Inexperienced, A Story by Robert Isaac BrownShawn Mihalik
It was the seventh uninterrupted evening of rain showers. The boy’s thoughts were flooded. It had been a rough day at the slaughter house. He was thinking about not going back. He ran a red light, leaning over to the floor of the passenger side, feeling for the last beer of the six-pack he had bought after work. His vision was blurred, but that didn’t matter; he knew the route home.
Pigs, goats, chickens, and cows, blood dripping from their necks, were on the road, blocking his way. He swerved to the left, the tires screeching, and gathered the wheel back to its default position. A horn blew and a man stuck his head and arm out of his window and pointed a middle finger at the boy. The boy looked in the rearview and the animals were gone. Jesus Christ, he thought, and put the bottle to his lips. He took a long swig as he turned onto his street, where the junkies sometimes had sex on their porches in broad daylight. He wiped dribble from his mouth with one of his sleeves and pulled into the driveway.
He hated work, but he did not want to be home either.
He finished his beer, threw the bottle in the backseat where it clanked against other empty ones, and got out of the pick-up truck. He slammed the dented door and didn’t bother locking it. He shuffled his feet to the porch and shook his head as he walked up the stairs. One of the baby’s nooks was on the wood of the porch. He picked it up and put it in the breast pocket of his shirt. He could hear the TV.
The boy unlocked the front door, pushed it open, and dropped his keys.
“Jesus fuckin’ Christ,” he said. He picked up the keys, shut the door, and locked it. He leaned his back against it. He put a hand on his forehead and said, “Jesus fuckin’ Christ.”
The girl was on the floor, unconscious, a needle in her thigh. Her brown hair covered her face. The baby, wide awake, laying against the back of the couch on one of its shoulders, was looking at the blinking TV screen.
The boy walked over to the girl, kneeled next to her, and tapped her face. “Hey,” he said, and slapped her face again. “Hey, get up. Look at you.”
She opened her eyes.
The boy got behind her, put his hands under her arms, and dragged her to their bedroom. He lifted her up over his shoulder and put her on the bed. “Look at you. Watching that damn TV and shootin’ up—that’s all you ever do. . . . All day, every day. Look at you. I can connect the dots with all those fuckin’ holes in your thighs.”
The girl looked up at him before her eyes wandered around the dim room. She found strength and sat up straight.
The boy continued, “I wouldn’t be surprised if you were to fuck around and shoot up the baby. You sure in the hell are runnin’ outta spots to put those ol’ stanky-ass needles, ain’t you?”
The boy took off his jacket, threw it on the bed, and rolled up his sleeves. He kicked off his shoes and put them under the dusty desk that was next to the tank full of dirty water and dead snapping turtles.
“Stay your ass in here,” he said, and closed the bedroom door behind him.
He walked back to the livingroom and looked down at the baby. “Come here, little fella,” he said, and picked up the baby. He rested the baby against his shoulder and walked to the bathroom. He turned on the light and looked at him and the baby in the mirror. He sat on the toilet and turned on the water.
The boy took a lighter and a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. He took a cigarette from the pack and lit it. He ran his hands under the bath water. “Oh, fella, that’s too cold for ya.” He adjusted the warmth of the water. He held the baby on his knees and watched as it blew out spit bubbles. The baby grabbed at the boy’s long beard and yanked it. The boy tickled the baby’s stomach with an index finger. The boy then widened his eyes and puffed out his cheeks like a blowfish. “Oh, you don’t like that, fella?” He took off the baby’s jumper and diaper and placed him in the tub, still holding his tiny, plump hands.
The boy put the baby’s hands on the top of the tub and his inexperienced legs wiggled as he held on. The boy vomited on the side of the toilet and looked back at the baby. Jesus Christ, he thought. He walked out of the bathroom and back into the bedroom where the girl was now sitting at the desk, combing her hair.
“All better, I see.”
“Where is he? Where is he?” the girl asked.
“In the fuckin’ tub takin’ a fuckin’ bath, that’s where. He fuckin’ stunk. When’s the last time you changed his diaper, huh?”
The girl jumped out of the chair and tried to run past the boy, but he grabbed her and wrestled her to the bed.
“He can’t bathe himself. He can’t bathe himself,” she said.
“Oh, yes he can. He has two arms like—”
“He’s a baby! A baby!”
“You don’t take care of him anyhow,” the boy said, and gripped the girl’s wrists tighter.
“Let me go!”
“I would never. I’m gonna take care of the fella from now on.”
“From now on? From now on? What’ve you been doin’ all this time?”
“Workin’. Too busy workin’, unlike your sorry ass. Wasn’t for me, we’d be out on the fuckin’ street.”
The girl got her hands loose and clawed at the boy’s face with her long fingernails. He backed away from her and she ran out of their room, slicing the bottom of a foot on the piece of raggedy wood that pointed upward from the floor. She wailed as blood dripped from the wound.
She limped and hopped to the bathroom and rushed to the tub. She dropped to her knees and screamed to the top of her voice. She looked on as it floated in the water.