Excerpt

Some Hell

Patrick Nathan

February 20, 2018 
The following is from Patrick Nathan's debut novel, Some Hell. Preteen Colin isn't getting along with his siblings: his sister Heather is constantly teasing him and his autistic brother Paul is often lashing out at him. But none of this matters after their father commits suicide. Patrick Nathan's essays and short fiction have previously appeared in Gulf Coast, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere.

Two days before their father shot himself, Heather foretold her brother’s death. By then, Colin was old enough to not believe her, to not fall for every lie or story. He could have rolled his eyes and left the room. He could have called her full of shit. Instead, he chose to hear it like the truth.

“It won’t be long after your sixteenth birthday,” she said. “At the end of fall, when it’s cold. It’ll start to snow when it happens. That’s how we’ll know.” She leaned toward the window above her bed and let the breeze charm the smoke from her throat. “I can’t tell you the exact day. It doesn’t work like that. But I can see the snow, and that’s the end.”

The leaves outside—something in the wind had excited them and they chittered among themselves, as if they’d been listening. Heather eyed Colin as though he were a thing, a piece left over from a puzzle. She brought the pipe to her lips and spun the wheel on her lighter. Their brother, Paul, sat between them, quiet as the furniture until the buds began to burn. He reached for the flame but Heather was prepared. As she took Paul’s hand in hers and traced a circle on his palm she gave Colin that smile—Just watch, it said—and she winked when his shoulders sagged, when his eyelids fluttered. Paul had grown stronger in the last year but he was still easy to control. “There,” she said, and he sat slumped and still as though she’d switched him off.

Colin loved it when his sister smoked. He loved that every day after school he could listen for that same music, muffled and muted by the Sheetrock. Heather kept her weed in an old jewelry box—a gift left over from her ninth birthday—and when its song began to play Colin knew it was safe to let himself into her room. Instead of threatening him or throwing a pillow she’d pat the bed next to her. He loved that she would talk to him. He loved that he was there to share a piece of some curious wisdom. He loved the smell.

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“Three years,” Colin said. He turned to the window to watch the leaves but they’d fallen into their piles and places like they too couldn’t believe it. “That’s all I have.”

“You’re already thirteen?”

He brushed his hair behind his ear. There was so much he could tell her—every last thing about his life she’d never before wanted to know. “I’ll be thirteen in nine days.”

She leaned back to the window. The lighter and the pipe each gave a sharp thump when she placed them on the nightstand. Paul reached out and again fell short, her hand on the back of his neck. “Yes. Three years is all you have.”

*

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It must have been exhausting to look into the future. Every afternoon, after she told him what she knew, Heather would lean against the half dozen pillows on her bed and fall asleep, her hand twitching as it guarded her heart. For Colin, it was no longer enough to talk to her, and he searched the room for clues as to how she achieved her power.

Lately, Colin found most of his clues in the magazines scattered across the carpet. Heather was obsessed with bodies that to Colin looked like they belonged to men, even though she used the word boy. Heather’s magazines were supposed to be about girl fashion and girl relationships and girl interests, but there were more of these grown boys than anything. She folded the corners on certain pages, and these Colin studied more closely.

That Friday afternoon, after she told him about his death, he knew not to press her for more. As he eased off the bed he was already thinking of the next afternoon, maybe Monday, when she could tell him exactly how it would happen. You need to stay away from planes, he imagined her saying. Never fly at night. But he wouldn’t find out today. Instead, he went over to the magazines. Paul groaned when he heard the rustling pages but didn’t turn away from the window, waiting for their mother’s car so he could run outside and bang on the windshield.

Heather had dog-eared another perfume ad. The male models standing in their underwear looked like a royal court from some fantasy island, surrounding a young woman who touched her collar bone and looked to her left. Colin thought of what he looked like without his shirt, how his chest and stomach looked nothing like hard wet clay. His eyes traced those muscles to the light strip of hair slipping into each waistband. He touched his stomach and let his hand drift lower, into his briefs, down over the smooth drum of skin where he’d told his friend Andy his hair was already turning black, just to make him jealous. He looked at Heather’s boys. He imagined them without their underwear. He’d caught glimpses of his father and he knew what it meant to grow up, but maybe there was something about one of these grown boys he’d failed to understand. His hand drifted still lower and he felt unbearably lonely.

