Jonathan’s Secret

Harold was drunk again, that rat bastard. His flannel shirt was ripped, his carpenter pants smelled like piss, and his left eye was black again. It was early in the night, only nine thirty, but that didn’t stop Donnie from grabbing him by the scruff of his neck and tossing him out the door. “Get him outta here,” he growled at the seven-year old waiting on the porch.

“Yes, sir,” Jonathan said to the burly bartender, as he jumped up and caught his staggering father. He wrapped his father’s arms around his waist, slinging dear old drunk daddy’s left arm around his shoulders. He started dragging him to the beat up pickup truck, his seven-year old frame astonishingly strong enough for the task.

“You ain’t weak, boy, lift me up in this seat,” Harold slurred. Jonathan grunted, then did as he was told. He knew it’d be hell if he didn’t, plus he still had to get him home to bed. Easier to cooperate than to fight it.

When Harold was seated in the truck, Jonathan sprinted to the other side and climbed in the driver’s side door. No one was in the parking lot now, so he’d be able to make it out before someone saw them. Everyone in town knew the real story anyway. They’d rather get Harold out of sight quicker than one of those lightening storms that swell up real fast.

Jonathan tied the wooden blocks around his shoes, and then buckled himself into the seat. His eyes could barely see over the steering wheel, but he had no other choice. He put the truck in reverse and backed out of the parking spot. The bald tires skidded on the dirt and rocks, kicking up a dust storm behind it as Jonathan put the truck in gear and started down the driveway.

Harold fell asleep at once, his shoulder banging against the passenger window with a telltale thunk. Jonathan smiled. He swerved just enough for Harold’s head to thump against the window and when no sound erupted from the old man, Jonathan let out a laugh. He swerved a few more times, laughing louder with each thwack.

The rain started falling in sheets, and Jonathan reached to turn the wipers on. The truck jumped over a freshly dead raccoon, and Jonathan was jolted from his seat. His foot came down hard on the gas pedal and the back end of the truck started to swing out, helped along by a puddle of water. Jonathan reached for the steering wheel to right himself, and the truck jerked toward the ditch. When he saw where they were headed, Jonathan tucked himself into as small as a ball as he could and decided to ride it out. The truck hit the ditch and rebounded into the air, parts coming loose in the process.

With a crash that echoed in the mountains, the pickup struck the old willow tree. It bent just a little before branches snapped from its core, and it pushed the energy right back into the truck. With a groan, the truck fell to the ground, sputtered and collapsed.

Jonathan uncurled himself and checked for broken bones. He didn’t feel anything too painful, so he untied the blocks from his shoes and hopped down from the truck. He tossed the blocks in the backseat, and walked slowly around check out Harold.

The front of the truck let out a loud hiss, and Jonathan almost jumped. He steeled himself and opened up the door. Harold slumped forward when the seatbelt released him. He was breathing, but it seemed labored to the seven-year old. Jonathan looked toward the back of the truck. Gas was leaking from the tank. He whipped his head toward the front of the collapsed truck, and watched the flames lick the tires. He turned back to Harold, still passed out drunk and slumped over.

Jonathan’s head went back and forth between the front of the car and the leaking gas in the back tank. He didn’t have time to think, yet time seemed to stretch out before him like a lazy dog climbing a warm rock. When the tire popped, Jonathan slung his father over his shoulders and dragged him to the driver’s side door. Before he knew what he was doing, he opened the driver’s door, and haphazardly tossed Harold in. He rummaged through the old man’s wallet for any cash. Finding a few crumpled dollars, he closed the door, crossed himself, and took off running through the forest.

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