He could only understand her with his blows,
grabbing her by the throat
strangling the last words out of her,
hitting her on the top of her head
trying to knock any idea
of her making him a better man,
like his father tried 136 times before.
Yes, he remembered every blow he received
just as she took tally of all 67 he delivered.
The next one will be 68,
halfway to his father’s count.
He will stop, he thought,
consoling himself with the moral insight
that he was only half as bad as his old man.
Besides 69 was a love number,
a time for her to show him some appreciation
by getting on top and blowing the fuck out of him,
while he turn his face away from
the tangle of her brown pussy hair
because the taste of her abuse
wasn’t sweet enough to his tongue.
He dragged her out through the fields
towards the swamp. The old rage wafted up
and the only thing that mattered was that he kill it,
murder that bitch, briefly ashamed by the remembrance
of his six year old son calling her that same word
in the kitchen with the equal velocity
and rage he felt right now.
He pulled his deer knife out of his pocket,
the small one he used for gutting,
placed it at the tenderest part of her throat,
the spot were frightened blood pounded
and felt the most alive. He was planning
on burying her underneath the wreckage
of that old sorry piece of shit Ford,
the one he gave up trying to rehabilitate
because the parts no longer existed.
He never noticed his boy was following behind.
He dropped the knife when he heard
the two screams come, one ripped
through the voice box of his wife, the other
off the tongue of the son he hardly noticed.
The 137th blow his father never got to deliver,
the 68th blow of their marriage
was delivered by her, a left handed
backward elbow straight into his Adam’s apple.
While he strangled
in the recognition of his blood leaving him
and returning,- no, not really, not ever, he thought,-
she delivered the 69th straight into his nuts,
both knowing and relishing the irony.
It was the last joke they would ever share.
She ran behind and grabbed their child,
then both made a dash for
the two lane black tar road
thirty yards into their future.
The first light they saw
stopped and took them away.
The last thing he heard,
as gravity pulled him down
to be buried in the mud of his own shame
was the simultaneous half laugh, half scream
that was the lingering echo of their last caress,
his savage groan and recognition
of their last punchline vomiting out of him
as he collapsed and buried his face in his hands,
acknowledgement that he was half the father,
the man, the child everyone thought he was.