Monday, April 2, 2012

Issue #25: April, 2012

By R. Thomas Brown

Phillip watched him down another Natty and toss the can aside. He counted nine cans and wondered how far into the case Tony would get before he passed out.

“You see, Phil, it’s all her fault.” Tony motioned for another beer.

“Sure, Uncle Tony.” He handed him the cold can and sat back down as directed by the shaking hand.

“No, really. That bitch killed your dad. My brother. Someone needs to teach her a lesson.” He chugged the last half and tossed it over the pile, hitting the cat. He tried to stand but fell back. “Help me up.”

Phillip held the man’s arm and struggled to provide balance to four hundred drunk pounds. “Maybe you should go lie down?” He easily dodged the swing he knew would come.

“Don’t fuckin’ treat me like that, Phil.”

“Sorry, Uncle Tony. You just seem tired.”

“No I don’t, I seem drunk.” He stumbled over to the kitchen bar and leaned across it. “I’m still right. She needs a little scare. Get the keys.”

Phillip rolled his eyes. “You can’t drive. Aunt Becky would kill me.”

“Scared of a woman, are ya? Pussy. ‘Sides, you’re drivin’, not me. I’m too fuckin’ drunk, remember.”

“I can’t drive, I don’t have a license.”

“Bullshit. I’ve seen you sneak out in the car. Now go get it started. It’s hot and I fuckin’ hate a hot car. I’ll be out in a minute.”

Phillip grabbed the keys from the armadillo road kill bowl and headed out to the car. He slipped inside the new Dodge Charger, and wondered for a moment if they could afford to have the roaches evicted if Tony spent less on his car.

He hated when his Uncle drank. It wasn’t often, but the two or three times a year he did, he made up for it. Usually happened after something made him think of Bobby, his brother. Always said he needed to get away from those thoughts. He’d been drunk for most of the past three days already, since Bobby’s birthday.

Phillip flipped the A/C to max and held his face in front of the vent. He hated the heat, but at least it wasn’t winter. Winter brought icy roads. Icy roads took his dad.

Tony flopped into the car and rocked it from side to side. “Stop dreamin’ and let’s go.”

Phillip pulled out of the driveway. “Where to?”

“You know where she fuckin’ lives, Phil. Don’t be playin’ any games. I got serious shit to think about.”

“Like what?”

“Like how much I want to scare that bitch. Serve her right if I scared her right to the grave.”

Phil shook his head. “You know, she didn’t have anything to do with my dad’s death.”

“The fuck you talkin’ about? He got ran off by a blue truck out on Highway 6.”

“I know.”

“She lives right off 6, and drives a blue truck.”

“I know, Uncle Tony, but there’s lots of blue trucks out there.” Phillip exhaled. He hated getting into this. It always went the same, but he fell into it every time.

“Yeah, smart ass, well how many of those other mother fuckin’ trucks also killed my brother. Huh?”

Phillip sighed. “None, Uncle Tony.”

“That’s right. None. So you think she’s innocent if you want. I know better.”

Phillip knew he should just keep quiet, but he didn’t. “Why do you think she killed Bobby?”

“The fuck’s wrong with you? She put rat poison in his fuckin’ heroin. You know this.”

Phillip knew the story, and how they didn’t find any poison in his system. Just too much heroin. “Are you sure?”

“Oh, I guess you think he od’d like some stupid ass junkie. Well he didn’t. He did some dumb stuff, but he knew his drugs. He’d taken them for thirty years. He didn’t od.”

Phillip knew where to stop. The red face and clinched fists told him this was the spot. “We’re almost there.”

“Good.” Tony belched out the prior six can’s worth of gas and wiped his mouth of the traces of spittle and Slim Jim. He squirmed around to pull something from his pocket.

“What are those?” Phillip looked on as Tony pulled black latex gloves off the set of ten sausages.

“Don’t want to leave any prints.”


Tony waved the sausages in their new casing. “Yeah, fingerprints, genius. Thought you were supposed to be smart.”

