When I was young, we lived next to a kid who used to torture his dog. One day, my older brother Terry, my doll Miss Peaches, and I, were outside and watched him as he threw rocks and cursed loudly at the dog at the same time. He was merciless. Sometimes a beaten dog will run away and sometimes it will even turn on its owner, but this dog just sort of gave up. He would curl in a ball and take it. I think dying was the smartest thing that dog ever did.
Miss Peaches had a tiny smile offset by large, innocent eyes. That night, Terry disemboweled her right in front of me. It was the first time I had ever seen a doll bleed. Or seen her entrails. Or heard her scream. He told me that she was very sad after watching the dog, but being cut open would make her feel better. After he was finished Terry said that her little smile was brighter now. I gently placed her in a shoe box and put it in the back of my closet under a blanket Mom had bought for me last summer.
I had other dolls.
A few weeks later, Mom and Dad got into a fight after I had gone to bed. Dad would usually drink after work and complain about what a prick his boss was. That night he had been especially loud. I heard glass breaking, furniture being pushed around, and words like whore, drunk, slut, and bastard, used over and over. When the fighting ended, Mom came into my room. Her hair was messed up and there was a trace of mascara that had run halfway down her cheek. She told me she had to leave and began to sob because she couldn’t afford to take Terry and me with her, but promised she would be back. She gave me a long hug and quietly left my room.
I heard her walk down the hall and out the front door, the screen door closing hard behind her. I didn’t move, hoping to hear Mom come back to Dad. Hoping to hear Dad go outside for Mom. Hoping to hear them talking again. Hoping that they would find a way to patch it up. Instead, there was only silence. Eventually the headlights of a taxi shone through my window. A car door opened and closed, a motor droned and eventually faded into the night.
After she was gone, Terry quietly came into my room and grabbed Dr. Seltzer off my shelf. Dr. Seltzer was my one and only Christmas present from Santa. He had a stethoscope around his neck and a shiny, round, reflector on his forehead. He looked the way I would want a doctor to look, with his pleasant smile and cheery green eyes. Terry took out his razor blade and cut open Dr. Seltzer. Terry said that Dr. Seltzer was crying because he couldn’t make things better for us. Dr. Seltzer was braver than Miss Peaches and didn’t scream, but he bled just the same. When Terry was finished, we looked at Dr. Seltzer’s smile and realized that he wasn’t crying anymore. We took some comfort in it.
I placed Dr. Seltzer with Miss Peaches in the shoebox. Lying side by side, they both looked happy together.
One autumn night, Dad beat Terry to a pulp. Terry had been suspended from high school for using a razor blade on his arm. The principal told my Dad that Terry needed help. Dad helped Terry the only way he knew.
My doll, Mrs. Smithers, and I watched as Terry tried to defend himself against Dad’s cursing, shoves, and slaps. For a short while, Terry was just like that dog, curled in a helpless ball on the floor and just taking it, but eventually, Terry ran out of the house and was gone the rest of the night.
Later that night, I heard Mrs. Smithers weeping over what had happened, so I cut her open. She screamed and bled, but when I was done her smile was brighter, just like Miss Peaches. I placed Mrs. Smithers in the shoebox with the other two, hoping that they would all be happy.
The next day, Dad and I were in the kitchen when Terry came home. There were no words or glances exchanged as Terry passed quietly to his room. Mom showed up moments later. She was there to take Terry and me with her. She tried to push open the door, but Dad wouldn’t let her in the house. There was so much screaming and shouting, I plugged my ears to make it stop. Terry came charging from his room and tried to shove Dad out of the way, but Dad shoved back. Terry went reeling into the refrigerator and collapsed on the floor. Mom was not strong enough to get past Dad, so I tried to help her by pulling on the door.
In the flash of a moment, Dad gasped and fell to the floor. Terry stood over him, his hand firmly gripping a carving knife. Cut wide open, the stuffing in Dad’s body pushed out in lurches and floated about the room. It settled on everything and stuck like glue. Dad just laid there with a blank look on his face, his deflated body in a heap.
We buried Dad a week later. Terry was sent to prison. Mom and I moved to a house nearby and we visit Terry often.
I buried my dolls in the yard.
Jon Beight lives and works in Western New York. He has been published in Red Fez, Apocrypha and Abstractions, Feathertale, The Cynic On-Line Magazine, First Stop Fiction, Spilling Ink Review, and forthcoming issues of Apocrypha and Abstractions and Ascent Aspirations.