"I'll show you who's not a man."
They were the same words his father had said, with the same inflection, though hardly the same intent.
Elliot was fourteen. At home on a Saturday evening. His mother, so recently gone. His father, drunk, as usual.
The old man came home. A woman was with him, she too was drunk, stinking of cheap whiskey like the floor in the bathroom of a skid-row saloon. She introduced herself to Elliot as Darla Dunkin.
"Like the donuts," she said.
And his father explained, "Only calorie free, and twice as tasty."
That made her laugh, giggle really.
He ordered Elliot to bed, explaining that he and Darla were going to have some fun, and they didn't want a kid around to spoil it.
He wouldn't have wanted to watch anyway, and had begun to hate what his father had become, how his father behaved, how weak his father ultimately was. His mother's death wasn't a suitable excuse anymore. No pain warrented such self-destruction, such self-loathing. It was as if Elliot's father believed he had fed his bride the cancer, had nourished it, gleeful as if ate up her insides.
Elliot counted the days until he was old enough to escape, and every day that number decreased by more than one.
He just couldn't wait that long.
Elliot was reading Richard Brautigan's In Watermelon Sugar, when the screaming began.
His father, yelling in a sonic boom of a voice, over and over again, "I'll show you who's not a man."
And Darla saying something about how it happened sometimes, she was used to it, and not to worry, she'd make it okay, she'd do right by him if she could just have another drink.
"Just a little sip," she said, the words carrying high pitched in the stale air, as the old man barged suddenly into Elliot's room.
He was carrying a pistol.
Grabbing the book from his son's hands, he flung it aside, then grabbed Elliot's left wrist, pressed the muzzle of the gun against the palm, and pulled the trigger.
Elliot was too shocked to scream, but not Darla.
She wailed at the top of her lungs. Turning, running, trying to get away from this mad man.
But he'd have none of it.
Elliot's father raised the gun, took aim, and shot Darla, once in the small of her back.
She fell down, face forward, her body twitching, her arms and legs flailing. The old man walked over to her, in giant steps, and falling to one knee, he shot her again, this time, at point blank range in the back of the head.
Then the old man turned back to face his son. His face was covered in sweat and appologies. He went to speak, but really could only shrug.
He placed the barrel of the gun in his mouth, and pull the trigger one last time.
That was the first time Elliot sensed, smelled it.
It radiated off his father as the old man shot off his hand. It was in his sweat, in his blood, his spit, his eyes. It seeped from every pore, yellow and fetid.
And while the look now in Peter's eyes probably resembled the look in young Elliot's as he watched his left hand disintegrate into nothingness, the smell of fear that vapored off Peter's body most definitely matched that of Elliot's dad.
While pressing the Uzi to his face, Elliot had ordered Peter upstairs, to Elliot's room. Where he tossed him some rope and told him to tie himself down to the bed frame.
"All except your left hand," Elliot said.
As Peter obeyed, too frightened to even whimper, as Elliot bandaged the bullet wound in his own thigh.
It had pierced the meaty upper region, all muscle really. No bones. Just a lot of blood. But there were first aid kits in every bathroom, a little extra perk courtesy of the Lambert Ski Lodge. And a tight tourniquet of gauze, would get him to freedom.
He could recover nicely in the Caribbean, with plenty of pretty women to help him ease his pain.
Once done, Elliot retrieved a long butcher's knife from the nighttable's drawer. One he had chosen from the lodge's kitchen for just this purpose.
"My carving knife," he had told Goop.
Elliot took hold of its handle now with his good hand, and holding Peter's left wrist down with his artificial hand, he jammed the blade through Peter's palm . . . all the way through . . . until the tip of the knife began to cut into the mattress . . . until the handle pressed against Peter's palm.
Peter began choking, blood, vile, rising from his stomach. And the feeling that his hand, his entire arm, the whole left side of his being, was on fire.
"Now you know how Christ felt," Elliot said, calmly, letting go of the handle and turning away, to the closet, where he retrieved his aluminum briefcase.
He placed it carefully on his lap, and checked his watch.
A few minutes after five AM.
Just about that time.
Carefully, Elliot popped the latches, wondering what grand new sensations he'd once again be able to feel with this scientific/medical miracle. Moisture, perhaps? That might be nice. Or the texture of a feather, or sand, some small detail that he'd been missing since his father run amok.
Elliot was feeling lightheaded, giddy almost, as he lifted the lid. The strain, the lack of sleep, the thoughts of freedom, of revenge. All taking their toll, and now this . . . wonderful . . . new . . .
