Jason Lachlan Christopher.

by Horror Sleaze Trash on July 16, 2017

His name is Jason Lachlan Christopher.  He is a fan of puns, porn and panic attacks.

 


 

“Mikey.”

I never planned to have kids. It seemed such a waste of time to create another person. Contrary to what everyone will tell you, emptying your sack into a woman is nothing unique. Neither is the woman squeezing out a ball of meat from between her legs. Some will say it’s a miracle, but it isn’t. Having kids is about as exceptional as passing kindergarten; you don’t have to try very hard, and the back-patting is unnecessary.

We were never supposed to have kids. The wife was diagnosed with endometriosis before we were married. Cells that grew in her uterus developed outside the womb, drifting through her body cavities, implanting themselves on her ovaries, intestines, fallopian tubes, bladder. One ovary was removed, and she was given a birth-control pill to ease the inflammation. Something of mine slipped past the pill defense wall and found an egg left by the lone ovary. The wife became pregnant. The baby was her “little wonder.” She died three days after giving birth. The process made the cell implants on her intestines burst, and she bled to death.

Mikey was five pounds, seven ounces, with a head full of blonde curls. He came out healthy, everything functioning like it should. I took him home the day after the wife was buried. The neighbor girl would babysit Mikey while I worked. The rest of the time we were together, him siphoning the hours away from me, squirming and crying in the night, demanding incessant attention during the day.

Eighteen months went by, and I hadn’t made a connection with the kid. He was still a stranger in my apartment, even though he was wobbly-walking on his chubby legs.  I didn’t know what to do with him. Myself, I hated being a kid; couldn’t wait to become an adult. I had no clue how to interact with a toddler, or what to do to keep him entertained. Most of what Mikey said was gibberish, except for “Spongebob” and “kitty.” Those he knew. The rest was wet-mouthed mush. He would drool sometimes when he talked, long strands of clear mucus swinging from his chin and slapping onto his shirt. “You look stupid,” I once told him. He kept jawing away, saying a lot of nothing.

Despite not believing in a god, enough of my mother’s Catholic guilt had seeped into my bones. Failing to love Mikey pestered a corner of my mind. The kid didn’t deserve my nasty attitude, so I bought Mikey toys, making sure to avoid the ones that made noise, and picked up quieter plastic bobbles and tchotchkes. I played with him, took him to the park and the zoo, got him nice clothes, read to him, watched those awful kids’ movies with him. I started to not mind spending days with Mikey. He was a sweet kid, unaware of what kind of damaged man he was living with.

On a humid day, while we were at the park, he pointed at me and called me dad.

Until then, I never saw Mikey as a son. He was just a roommate, even though I changed his diapers and cooked for him every day. We hugged and kissed, but that’s what affectionate little kids did. It never meant anything on my end. I was playing a role. What had been an uninhabited, tottering peewee was forming a personality, and I was its father.

 When I tucked Mikey into his crib that night, I finally saw him as a person. This babbling, blonde-haired stink was going to grow and make friends and get his heart broken and search for work and worry about bills and move across the country and fall in love again. Before he could become that person, he was reliant on me. I was the pillar of safety and love. This was a moving revelation, and it curdled in my mind.

I reached down and pinched the fat on the back of his arm. He immediately woke up crying. From someplace cruel inside of me, I began to laugh. The laughter was so powerful that I went to my bedroom, collapsed on the mattress, buried my face in a pillow to muffle the joy erupting from me. When I finally contained my mean-spirited hilarity, I returned to his room and picked up Mikey, and began to gently bounce him, whispering low in his ear, telling him he was okay.

Mikey always cried when I pinched his arms. I mostly did it at home, and I guffawed every time. They didn’t leave any marks, but Mikey bawled just the same. His entire day could be ruined by one pinch. A quick nip from my fingers, and he was red-faced, tears overflowing, snot running out of both nostrils. My body would hurt from laughing so hard.

He’d fallen asleep on the couch one afternoon, slumped over, bottle in his hand like a drunk at closing time. I took a white bed sheet from the closet and draped it over me like a ghost. The sheet was thin enough for me to see through. I glided down the hall and rounded the corner to the living room, and began to let out somber, ethereal moans. Mikey didn’t wake up for a few minutes. I inched closer to the couch and moaned louder. He didn’t notice me at first, his fat little hand rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Spongebob was on T.V. He turned his attention to the cartoon before realizing I was there.

Terror wracked the kid. Every muscle stiffened, and he pressed his head into the back of the couch. The cartoonish eyes widened until the whites were entirely revealed. We remained that way through two Spongebob episodes, me idly staring, him caught in fear. I could see his face wrinkle, wanting to cry, but too petrified to make a sound. Inching closer, I could better make out his horror. I stifled my laugh, quivering from amusement.

When I could no longer take it, I raised my arms high and let out a terrible growl. Mikey broke, and the fright poured from his mouth and eyes. I ran down the hall, tossed the sheet back in the closet, and returned to the sobbing ball. He fixed himself to me, refusing to let go the rest of the day, unaware he was clinging to the monster.

It was easy to disturb Mikey. Point behind him, tell him to look, and swipe one of his toys when his head was turned. Loom over his crib at night, wearing a Freddy Krueger mask. Feed him macaroni and cheese. When he spit it out, chew up a spoonful of his food and spit it back at him. Flick his nose or ears. Dump his bottle out in front of him. Tell him I know all about the goblins living in the walls of his room, and I want them to eat the kid whole. A tremor of dread would ruffle over him, and the waterworks came on.