She’d tell him eventually. He only wished it would be before he boarded that plane or got in that car or swam in that river, and even though each of those things seemed strange, like things he’d never do, he could picture without even trying the plane shredding itself as it plummeted, the car smashing through the guardrail like a BB through its paper target, and the black river water.

*

The following night, after dinner, three movies, and an abandoned game of Monopoly, Colin and his friend Andy lay in the dark on the living room floor. Colin pulled his sleeping bag up to his neck and sank into it, listening to the clock above the fireplace and the humming furnace somewhere below. A half hour before, Colin’s father, Alan, had warned them to go to bed. What Colin couldn’t help but notice, after he switched off the lamp, was the creak on the door’s hinges. Living in the same house all his life, he knew the basement door’s creak over the bedroom’s. His father hadn’t gone to bed.

 

I’m the only one awake, he thought. There’s no one left to talk to about hell.”

 

The boys could hear each other not sleeping. Colin’s foot was twitching, and he could just make out the bat of Andy’s eyelashes against his pillow. He wet his lips and pulled them into his mouth, between his teeth. He couldn’t take it anymore. “You want to know something?”

“What?” The word came instantly. Andy had been waiting.

“It’s kind of a secret. You can’t tell anyone.”

“Just tell me already.”

He took a breath. “I have three years left to live.”

There, he thought.

He stared at the ceiling fan, or the ceiling fan’s shadow—he wasn’t sure which was which in what little light was left. His heart sped up as he imagined his friend’s response, his pity and concern and maybe even his grief. He wanted his grief.

“Wow,” he said instead.

“I know.”

“How do you know? Are you sick? Did you go to a psychic or something?”

“I didn’t have to go anywhere. Heather told me.”

Andy lowered his voice. “Your bitchy sister?”

“She’s different when she tells me this stuff. She really knows what she’s talking about.”

“When does she tell you?”

“When she smokes weed.”

Andy laughed, his hand over his mouth. “Dude, you’re a retard. She’s just high. Hallucinating or something.”

“But she knows for real. A lot of what she says is true.”

“So three years, huh? How’re you gonna bite it?”

“She didn’t say.”

“So you have no idea how it’s gonna happen?”

Colin shook his head.

“That blows.” Andy propped his head up with his hand, his eyes now lit by whatever light was outside. “I wonder what dying is like. You think you’ll go to heaven or hell?”

Colin thought about all those images of heaven, its golden gates and its angels. Was it really like that? Was hell a burning cave deep under the earth? He only shrugged.

Andy pushed the pillow aside. “Hey!” He sat up. “Let’s see what dying is like right now. You hold the pillow over my face until I tap out. Then I tell you what it was like to almost die. Then we can switch.”

“Okay. How will that work?”

“Just shut up and do it.” Andy lay flat. “I’m ready.”

Colin looked at him. The light had gone from his eyes and Colin assumed they were closed. Andy lay there in his pajama shorts and tank top, and Colin placed the pillow over his face as he’d been told and held it down in the center. He was squinting to read the clock when he heard something mumbled through the cotton, like a voice in the next room. He moved the pillow. “What?”

“I said I can still breathe. You gotta do it hard.”

“Whatever.” Colin returned the pillow and pressed down on each side until his knuckles met the carpet. He watched Andy’s chest swell up and down until he started squirming. With a jerk of his hand he tapped on the carpet three times. Colin let go and Andy gasped.

“What was it like?”

“I almost died. There was this tunnel of light and my grandpa was asking me to step into it.”

“Liar.”

“It’s true.” Andy grinned. “He said, ‘Make sure that homo friend of yours doesn’t come this way or I’ll beat his ass.’ ”

“Shithead.” Colin hit him across the face with the pillow. He held up his arm as Andy swung with his own. They laughed as Colin moved in and tried to suffocate him again, as though giving him a hint. It didn’t seem fair that Andy wouldn’t suffocate him, that he didn’t get his turn.

When the lamp flicked back on they turned to face the doorway, both frozen and squinting in the light like night animals caught digging through the garbage. At first Alan said nothing. He stared with his eyes half open, leaning against the wall. The lamp flickered when the furnace clicked back on, and it made him look like an actor in a movie where a frame had been spliced out.

“Go to bed,” Alan said. “It’s almost four.” He flicked off the light and shuffled down the hallway, his slippers crackling with static. Colin waited for the creak, and when he recognized the bedroom door he gave Andy a nod. Again they lay there, again quiet, again alone even together as they listened to the furnace and the clock. Colin didn’t want to, but he thought of heaven, all those people who weren’t allowed in, of their only everlasting alternative. He saw the way the shadows in hell’s caverns would flicker as though they too were flames.

