He waited for the tremors of his outburst to be sucked into the imposing darkness that surrounded him and the knife he held. He held his breath and heard the insolent tap continue to drip in the tin drum. Once he thought that that very sound helped him realise that he was alive, but now it was too much; so was staying alive. He held his neck taut while the cold blade of the knife lay on his bare lap – when it warmed he would turn it over. He breathed hard and let the exhaled air scrape against his nostrils. He was alive, but he had to be alert, for tonight might be the night.
He watched the headlights of a far away car run its fingers along the picket fence that marked his house – yellow fangs ran on his wall and against his face. He clenched his eyes and mouth shut. The warmth of the lights burnt against his skin and he wanted everything to be dark again or sunlight. It passed. He looked around just to make sure and turned the knife over on his lap.
“I know you are there!” he screamed.
He ran the knife under his sleeve and jerked it outward. It cut the worn fabric of his shirt. Sharp enough, he thought. He heard crickets chatter in the cold night. He snapped the nails of his index fingers against each other in response. They were letting him know where he was. He was around, they said. He was near. He replied to their warning with nail clicks – Thanks. He won’t get me, not tonight. The door was locked from outside, so he couldn’t be surprised from behind. It was only on the side of the house with the tin drum or over the McSwathe’s fence. Or from straight ahead. He wouldn’t dare.
There was a party raging somewhere downhill and the music from there was laced with the tones of youth he never enjoyed. Music and radio stifled him. He remembered listening to “Silent Night” that night when his father strangled his mother and shoved his sister aside against a live wire. His sister’s fatal fall turned everything dark and the voice in the radio was strangled on the word “holy” (or was it after the word “holy” and on the word “night”?). His father kept calling out to him “David, David… come here, son. I won’t hurt you. David?” The rasp of his voice abraded all his childhood and left him on the porch every night thereafter. The police never managed to catch him and didn’t have enough men to allot one to stay with David.
He felt the breeze play down his neck and he whirled and slashed out at the darkness. He whipped around just to be sure that he wasn’t being ambushed – anything, just about anything, the breeze, too, could be decoy. He stood still waiting…
The lights turned on at the McSwathe’s. He watched their silhouette against the window. Was Jack going to kill his wife? She never liked David and had kept her children away from him. He watched them hug. So had his father. Yes, he was going to kill her. He searched in the muddy dark and finally found a beer can, half empty, and hurled it at the window.
“Who the hell is that?”
“You can’t kill her. I am watching you, Jack. Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare.”
“Call the cops, Jack.”
They rushed further into the house. David was smiling and nodding his head.
“Think you could get me? Come and get me now.”
He sat on the porch and replaced the knife. He heard sirens from afar. He darted a look around, before he decided to stretch out on the porch. He had 2 minutes to sleep today. The tap dripped against the tin of the drum. He was alive. Still.