Winner of the 2008 SNHU Fiction Contest
The Good Child
by Nate Boesch
John sat on the deck, surveying the countryside. He had built the deck on the back of the house for moments like these, moments that requested a somber, quiet atmosphere. From here he saw the rocky ridge at the base of the horizon protruding far into the skyline while casting a shadow down a long ways through the plain, which gradually transcended and became his yard. The clouds above were gray and sat suspended over his plot of land, refusing to yield to the surrounding blue. He never would of had a moment like this had he built the deck facing the road. He’d have to put up with the constant passing of neighbors offering queer, flick-wristed waves driving home, their SUVs spewing up dust as they passed. Thank God.
The sliding glass door slid open behind him: his wife. John didn’t turn. He felt her hands rest on his shoulders as she leaned over near his ear. “Come in, dinner’s waiting. So is Mark,” she coaxed. Her voice, although pleading, held a hint of demand. Before too long it would give way to anger and then exasperation. So it went. “You’re being unreasonable.”
“Not yet.” John stared ahead.
“Darlin’, you know it was an accident and Mark’s been beating himself up hard enough already, you know how he is.”
“I don’t need to be reminded how he is. I know perfectly well how he is.”
“You’ve been pouting long enough, hun. It’s a shame for all of us it happened and I understand, we both do, that you feel it harder than any of us. But you have to know; we all loved him, he was a great dog. The best. But what happened was an accident and you can’t blame Mark. I won’t let you.” Her hands lifted off John’s shoulders, indicating to her husband she was through with niceties, which was fine with him. She only used words like “hun” and “darlin” when explaining herself in the wake of some error on her behalf. He had no idea why she was defending Mark. But he expected nothing different, which was why he sat out brooding rather than venting to her three days ago when he should have. But no good would have come from it. He knew she would have stood against him, making him out to be the bad guy, just as she was doing now. Who knew what conversations transpired between Mark and her prior to her coming out and trying to reconcile for their son. It was pathetic. Mark was waiting, she had said. Bullshit. He was waiting. After mumbling a lame “sorry” following the incident, Mark hadn’t spoken to him. One apology was all he got for the death of his dog, Bailey. His dog. If his wife had trained it, putting all the work into it, maybe she would have understood. He stood and turned around.
“Mary, if he wants to straighten things up, he can man up and come talk to me. I’m not going to be the one to settle this, if he hadn’t sped into the driveway like I’ve told him not to, this never would have happened. And I don’t want to hear you argue for him, he’s a big boy.” He maintained the level of voice. He’d been ready for this conversation, knowing it was bound to happen since he saw the reprimanding look his wife gave him when he sent Mark’s friends home the day it happened.
“Are you actually sad that Bailey’s dead or just pissed at your son?” She spat out the word son, almost making it sound sarcastic. He figured that was exactly the effect she wanted. She was pulling the “bad father” card. God, he hated when she did that. Mark stays quiet for a few days and the blame automatically falls on him.Every. Fucking. Time. She had fed him some bullshit about neglect the day before. He figured she got it from those therapy books she’d taken to reading lately. He wasn’t going to fall for it. Insolence was insolence was insolence. There was no other way around it. She was becoming frantic now. He wondered why the fuck she even got involved; it was between a father and a son. “You haven’t talked to him in three days, John… three days!”
“He ran over the fucking dog Mary, not me! Not me, Mary, you got that?” He jabbed his finger in the direction of Mark’s room, roaring now.
With tears welling in her eyes, she turned and headed inside.“Goddamn you,” she said through grit teeth before shutting the sliding-glass door, “Goddamn you.”
Having the deck to himself again, John turned and rested his elbows on the railing, looking out at the country again. She’d settle down. She had every time before.His son would come around and see his father’s point of view as well; it’s what good children did.