July 14, 1962

by Jim Graves

Little Eva belted out her hit single, ‘The Locomotion’. Bill’s sister always had her portable record player on the front porch on those summer Saturdays, playing her records and dancing along.

Bill sat and watched from the porch swing. He liked the music and there was not much else to do that could keep a kid out of trouble during those lazy hot days. He could hear them arguing inside the house. Hard as he tried to block the sound—focusing on the music—he could still hear them. They always argued when they thought no one was listening. But Bill always listened.

He knew his stepfather was not a nice man. Even though everyone else thought he was a good man, Bill knew him for what he was. A user. A man who took advantage of everyone’s kindness. Someone who took advantage of situations. And in their case, a single mom with two kids? What better situation for one of his kind?

The record continued to play and Bill tried to keep his thoughts on the music as he waited for the argument to end. When he heard a door slam, he got up from the porch swing and went inside.

His stepfather sat in the dining room, eating a bowl of buttermilk and cornbread. Bill had always found that to be disgusting. But then again, he felt the same about his stepfather.

By the age of twelve, Bill had formed more than a few opinions of the world and those who filled it. These opinions were not all good. His stepfather fell into the not good category.

“Sounds like y’all are having a real party out there. Need to turn it down some. A man can’t think with all that damn noise.” His stepfather continued spooning the slop into his mouth.

Bill shrugged his shoulders and went into the kitchen. He had originally gone in for a drink of water, but during the fifteen seconds between the front door and the kitchen, his mind had taken on a whole new perspective as he heard the saxophone solo from the record. He found himself staring at the dish drainer. Turning on the tap, he filled a glass with cold water and drank.

Earlier in the day, he had noticed what looked like a bruise on his mother’s upper arm, partially hidden by the sleeve of her blouse. He had never seen his stepfather put his hands on her, but he had heard things. He had heard enough to know that sometimes their arguments became physical. The one time he had mentioned it to his mother, she had told him everything was fine and to not worry. But he did worry.

Bill finished his water, sat the empty glass down on the counter, and took a knife from the dish drainer. Walking back into the dining room from the kitchen, he grabbed his stepfather’s forehead from behind, and stabbed the knife into his neck, leaning into his ear, whispering, “You’re mean to my mother.” He shoved the knife deeper, pushed forward and twisted the blade as his stepfather struggled to stand, his feet sliding on the linoleum flooring. Bill tightened his grip on both the knife and his stepfather’s head until the man finally collapsed—lifeless—in the chair.

Bill smiled, in his blood stained T-shirt, returning to the front porch and his seat on the swing. He laughed and clapped his hands, trying to keep time with the music as blood puddled beneath a chair in the dining room.

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