Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

Haunting Old Man Bergoyan

He makes out the grey shapes on this small black and white television only with some difficulty. He tries to think of it as an enhanced radio. When it is off, he hears only the sound of his dripping kitchen sink. He hoped he would die before he had to fix it again as he had hoped to die before repeating many things. Now. This boy. Another boy taken in Brenlee. Phillip Bergoyan turns off his television and cries.

To stop the tears, he begins whispering questions to himself. “Will the Italian pass on my letter? Will the man call? Does anyone remember?” That last only brings further tears because he knows they all remember, but will not retrieve the memory, will not share it, will not help the boys. This boy will surely find him soon enough and share in the haunting with the last one. It will take only that class photo shown on the evening news for the image of the two of them to ruin what little sleep is left for old man Bergoyan.

He tries to turn his trembling into a shake in order to pull himself together. He looks around the kitchen, so carefully cleaned by his niece last (and every) Wednesday. He wants to get up from the table and remove himself from the place where he saw this boy, disappear from the room where he learned the news, and hide with a bottle of cheap wine in the living room.

He moves slowly in his old age and by the time he escapes, the boys are waiting for him in the next room, gently swaying where they stand in front of the bookcase that holds his old favorites. They reach for him, but do not speak. The killer has cut away their voices. Their small hands make quiet snapping sounds as fingers rubbed against palms, attempting and always failing to grab something flying out of reach; a moth, a spider’s web on the wind, or some word only old man Bergoyan knows.

He shakes his head and moves as quickly as he can for the wine bottle and glass on the end table by the sofa, trying to ignore their wordless pleas as he passes. They will not follow him. They know the power of their position, guarding the Blake, Twain, Shakespeare, and papa Saroyan. Soon enough Bergoyan will be drunk and make the mistake of coming to them. Reaching for a book he will feel their small hands and fingers fluttering in his chest and look down to see their eyes like dark stones reflecting his fear. Again. Again. Again. No word he knows will ever end their grasping. Together, none of their spirits can know peace.