Says Tommy

I close my eyes, breathing out the stuffy hospital air in the waiting room, try to picture Dad dressed in his ski-doo suit and riding his ski-doo over the downs, the wind rushing past his ears and his mind free, free, free. I hear the shuffling of Karen’s feet as she stalks the waiting room floor. I open my eyes and she’s glaring at me like she done back in the basement family room, like it was my fault Dad was having a heart-attack. Donna rises her head, looks around as if she’s the one being stalked, then wraps herself back into her armchair like something cocooning. Glenn’s not chewing his fingers for once; he’s sitting straight-backed on a wooden chair, staring at Wanda whimpering on the couch, staring at the wall behind her. I stare at the wall, too, muttering to Dad who lies somewhere beyond it – ride, daddy, ride.

Ride to the end if you wants, end your suffering, that’s what you always said – never let nothing suffer, breathe in before you shoots, breathe out after you shoots and never shoot at nothing if you thinks you can’t kill it; never let nothing suffer, never let nothing suffer. I still hears that rabbit’s screaming coming through the woods and I never knew before that rabbits screamed and it sent chills down my back and you pushing me towards it and I near tripped over my snowshoes because it was my first trapping trip, my first pair of snowshoes that you’d just given me a week ago on Christmas morning and I never thought you’d say yes to my nagging, take me trapping, take me trapping, Dad, take me trapping and I must’ve stared at you like a dummy when you laughed, saying Tommy, Tommy, Tommy in that sing-songy voice of yours when your happy. And I knows my eyes never glittered with excitement watching you pack us a lunch of buttered bread and cans of sardines, and I knows my eye never watered drinking that bitter black tea you boiled up for us in the woods over a small fire sizzling in the snow before you started showing me how to make a rabbit pound by beating down the snow in a large circle, about ten feet around, two feet high.

Then fill it in with tops of alders and birch and set your traps, making sure you got four openings into the pound. And then we went home and I fretted all through the night and all through the next day which was Sunday and Mom didn’t allow hunting or playing cards on Sundays, and then it was Monday and we was back in the woods and we got five rabbits. Five! And you put four of the frozen carcases in your own backpack and the last one in mine even though there was room in yours. That’s when the heinous baby-like scream sounded though the woods and my blood ran cold and you shoved me towards it, go karate-chap that rabbit behind the ears, end its suffering, its your slip he’s caught in, he can’t do it for himself, you never lets nothing suffer, you never let nothing suffer and I trudged through the snow and the screaming stopped when it sensed me and its body was shivering.

I lifted the shivering fluff-ball against my chest and crooned as I loosen the wire from around its foot and kept crooning as I set it back down on the snow and watched it hop away, hanging my head when you come and seen the rabbit hopping away, then raising it back up agin when you said, Tommy, Tommy, Tommy in your sing-songy voice and now I wants to hear you singing agin or go, go end your suffering….

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