A Rock in the Pond

Kip lay in bed, eyes closed, as his mind ran in circles. One more day to the homecoming game meant one more day to impress the college scouts. Football plays, and lingo rolled around in his head, defying his attempts to fall asleep. He needed rest, but it wouldn’t come. Voices carried from the darkness, adding to the noisy chorus already ringing in his brain.

“Kip! Kip!”

He jerked awake to find Megan shaking him. “What is it?”

“Someone’s at the front door.”

Thumping and banging echoed through the walls of the house. “What the hell?”

With a groan, he stumbled upright and found his way down the stairs. The front door shook violently. With barely contained annoyance, Kip pulled a door curtain aside and found his uncle, Sid Luckett, dressed in a full police uniform.  He looked angry.

Oh great, what does he want? Kip pulled the latch and opened the door.

“About time you answered,” Sid groused. “Come with me.”

“Why?” Kip barked back. Sid acted too much like his dad for him to willingly follow his lead.

“I need your help with Josh,” Sid said, then started walking toward the police cruiser in the driveway.

Kip started to swear but realized Megan stood behind him, peeking through the open doorway. He spoke over his shoulder, “Megs, go to your room. I have to help Uncle Sid with Dad.”

“Is Dad okay?” she asked quietly.

“Who cares,” he snapped but instantly regretted it. She sniffled.  He turned and waved her back. “Go on, you don’t want to see him like this. No one does.”

She headed upstairs. Kip walked to Sid’s cruiser, where Josh lay sprawled across the back seat. He grabbed hold of an arm and a leg, and with Sid’s help, they carried Josh up the steps and through the front door. Once inside, they dropped the inert form onto the couch. The man lay flat on his back, mouth agape, emitting chest-rattling snores.

Kip stared at his disappointment of a father. “Where did you find him?”

“He was in his truck on North Street.”

“Sweet Jesus, was he driving drunk?”

“Actually, no. Someone was driving him home.”

“Good thing, he’d have killed someone driving like this.”

“Yeah, I just can’t believe some underage kid was trying to drive him home.”

Kip stared at Sid. “Say again?”

“Yeah, strangest thing. I pulled Josh’s truck over because I thought he was driving drunk, but instead, I find this seventeen-year-old kid sitting in the driver’s seat.”

“Who was it?”

“Beats me,” Sid said. But then he remembered, “Oh yeah, his name was Jonathan something.”

Kip swallowed and looked back at his father. What gives with this Jonathan kid? This was the second time in the last day he’d been involved with their family.

“Well,” Sid said. “I’d better be going. My shift isn’t over for at least a couple of hours.” He looked at his brother-in-law. “At least Josh is home safe.” He turned to leave.

A wave of heat shot through Kip as anger dripped off his words, “Oh great, the drunk is home.  No one will be safe when he wakes up.”

Sid whipped around and shook a finger in his face. “Don’t judge the man! He made a mistake, and he’s had to deal with it ever since.”

Kip stepped closer until just inches away from Sid’s face. “Deal with it? He gets drunk every night and terrorizes his family when he’s sober.”

“He’s your father, Kip.”

He’s a useless pile of shit. “You’re his brother-in-law. Why don’t you say something to him?”

Sid blinked and stepped back. With a glance at the floor, he spoke, “He’ll be all right.” He turned and let himself out, and the door swung shut with a bang.

Fucking coward.

His father rolled over and started mumbling. Kip looked at him. “I never saw her … I never saw her …” Josh muttered into the couch cushions.

Kip turned away and shut off the light.  His dad disappeared into the darkness, with only the presence of a recurring nightmare to keep him company.

Bitterness followed Kip as he climbed the stairs. It had been almost a year since his father had nearly killed a man in a bar fight. After avoiding prison time on a technicality, he’d ended up paying a hefty fine, which took every available dime the Lawrence family had, including Kip and Megan’s college funds. What little they had left continued to support the newest addition to the family, Josh’s drinking habit.

At the top of the stairs, he found Megan staring down into the darkness of the foyer. She chewed on the tip of her thumb as she did as a baby. It almost looked like she was sucking it. She turned and looked at him.  In her blue eyes, he saw not the usual iciness but the fragile surface of a pond, into which a single stone could cause a mighty ripple.

“Is he okay?” she asked, voice wavering.

“Yeah,” he said. “He just needs to sleep it off. Go back to sleep. Everything will be better in the morning.” She turned away and slipped into her room.

He hated lying like this.  Worse, the more he did it, the easier it became.  Not because he was trying to deceive but because no one wanted to deal with the truth. Josh Lawrence was a sick man, pulling his family into the abyss where he had fallen. Kip wasn’t sure what was worse, that no one wanted to do a damned thing about it or that he no longer cared either.

So he crawled into bed and once more waited for the cacophony of noise in his head to begin.  Even if it did keep him awake, at least the racket drowned the drunken snores of a father who had abdicated his role of parent and protector by surrendering to the dark embrace of his guilt and the siren song of the bottle.

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