Something wicked was on my front porch and as the knock sounded, Assassin knew exactly what it was.
Something wicked was on my front porch and as the knock sounded, Shadow knew exactly what it was.
Something wicked was on my front porch and as the knock sounded, Guardian knew exactly what it was.
He looked at Bekah. She stared at Morgan then turned to Guardian and shook her head. “I told her not to talk about Grasp at all.”
Guardian stomped to the door. He pulled the curtain back to see Grasp staring at him.
Sixteen steps to the bedroom. Two and a half steps to the shoes. To the left, a set of socks. A knife on the underside of the dresser’s top drawer. Sixteen steps back. If you factor in the time for putting the socks and shoes on, and opening the drawer, Guardian knew he could be ready to face Grasp in two minutes and thirty-four seconds.
“Keep him busy,” Guardian said to Bekah as he turned the handle enough to open the door a crack then walked away.
Bekah walked toward the door and Guardian was in his room grabbing socks.
“What are you doing?” Mumble said in the doorway.
“Getting ready for battle,” Guardian said.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m helpless without shoes. I need to be able to kick his ass,” Guardian said. Shoes on and laced. Open the drawer.
“You’re not fighting my son,” Mumble said. “No one is getting their ass kicked.”
The drawer opened. Guardian reached under the drawer to where he had taped the knife and he pulled it.
“What is that for?” Mumble said.
With a flick of Guardian’s thumb, the blade whickered out to flash in Mumble’s face. “Murder, if it comes to that,” Guardian said. He dropped the blade and Assassin caught it with his left hand.
They were blending together. One ready for bloody, the other ready for blood. Guardian was not sure how this would end without a death.
In the other room, Rose was yelling. “He is going back to the car!” she said. “That was so rude. I can’t believe you!”
“Good, let him go back to the car! He is not welcome here!” Bekah said. “You are not welcome here.”
Guardian stepped up beside Bekah and turned her to face him. “Get the dogs.”
“No, they need to leave.” She was near to crying, but too mad to cry. She was near to shouting, but too controlled to shout. She was near to begging, but too pissed to beg.
“It happens now,” Guardian whispered to Bekah.
Rose sat on the couch with Honed beside her. They did not recline, but sat side by side clutching each other like I had seen Hymnal and Vigil do so many years ago. These two were here to fight, and that was fine with Guardian.
“Why did you bring a child molester to my house?” Guardian asked.
“He is not a child molester. He was set free today. It is over; you were wrong,” Rose said. She was alight. Almost glowing. It seemed like a picture you always see of a saint, their halo glowing, hovering just above their head as they smile down at you.
But this was no halo. This was a different kind of mark. A mark of rage, a mark of hate and zeal made of fire. This was the halo of a different kind of god. She had become the saint of something vile.
“You said that if you were wrong about him, you would apologize. Well, he is right out there, waiting for his apology,” she said.
Guardian sat on the floor with the coffee table between them. He crossed his legs and he closed his eyes for focus. This was his position of power.
This was where he sat when he ran Dungeons and Dragons games. This was where he sat when he got in arguments. This, right here. This humble seat on the floor in front of the couch was his power position. It gave the wrong impression. And it drew the eye. Rose could not focus on anything else but the man on the floor before her. This was Guardian’s greatest form of manipulation. This was where he had the upper hand. He would be underestimated here. He would control the conversation from right here.
“I will not be apologizing to that piece of shit out there,” Guardian said, pointing at the door. Assassin’s other hand was tucked behind his back, blade still out and waiting.
“Watch your language,” Honed said, pointing at me.
Guardian scoffed and looked Honed up and down. He shook his head dismissively and turned back to Rose.
“That is your brother,” she said. “How dare you?”
“That is not my brother. That is a fucking pile of garbage,” Guardian said.
“Watch your language,” Honed spouted out again.
Guardian ignored him.
“You have never been so far away from the Lord as you are right now,” Rose said.
“Rose,” Guardian said. “Don’t fucking tell me about my relationship with the Lord. You have no idea what you are talking about,” he said it calm. He knew this was the winning chip. The words fuck and the Lord in one sentence would overload this woman. This was the move that forced her out of his house. This was the win right here.
Guardian could feel a tension building in his chest. Could feel his heart pounding against his ribs. He was having trouble breathing and he looked at Honed, waiting for the reaction to the curse.
