He was surprised to see me sitting in his recliner in the living room when he got home from work, especially since his wife, my daughter, wasn’t there. She is supposed to be here to greet him and have supper waiting. Before his expression changed to curiosity at my presence, I could see his annoyance at her absence.
“Hi, Bob,” I said calmly. “How was work?”
“Uh, hello, Roy. What are you doing here? Where’s Kate?”
“She had to go out for a while. He mother called her to come over and catch up. She’ll be back later.”
He started briefly, I could tell, at the idea that Kate was with her mom.
“I thought you and I should have a talk.”
“Sure. What’s up?”
He set his briefcase down in the hallway and hung his coat on the rack, eyeing me warily as he sat down on the sofa across the room from me. It was unusual for me just to drop in on him. Usually we only talked on the rare occasions my wife and I were invited for dinner. Even then our conversations were typically about the game we were watching while the women fixed dinner. He never so much as raised a finger to help as far as I had ever seen.
“Remember our talk in the church before you and Kate got married?”
“Well, sort of. Lots going on that day. Why?”
“Yeah. You made several promises that day. Let me remind you of what you promised me, and what I promised you.”
“Now, Roy. Let me explain….”
“Oh, I don’t need an explanation, Bob. Kate told me about the bruises on her arms and back. It was hard for her, though. She was crying so hard it was difficult to understand her at first.”
“She fell on the stairs with the laundry basket.”
“No, Bob. She didn’t fall, did she?”
“Sure she did. I’ve told her she needs to be more careful on the stairs.”
He started to get up.
“Sit down, Bob.”
“Sit down!” I insisted. “Listen to me.”
“Shut up, Bob.” I was speaking just above a whisper and he had to strain to hear me.
“At the church I told you to take care of my little girl. You promised me you’d be good to her, didn’t you?”
“Sure. I take good care of her!”
“Is that what you did last night, Bob? ‘Take care’ of her? With a ball bat?”
“I didn’t touch her!”
“Bullshit, Bob. We both know what you did to her.”
“No! I didn’t…!”
“You broke your promise to me, and you broke your promise to her when you pledged to ‘love and honor and protect’ her.”
“And I promised you that if you ever broke your promises to me and to her that you’d regret it. I promised you that you’d only get one chance, too. Remember? That I was giving you the only warning you’d get?” I was having trouble staying calm, and my voice was a low growl.
“Now, Roy. Don’t do anything foolish!” His voice had risen in pitch and volume, and he started to get up again. I could see fear in his eyes.
In one movement I stood and drew my grandfather’s old Colt from the holster at the small of my back. He stumbled back away from me and collapsed back onto the couch. Sobbing, he pleaded with me, “Roy, please! It was a mistake! I’ll never touch her again!”
“No, Bob, you won’t.”
That old .45 is more than a hundred years old. Gun registration wasn’t even being discussed when it had been passed down to me. The ammunition in it then was carefully stored and protected, and I’d had it at least forty years. I’d been in that house dozens of times. They’d bought the acreage on the edge of town to have some privacy, and their nearest neighbors were a quarter mile away. It had been dark when I drove down the lane without my lights.
I left the same way as I drove home to take care of my little girl.
Daniel J. Cox, 09-09-2014