Pop’s belt was on a pendular swing like so many times before and almost lilting and dragging the air where JT could nearly see the beer breath coming out in wisps and drags the same as cigarette Os that Pop would make and laugh at and say oh Jay come here you know you wanna try and don’t look at me like that I’m your father and JT would fix himself up for fighting against the cry because to cry was to get hit and to watch the pendulum was much better so he kept his eyes just the same on the track back and forth this way and that as Pop gave him A Talking To and the topics blew out like the beer breath and smoke would and hung there on words left unsaid until tonight because tonight Pop would go too far and tonight JT would stay in for the last time and tonight things were going to change like so many jingled pockets in childhood days with socks to the stomach and not the kind you put on feet and har-de-har-har right JT that was a good one and stop crying if you tell your mom I’ll fucking kill you and that’s a good one too huh har-de-har-har only this time there wasn’t any of the laughter and this time JT was almost begging for a couple socks to the stomach because this time the look in Pop’s eyes was like scalding water poured slowly over bubbling skin until the whole pot drained dry because this time the belt would be the least of JT’s worries and there wasn’t a way out Pop was in his room with shirt on the floor and gut hanging out pendulously and hair around the gut gathering in wisps and draws but not smokelike this time only in tangled growth that suggested brambles and thorns and all the rest and so Pop loomed there in the doorway with his beer breath and he was lighting another cig and saying hey you know how they brand cattle on the ranch and the har-de-har-har was about to come and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know what the har-de-har-har would bring and there was no way out but the window and it caught in the winter time always caught and gave onto a twenty-foot drop which even with the snow to break the fall would no doubt break a bone or two and give Pop enough time even with the bramble-covered gut to make his way downstairs and outside with pendulating belt in hand so he could give another Talking To and maybe wait until he got JT back inside to really let the blood flow so JT wasn’t exactly in his head when Pop came trundling over with the gut swaying this way and that and the beer breath already a suffocating cloud now like its own sort of presence in the room and wafting and breathing of its own accord and like entirely separate from this man if you could call him that who JT called Pop and Pop had one of those fever grins on that he got after working through a twenty-four pack with the cans all uniformly crunched to wafer-size against skull that was thick and flat and pockmarked from God knows what and JT could smell the piss now too and knew that the piss was somehow worse because it was guilt and any guilt was enough for Pop and if it was enough for Pop then a Talking To was the least of his problems right here in his very own personal bedroom on his very own personal bed with his Pop looming large in the nighttime shadow and the old nightlight still flickering from days gone by in childhood when the belt was the worst of it and he could still get away somehow always get away and hear the boom come down from the stairs and in the bathroom when Pop would say he needed to see him and now but JT would always hide away in small clever places that Pop could never quite find but those days were gone now and JT saw them flickering out with the nightlight and he glanced for the window which wasn’t too bright Pop would say wasn’t too bright at all and JT could only run for the window then with his feet smacking placidly on wood that gave in spots and creaked in ways that used to give away nights spent up and preparing for the escape that never came because he always stayed until tonight always stayed and thought he always would and the window caught just as he thought it would and Pop was bellowing and closing and the belt was breaking the sound barrier in little claps that licked at the air behind JT and his fist was through the window and the glass gave way in splintered little chips that erased themselves in snow twenty feet below and the belt was cracking backflesh as he punched the rest of the pane and fought the pain in little wired grips and sent eyes skybound and not down because you can’t look down isn’t that what they say in all the movies and the snow’s flakes were each the size of mountains as he fell and the gut was receding there in the distance and its brambles were lost and far away and the snow was miles beneath him miles beneath and it could kill him for all he cared could kill him and he’d be happy because he made his stand so har-de-har-har.

Nicholas Olson is a fiction/screen writer with a BA in Cinema Art + Science from Columbia College Chicago. A triple finalist in the 2013 Written Image Screenwriting Competition, he currently resides in the Chicagoland area where he’s crafting a novel and wrangling a cat. He has work published or forthcoming in Apocrypha and Abstractions, The Open End, and Flash Fiction Magazine. He can be stalked at http://nicksfics.com.

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