“You watch your mouth or—” Honed began.
“Or what, Honed? Or what? You gonna come at me? If you want me, I’m right here!” Guardian said.
Assassin’s hand flexed around the knife.
“I’m not sitting here for this.” Rose stood and stormed to the door.
Guardian stood and paced in tight lines, more turning in circles than pacing at all. His focus came back to the house and Assassin thumbed the blade closed and hung it on our belt.
Guardian went over the scene for a second before he heard an explosion at the door. Someone was pounding on the door. He turned to see Bekah, down on her knees beating on the inside of the door screaming.
“You’re trying to kill him!” She screamed. “You are trying to kill him. He could have a heart attack. You are trying to kill him!” She stood and turned to me, her face crumpled and sobbing. “Why don’t you ever let me fight for you?” she said.
Then, the break.
There was a snapping of the mind as scenes began to play in my head.
The meeting at Arby’s, when I faced Rose and Honed. I had not been alone. Bekah had been sitting right beside me.
The night I argued with Rose about the movie. I had called Bekah and waited outside. But that had not happened. Bekah had been there that night. I had not stood outside in the cold waiting for her to get me. We had just walked out and got into the car.
When I had packed Grasp’s room, I had not gone in alone. I had Bekah in that house with the kids, ready to run them to safety if Grasp showed up. She had watched in horror as Little Man had stood in the yard with me, a bat on his shoulder waiting for blood.
The next fight. And the next. Every time I had faced off against Rose, Bekah had been standing right there. Why had she not helped? Why had she been silent as I burned?
The night of the call came to me then.
“You did what?” Rose shouted.
“What you should have done years ago it seems,” Guardian said.
But Guardian had not said that. Bekah had.
“You had no right.” Rose stabbed a finger at Guardian.
“How dare you?” Guardian said. “You promised.”
“Real smart, Jesse,” Honed said.
“Shut the fuck up, Honed!”
“Don’t use that language in this house. You say sorry,” Rose said.
“I’ll apologize when you apologize to your nephew and niece,” Guardian said.
But he had not said it at all. Bekah had.
Rose had turned to Bekah then and stabbed a finger at her. “This is family business. You are not a member of this family. I don’t want to hear a word out of your mouth.”
And Bekah turned to Guardian. She was asking in that moment if I would allow that. She was asking in that moment if I was going to let my mother silence her.
And Guardian had not backed Bekah. Guardian had not fought for his partner. He had ignored her. He had turned, instead, to Honed.
Now, on Normal Street a year later, Guardian was staring at the only one in his life who had ever fought for him. The only one in his life who had ever cared and he saw her for the first time. He walked to the door and opened it.
“Go get her,” he said calmly.
Like a flash, she was gone. To the door and out. She rushed the car before Rose, Grasp, or Honed could get in it.
“How dare you bring that piece of shit to this house!” Bekah said. She got right up in Rose’s face.
“This is not your family. You have no right to talk tonight at all!” Rose said.
“This is my fucking house!” Bekah shouted. “This is my fucking yard!” she said, pointing at the ground. “I’ll say whatever the fuck I want to say! And you have lost all right to call yourself his mother!”
Grasp moved to get in front of Bekah, and Guardian rushed forward.
Mumble grabbed his arm and Guardian sluffed it off.
Assassin pulled the blade and with a flick of the thumb it was open again. He slipped it behind his back and waited. He rushed Grasp, and Mumble got in the way.
“Go back into the house,” Mumble said.
Bekah was still screaming at the top of her lungs, slinging more and more vitriol at Rose, and Grasp stepped in the way.
“Get the fuck away from my mom,” Grasp said.
“I’m not afraid of you!” Bekah snapped. “You hurt children. At your heart you’re a coward. I’m an adult. You don’t scare me at all.”
“Mumble, he is right in front of Bekah. If you don’t get out of my way, I am going to go through you,” Guardian said. His voice of authority carried through the entire neighborhood without his yelling.
“No one is going through me,” Mumble said.
Guardian grabbed Mumble’s shoulder and, with as little effort as it would take to swat a fly, he threw Mumble ten feet to the left. Guardian’s heart was hammering with rage and he could hardly breathe at all. His chest was constricting and he was getting light-headed.
