Larry And The Child Next Door

When I listen to the incessant calls of the child next door, I wonder how I might kill him. If it would be easier to just kick his face in, choke him from behind, or throw him off something tall. Anything to get that little runt to shut up.

“Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” was all he seemed to shout. I could hear it through the closed windows of my posh shed that I used to call “The Summer House.” The child next door seemed addicted to the attention of his father, so that if his father even looked away, he would screech “Daddy!”

He elongated the last syllable of “Daddy” so that it lingered and penetrated though the air, and my organs. Why couldn’t he just shut up? Just be quiet, little one, or else I will have to do something.

Later that afternoon, they seemed to have gone out for the day. What a blessed day it was when the family next door were not home. No brothers shouting at each other, no balls being kicked against the fence, no little ones screaming, needing their parents’ attention. The adults weren’t much different, they had been known to have all-out shouting wars with each other and with their children if there was ever a disagreement.

But these were the musings of a madman, an unappreciative madman. These were not bad people, the neighbours. Compared to most neighbours, I’m sure they were practically saints. Shouting was never directed at me, balls against the fence were rarely on purpose, and the arguments between brothers never seemed to involve any real violence.

But the man in the shed had to complain about something. As long as there was something, just one thing to complain about, he was happy, he felt depressed, but secretly he was happy about that. It gave him a purpose, an identity, a reason for being, and he loved to sit alone in his shed with writer’s block, blaming it on the few very faint noises he could hear from outside.

He lacked focus. He lacked discipline. He didn’t think he needed to work hard to live, and he was seen as the madman that he was by many people who encountered him. But he didn’t care, he just wanted to rest from all of it, rest from the noise, the depression, the strain, the heaviness, the drama of the world that seemed to ensnare him like an insect in a spider’s web every single day.

And then “Daddy” was called again, one quiet afternoon, and the man went from a blissful calm to a raging storm, and he quickly opened the door of his smart shed and began to march across his lawn to the dividing fence.

“Daddy!”

“What?”

“Daddy!”

The child had no respect, no patience, no dignity. The man was so enraged that he jumped, climbed over the fence, and began to march towards the child.

“Larry? Larry what are you doing?” his neighbour asked. His neighbour was friendly, funny, rather a harmless man.

“Larry?” he said again and he began to walk towards Larry, who had his eyes firmly fixed on his son.

Larry reached the young boy, who was sitting on the grass playing with a train. How stupid, Larry thought. There are no tracks.

Larry picked up the boy by the collar and lifted him with one arm, so that the boy was dangling by his shirt in the air, and the boy began to cry.

“Daddy!” he cried out.

The neighbour ran to them both and went to take the boy from his position in the air, but before he reached them, Larry began to swing his whole body around so that the two of them gained momentum, and like a hammer thrower at the Olympics, Larry spun twice and released the boy high into the air, so high that the boy flew up and gently landed on the roof of their house. Larry had been trying to throw him over completely, so that if he was to scream, it would be on the front lawn, at least.

And then Larry felt a hard, blunt object crash into the side of his head, knocking him to the floor and seeming to make the world stop. He couldn’t connect with his legs. He didn’t know how to move. He was standing up but as he did he fell sideways so that his face hit the concrete of their little patio. And then he felt something else, just after he saw a shoe with a leg attached swinging directly into his face, and just as he felt that impact, he was gone, and the boy who screamed daddy was no longer troubling him.

*

He awoke in a hospital, with bandages around his face and a drunken feeling in his head. Other beds were around him, people with casts on their suspended legs and arms and with neck braces holding them still.

Larry groaned, and the nearby nurse looked at him. she looked at him in a way that made him feel disgusted, not in the way that a nurse would normally look, or even slightly smile at a patient if they still had the compassion within them whilst at work. This look from this nurse with brown, plump hair, made Larry feel as if he should have died.

She didn’t say anything. She was doing something with towels just off to the side of him.

“Where am I?” he tried to say, but it was just a slurred grumble. “He couldn’t move his jaw.

“You’re at the Royal Beswick Hospital in Charlston,” she said, roughly stuffing some white sheets into a cupboard. “You’re lucky you’re even alive, that boy’s father left you in an awful state. You’re jaw is broken in three places, and you are going to have to have surgery. You’l be called in around an hour.

“No surgery,” Larry said. He hated surgeons, he hated doctors, he hated trusting people who he didn’t think knew as well as they thought they did.

“You shouldn’t have done that to the child,” she said. “Then you wouldn’t be in this mess, would you?”

She finished stuffing and she walked off quickly, and Larry noticed that there was a woman across from him, with a full body cast on, and through the cast over her entire head, with a few holes for her mouth, nose and eyes, he could see she was looking at him, and her eyes were not moving from his.

*

The next time he woke up he was in a different room, and he could feel a raging pain beginning to stir in his jaw. He could move his arms, and as he lifted an arm up to touch his face, his fingers met the cold, hard feeling of a metal brace, and the metal was going through his skin, into his bones, holding his jaw in place.

His fingers darted away at first, like a scolded animal, and then they tentatively went back to feel, to see what had gone on, and as he felt with both hands, he felt his jaw wired shut by a huge clamp that was surrounding his mouth and ears.

And then his neighbour walked in, the thin frame of the man that seemed usually so friendly and from behind the fence so annoying, now walked in like a menace, as if he had snuck into the hospital and was about to finish the job he started.

Larry was alone in the room, the small blue room, and his neighbour walked right up beside his bed, pulled a chair up beside Larry, scratching at the floor as he pulled it, and he sat down.

He stared at Larry. Larry stared back, quietly. Larry had his fists clenched tight.

“Nurse!” he called, but his strange groan was quickly stifled by the man who pushed his hand in through the metal bars and obstacles, covering Larry’s mouth.

“Don’t say anything, Larry. I’m not going to hurt you. I’ve got police charges on me already, and at the same time I’ve got them telling me that I can charge you for breaking in to my property and throwing my son on to the roof. But really,” his face was close to Larry’s, and Larry could see the man’s dark stubble on his face. “Really, Larry, if you’ll stop shouting, I wanted to say thank you.”

Larry did stop trying to shout, he stopped his attempts to squirm on the bed beneath his sheets, and the man took his hand out from his jaw brace.

“My son wasn’t hurt. He was fine. He landed so softly on that roof that not even his clothes were marked. and the most amazing thing has happened. He’s stopped screaming at me. If he wants me for something, he says “daddy,” but he doesn’t scream it, he just says it. And he doesn’t do it for no reason anymore, he only does it for good reason, you know, if he really needs something. So, I don’t know, you probably noticed but before he would always be screaming at me, “Daddy Daddy Daddy” all day long, and now…he’s stopped. He seems fine in all other regards, he’s quite happy, but it’s like you throwing him on the roof has completely knocked or blown away that little screechy thing that used to live in him. Thank you!”

And as Larry was smothered, by the arms of a hugging, grateful father, he thought that perhaps the beating he took was worth it, for the peace that might be waiting for him at home.

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