen floor, contemptuously.
“I like it,” He said defiantly. Dad turned to stare at him and he caught Mom’s glance, the slight shake of her head. Don’t antagonize him. Don’t piss him off.
“Oh you do, do you?” Dad’s voice was quiet with menace now. “Who asked you, anyway?”
“It’s ready!” Mom cut in with forced enthusiasm before anything else could happen. She reached up into the cupboard and pulled down plates for each of them. She scooped generous amounts onto each plate and then opened a drawer and pulled out some forks. She placed one fork onto each plate and handed Dad his first and then passed the plate across the table to him.
Mom was about to sit down when Dad took a bite and then spat it out onto the table. “It’s cold.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I can warm-”
“It’s goddamn cold food!” Dad stood up so fast his chair toppled over backward. “All I ask for is one thing. One goddamn thing and that’s food that’s hot. And you can’t even give me that. You can’t even do that!”
“I can reheat it-”
Then Dad backhanded Mom.
He had no idea why this time was different. He would never remember leaving the table and running to get his baseball bat. It was a Louisville Slugger, sturdy and solid in his hands. He did remember running back into the kitchen and launching himself at his Dad with a scream of rage. He started swinging the bat again and again and again and-
Mom called the police and the ambulance came to take Dad to the Hospital. At some point, she had taken the bat from him and made sure she was the one holding it when the police arrived. One of the officers started talking to Mom and the other one approached him and squatted down next to him.
“Hey, kiddo. You all right?”
He looked over at the officer. He was young with short-cropped hair and the name tag on his uniform said “Greg Vanderhoeven”
“Yeah,” he said. “I’m all right.”
“Thank you, Captain,” The young woman’s name was Sarah Hoavy and she followed Harcourt up from the cargo bay wringing her hands in relief. The other two survivors stayed down in the kitchen, tempted there by the smell of warm food. Injinia was cooking today and her yam soup was almost as good as the real thing, even if hydroponic yams tasted funny to Harcourt.
“It’s really no trouble at all,” Harcourt said as he made his way back onto the bridge.
“So you can take me to New Toliara?”
Ema vacated the Captain’s chair and began to laugh. “Oh sweet child, we’re going nowhere near New Toliara anytime soon.”
“Why not?” Sarah asked. “I work for the Malagasy Venusian Authority, they’ll pay.”
“How much will they pay?” Harcourt asked.
Sarah hesitated. “I don’t know.”
“Boss man,” Osoko said from the comms station. “We’re on a deadline, right? If we don’t get these spices to Lo Shen City, there’s going to be hell to pay.”
“And you know what the MVA will do if they catch you there,” Ema said.
There was a beep from the arm of his Captain’s chair. Harcourt sighed and, rolling his eyes, pressed the button. “You have something to add, Injinia?”
“Yes,” came the voice. “You’re already a terrible pirate, why would you want to add ‘terrible smuggler’ to the list by going anywhere New Toliara?”
Sarah Hoavy was looking at them in horror. “You’re… pirates?”
“He prefers to be called a privateer,” Ema said.
“He,” Harcourt said, “Is getting a headache.” He sighed and turned to Sarah. “They’re right though, it’s probably not a good idea for us to go anywhere near New Toliara right now. We can see if we can call in a favor when we get to Lo Shen City to get you a berth back there.”
“Thank you, Captain,” Sarah said. “Thank you so much!”
“You’re welcome,” Harcourt said. He sat back down in his captain’s chair, rubbing at his temples. Sarah, sensing the conversation was over, turned and went back downstairs.
“So, you’re not going to tell her why you can’t go back to New Toliara?” Ema asked, grinning.
“Look, smuggling lemurs seemed like a good idea at the time, damn it,” Harcourt said. Osoko and Ema were both laughing now. Harcourt rolled his eyes and stood up. “I’m going to my quarters to lay down for a while.” He stalked off down the hall, their laughter following him. Once inside his quarters and stretched on his bunk, however, he had to grin to himself at the memory Smuggling lemurs had been a hilariously bad idea.
He was just on the edge of sleep, when the entire ship rang with the eerie sound of a ping impacting off the hull. He jumped out of bed, flung the door open to his quarters and stormed back down the hallway to the bridge. “Who the hell just pinged us? Are the pirates back?”
“No, Captain,” Osoko said. “It’s worse.”