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Picture Window

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Picture Window ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp

It was just a small wash-off tattoo of a skull and crossbones. Carson put it on Mickey’s upper arm. Mickey looked down at it and laughed. He looked like a baby pirate in diapers. Carson was going to put a shooting star on Mickey’s forehead, but he thought that might be going a little too far.

When Eadie came home and saw the skull and crossbones, she jerked Mickey up and carried him into the bathroom and started scrubbing at the tattoo with a washcloth and soap. She rubbed so hard Mickey started crying, not only because the rubbing hurt but because her anger scared and upset him.

“How dare you do such a thing!” Eadie ranted at Carson. “He’s just a tiny baby!”

“He’s fifteen months,” Carson said.

“How could you mark up the body of a baby like that?”

“It wears off in a few days,” Carson said. “It didn’t hurt him. I showed it to him in the mirror and he liked it.”

“You are just an ignorant little son of a bitch! I should have known better than to put you in charge of my baby. When you get your own baby—which I doubt will ever happen because no girl in her right mind will never have anything to do with you—you can mark him up with cheap tattoos all you want, but in the meantime you keep your filthy paws off my child!”

“You don’t have to get so hateful about it,” Carson said. “I didn’t hurt him and it’s easy to wash off if you know how. Why don’t you let me do it? I can do it without hurting him.”

“Do you think I’d let you touch my baby now?”

“You mean I’m not ever supposed to touch him again?”

“You stay away from him! Do you understand me?”

Mickey was crying. To get him to shut up, Eadie put him to bed, much earlier than he was used to.

“Aren’t you supposed to feed him before you put him to bed?” Carson asked, standing in the doorway to the bedroom.

“I don’t remember asking for your advice,” she said.

“When did you become such a bitch?” he said.

She lost control and slapped him hard in the face. It was so sudden he didn’t have time to put his hands up.

He touched his stinging cheek and said, “All right, but don’t ever ask me for anything else ever again.”

“You have nothing I want,” she said.

Carson didn’t tell anybody what Eadie said to him or that she slapped him. Instead he avoided her, going out of the room whenever she entered. He didn’t look directly at her and wouldn’t tell her when somebody wanted to speak to her on the phone or when the mailman knocked on the door to give her a package. When she baked a cherry pie, he refused to eat any of it.

Three days later Carson was in his room studying for a test when Leslie, Eadie’s husband, knocked on the door and came in.

“Are you busy?” Leslie asked.

“What does it look like?” Carson asked.

Leslie laughed and sat on the bed. “I wanted to have a word with you.”

“What about?”

Leslie took a bill out of his pocket and put it on Carson’s desk. Carson looked at it and saw it was a two-dollar bill.

“What’s that for?” Carson asked.

“My brother and I used to collect them when we were in school. I thought you might like to have it.”

“Okay,” Carson said. “What’s the gag?”

Leslie interlocked his fingers and began studying his thumb nails. “I want to ask a favor.”

“What kind of a favor?”

“I wanted to ask you if you’ve seen anything suspicious around the house lately. Involving Eadie.”

“Like what?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Anything out of the ordinary. Phone calls or people dropping by.”

“I don’t care what Eadie does.”

“I’m sure you don’t, but I’m asking you to keep your eyes open.”

“You want me to spy on my sister?”

“If you want to call it that.”

“The other day she got a call that she took in the kitchen,” Carson said. “As soon as she hung up, she said she had to leave. Nobody else was here, so she asked me to watch Mickey for a while.”

“Did she say where she was going?”

“No, but she changed her clothes posthaste and then she left.”

“How long was she gone?”

“I don’t know. About an hour.”

“Did she drive her car?”

“No, somebody picked her up in a red car.”

“One of her girlfriends?”

“I don’t think so. It was a man driving.”

Leslie nodded his head and stood up from the bed. “You have a camera, don’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“Take a picture of the red car and of the man driving it. Don’t let him see you. Try to get the license plate number if you can.”

“That means I’d have to take the picture out the window.”

Leslie went over to the window and looked out. “You have a clear view of the street from here and, best of all, nobody will see you.”

“I don’t know if I want to get involved in a domestic dispute,” Carson said.

“There’s plenty more where that came from,” Leslie said, tapping the two-dollar bill on his way out of the room.

Carson didn’t have to wait long to get some pictures. On Friday afternoon, as soon as he got home from school, Eadie left in a hurry. Mickey was taking his nap. Carson was the only one at home.

He ran up to his room and aimed his camera out the window. Eadie got into the red car. Picture number one. The red car pulled into the driveway across the street to turn around, affording a clear view of the license plate. Picture number two. As the car backed out onto the street to turn around, Carson got a perfect view of the man driving. Shiny black hair and dark glasses. Picture number three.

He went downstairs to make sure Mickey was still sleeping and then he went into the kitchen and had a peanut butter sandwich and a root beer. After that he went back up to his room and read from his history book for an hour or so until he heard a car stop out front. He went to the window and aimed the camera.

Eadie got out of the car. As she started to walk away, the man got out, too, and, meeting Eadie halfway around the car, took her by the arm. They kissed the way people kiss in movies. Carson got it all on film.

When presented with proof of Eadie’s infidelity, Leslie was shocked but not terribly surprised. He packed his suitcases and left the house. His only message to Eadie was that she would hear from his lawyer and that he, Leslie, would seek custody of Mickey.

Leslie was going to give Carson fifty dollars for the pictures that ended his marriage to Eadie. Carson wouldn’t take it. He didn’t want money. He had something far better.

Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp

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