Russ leaned against the kitchen island sipping coffee from a mug that stated I GAVE MY SOUL TO THE DARKSIDE in black letters stamped across the belly of the cup. On the kitchen table, lay a broken-spine copy of Catcher in the Rye. The short end of a coupon marked his spot in the middle of the paperback. Uncle Harvey nervously sat across from his nephew on a sturdy padded bar stool. He wasn’t holding onto his cane anymore. A mug of coffee steamed in front of him but he didn't touch it.
“You're killing me, Uncle,” said Russ.
“This isn’t social call, Russell.”
“Russ. I go by Russ now”. He scratched at his disheveled hair. “I figured you were here for a reason.”
Harvey had never been friendly toward Russ and always hard to get along with. They were like two magnets with opposite polarities, sitting too close together. With Uncle Harvey it was always money related. Russ knew he felt cheated when it came to how the family distributed the wealth. Russ knew his father believed Harvey was just trying to get his clutches on a big slice of the St. Cloud money that he obviously didn't deserve. He turned and leaned on the kitchen table.
God, I’d love to strangle this bastard, he thought. “So what do you want?” Russ finally spoke, but his mouth was dry as if the toothpaste from earlier had turned his saliva into concrete. “What’s so urgent that you bust into my place and start snooping around?”
All the color drained from Harvey’s face, as if it all oozed to his feet. He tried to push to his feet but his knees went weak and he plunked back down in his seat. He pointed a meaty finger at his nephew.
“Listen, you little shit. You had your dad pull this house out from under me just because you were tired of living in their fucking basement. I was promised this house and the property ...,” spittle flew from his mouth as he yelled. “I have been watching you, even following you. What’s the chain for, Russell? And all the things you’ve stashed in the basement. Are you growing pot, making Meth, filming child porn? It's as plain as mashed potatoes what's going on here. I know it’s illegal whatever it is, you dodgy bastard. I remember what you did to that little girl. I knew then you were deranged.”
Russ kept his voice calm. He wasn’t going to get in a screaming match with this asshole. “What about what happened to me? You knew what those boys - .” Harvey cut him off.
“I suspect you had it coming.” He lowered his voice.
“Believe me, they didn’t do anything to you I wouldn’t have done - had I been able.” If only his uncle actually knew what happened to him the night of The Storm, when they found him stripped naked by the river, bleeding from his face and ... Russ quickly pushed the memory away, but it resisted as if the horror of that night had a life of its own now.
He tried to tell his father who ordered him to shut his mouth and only wanted to believe his unruly son had snuck out of the house because of a family squabble causing the local police (who are always good friends to the rich) to weather the drenching rain and the loud claps of thunder and lightning only to find Russ huddled under a tree in a fetal position, body shaking and confused.
“And you’ve been following people, now, haven’t you?” Harvey continued, nodding as he spoke. “Yea, I got your number. Old Harvey here will figure it out. His uncle leaned back in the chair and smiled. The grin spread across his face like a paper tear. You’re not as clever as you think you are, sonny boy. I want what’s owed me.”
“You’re talking to the wrong guy, uncle. You should be talking to my father.”
“A lot of good that would do,” Harvey’s eyes narrowed to slits. “What about Aunt Maudie’s stash of cash. I could use some dough right about now. Just to keep my mouth shut.”
Russ raised his eyebrows. “Keep your mouth shut about what? I have nothing to hide.”
“Don’t you?” His uncle leaned his elbows on the counter. “Whatever you have hidden in the basement. Aunt Maudie’s money. Your strange behavior?”
Russ looked down at the slippers on his feet then turned his back to his Uncle and faced the stove. He reached over and turned the burner on high, centering the cast iron fry pain in the middle of the element.
“Would you like some eggs, Uncle?”
“Before you made yourself welcome in my house, I was about to make myself breakfast.”
“I’m not hungry,” his Uncle snapped. “What’s your decision?”
“So who are you going to tell? My Father?” Russ said. “He probably won’t give a shit.”
“Or the police.” Harvey’s smug face broke into a grin. “Something’s in that basement you want to keep a secret, right boy? How would you like the cops crawling up that ass of yours?”