It wasn’t long before he heard Andy’s snores beside him and felt terribly alone. I’m the only one awake, he thought. There’s no one left to talk to about hell. He tried to not think, ultimately focusing on the ticking. Sometimes he’d count to sixty, telling himself how that was a whole minute, that if he counted to sixty fifty-nine more times it’d be an hour, and that if he repeated that cycle twenty-four times, a day would have passed. It was nothing you could stop.

*

It was the bedroom door’s creak that woke him, the basement’s that wouldn’t let him go back to sleep. The light was too grey to tell if it was just after dawn or late in the morning. Outside, the last leaves holding onto their trees were shaking in the wind, plucked off one at a time like part of a child’s game. He still hadn’t raked the yard, as he was supposed to, and he tried to imagine all the ways out of it. It was Sunday and he knew his father wasn’t going downstairs to check on a fuse or a pipe or even to start the dryer where there was always a heap of wrinkled clothes. Colin knew he wouldn’t be at breakfast. He knew he wouldn’t move from that room—what he called his office—until dinner was on the table and they called down to him. Only then would he sit down and smile and tell them, This looks delicious. After that he would talk. He’d make jokes, and even though they were stupid jokes Colin wanted to hear them. On the following morning he’d go to work, come home, eat another dinner, and live through that week as though there was no reason to hide in a wood-paneled room with no windows. Maybe he’ll forget about the yard, Colin thought.

His father had been writing for over a year but nobody knew what he was writing. It wasn’t as if they never asked. At least once each Sunday Colin crept downstairs to peer through the slats in the door. Hey, he’d say, running his finger along the slats so they rattled. You writing a manifesto? Colin knew it was something serious, as though his father was about to make a discovery or invent a new way of travel. But Alan paid no attention and only went on writing.

Now, in the light of morning, time didn’t seem so concrete. Colin tried counting the ticks but couldn’t pay attention long enough to make it through a full minute. The house was still quiet. If the sun was outside it didn’t move. He thought this might be what forever was like, after you died and had to go on existing. Why wasn’t heaven whatever you wanted? Couldn’t he choose to turn it off?

He stopped listening to the clock when Andy’s breath quickened. Colin looked over and saw him as he whimpered into his pillow, as he mumbled words that weren’t words, his whole body shaking in his sleeping bag. He watched until Andy cried out a single and final No! before he shuddered and fell still. Colin thought he should squeeze his hand, maybe even wake him up, but he didn’t want him to get the wrong idea.

It was a while before Andy woke. He looked at Colin and blinked away the light. “Dude. Were you watching me sleep?”

Colin forced a yawn. “I just woke up.”

“Man, I gotta piss like you wouldn’t believe.”

“Me too.”

Andy unzipped his sleeping bag. “Well, me first.” Colin watched as he took delicate steps down the hallway, almost like the floor was on fire. The furnace went silent again and Colin could hear the torrent that fell from his friend. Andy too had a penis, resting right now in his fingers. For some reason he’d never considered it before, or if he had it never seemed so significant, even crucial. Colin knew that Andy would be able to hear him as well, and when it was his turn in the bathroom he aimed at the porcelain instead of the water, and didn’t make a sound until he flushed.

As he passed his parents’ room he heard the bed creak. He paused in the doorway and his mother, Diane, rolled to face him. “Morning,” she said as she pushed herself up with her elbows. She opened her mouth to yawn but tried to smile at the same time, her teeth bared like a dog’s.

“Morning.” Colin noticed the other side of the bed, its covers pulled up to the headboard, its pillow centered with too much care. “Can we have pancakes for breakfast?”

Her legs were crossed and still buried under the sheets, her knees sticking up on both sides like two cats sleeping under the covers. She beckoned him over and pulled him into a hug, her breath warm through his shirt as her hand traced a circle beneath his shoulder blade. He could tell she was looking at the bed. “Did you see your father yet this morning?”

“I heard the basement door.”

Her arm squeezed tighter. This was one of those times when lying might have been the right thing.

*

Diane put her head against his chest. “That’s what I thought.” She patted his back. “Give me ten minutes and I’ll have the batter in the bowl.” Then her hands were on his shoulders and she was looking up at him, her eyes too wide. “Why don’t you go downstairs,” she said with a smile that was all wrong. “Tell him we’re making pancakes. Say they’re his favorite. Maybe that’ll change his mind.”