"No," he said, softly at first.
Then louder, screaming the word, "No!" Howling it. "Nooooo! Jesus Fucking Christ! NO!"
Elliot looked down at the hand, his new hand.
The fingers were all bent, clutching something . . .
. . . a grenade.
One of Goop's grenades.
And the middle finger, it was sticking straight out, hard and rigid, right at him -- he was giving himself the finger. Granting a majestic fuck you to Elliot Haring, the life and times.
Around that finger, the ringed pin of the grenade, melted into the plastic.
Elliot tried to bend the fingers back, to straighten them, but they had been fused in place, welded, rigor mortis-like, not budging, holding that explosive forever.
"This will not be tolerated."
The words were spaced apart, forced.
And he was trembling, his breathing suddenly hard and abnormal. His throat constricting, not able to swallow.
Placing the new hand down upon the bed by Peter's side, Elliot stood on very shaky legs, then picked up his Uzi, and walked solemnly and silently from the room.
"Just relax, Elliot. This won't hurt a bit."
Paige was sitting on the floor, facing the door, her back to the bed.
She had covered Steve with a white sheet, and now she was ready for Elliot. If he came into the room blasting away, Paige could get off at least one shot, but one shot was all she needed. One shot was all it would take to even out the score.
But when the door to the honeymoon suite opened, it didn't crash, but instead squeaked.
Slowly, fingers pushing it open.
Dry, somewhat chapped, but nonetheless feminine hands.
And Alison's voice.
"Paige?" she whispered, her eyes lighting up when she spotted her. She entered the room, and shut the door behind her, but froze in her tracks as she spotted the covered figure on the bed.
Alison willed herself not to cry. She turned to face Paige, and got right to the point, "He's got Peter."
Paige didn't take her eyes off the door. She wanted to scold Alison. Yell at her for not running, hiding, as she had ordered. But she knew if it hadn't been for Peter, she'd probably be lying beside Steve right now.
"One of the rooms down the hall. Elliot went in there with him, but came out alone."
"Where is he now?" Paige asked.
"Sitting on the sofa downstairs."
Paige turned to look at her for a moment. To see if she were kidding or telling the truth. Then she looked back, focusing on the door knob, waiting for it to turn, to jiggle, to sweat.
"He's just sitting there. Staring at the fireplace," Alison said. Her tone changing suddenly. "I'm so scared. What if Peter's . . . ?"
"Go to him."
"I . . . can't."
"Listen to me, Alison," Paige said in a voice as strong as she could force it, a voice stronger, more assured than she felt inside. "Go to Peter. If he's dead, make your peace. You won't get another chance. If he's alive, get the hell out of here."
Paige turned. There were no misgivings, not a hint of remorse or hesitation. She meant what she said, and added abruptly, "Now."
"I can't do this anymore," Alison said, choking back some tears, wiping at her eyes and nose.
"You can break down tomorrow," Paige said, standing. "We can all break down tomorrow."
Walking to and opening the door, Paige peeked outside, then took a risky step out.
Alison followed in her shadows, the two women, crouching low, moving along the hallway as one.
Paige made it to the edge of the landing. She peered down into the great room, caught sight of the sofa.
But no one was on it, and Elliot was nowhere in sight.
She motioned with her gun, down the hall.
"The second to the last door on the right," Paige whispered, covering for Alison as the woman scampered, still crouched low, down the hall to see if Peter was still alive.
Paige stood, very slowly, moving to the top step, getting a clear view of everything in the room. Looking, watching, her Smith & Wesson at the ready.
She wondered if Elliot was downstairs somewhere, or perhaps outside. Hiding, waiting.
Or was the barrel of one of those AK-47's aimed at her head, right now, John Fitzgerald Kennedy-like?
Or was he already on his way, far away, tired of playing the game, looking over his shoulder, wondering when and knowing for certain that she'd come?
None of the above, actually.
But Elliot was closer than she could have ever imagined.
And though weary, he wasn't about to give up.
Not just yet.
"Care to dance?"
Every muscle in her body twitched into overdrive. Tensing her fingers on the grip of her gun, she planned on spinning, falling, going down low, to her left side, and hoping for the best.
Hoping to at least get off a shot.
That one shot she prayed for. It was all she'd need.
Paige was willing to sacrifice everything, what little was left, for on squeeze of the trigger, for one . . .
But before she could so much as begin again to breath, before her mind could finish its thoughts, Elliot grabbed her by the shoulders, spun her around and cold cocked her in the face.