He stepped in front of Grasp, and Assassin saw the tender spot right on the side of the man’s neck. His vision closed on it and Assassin started to say his mantra. When he was done, the strike would come. In his mind, he spoke the words:
For love, for hate, for child, for slave.
“I swear to God, if you lay a single hand on that woman,” Guardian said, pointing at Bekah. “I will gut you.”
“I would love to see you try,” Grasp said.
With fire, with ice, with steel, with flesh.
Mumble was back between us. He was shoving me back with every ounce of power he had. “You are not going to kill my son!” he said.
No rage, no vigor, no care, no sigh.
“I can’t believe this!” Rose stated. “I am The Mom, and my chest is starting to hurt.”
Guardian has a clear image of her touching her chest in drama, sweeping her head back as if in slight swoon.
“Your son could have a heart attack at any moment!” Bekah said. “You are a piece of human garbage!”
Goodnight, goodbye, good life, now die! The words played out in his head, easy and without care. These were the words he had been preparing for Char’s death. He had been working on them for years. Perfecting them. And now he was finally saying them to a child molester. If he could not avenge Shush on Char. He would finish this right now.
At that moment, Honed grabbed Grasp by the back of the elbows and jerked him away. As he was pulled back Assassin looked at Mumble who was still pushing him back.
“Rose, get him the fuck out of here!” Mumble said.
“I can’t believe this,” Grasp shouted. “I was just in jail for four fucking days and I come out to this!”
“What was that?” Bekah said. Her head swung from Rose to glare at Grasp. “One day for every child you raped?”
That shut everything down.
Rose had nothing to say. Honed shoved Grasp into the back seat, and Mumble took the words like a blow to the chest. He stumbled back shaking his head and he walked away. He could not pick his eyes up from the ground, and Assassin stood staring at his prize being pushed into the car.
Rose slunk away, defeated by Bekah’s statement. She had no way of coming back from that. Rose got in and closed the door. She could not look up and out the window as Bekah stared her down.
Honed looked at me from over the hood of the car as he made it to the driver’s side door. He stared at me and I shook my head. I knew in that moment that man was headed off into hell. He had to back Grasp, he had to back Rose. And he had to agree to everything that they said.
In his mind Bekah’s final statement was stamped for eternity. In that one sentence, Bekah sealed the fate of that marriage.
Grasp would walk free. He would find a girlfriend and get her pregnant. When the baby was announced, it was not long before Honed left Rose. He left a letter behind explaining himself. It said these four words.
The phone rang two weeks after the Battle of Normal Street. Shadow picked it up.
“Happy birthday, baby!” Rose sang out sweetly. “How’s my boy today?”
Shadow said nothing. He hung up the phone.
Bekah assumed the war was over.
I had talked to Steven and decided that I was done with my family. I was never going back to those people. I was writing them all off.
Bekah saw bright days ahead once we got past the worst of the trash we’d left behind. They were all gone, and in her mind things would get better.
But Assassin had hesitated. He had spoken the words he had prepared and now the fact that he had paused to say them would haunt him for the rest of his life.
To this day, he is haunted by something Steven had told him. The quote was that during their lifetime, the average pedophile will molest 65 children.
That number wakes Assassin up at night, to this day. He can name four of the victims, but the other sixty-one haunt him.
Guardian had lost his war. He had fought the fight of his life. Had done everything right. All of the righteous stands he had taken. All of the lines in the sand he had drawn. He had won every argument. He had passed every test. He had made the right call every time but one. He had fucked up when he hobbled Bekah, but even without her fighting Rose, he had still won every argument.
And he had lost. Won every battle. Lost the war.
Guardian still hasn’t recovered. Tonight, when I am done writing this chapter or post, or however you want to categorize it, Guardian will topple. He will wander the wastes of my mind, drunk with a bottle of Fighting Cock Bourbon in his hands, screaming in the face of his defeat. Crying out the names of the ones he failed. Forever echoing, his voice will rattle back to him the names of the victims that went unavenged.
I hope you can see now that this cannot hold. This entire system will fail. It will collapse and everything it loves will suffer.
The Battle of Normal Street was won by Assassin, Guardian, and Bekah. Together they broke the back of the machine. Rose will never be the same. Grasp will never be the same. Wherever Honed is in the world, he still hears those words spoken in righteous wrath to the world that night. We won.
And our victory would cost us everything.
For a while.