Without warning, Colin kissed her on the forehead. Only after, with horror, did he realize this. As he left the room he didn’t look back. He didn’t want to see what she felt.

*

Sometimes Colin thought of what was happening to his father and felt a kind of pride, like they were evolving or mutating, one by one. First, Heather could see the future; now their father had become secretive, no longer the pun-making man he’d grown up with. It was something in their genes, Colin decided, and thinking of all the ways it might show up in his own body or consciousness charmed the pale hairs on his arms until they stood up straight. He had come to imagine that this is what his father was writing—all the truths he discovered and all the things that would happen. Whatever book came out of it would not be some random piece of the future but a history of everything that hadn’t happened yet, their entire lives.

 

Colin had never heard a gunshot before, and when he heard nothing but a click he thought the sound was so loud he’d been deafened.”

 

He was thinking about his father’s future as he trod down the stairs—quietly, both out of habit and because he liked to sneak up on people. No one else was allowed in the basement office. They could only glance through the door and see, shelved on the far wall, Alan’s leather-bound notebooks, no labels on their spines. To Colin it looked like the secret archive in some old spy movie. It was easy to pretend he was rescuing stolen plans or launch codes, and he slunk along the wall to avoid unseen trip wires. You couldn’t sneak up on the evil archivist by strolling out in the open. He shook his head and came away from the wall. Lately he’d had to remind himself not to be such a stupid kid. He pushed his hair out of his eye and approached the door, stepping into the bands of light from inside.

His father wasn’t writing. There were two open notebooks, one written in and the other blank. The brass pen he used was erect in its holder, next to his brass lamp. His arm was resting on the desk, and Colin immediately saw the gun in his hand. He stopped breathing and leaned closer, careful not to press his nose against the door.

He didn’t look tense, his father. His posture suggested boredom, more than anything. He was leaning to the left, resting the non-gun-holding arm on the arm of the chair. The barrel faced the blank bulletin board hung on the wall between his desk and the overhead cabinets. Then the gun came up off the desk as his father leaned back in the chair. When he bent his elbow and put the barrel under his chin Colin lost a little drop of urine. As if they’d rehearsed it, both closed their eyes and took a simultaneous, silent breath.

Colin had never heard a gunshot before, and when he heard nothing but a click he thought the sound was so loud he’d been deafened. It’s like a bomb going off, his uncle had once said, making fun of an old western on TV. Guns don’t sound anything like little toys popping, like kids’ fireworks. They sound like goddamn bombs. When Colin opened his eyes, there wasn’t any blood. His father was still in his chair, skull intact, barrel resting in that soft, ticklish spot neither chin nor throat. The furnace next to the office still humming. The fluorescent light buzzing at the top of the stairs. Footsteps on the floor above like nothing had happened or ever would. Alan sighed and straightened his arm, the gun leveled once more at the bulletin board. Either because he’d decided to live or because the gun was broken he pushed the chair away from the desk, slipped the gun into its bottom drawer, and took up his pen.

Colin thought about silently running up the stairs and making noise on the way back down. He could even whistle something, as if he hadn’t just seen this terrible thing. But when he pictured his father at the breakfast table trying to make conversation his heart felt pushed through an opening that was too small. If his father sat down with them Colin would leap across the table and gouge out his eyes, smash plates over his head, slash him up with a butter knife. There was nothing Colin could say to him. There was nothing he wanted to hear.

When he came back upstairs, Andy was staring up at the ceiling. Colin thought of how afraid he’d been in his sleep, how you could see through him when normally he blocked out your light. “How’d you sleep?” he asked.

“What do you care?”

He shrugged. What did he care? “I had a couple weird dreams.”

“Oh yeah? Who’s the lucky guy?”

Colin rolled his eyes to make himself look annoyed. He knew Andy expected him to say something back, or maybe to come over and try to suffocate him one more time, but the concept of suffocation seemed more serious now, more permanent. If you did see that light, it was already too late. He began to shake, and if it wasn’t for his mother, calling from the kitchen, he might have suffocated anyway, with no one’s help.

Diane was pouring circles of batter onto the griddle when they heard Alan’s coughs from below. Colin looked down at the linoleum as though he could see straight through, down to the basement. Andy went back to reading the movie listings on Diane’s laptop. Paul had already turned back to the table and taken a swipe at the stick of butter.