No matter what I did, Mikey kept coming back to me. Even when he knew I was the bad guy, he always returned, climbing into my lap, and hugging me tightly. It was angering. Being a little kid didn’t mean he had to suffer his dad’s awful tricks. I wanted him to get sick of me, turn away and stand up for himself. But the misplaced trust meant I could keep pestering the kid, and I didn’t want to stop.

I was pushing Mikey in a cart through Target. The store was mostly empty, only the senior citizens out on a weekday afternoon. We stopped in the toothpaste aisle. I needed a specific brand, but couldn’t find it. The kid and me reached the end of the aisle. Leaving Mikey in the cart, I went back, scanning the shelves. Mikey whimpered behind me.

“You’ll be fine,” I mumbled, waving my hand at him. “I’m right here.”

My toothpaste was at the other end of the aisle. Mikey whimpered again. Staring at the kid, a valley of dental products between us, I felt the urge to walk away. He was far off, too far for me to see his look of abandonment. It would be simple to leave the kid in the store, get in the car, and drive for miles. The problem was, Mikey was cute, and the story of a cute baby deserted by his father would be a blessing for the news cycle. I didn’t need that aggravation.

I stepped to the side, hiding behind the endcap. Mikey mewled a little louder. I looked around to make sure nobody was coming and went to the next aisle over, softly walking across the tile, Mikey’s sniffles pricking my ears. He hadn’t begun crying loudly, unusual for the kid. I reached the end of the aisle and peered around the corner. Mikey was chewing on his fingers, staring, waiting for me to return. His little body was suppressing the tears, trembling enough to shake the cart.

A couple of old women passed by and turned down Mikey’s aisle. I grabbed a few hair bands hanging on the shelf end and tossed them into the cart, pretending I was a regular shopper.

“Mikey, it’s okay! I’m right here!” I rubbed his back, and the boy jumped. His tiny brain was trying to figure out how and why I vanished. Knowing he was about to weep, I picked him up and rocked him. The old women smiled at Mikey. I carried him to the checkout lane.

The kid didn’t like being stranded in the store. I knew he was filling his diaper in the car, the last act of the terrified, and when I got home to change him, it looked like he emptied every bit of waste from his body. Seven baby wipes and he still smelled. I ran a bath, plopped him down in the warm water, and scrubbed his body with a rag. Mikey smiled brightly, the trauma of the store apparently already forgotten. He splashed the water with his puffy palms, giggling as he launched droplets into the air and onto my face.

The bottle of baby shampoo was empty. I went to the hall closet and grabbed a new one, stopping when I came back to the bathroom doorway. For the second time that day, I spied on Mikey, watched him exist in his soft, rounded world, where resentment was unknown. He talked to himself, spinning some indecipherable tale that only made sense to his ears. Everyone begins this way.

Mikey leaned back and fell under the water.

Drowning is a silent way of dying. People typically don’t thrash like you see in the movies, panic not setting in until the person is close to blackout. Mikey’s muscles and bones were too feeble to lift him up. The hands were slick with soap and unable to grip the porcelain. His round face would break the surface and spit water, then sink back under. Little legs tried to scoot the body out of the shallow pool. Gargled screams ricocheted around the tub. He was passing away in slow motion. It could be over, I thought.

I waited and counted to six before running in. The death wouldn’t be sudden. There was too much time for me to intervene, and I would be blamed for letting him suffer. I lifted the kid up, smacking his back to get him to cough up water. He didn’t swallow as much as I had thought. Once his airway was empty, the tears started. Mikey leapt on me, imprinting his wet shadow on my shirt. We finished washing, and I dried him and got him into a fresh diaper. I gave him a small bowl of Cheerios with his bottle. He sat in front of Spongebob. I went upstairs.

*

The steps in this apartment are unkind. They’re made of red oak, stained a dark brown, each with a depth of ten inches. The edges are squared off. I’ve split my shins open plenty of times tripping on them. There are eleven steps in total. I’m sitting at the top of them, remembering when I fell ass over head. I was on the phone, mindlessly shuffling around the house, when my foot slipped over the edge of the ninth stair. The back of my skull cracked open. It wasn’t life threatening; I needed a few dozen stitches and staples, but was at work a week later, a knit cap covering my wound from the public.

I hear Mikey in front of the television, laughing at whatever Spongebob is doing. He keeps talking to himself; the same gibberish he always spouts. He knows three words. Unless he uses them, his world remains closed off to me.

The kid is unblemished. Soon enough, he will learn the melancholy notes of being, feel the grievous jabs of everyday life. He will harden, settle into anger, live in cold comfort as he ages. Without a mother, I am his only curator. I will release him into the world packed with all my jaundice. That isn’t fair to him.

“Miiikey!”

He’s yapping again.

“Miiiiiikey!”

I hear him getting up. I can hear his legs swishing against the diaper.

He’s at the bottom of the steps, smiling at me.

“C’mon up here, Mikey!”

I’m waving my hands, summoning him to climb the wooden mountain. He’s going slow, flopping one leg on the stair in front of him and hoisting himself up.

“You can do it! That’s a kiddo!”

He is on the seventh step. Eighth step. Ninth step. Tenth step.

Mikey is in front of me. I extend my index fingers and offer them as handles. He grabs both and stands, beaming that smile at me, showing off the baby teeth coming in. His fingers can barely hold mine. He’s never climbed the stairs before. This must feel like a victory. He is bouncing up and down, squealing with joy and swaying his head around.

He stops to look at me. He has my eyes.

I pull my fingers away from his hands.

And Mikey is falling.

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