Friday, October 19, 2007

Chapter 6: Second Night, Part II

Vernon took a step and nearly fell when his arm wouldn’t move. He twisted, jerked and pulled free a few inches before stopping. He flattened himself against the wall. His elbow dug painfully against the doorjamb, and he could feel the cold grip enveloping his wrist and forearm trying to draw him back in the darkened room. He groaned and leaned back, his weight maintaining the status quo. For now, anyway. But what happens if my arm breaks? Wood creaked. His elbow creaked.

He pulled harder. Wood bit deeper into his flesh. Warmth trickled down his arm. He gritted his teeth and planted his feet on the floor. He tugged back with a groan that grew to a yell and then a scream. Pain ripped through his elbow, but he felt the grip on the other end lessen slightly. Then the ancient carpet gave way with a dull, dry rip.

Sneakers slipping, Vernon slammed into the wall and dangled with legs splayed and butt a foot off the floor. Wood scraped and agony burned up and down his arm. Vernon felt himself slowly dragged back into the room. He dug in his heels. More carpet ripped and twin furrows cut through the pad underneath. The rubber soles caught the floor beneath, squealing as they skidded along the oak planks. His forehead smacked into the doorframe, and his arm disappeared to just below the shoulder. He planted his right foot on the far side of the doorframe, his left hand on the wall and heaved. He grunted with the effort. Muscles in his arm and leg tightened and bulged.

“Let go,” he gasped. “Let go. Let go, let go, let GO!”

With a strained hop, his left foot landed on the wall and pushed. More of his arm emerged. Vernon jerked, exposing more of the trapped limb. The motion sent the arm sliding up the wall and into the switch. The darkness growled as light flooded the bedroom. He thudded to the floor and rolled, coming to a stop on his stomach. He closed his eyes and breathed heavily, coughing at the dust kicked up when he fell. It wasn't that tough before. What's going on? He shook his head. Got to be more careful.

As his breathing evened and his heart slowed to something like a normal rate, Vernon rolled over, sat up and scooted toward the wall. He cradled his right arm against his stomach. The elbow ached, and blood seeped from a shallow cut where the wood had bit into his flesh. An ugly weal spiraled from forearm to wrist, and bruises covered most of the lower half of his arm. It looked as if someone had wrapped a rope around it and dragged him around the yard. Vernon bumped into the wall, placed a shaky hand against the textured sheetrock and slowly climbed to his feet. He drew in a long, ragged breath and sagged against the wall with his head resting on his forearm while he stared into the bedroom.

It looked so normal with the lights on, a nice place to lie down and sleep. Gazing at the pillows piled at the head, he felt a sudden chill. What if Ray had been here? His trembling increased. What if he'd been asleep on the bed when I shut the light off? His fist smacked into the wall. Stupid! He punched it again. Stupid! Again. Stupid! Again. He didn't stop until he had knocked a hole in the plaster. After one last look at the bed, he staggered over to the recliner and plopped down, sticking as many of his sore, bloody knuckles in his mouth as possible.

"Thank God the babysitter still has him," he muttered around the fist. Vernon yanked on the lever on the side of the chair; the footrest jerked up with a clanking of metal, and the backrest creaked as he leaned back. Sore arm crooked across his abdomen, he placed his other hand behind his head, pinky tapping his skull while he gazed out the darkened window above the old air conditioner. Don't let it get him, she told me. If he'd been here, I'd have done just that. He glared at his reflection in the glass. What kind of father are you? His stomach grumbled in counterpoint. Vernon ignored it, leaned back and closed his eyes. With work beckoning in the morning, sleep was more important than food right now.

Cheryl's face appeared in the darkness behind his lids, equal parts terror and determination painted on her features as she pushed the baby toward him before sliding off into the night. Eyes popping open, Vernon grimaced and squirmed in the seat. He jostled the injured arm and gasped. Once the pain settled to its previous dull throb, he closed his eyes again. His wife's terrified face confronted him once more. He sighed, took deep breaths and stared at the overhead lights until his eyes hurt and spots danced in his vision. It didn't help. Again and again, he closed his eyes to find her waiting for him. Again and again, he watched the night drag her away and leave the baby lying on the floor.

When his stomach gurgled again, he jerked the lever on his chair and dropped the footrest with a clunk. The recliner rocked forward; he bounced out of the seat, ignoring the pain in his elbow. He went into the kitchen.


Part III coming Monday!

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At October 19, 2007 10:38 AM , Blogger Bret Jordan said...

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At October 21, 2007 8:17 PM , Blogger Jeff Parish said...

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