Braden sat at the table after Mommy left. He moved his plate off the placemat and ran his fingers along the maze which traced the dinosaur's skeleton like he had to do every time he ate. Then he slid his plate back onto the mat. He picked up the sandwich.
Something poked his finger. In between the pieces of bread were twisted nails and broken glass that fell in a powdery tinkle onto his plate. He set the sandwich back down. The sound of typing from the other room stopped. Daddy was no longer at his desk. Braden slid off his chair and picked up the plate to carry it over to the sink.
“What the hell do you think you're doing?” Daddy stood there wearing a red clown wig, loose gold bathrobe, and black parachute pants.
Braden dropped the plate, it broke into pieces. He hugged himself.
“Absolutely everything you do is calculated to drive me crazy,” said Daddy, bending forward. “I know what you're really up to. And I'll bet you still think I'm the bad guy.” He grabbed Braden by the shoulders. “Don't you?” He let go. “Clean this up. Quietly.” Daddy opened the cabinet beneath the sink and took out the dustpan and brush, leaving them on the floor. He then walked to the hall and stood there, his back facing Braden. It didn't look like he was breathing.
Braden knelt down and swept up the mess, taking care not to make any unnecessary noise. He placed the bread on the dustpan, swept up the glass, then placed the nails on one by one. He was about to throw the pile away when Daddy slammed a cabinet door. Braden dropped everything and whined. He slapped his hands over his mouth and turned to Daddy.
Daddy now wore a grass skirt and suspenders over a shirt with a picture of corn on it. The clown wig was still there. He set down a transparent pack of coffee beans. He looked at Braden. “You're still here?”
Braden turned wide-eyed to the mess beside the garbage.
Daddy waved it off. He turned his attention back to the coffee beans. He picked up the bag, held them up to the skylight and scrutinized them. “I know you've been poisoning these pretty regularly. Of course, I kept drinking them. I still will because part of me just can't believe. My own son.” He set the pack down and shook his head.
“Have you told Mommy?” asked Braden.
Daddy raised his eyebrows. “What?”
“Does Mommy know about the coffee beans? And about all . . . the other problems?”
Daddy put his hand on his chin and said, “No, I haven't. It's never come up.”
Braden walked over to the table with the phone and picked up a notepad and a pen. He offered them to Daddy. “Do you think you could write her a note about it? She doesn't believe me when I tell her anything.”
Daddy took the notepad and pen, tore off a piece of paper, and pressed it against the closed cupboard door. He held the pen up to the paper. “I suppose I should. It's good to be honest.” He started writing small words that Braden couldn't read. “And I just . . . hate you so much.” The words grew large and dark and the pen tore the paper in half. Daddy ripped off another sheet and held it onto the cupboard and started writing again. His hand was picking up speed.
“Daddy, why are you writing sideways?” asked Braden.
Daddy's face crumpled into sadness. “God-fucking-dammit.” His hand continued writing and became a blur. The paper shredded. He replaced it with two more sheets. His chin twitched to the side, exposing his teeth. “You inhuman waste of life,” he growled. Shreds of paper fell around him like snowflakes.
Braden walked backward out of the kitchen.
“Why can't I just . . .,” Daddy's voice was low and raspy and he continued to write even though there was no more paper. The pen broke. “Tear out your bones,” his voice shook the windows. He looked, seeing that Braden almost escaped and let loose a growl.
Braden turned and ran through the dining room into Daddy's office. He took a look back before opening the door to the backyard and saw Daddy charging at him. Braden slid open the glass door and jumped outside and slammed it shut behind him. He ran across the backyard toward the barn.
Glass shattered followed by a howl. Daddy continued chasing. Shards of glass stuck out of his skin.
In the barn, Braden opened the door to the room where he had hidden from the dog. Even though Mommy said that that had never happened. Like his teachers and friends didn't believe that Daddy showed up at school. Like his Daddy didn't believe that all Braden wanted was for him to be happy. He closed the door and slid the lock into place, breathing in the dust he had kicked up.
The locked door shook on its hinges as Daddy banged against it, shrieking like a wild animal. Braden thought his ears would bleed and he shrieked back, but it hurt his throat. He coughed a lot and wiped tears out of his eyes and saw the giant scissors on the wall. Braden took down the giant scissors. The space between the handles was as wide as his shoulders. He opened and closed them a few times and walked to the shaking door. The lock held steady so it was easy for him to slide it out. At the sound of the lock squeaking, the banging stopped.
Braden saw the handle move and when the door opened, he lunged forward with the scissors. They went straight into Daddy's stomach and before Braden's feet hit the ground he had opened and closed the scissors three times while they were inside Daddy. He kept a firm grip on the handles.
Stepping back, Daddy tried to grab the blades but they were slippery and he fell against the woodpile. Blood poured out of his mouth all over Braden and he pushed at Braden but had no strength left. He slumped down and Braden felt the scissors stick against the wood on the other side of Daddy.
Braden let go of the scissors. He wiped blood from his face onto his arm.The scissors stuck out of a big, bloody hole in Daddy's stomach, through his white T-shirt. Slimy dark-red shapes slid down Daddy's blue-jeans onto the ground. Daddy remained propped against the woodpile. The scissors held him there. He was not breathing.
Braden looked through the side of the barn at his neighbor's driveway. Nobody home. He walked out the way he came, down the garden path and across the backyard. The back door was open and unbroken. He walked into the house. On the kitchen floor was a broken plate and a squished tuna sandwich.
A green shadow crept across the floor. Braden looked out the window and saw that it was coming from outside. He went back into the yard and looked up at the sky. A river of slime flowed overhead. It came from behind the treetops and dripped down in a single stream on a hill in the far distance. Braden sat on the lawn and watched it. Eventually, the slime would cover the whole world.