Authors: Dirk Knight
The Tale of an American Family
is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real persons, places, or events is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
A special thanks to my editor, Brandon Beam for his patience.
Cover art created by Stephanie Stephens
Author’s notes following the story
I don’t know where you got the patience to let me work this project, but I am grateful to have a woman that believes in me
I love you.
“Come on baby, light my fire”
gives her feet a rest
time until school
out so she can
catch the bus home
In front of the library, surrounding the fountain
is a ring of
as long as no one walks up on her
she can puff and brood undetected.
s beginning to rain
no surprise to her
prepared with Philip’s hoodie covering her black hair
t doesn’t smell like him anymore
has worn it too many times and her
fragrance has melded with the jacket.
always preferred the taste of Marlboro, her mother’s cigarette brand, but with
stuck swiping Pall Mall
the old man
She pulls a long draw into her lungs and is comforted by the warming sensation that hits her
and eventually filters through her entire bod
y. She stuffs the carton of Pall
oversized kangaroo pouc
oversized kangaroo pouch
and lets her rage escape with the exhaled smoke.
When she had first confiscated this
the pouch had contained a bag of weed and a CD. The weed was long gone and the CD, although she hated it after a single listen, she had ripped to her computer and put it as
labeled “Philips S
. She is somehow comforted
just knowing that it is there and
doesn’t have to listen to it. She misses being able to waste time with Philip, which is why she is out here
with nothing more than a hoodie and a crappy playlist.
All she has
now is her alcoholic father,
has become a burden
More often than
she will enter the living room to find him passed out drunk on the couch, sitting upright, fork in hand, plate on the table, and kernels of corn on the floor with a cup of whisky in between his legs. She is forced to watch over him constantly.
When she manages to usher him to bed he doesn’t sleep long before he is awakened by his own screams; she will find him
passed out on the couch when she awakens herself for school the next day
she will make him coffee so he can get her to school on time
… and away from him for a
If the police pick her up again for truancy
will get a fine,
has to show up and get her name on the books
and then she slips the campus confines and runs across the lot to the hideout she shared with Philip last year
She discovered this
fountain the previous year;
er English teacher
class over, when the weather was nicer, and let them sit on the knoll and write poetry about true love, world peace, and democracy
or whatever the
little seventh graders wrote about.
didn’t share it with anyone.
handle the happy smiling faces that the halls
a bunch of snobby brats making fun of the other snobby brats who didn’t get
Christmas. Her dad wouldn’t notice anything in his state
and wouldn’t care if he did
the cops brought her home again
was her birthday and he didn’t even notice that
always on her mind. She wishe
that things didn’t work out the way they did for him. She pulls her phone out
scrolls through s
ome pictures of the two of them,
stops on t
he one of their first day of school here
the first day they were Wildcats toget
surprised she still
manage tears after
this fall. He was a few years
ahead of her in school and last year
was the first time they
walked the halls together since before she was old enough to have an opinion.
was supposed to be
like the good old days
but when she
entered the giant double doors, hearing the bustle of hundreds of students echoing off the vaulted ceilings and marble floors
imagined that she
was utterly alone
he only sign of Philip was a picture of him and the rest of the team
Wildcats’ State Baseball trophy.
Sometimes she would sit at home and just hold his
a hardwood Louisville Slugger
to her side
, usually while wearing his hoodie
When she thinks about how pathetic she must look, knowing that Philip would have been the first
one to poke fun at her for it,
she lets out a little
barely has enough force to escape the weight of her sorr
as if she
trespassing through his life now
here to introduce her
so she ha
no identity. Everyone already knew who she was anyway. No one spoke to her; her family name had been in the papers and all over the local news… people just stared and gave her a wider berth than
the school halls demanded
for her slender body
. This was supposed to be different, but thanks to
Philip is gone and all that’s left is
is uneasy as he arrives home with a brown paper sack in his ample fist
, looking over his shoulders for nosey
The paper is soaked through and offers no support for the weight of the bottle inside;
it provides the illusion that onlookers wouldn’t know it held whisk
It is rainy and cold and the clouds are blocking most of the sun
Derrick feels as if the weather has been like this forever.
is bringing on a
as well as the possibility of freezing rain
he hacks up a big chunk of phlegm while fumbling through his
he has some of grandpa’s cough syrup in his bag
As he walks over the
a sinking feeling
that something is not right. The hairs on his neck are standing
but he can’t quite put his finger on what
is anyone here?” he shouts.
I am an idiot and I’m afraid of my own shadow
sounds in the space
between his ears
A tour of the house gives him
peace of mind, but he still feels uneasy.
He finds nothing
out of place as he searches his one
room by room
I can’t ever relax
after dealing with the
endured this year
der the beds and in the closets, making a second, more thorough, sweep through the house.
He pauses when he enters the first room on the left. The room hasn’t been opened in some time and
the air tastes older
e doesn’t want to look under this bed but forces himself to.
ry intention of relaxing today
the first night he
the house to himself since Brenda
instead he is scouring the house as if he is involved in a high
stakes game of hide and seek.
afraid to be alone,
(according to his memory)
insisted that she relax and that he
do the same
Just chill out
as he pulls his weight up from the floor
the first bedroom,
his search. This room
makes him uncomfortable; he doesn’t want to spend any more time in here.
He saw the
s parents looking at him with sad eyes as he dropped Jayden off and said goodbye. The Weller family
been, and continues to be, the topic of conversation among families in the Hamilton
this, but he refuse
to speak with the other parents
about the events
After being forced to share his misery during the innumerable visits with t
grown disgusted with having to relive that night.
that caused his wife and
to finally separate were brutal.
Derrick, like many others in his situation
was reluctant to come to the police
until she became a danger to the children. He wouldn’t stand up for himself, partly because he felt responsible, and partly because he
rontation. He hated to be alone–
better to be mistreated than to be alone
he would think to rationalize the
horrifying amalgamation that was their life together
He and Brenda got married
young. They met in high school.
was dark and misunderstood and that intrigued him; other boys were infatuated by her
too, but he was the only one that really
her. Derrick had been raised by a single mom, who had also
, of course,
been dark and misunderstood. Oedipus complex aside, he was struck by Brenda’s demeanor and had ex
perience in dealing with people (women)
were damaged. There was something so beautiful in her sadness. He had to know her