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.