Hammer by Marley Dowell

My dad and my mom were deeply in love for three years. They met in high school when my mom was a sophomore and my dad was a junior. I have never believed in love, so when I saw them all over each other when I was younger, it disgusted me. They seemed happy, and I guess that is all that mattered.

When I graduated high school, I moved out of my parents’ house. I was sad to leave, but I needed to get out of there. I got an apartment about three hours away from my childhood home. My parents never visited, and I was okay with that. I got the occasional phone call for my birthday, but that was about it. They were not very happy that I decided to not go to college since the job I wanted did not require college.

On Christmas of my 22nd year, my mom called me.

It was 12 PM, my lunch time. I was making myself a peanut butter sandwich when my phone rang. I set my sandwich down and licked some peanut butter off of my finger. The caller ID read, ‘Mom’.

“Hello?” I yawned.

“Rick! How are you sweetie?” My mom sounded cheerful, causing me to frown.

“Is something wrong?” I asked, concerned. “Are you okay? Where’s Dad?”

“Everything is fine,” my mom laughed. “Why would something be wrong?”

“Well it isn’t my birthday,” I sighed.

“Oh don’t be silly. It’s Christmas! I’m calling my son to say Merry Christmas, and to propose a question.”

“And what might that question be?”

“Would you like to come home for a few days to spend the holidays with your father and I?”

I furrowed my eyebrows. Why would my mom want me to come home for Christmas? She has not seen me in 3 years, and now she wants to spend some time with me?

I thought about it for a moment. Going home and eating a huge meal and spending some time with other people sounded a lot better than a bowl of cereal while watching Naked and Afraid on television.

“I mean.. Okay,” I shrugged. “I guess I could come down for a few days.”

“Great!” I knew my mom was smiling.“We’ll see you around 4?”

“Sounds good,” I began to put the lid on the jar of peanut butter with one hand. “See you then.”

I hung up the phone and set it down on the counter. “Guess I’ll get ready,” I mumbled to myself.

It was a long drive to my parents’ house. There was ice on the road, so it took roughly 3 and a half hours to get there. I finally made it, though.

The house I grew up in did not look any different than it had when I left it three years ago. It was still the tall, brick house with a garden and a stone path leading up to the front door. I carried my suitcase across the lawn, ignoring the path, and stood in front of the door. I took a deep breath and rang the doorbell.

A few moments later, the door swung open. My face met my Mom’s.

“Ricky!” I was pulled into a tight hug. My mom smelled of lavender and flowers.

After she pulled me inside of the house, my dad and some of my aunts and uncles greeted me. They asked me about my life, how I was doing, and how my job was going. I was glad to be socializing with them. Some of these family members I had forgotten about because I moved so far away.

As we ate dinner, my mom and my dad sat on opposite sides of the table. I thought it was unusual because when I lived at home, they always sat next to each other. I noticed that my mom and dad didn’t speak to each other much either. Frowning, I pulled my mother aside when we both were alone in the kitchen getting seconds.

“Hey, are you okay?” I gently put my hand on her shoulder and she pulled away quickly. It was almost like she was flinching.

“I’m fine,” my mom smiled. “Why would something be wrong?”

“I don’t know, is everything with Dad okay?” I shifted from one foot to another.

“Everything is fine.” Laughing, my mother put some mashed potatoes on her plate.

I watched closely. Her arms were thin with a few bruises on them. She looked like she had not eaten for days, and her skin was pale. I did not believe a single word she said.

“If you say so.” I gave my mom a fake smile and kissed the top of her head.

I walked out of the kitchen and back to the table. Dinner went by quickly and my mind raced like a horse. Something had to be going on with my family, they never invited me back to their house! My mom was over 200 pounds when I left, now she looks like she is barely 150.

As I thought and thought of what the problem could be it finally dawned on me: my dad was abusing my mom. He was starving her and hurting her. I stared at them both. They refused to make eye contact with one another. I put my fork down on my plate and stood up.

“Dad, lead me to the basement.” I gave him a fake smile. “I want to see your collection of baseball cards.”

My dad smiled cheerfully. “You are finally taking an interest in something besides sitting alone and whispering to yourself?” He stood up and walked passed me. “This way.”

I followed him down to the basement. My father had shelves lining the walls that were full of books and there was a table in the corner stacked with folders. As my dad walked over to the table, I picked up a hammer that was lying on one of the shelves.

I held it behind my back. My dad flipped through the folders, talking about how many baseball players were doing bad this season. I nodded my head as he was talking, pretending to take interest.

“This one is my favorite,” Dad said. Before he turned around to show me, I pulled the hammer out from behind my back and hit him in the head. He fell to the ground, then his legs began to twitch, and his eyes were blinking rapidly.

I swallowed a lump in my throat and dropped the hammer on the ground. I walked back upstairs and said to my family, “I have to go now.”

They all started to pull on my clothes and ask me questions as I took my suitcase and walked out of the house. My mom was yelling my name, I ignored her.

I got into my car and locked all the doors. Taking one last look at my mom yelling to me, confused, I drove away.

There was a loud knocking at my door. I frowned and paused the movie on my television. The knocking continued.

“Gimme a second,” I mumbled, making my way over to the door. Swinging it open, I was greeted by two large men in police uniforms.

“Are you Rick?” They stepped closer to me.

“Yeah,” I said, sighing. I put my wrists out on front of me. “Take me away.”

Being put in a tiny room with a rude police officer is not what I had planned for my Thanksgiving. My hands were cuffed together and the outfit they made me put on was itchy. I looked around the room, wondering what prison was going to be like.

“Did you kill him?” The officer asked after he took a sip of his water. “Did you kill your father?”

“Yes,” I stated simply, surprising the officer. “He was going to hurt my mom.”

“He was going to hurt your mother?” He rolled his eyes. “Let me guess, you just had a strange feeling?”

Offended, I shook my head. “No, it was much more than that. She had bruises. She lost a lot of weight. I know he was hurting her.”

Shaking his head, the officer asked me, “How did you kill him?”

“I hit him in the head with a hammer, but it was for a good reason!”

“Shut your mouth,” he snapped. “Your mother losing weight is not a good reason to murder someone.” He stood up. “Good luck.”

He led me out of the room and outside. The air was cool and I shivered, looking around. “Am I going to jail?”

“You’ll find out in court,” the officer replied. “But think about it, you killed someone. What do you think?”

“I never got your name,” I said, laughing. “How did I not get your name?”

“Eric,” he threw me into the backseat of a cop car.

“Well, Eric, it was nice to meet you.” The door slammed in my face. I yelled, “Hopefully I see you again soon.”

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