Madison, standing arms folded by the linoleum counter, watched Kyle eat another grubby fistful of Cheetos and lick the dust off his palm. His round face, splattered with grease, peered up at the TV. Some sort of marathon was on- Power Rangers- and Kyle’s beady eyes hadn’t left the screen for hours. It seemed inconceivable that her son cared more about fictional superheroes than he did about the melodrama unfolding outside. Kyle loved Lassie, right? The dog, not the movie. Kyle hated that movie. Not enough explosions.
She turned and caught a glimpse of her husband through the cracked window of their trailer. He was holding Grandpa Turner’s gun, tears streaming down his face. Madison looked away. That’s how you do it, she thought. She glanced back at her child. There was something distorted about it, the way this scene was unfolding- the crying outside only contrasted the sickly glow of their cluttered living room. And there Kyle was, unmoving. Why wouldn’t he move?
She didn’t want him to be sad, she told herself. She just wanted to see him be sad. But what she wanted, the hysteria and the breakdowns and the screaming, that wasn’t going to happen. The television was on.
It wasn’t their fault. They just didn’t have the cash to go to the vet to do it. Blame the economy, blame the president. It was cheaper this way. Still, it made her want to vomit when she looked at their flat screen and saw all the money they could afford to waste on that piece of garbage. Deep in her gut, she had known that Rick’s promotion was a temporary respite. Nothing ever went well enough for them. Besides, all they ever watched on it was Family Feud and the goddamn Power Rangers. Her child loved it, and she hated it more.
The boy finished the Cheetos and sucked his plump fingers clean. Kyle’s eyes were small and beady and completely unmoving. She felt bile rise in her throat.
A bark came from the outside of the trailer. Rick’s muffled cries soaked through the cracked tile.
She just wanted Kyle to care. She wanted to grab that fat face and push it against the window until his snot ran down the glass and tears welled up in its eyes and Kyle could see her husband, its father, blowing the dog’s brains out. And she wanted that boy, that parasite, to cry, because that’d at least prove that it was human, and that it cared about anything or anyone. She thought about doing it, she really did. But Madison didn’t think she’d be able to forgive herself.
Sounds stopped trickling in from outside the trailer. She could picture her husband taking deep, even breaths, trying to swallow his emotions back into his stomach. Madison turned away. There was a yelp and a gunshot and then nothing but the birds, voices like wind chimes, nature correcting itself through music. With one misshapen finger, Kyle turned up the volume on the television.
Madison felt a tug at the corner of her mouth. Kyle didn’t look away from the screen, didn’t blink, because Lassie was just a movie and the dog was just a dog.
Henry Wahlenmayer is a Literary Arts student at LPPACS. He likes chickens.