Paige fell backwards.
The top stair. Backwards. Hanging for a moment. Her arms flailing. Her lip. Blood. The taste of blood. The smell of blood. Her blood.
Elliot was smiling at her. Laughing. Still holding the Uzi. Tossing it aside now. Laughing louder.
The fist again. Balled. Right to the face.
Her balance. Gone. Her gun. Falling.
Paige toppling and rolling down the stairs. Tumbling, backwards.
The first thud was the hardest. The loudest.
She pulled into herself. Head forward. Paige knew how to fall. But it had always been practice. Now it was for real.
She needed to be able to stand when she landed. When she landed. Stand.
Please, dear God.
Her Pocketlite. Falling from her pocket.
She reached out. It fell through the railings.
A quick glance at Elliot. Walking. One step at a time. Following. After her. Laughing. No guns. No guns anywhere. Just his arms out-stretched. Ready to rumble. To rumble.
Another stair. The edge. Her legs. The pain. Shooting up. It must not be broken. Must . . . not . . . be.
The thud. And bumps. And bruises. And fuzzies. And where have I seen this before?
Watching herself. Watching him. So slow. The Pain. Falling still. Forever falling. Backwards.
"Care to die?"
Elliot stepped off the final step.
He was rolling up his sleeves, past the leather straps which held his prosthetic left hand in place. Their buckles glinting in the light of the still-roaring fire.
He was staring at Paige.
She lay there. Clutching her left leg. It was out-stretched, and judging form the look on her face.
The look on her face.
No, Elliot thought. Not pain, not fear, not . . .
The words were hers.
Though she had an addendum. One last thought she needed to attach before pulling herself upright, and charging.
"'Cause I'm ready to kill you," Paige added.
And it was war.
Paige kicked up, high, catching Elliot's jaw with the heel of her boot.
His eyes turned to one side, but his face to the other, as he fell to the floor. Spinning, catching her foot just as she landed, knocking her over, onto her backside.
Elliot jumped onto her, straddled her, pressing down on her throat. Choking the air out of her, the life out of her.
Paige grabbed a hold of one ear, then the other. Twisting, she crashed Elliot's head down to meet her's. Dazing him, pushing him off her. Smashing her elbow into the pit of his stomach. Raising it up high, and smashing down again.
Elliot spun, out of her reach. He lifted himself off the floor, using the fieldstones of the fireplace as a ladder, then glancing around, grabbed for the wrought iron poker.
And suddenly, like Errol Flynn, he lunged after her.
Paige grasped at whatever she could, anything to keep the sharpened tip from piercing her flesh.
She threw a table lamp at Elliot. He swung at it with the fireplace poker, shattering the glass, then laughing, and jumping onto the coffee table.
"En guard," Elliot called out.
"Fuck you," Paige said, picking up ashtrays and crystal candy bowls, and pitching them at his head. But he ducked or moved or swatted them away.
Elliot became a swash-buckling force, the ghost of the Sheriff of Nottingham controlling his every move, his destiny. He leaped off the coffee table, and moved toward her, waving the iron rod, swishing it in the air.
He was backing her into a corner. Not exactly where Paige wanted to be. She wanted to be at the side of the stairs, reaching for her gun. Either gun. One shot. Just one.
But she was moving back. Toward the window. The huge picture window.
And a chair, hard-backed.
Paige picked it up. Raised it high over her head.
Elliot withdrew a step, raising the poker.
What's it going to be, Paige asked herself, in or out? Like a parent to an indecisive child, in or out?
Then she spied the Smith & Wesson, it had lodged into the spokes of the railing, five stairs up. Grip out. Just waiting to be plucked.
All she had to do was get by Elliot.
Her choice had been made.
Paige slammed the chair down hard on top of him. He beat at it with the poker, but the wood was too bulky, too heavy. It knocked the iron rod from his hand, and knocked him over.
Cursing, stumbling, Elliot pushed the fractured wood from himself. He lunged for the poker, or a leg from the chair, anything he could use.
But Paige was by him. Running past, only a breeze left behind.
Elliot turned, knowing where she was headed. But his Uzi, where was his Uzi? On the second floor landing. What had he been thinking?
He slapped down his palm. The poker. He brandished it, and aimed for the picture window.
Paige pulled the gun from it resting spot, and turned.
It was a blur, all a blur.
And a loud shattering of glass.
"Focus!" she screamed, aiming with both hands, shooting off the round of her life.
SNOW BLIND ©2004 Gorman Bechard - All Rights Reserved