by Jean-Luc Bouchard
He was a great big horse of a man, and when he pushed me I fell to the ground and cried out in pain. He snorted dust from his nostrils in reply and swept his leg over me and into the house, crashing through the door like it was a tea house curtain. At first glimpse of my wife and son kneeling before the stove, he laughed and clicked his tongue in amusement. I had begged him outside to leave them alone, and his eyes sparkled at the chance to do just the opposite.
Is there anything sadder than a man with a wife and a son?
My son, young fool that he is, rose from his huddle and charged the man’s stomach. The man threw his arm out in defense and sent my son into a rack of cookware. My wife shouted and the man leapt a dwarf’s height to land hard on my son’s toes, sending him screeching to the floor. From the ground outside the door, I witnessed the shattered bones of my son’s feet reverberate like a tuning fork, first bursting his ankle joints into powder, then finely shredding the fibula and tibia, and then splintering the femur and beyond, until before my eyes my boy became a fleshy sack of needle-sized bone shards. A small sliver of jaw bone slipped through the skin of my son’s cheek, and the man snapped it off and used it as a toothpick.
This made me so angry I thought I might die, and I struggled to my feet so that I could face the intruder. As I leaned against the door frame for balance, my wife also rose and began to hurl a string of ancient curses at the man, making fast and loose gestures with her hand pressed against her crotch. The intruder took the toothpick bone from his mouth and flicked it with his thumb and middle finger at my wife. The bone flew with such force that even though it missed her head, the winds in its pull shaved every hair from her scalp. On the wall behind her, the hair formed a picture of a sneezing geezer.
I hunched over in despair, since I had always loved my wife’s well-washed chocolate hair, and was even known to sneak a bit of a lock into my mouth while she slept. If my wife knew what the bone had done, she gave no indication, and she continued her filthy tirade. She began to thrust her hips forward on each stressed syllable, curling her hand into the most vile alphabetic shapes. The intruder watched, fascinated, rubbing his nose with the back of his hand and never taking his eyes off my wife. I straightened back up and pointed a meter-long finger at the man, ordering him to leave at once. No one paid me much attention.
For many minutes, I watched the intruder’s eyes fill with desire, until he slammed a fist against the wall and howled at the ceiling. My wife, red-faced and panting from her rant, took a moment to breathe and, with her hand on her hip, closed her eyes. The man used this opportunity to slide forward and whisk her up into his arms, cradling her against his shoulder like an unearthed sapling. My wife fell asleep immediately, drooling into his burlap shirt. The man purred and stroked the small of her back, working his way up to her hairless head, shooting me grins.
I tore the shirt from my chest and pounded my fists against my head. The intruder was softly kissing my wife’s ears, his eyes locked with mine. I felt sick and rushed to kitchen. Alone, I retched and retched but couldn’t cover the sound of his wet, dainty kisses. When I finished, I grabbed handfuls of sickness and rubbed it into my eyes, hoping the acid would force me blind. There was a crash from behind and I turned, staring at the blurred intruder as he widened the kitchen doorway with his hands, my sleeping wife and son slung over his shoulder. When he was satisfied with the width, the man nudged his way into the room and only then noticed me, a stream of milky yellow tears running down my cheeks. He had grown larger since I last saw him, and I had to raise my head nearly to its limit to find his face. His left eye was bulging with white fluid, hanging heavy in its socket, and its earlier playfulness was gone. Like a beast marking his territory, he swept his feet back and forth across the floor, gripping my family as if I might steal them away into some rathole if he wasn’t careful. I watched the vein in his neck throb and swirl into a purple canal. Tired of waiting for me to do something, he slammed his wrist into my neck and I slept for a half-day.
When I woke up, the house was gone, replaced with a monument to my grief. My wife and son were erased as though by magic, and the silence squeezed at my stomach. I hurried outside to find large footprints, or maybe even the dainty holes of my wife’s trot. I discovered a bush against the rear fence that had been ripped clean in half and pulled from the earth. I aligned myself with the split and began my hunt forward, into the wet fields of the pre-morning. It wasn’t long before the wet grass became a marsh, and then a pond, and then a lake.
I sliced through the water headfirst like an arrow and sank immediately, cursed with heavy bones. I sank for so long that by the time I hit bottom, I had forgotten whether it was my wife or my son with a wart on the right ear, and by the time I rose back up and landed on my own little island in a sea of blue, I had forgotten which one had a slight limp when it rained, which one laughed like an old bird, which one liked to be patted on the belly, and none of it seemed to matter.