“No. Why would you worry about leaving prints?”

“Dumb ass. I want to scare her, not end up in jail.”

Phillip felt uneasy. “Let’s go back home, Uncle Tony. I don’t want to do this.”

“Oh, you don’t want to do this. Do you think your dad and my brother wanted to die? Do you?”

Phillip was quiet.

“No, they fuckin’ didn’t. All I’m asking you to do is drive. You don’t even have to pull your pussy out of the car.”

Phillip’s mom told him what happened to his dad. She told him the day after, so he could celebrate his eighth birthday just thinking Dad was working late. She was trying to help, but he felt betrayed. Things were weird between them ever since. He didn’t care much when she took off and left him to stay with her sister and Tony.

His dad drank. Over time, Phillip put together the pieces of an unhappy marriage and occasional employment. Liquor was always there to take his dad away from that.

He was drunk that night. Really drunk. It was icy and he swerved into the wrong lane. Almost hit a blue truck before swerving back and plowing into a tree. The man in the truck tried to help, the police said, but he bled too much. Died before the ambulance got there.

“We’ll get revenge for them both, Phil. Yeah, we’ll teach that slut that she can’t get away with this shit. Cops may think she’s fine, but we know better. Right, Phil?”

Phillip turned onto the woman’s street.

“Right, Phil?”

“Yeah, right Uncle Tony. You’re right.”

“Fuck yeah, I’m right.”

Phillip stopped the car in front of the gray brick house with rose bushes on either side of a gray brick mailbox. He’d parked there half a dozen times over the years. Whenever Tony would get drunk and look for answers for why his brother died. He just wouldn’t accept the truth. Sometimes it goes bad with drugs, but Phillip knew Tony blamed himself for getting Bobby hooked on drugs. Tony kicked the habit, but Bobby was in it until the bitter, bitter end.

“All right, I’m going in. You stay in the car.”

Phillip nodded. They’d done this before. Tony would walk half way up the walk, then turn back. He’d cry the whole way home, and Phillip would just drive. They’d never talk about it, and Tony would stop drinking the next day.

He watched Tony walk toward the house. He got half way and stopped. Then he kept going. Phillip squirmed in his seat as he watched. Tony rang the bell.

“Come back, Uncle Tony. Come on.”

A woman answered the door and Tony shoved his way in.

“Oh, shit!” He looked around and patted his pockets, but he forgot his phone. “Come on, that’s enough.”

They moved to the living room and Phillip watched through the window. They were yelling. Phillip started to get out of the car to do something, he wasn’t sure what. Then he saw the gun. “What the fuck?”

Tony raised the gun.

“No, Tony.”

He pulled the trigger. Nothing.

Phillip exhaled. “Safety must be on.”

Before he could take a step, Tony corrected his mistake. Three shots. The woman fell.

Phillip screamed, but there wasn’t any sound. He saw Tony come out of the house, waiving frantically. “Phil, you gotta come help me.”

“What, what the fuck did you do?”

“Not now, Phil, you gotta help me.”

Phillip stood and shook. He barely noticed when Tony slapped him across the face. “Yeah, what do we do?”

“Come on.”

They searched for casings. Under furniture, behind doors, anywhere they might be. Tony found two. Phillip just stood there.

“How many times did I shoot?”

Phillip looked over at him. “Two or three, I think.”

“Must’ve been two, cause I can’t fuckin’ find another. We gotta go, before the cops get here.”

It was a quiet drive back. Phillip drove while Tony shook, belched and farted. Phillip locked his eyes on each police car he saw, hoping one of them would pull them over, just so he’d have an excuse to tell them what happened.

At home, Tony hurried inside. Phillip wondered when the last time was that he had moved so fast. “Phil, come help me.” Tony began taking his clothes off in the back yard.

“What are you doing, Uncle Tony?”