“He better not be getting sick again,” Diane said as she cracked an egg into a frying pan. “He doesn’t have any time left.”

Colin was holding his brother’s hand flat on the table when Heather walked into the kitchen, straight for the refrigerator. “Sounds like someone’s got the black lung,” she said.

“That’s your father,” Diane said. “Can you see if he’s okay?”

Heather swallowed three gulps of orange juice and put the jug back on the shelf. “Why don’t you see?”

“Can you please just check?”

“Whatever.” Heather slammed the refrigerator shut, rattling the empty cookie jars on top. The house sounded it as if it was collapsing as she ran down the stairs. For a moment all Colin could hear was the popping noise as air tried to get out from under the eggs. Then her feet were on the stairs again. “He’s smoking,” Heather said when she returned. She looked to their mother for an explanation.

Colin hadn’t told anyone about the gun and it was getting to be too late. Why didn’t you say something sooner? his mother would scream.

Diane tightened her bathrobe as she crossed the room. Her footsteps on the stairs were different, Colin noticed—heavy like his sister’s, but slower. He understood what that meant, and he put his bare feet on the floor so he could feel their argument. When he heard his mother’s weight return to the stairs and the door slam once more he crossed his legs and covered his toes with his hands. She frowned at him as she walked by. “You know that smoking is bad for you.”

Andy leaned in over the computer. “Your dad smokes?”

“I guess so.”

“What are you two ladies whispering about?” Heather pulled a chair away and sat down, her feet on the chair across from her. “Declaring your eternal love?”

“I was telling Colin that the fortune-teller just walked in.”

Colin tried to kick him under the table.

Heather rolled her eyes. “What are you talking about, faggot?”

“Heather,” Diane said without looking up.

“So how does Colin die? It’s getting run over by a bus full of nuns, isn’t it?”

“How the fuck should I know?”

“Heather!”

“But you said he’d be dead in three years.”

She put her chin in her hand and batted her eyelashes. “And when did I say that?”

“I don’t know.” Andy frowned. “I just know you said it.”

“You two need to find something better to do than invent conversations with me, ’cause that’s pretty lame.”

“But you said—”

“Mom,” Colin said. He pulled his brother’s hand away from the butter dish. “We’re gonna go to a movie. Is that okay?”

“I don’t care.” She tossed another pancake onto the pile next to the stove. “First batch is ready.” She brought the plate over to the table. “Everybody gets one for now. More on the way.” She stood next to Colin’s chair. “Ask your father for money. Hopefully he didn’t spend it all on cigarettes or a new convertible or something stupid.” The way she looked at him made him feel like they were all alone in the room. She was trying to be angry, he could tell, but her eyes drooped in the corners and she bit her lip. “I don’t know,” she said.

*

Colin thought he could make it through the rest of the day without seeing his father. He’d prepared himself for the next morning, when he would find once more the father he knew—the one who’d make jokes you couldn’t even call jokes as he poured cereal into four bowls, who’d never pointed a gun at his own face. But when Alan knocked on his sons’ door before bed, Colin froze as though the police had found him. He stayed bent over his homework and pretended he hadn’t heard. Paul went on sitting on the bed like a statue or a sad ghost. Their father let himself in. “Hey.” He shut the door behind him. “Just wanted to ask how the movie was.”

Colin stared at him. He couldn’t remember the last time his father had even mentioned a movie, much less cared about one.

“It was okay?”

Alan stood next to the bed. The room’s only light came from a penguin-shaped lamp on Colin’s desk. In that shadow his father looked unshaven, old, tired. He glanced down at the piece of paper trapped under Colin’s hands. “Homework,” he said.

“Yeah.”

Alan sighed and sat down on Colin’s bed. Colin watched him as he looked around the room reading posters and studying models of lunar outposts and spacecraft, almost as though he’d never been in there before. He tried to remember what he was going to write. Alan touched the wing of a fighter on Colin’s headboard and watched as it bobbled, hit during battle. “So school’s going okay?”

Colin turned back to his desk. He stared at the book he’d been assigned and listened to his father shift on the bed. “I guess so,” he said. “It’s just school.”

“I hated school when I was your age. Well, all through childhood really. I didn’t really like it until college, when we could do whatever we wanted.”

Colin thought about a school like that, where kids just got up and left when class got too boring, or where the boys who smoked didn’t have to sneak into the trees by the highway. That was almost worse than school, having to choose.

