"I can't do it!"
"The hell you can't!"
Carl rewarded Luke a slap to the back of his head that staggered him forward a few steps.
"Ouch!" he cried
"Watch your mouth," Carl warned. "Your mother's in the kitchen."
"Sorry," Luke mumbled, his face red as he rubbed the spot. "He knows he can do it, and he
"He'll do it." Carl stood over Robby. He had shoved the guitar into Robby's hands and impatiently moved
Robby's fingers onto the G chord. "You'll do it, won't you, son? Just strum that chord. Once the sound resonates, you'll feel it in your chest. Find that sound with your voice
and sing out."
Robby's face flamed to match his brothers. He didn't want to be like them and go with Dad everywhere to play
music. He wanted to stay home with Mum and help her take care of the girls.
Ruthie had just turned two. The newest baby, they named her Elizabeth and called her Lizzy, was still a
newborn. They kept Mum hopping, even as she continued to bake her own bread, cook meals from scratch, and take trips to the root cellar. Robby hoped she was done having babies. He grew more
afraid with each pregnancy. He lived every day wondering if he would come home from school to find her gone.
He no longer followed her to the cellar. Sometime between being six and turning eight, it shamed him
to snoop on Mum. Her time with God was special. Robby worried God would punish him for the times he spied on her.
"Okay, boy." Carl's voice interrupted his thoughts. "Now, listen, dammit. You got the ear. You were born
with it. Now strum that chord, open that mouth and sing the note."
Carl nodded to Caleb, and he turned back to the piano and placed his slender fingers on the ivory keys. He waited to accompany Robby.
Robby sat quietly. He was embarrassed and was going to make a fool out of himself.
That's when the urge to pee came over him. He stood up, letting the guitar fall from his
lap. It landed on the carpet with the strings ringing. He started to squirm, shifting from one foot to the other. His face was flaming red. But he wouldn't open his mouth.
"What the hell's the matter with you, boy?" Carl set down the bottle of beer he had been waving at Caleb and
grabbed Robby by the shoulders, shaking him hard enough to rock his head back and forth. "You better open that mouth, boy."
Robby looked to his brothers, but they kept their eyes downcast. The warm urine soaked the front of his pants.
He stared in horror at his dad before he turned and, with a sob, ran from the room.
Robby raced to his mother in the kitchen; tears mixed with snot ran down his face. She knelt beside him and,
with the clean dish towel, wiped his face dry.
"What is it, Robby?"
"Mum," he sobbed, unable to speak. He choked and hiccupped, then collapsed in her arms.
"Oh, son," she sighed as she saw his wet pants. "What happened in there?"
Carl appeared in the doorway, his face red, the empty bottle in his hand. "Let him go, Rachel."
"What's going on, Carl?" she asked, her hands stroking Robby's hair as she peered into his face.
"I said, let him go. He has to learn."
"I think he's had enough tonight. He'll learn when he's ready."
"Goddamn it, Rachel!" Carl shouted.
Rachel rose to her full height. "Carl, don't. . ."
He balled a fist and held it up to her. "You tell me not to take the Lord's name in vain one more time, Rachel, and you'll be eating this!"
Rachel flinched and backed up a step. Robby still clung to her skirt. "Carl." Her eyes cast a glance at her son.
Carl held the fist before letting it fall to his side. He tossed the bottle into the trash, opened the refrigerator for another, said, "Fuck," threw on his coat, and slammed the door
It was late when Carl returned home. Robby was still awake. He was listening to the sounds of the house settling for the night. Luke was already asleep in his twin bed beside him in the small
room when Robby heard the front door open and the footsteps on the stairs.
He held his breath for a moment, hoping his father wouldn't come into the room. He didn't want
to smell beer on his breath or cigarettes on his clothing. He didn't want any sloppy kisses. He didn't want to hear the terms of endearment Dad only gave when he was drunk.
The footsteps traveled past the bedroom door, and Robby released a sigh of relief. Maybe now that everyone was
home, he would be able to sleep. Robby could never sleep when his dad was at the bar. He didn't know if Dad would ever make it home after a night of drinking and
playing music. He wondered what would happen to the rest of them if he didn't.
He turned on his side and snuggled deeper into the warm blankets. His eyes grew heavy, and he started to drift
toward the emptiness.
His eyes sprang open at the sound of voices. They were loud and insistent, not the quiet and controlled
whispers of the night. They reached Robby's ears before his dream pulled him down into oblivion.
"You want something to coddle, Rachel, baby?" His Dad's voice came through the wall. "Com'ere, Honey, I'll give
you something to cuddle and it's all ready for you."
"Carl, don't," Rachel's whisper was filled with anxiety. "You're drunk."
"Can't stop, Rachel, baby, need you." The rustling of clothing, then a sudden tearing sound.
He crawled from his bed and tiptoed to the door, placing an ear on the wood.
More tearing sounds and soft sobs came from his Mum. He was afraid something had happened to her.
He opened the door and stepped into the hall, tiptoeing toward his parent's bedroom. The door was ajar, and
Robby peeped through the crack.
His dad was on top of Mum, and she was struggling beneath him.
Robby's hand flew to cover his gasp, but it was too late.
Carl heard him and turned toward the sound, a grin like Robby had never seen before covering his face. "Well, lookie here." He grinned even wider. "Hello, son, why don't you come on in?"
Stunned, Robby was too afraid to move. He didn't understand what he was seeing and thought his dad was killing his mother.
Carl howled at the expression on his son's face. "What's the matter, son?"
Robby remained speechless.
He rose from his Rachel and moved swiftly to him, his cock still half-hard and glistening. "Is there something you want to see, son?" He planted Robby firmly in the chair where Mum nursed
the babies. "I think you should see it."
"No, Carl, stop! Robby, close your eyes!" She frantically tried to shield her nakedness from the boy's hypnotic stare. "Robby, don't listen to him! Close your eyes, baby, and keep them closed!
"Yes, Carl," he mimicked her. "Oh, yes, Carl, more, more, more!" He howled louder as he held her wrists over her head and climbed back upon her. "Please, Carl, more!"
Rachel turned her face helplessly to the wall, her sobs were uncontrollable. Robby wanted to flee, but he couldn't. Dad ordered him to stay put. Carl slammed his wife harder into the mattress. Each
time he thrust deeper into her, she groaned.
“Hear that, son? Oh, yea, that means she likes it. Remember that, boy, for when you get older. When they groan like that," and on the word 'that,' he thrust,
"means they want more (thrust) can't get enough (thrust). Right, Rachel, baby? Can't get enough (thrust), baby. That's why we have
so many fucking (double thrust) brats, Rachel baby, 'cause you don't believe in birth control."
Carl thrust himself faster into her, groaning loudly, and fell on top of her. He sputtered something
unintelligible. A loud snore escaped his lips.
With all her strength, Rachel rolled her husband off her. She grabbed for the blanket that had fallen to the floor. She did her best to cover her nakedness while she approached him.
He didn't meet her eyes. He looked right through her. She wasn't sure if he even knew where he
"Robby." She lay one hand on his shoulder. "Robby, you okay, baby?"
He never moved.
"Son," she said. "Look at me, son." She took his chin in her hand and forced him to look up at
His eyes cleared and grew wide in the semi-dark room. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He stood
He turned to go.
"Robby," Rachel called after him, but he was already gone.
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