“Gotta get these things off. Gotta burn ‘em.” He tossed his clothes, gloves and boots into a pile. “Go get me the lighter fluid.”

Phillip grabbed the square metal can from near the grill and tossed it to Tony, who popped the top and squeezed a blast of fuel on the pile.

“I need a match.”

Phillip pulled a small book from his back pocket. He planned on using them to run some fire along string coated in WD-40. Seemed like a better use than burning evidence. Tony lit one after another and tossed them. The pyre went up with a hot wind before settling into a blaze that tried to burn away the memories with the evidence.

Phillip went back inside, followed by Tony. When he came back in a nightgown that he called a shirt, he sat next to Phillip.

“Hey, you know you’ve been like a fuckin’ son to me over the past few years, right?”

Phillip didn’t move or speak.

“Right, well, I need a favor from you. You see, I can’t go to jail. I got a wife to take care of.”

Phillip stared at Uncle Tony. Clinched his jaw but didn’t move or speak.

“So, if the cops come around, you gotta take this. I mean, I’m pretty fuckin’ sure we got all the evidence, but if they come here, you gotta say it was you.”

Phillip blinked. “What?” He rose to his feet.

“Yeah, see, you’re a kid. They won’t lock you up. You’ll just go to boot camp or some shit. I saw it 60 Minutes.”

Phillip was standing. Aware. Alert. “No. No Uncle Tony, they wouldn’t.”

“Sure, you’re just a kid.”

“I’m seventeen, you fucking lard ass. This is Texas. They kill seventeen year olds who do this shit. No boot camp. No detention. Death.”

“Don’t take that tone with me, you little shit.”

“Tone? You’re worried about my goddamned tone? You fucking killed that woman.”

“Keep it down.”

“No. You killed her because you can’t accept that your stupid ass got your brother hooked on drugs and he died because he was a fucking junkie.”

Tony slapped him. “Don’t you talk about Bobby like that.”

“It’s true. That woman didn’t do a damned thing.”

“What about your dad, she…”

“Nothing. Nothing. Dad was a drunk. He’d been a drunk. He drove drunk. Almost killed the other driver. The other MAN driving the truck, you asshole.”

Tony shook his head and clenched his jaw. “What are you gonna do then? If they come, you’re going down anyway. You took me there.”

Phillip grabbed the keys and headed for the door. Tony ran after him but tripped on the beer cans. “Ow, my fucking knee. Phil, help me up.”

Phillip didn’t turn around.

“Phil, you walk out that door, don’t you fucking come back. And if you take my car, I’ll hunt you down.”

“Thanks, Tony. I guess I’m glad you didn’t have a real son to treat so well.” He shut the door behind him.

“You get the fuck back here.”

Phillip threw the keys across the street and started running down the street. He thought about running. Getting away from it all. But no, he wasn’t like them. Wouldn’t be. His dad and Tony ran to the bottle, and Bobby ran to the needle. His mom ran away from everything. He wasn’t going to run away – he needed to run to something. When he saw the police station, he knew he was there. 

R Thomas Brown writes thrillers from his home in Texas which is beset by three energetic children and blessed with the calming influence of his wife. His debut novel, Hill Country, from Snubnose Press is now available on Amazon. His musing and ramblings can be found at


  1. Great story! Wasn't sure how it was gonna go down but I like what you did with it.

  2. Could hear Guthrie singing Hard Travelin'all the way through this piece. I really liked the slow reveals that built steadily and logically into the last paragraph and set up that killer last line perfectly. Teriffic story Ron. Thanks.

  3. Very good story indeed. Well told and a serious point to it. And we've all known guys like Uncle Tony and his brother. And the kids like Philip who pay the price.

  4. Well told, Ron. That sense of helplessness, of going along for the ride... very well done.

  5. Excellent story Ron. Enjoyed the messages in it. Like Patti says, we have all known Uncle Tony.

  6. Good one, man. Not what I expected at the end there, either, but it feels right.

  7. That's growing up fast. Great slice of low life.