“I miss it, though. All of it.”

Colin shrugged and tapped his pencil on the paper in front of him.

“But I’m glad it doesn’t bother you. Having one kid who can’t stand school is hard enough.”

Leafing through the book, Colin caught the word fuck toward the end. He read that paragraph.

“I mean Heather. I pointed at her wall but you’re not looking.”

“Totally,” Colin said into the book.

“And you’re not listening, either.” Colin turned and saw his father standing next to Paul, pushing a willful lock of hair behind his ear. Paul’s eyes were half-closed. Colin knew they were saying things to each other that nobody else could understand. He wanted to break the pencil in half and throw it at them.

“Did you rake the yard?” Alan asked.

Colin turned back to his homework, putting the pencil to the paper as though he finally knew what to write. “No. There wasn’t time.”

“Goddamn it, C.”

“What? I’ll do it after school tomorrow.”

“That’s not the point.” The floorboards groaned as he moved for the door. “I asked you to do one thing this weekend and you can’t even do that.”

“Uh . . . sorry? I didn’t know it was the end of the world or anything.”

His father was standing by the door, his hand on the knob. It was hard, now, to picture him with the gun. Colin had let himself forget it, rolling his eyes at his father as if to say, Work? You want me to work? For a second it seemed like the whole thing could have been dreamed up, like he hadn’t crawled out of his sleeping bag that morning until he heard the clang of a whisk in a metal bowl as his mother mixed pancake batter.

“Goodnight,” his father said.

Colin nodded at the notebook paper. His father lingered a few more seconds before he left, and Colin plugged his ears so he couldn’t tell what room he went into next.

*

As he stood outside the office and looked through the slats, Colin had never before wanted so badly to know what his father was putting on those pages. Unable to sleep, he had heard what sounded like the basement door’s creak, followed by the bedroom’s. He’d gone to bed, his father. The office was unguarded, vulnerable to spies. Colin opened the door and went inside.

The most recent notebook was open to a page marked “Curious Parasitoids,” where his father had written, in a list: Emerald Cockroach Wasp; The Eponymous Alien; Sacculina; Lancet Liver Fluke. Colin had to read it several times to make sure it was English. He flipped the page back and found another list merely called “Notes.” The first point said something about fixing the crack in the foundation under the kitchen window, and the second point advised him to “put bullets in separate place.” Colin flipped the page back to “Curious Parasitoids” and tried to center the notebook where he’d found it. He felt judged for reading it, like the time he and Andy had found a copy of Penthouse when they were ten and burned it when they couldn’t handle the secret any longer.

He opened the bottom drawer of the desk. His father hadn’t followed through on his task. There the bullets were, right next to the gun. His eyes widened at its weight. “Jeez,” he said as he shifted it into his grip. He aimed out into the basement’s dark. For a second he thought about putting it under his chin, but his stomach panicked at the idea.

It was a revolver. He knew that if you pushed the cylinder to the side you could load it. It made a crisp little noise as he did so, light peeking through the chambers. When he and Andy were younger they pretended to be marines, marooned on an alien planet, and a marine’s utmost skill lay in how fast he could reload his gun. Colin looked down at the bullets. In the heat of battle you never had much time. Every second lost meant one more second you could catch a bullet or fail to toss a grenade out of your foxhole under the Ping-Pong table. He took six bullets from the box, surprisingly small in their plastic cartridge. Loading them wasn’t as graceful as you’d expect, and he dropped one or two on the floor. He returned his finger to the trigger. His heart had never felt so big, pressed up against its cage of bones as though it’d finally outgrown it. Then he began to sweat. He quickly put the gun and the box of bullets back in the drawer. When he realized the gun was still loaded he heard a door’s creak—definitely the basement’s—and he jumped up from the chair and darted out of the office, hiding behind a stack of boxes in the far corner. As he watched his father step into the light, he bit down on his tongue until it hurt. Alan didn’t even look at the door. He didn’t even ponder it, wide open like that when he’d left it shut. He didn’t look around the basement when he reached out for the door and pulled it closed behind him. When his shape, sliced into pieces by the door’s glowing slats, sat down at his desk, he didn’t even pause as he reached for his pen and went back to writing. Colin, swift and silent without shoes or socks, ran upstairs before his breath gave him away. He lay awake all night waiting for the sound like a bomb going off.

__________________________________

From Some Hell. Used with permission of Graywolf Press. Copyright © 2018 by Patrick Nathan.




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