“Suit yourself.” Russ smacked his lips together in mock anticipation. “I’m famished. Grandnana used to say,” he broke out into a ridiculous falsetto voice, “‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, Russell, now eat your fucking oatmeal.’”
An awkward silence passed between them with Harvey thinking, what is this little bastard up to? For some reason a cold shiver clawed its way up his spine. Russ stared at the fry pan, as it grew hotter. He could feel the heat wafting up to his face. That’s when the migraine came on.
A small pounding at first, the pain going from the front of his head, past his temples and settling in the lower part of his head and neck. And his uncle’s excessive yakking, yakkety-yak-fucking yak! Harvey suddenly realized his nephew seemed to be drifting into a trance, just staring at the top of the stove.
“Haven’t you been listening to a word I been saying?” He scratched at his scruffy beard, skin flakes raining onto the wood table. “The jig is up. You’re nicked, busted.”
Harvey wiggled nervously in his chair, which caused his bum leg to send a singe of pain from his hip through his leg and finally settling at the end of his toes. He glanced around and realized he had left his cane in the hallway. He wanted to retrieve it but something told him to keep his eyes on his nephew.
Russ finally moved to the refrigerator, opened the door, whistled an off-keyed tune of London Bridge is Falling Down, pulled out two eggs, a stick of butter and shut the door. At the frying pan, after slicing off a half inch of butter and dropping it in the pan, he cracked open the first egg using the side of the skillet and dropped the egg onto the hot surface. It sizzled when it hit.
“I heard you, Uncle. And I will tell you exactly what I’ve been planning. I guarantee you will be impressed.”
He broke open the second egg. It crackled next to its kin. His uncle sat silently watching him, his lips slightly parted as he struggled for a breath in the uncomfortably warm kitchen. Russ leaned over a kitchen drawer and pulled something out.
Harvey stopped breathing. A wave of nausea was rolling though his stomach and deep into his gut. ‘My God, the little bastards going to stab me.’ He exhaled when he saw it was just a harmless plastic spatula. Russ bullied the eggs around in the pan.
“Wow, these are just perfect. I may not have had a close relationship with my mother but she did teach me how to cook some righteous eggs.” He pulled the pan from the stove, turned and leaned halfway across the table, almost shoving the scorching skillet under his uncle’s nose. “Come on, smell these. I agree it needs a smidgen of pepper and maybe a pinch of salt. What do you think?”
The pounding, the untouchable ache shot inside Russ’ eyes and behind them. For a moment, he thought he would have to throw up on the table or worse yet, all over his perfect eggs.
“You shouldn’t threaten me, Uncle,” Russ said, in an almost inaudible whisper. Harvey stiffened in his chair and the pain in his hip was almost unbearable now. A voice in the back of his mind was screaming ‘It’s time to leave. Get the fuck out of here. Now!’ Perhaps he’d underestimated the little bastard.
“I think you’re a crazy son-of-a- …”
Russ swung the pan at Harvey’s head. There was a fleshy-metal pop; the bottom of the pan connecting with the side of his uncle’s bloodless, puffy face. Harvey struggled to stay upright but his body protested - white pain shooting through his leg again, hips, now to his arm, his neck. There was now a constant ringing in his ears as if the blood was trying to push its way out. He swung his hands up blindly, accidently hitting his nephew in the face. He struck out again, deliberately this time, but the next two swings bought him nothing but air. He fell, flailing his arms as he went, and then hit something hard. The floor.
Opening his mouth he tried to scream but nothing came out. He sensed someone looming over him just out of focus. He kicked his feet out, as much as it hurt, and as stiff as his joints were. Harvey hit something and kicked out again, hoping he was hurting the little bastard.
‘I knew he was up to something.’But it was an all too brief thought and blanket of darkness crept up on him. He tried his best to hang onto consciousness. He had to get up, get away. Eyes focused now, seeing the blank stare of Russ’ eyes as they connected. His nephew speaking, but the words garbled mixed with the ringing...The pan in view coming toward him ...The excruciating throb in the old man’s head reached new heights. He had to get up, get away...
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