The cockroach, legs flailing in ignorant futility, crunched as the stubby fingers increased their pressure relentlessly. The flailing stopped.
“Look, Daddie’. Look. I can squeeze things,” Billy squealed with such evident relish that his freckled face seemed to curl around his nose, and the untamed riot of red hair imparted its hue to his cheeks. He said the word “Daddie’” so that it rose in pitch at the end, as if the word was wagging a tail.
“Yeah, kid, that’s nice,” he belched. “Why don’t you get lost for a while? I’m busy.” He stubbed out his cigar in an overflowing ashtray and turned the page in his ‘girlie’ magazine.
Discouraged but not so easily put off, Billy shook the remains of the crushed insect from his fingers and pushed open the screen door to the backyard. A small green toad, seeking shelter from the mid-day sun, hid beneath a moist stone, but did not remain hidden from the boy’s sharp eyes. He immediately and gleefully dispatched it. But Daddie’ didn’t see.
Boxso, the family mongrel, had seven furry pups. Billy’s favorite was the runt. He named the little thing Three Socks because three of his four paws were white. Sulking from the rebuke, Billy picked it up gruffly by the scruff of the neck to its protesting yelp and immediately regretting his action, stroked the pup as it squirmed in his arms and licked his face.
“I bet Daddie’ would love me if I could squeeze something big, Three Socks. Then he’d see how strong I am. Then he’d hold me and would think about me instead of his stupid magazines all the time.” Three Socks licked the tip of his nose.
“If I practiced, I’d get better.” He studied the pup’s face. “And besides, your brothers and sisters drink up all your mommy’s milk. That’s why you’re so small.” He gently released the pup, and it immediately tried to wiggle its way into the scrum of squealing pups working Boxso’s teats. Billy watched intently for a minute, deciding. “But I’d never hurt you. You love me all the time.”
As he carefully lined up six now lifeless little bodies on a board, Billy thought about how much easier it was to crush the last pup than the first. It had wiggled so much as he grabbed it, and after he had crushed its body it still wiggled. So he cupped his hands around its head and pushed inward. That had done it. The rest were easy. Finally, the head of the last one popped with just a quick snap of his wrists.
He walked backwards toward the door, dragging the board with his trophies after him.
“Look, Daddie’. Daddie’, look what I squeezed. I cup my hands just so. It’s easy.”
With an impatient grunt, his father rolled his magazine into a barrel and tapped it menacingly in his other hand. “Look, kid, I …” He saw the dead pups and the boy’s bloody hands. “Why you twisted little creep. Wait’ll I get my hands on you. I’ll beat you black and blue.” He started to push himself out of the chair, then, feeling woozy, gave it up. “Right after I have another beer. Now get to your room. But first,” he pointed with the rolled magazine, “take those miserable things outside.” He sank farther into the chair. “Rotten kid.”
Billy stood there, head bowed, mortified with shame, wringing his red hands behind his back. Slowly, his shock became fear, and fear became resolution. “Daddie’, wait,” he whispered as he shuffled to the back of the chair in which Daddie’” sat, eyes closed. Billy raised and cupped his sticky hands. “I can squeeze things.” His eyes flashed menacingly and a smile dragged the corners of his lips upward. “Listen Daddie’. (Crunch)
Happy Halloween – 2021