Tommy thought that if he could only get his parents to divorce, then maybe everything would be ok. Pete Hoffman’s parents had split, his dad roaring off in their beat up old station wagon. Now in place of one gruff business dad, with a dirt collard shirt and a loud voice, Pete had a string of cool new dads. One
had a motorbike and smoked marijuana cigarettes on the Hoffman’s back porch. Another drove a firetruck red convertible, with a two foot CB antenna.
Pete said you could tell a lot about a dad from his means of transportation. If he had a car or a truck, with enough seats to carry a family, it meant he’d be sweaty and quiet, and wouldn’t kid around while he waited for your mom to get ready for their date. If he drove something fast, with only a couple of
seats, he’d probably bring candy and chat with you about TV shows and comic books. The best example of this last kind of dad was the motorcycle guy, who’d once given Pete sixteen dollars just to buy cigarettes from the drug store a couple of blocks over.
Tommy’s dad drove a Dodge Viper, but it didn’t make him a nice guy. Sometimes, when Tommy was watching cartoons, or even just doing his homework, his dad would ’snap him out of it’ with a ’clip around the ear’. When this happened Tommy would stare up at him waiting, wondering what he wanted.
Mostly all Tommy’s dad wanted to do was tell him what a ’little waster’ he was. Other times he liked to test Tommy, and he’d pull the book from his hands, or switch the TV to a news channel, and ask Tommy to explain ’Afghanistan’, or ’Inflation’. Then he’d laugh and turn of the TV, or toss his open book onto the floor, cuff Tommy again and walk out of his bedroom, leaving the door open ’to keep an eye’ on him. Later, Tommy’s mom would tell him to be quiet in future, or his dad would get mad again. She had big green unblinking eyes and an sideways smile, and Tommy thought she was the prettiest lady in the world.
Tommy had tried lots of ways to get a new dad. After school one Friday, he’d told his mom he’d got detention, and ridden a bus up to the city library. On an old computer, tucked behind the gardening section, he’d found a chatroom, ’Dadz4GudBoyz’, and interviewed a few potential candidates. Sadly Tommy had figured out pretty quickly, that they were all rampant pedophiles, and totally unsuited for the job.
When Mrs Newman up the street got dragged forty feet under a drunks bumper, and split her head open like a melon under a blood hammer, Tommy gathered together all his paper round and mowing money (eighty two dollars and sixty cents), and offered Mr Newman a fair salary of five bucks a week. Mr Newman was a little old, and smelled lightly of pee, but he seemed a kind sort. But he’d just shaken his head, and told Tommy he ’aint much use to anybody’, and ’ya aughta go home to your momma’.
Next day, all the kids in the street went crazy, when an ambulance and two bright blue cop cars rolled up outside the Newman’s house. Sophie Patino, who was two years older and knew everything, told them the cops had found Mr Newman hanging, ’like a pig in a deli’. It seemed like Tommy might never find a substitute dad.
That night, as he readied himself for sleep, Tommy knelt at the foot of his bed and prayed. ’ Dear sweet Jesus, please bring me a new daddy. Bring me a daddy who’s not mean, or a molester, or old and suicidal.’ As he prayed, he stared up at the ebony crucifix his grand mother, a thin, hairy Romanian woman,
who’d visited back when he was a kid (the Summer before), had nailed high up on his wall. Like a rock slide on a group of hikers, it hit him. Of course. He already had another father. God the father.
All that term Tommy hit the library straight after school, combing the craft and hobby sections for what he needed. He joined the alter service at St Magdalene’s, and began to collect his dark materials. Finally, one afternoon in June, as class cut out for Summer, he was ready to begin. He told his mom he was staying at Alfie’s. She didn’t seem to mind, she was relaxing on the couch, eating her vitamins and watching static on the TV again. Tommy gathered his supplies on a trailer, hooked it to his bike, and cycled out of the suburbs, up to the place he’d chosen in the woods.
As he placed the crucifixes in the ancient stone circle, Tommy began his work. While he nailed and bound the wood, he chanted the prayer his nana had taught him, the thick dark syllables rich in his mouth.
After an hour or so, Tommy finished, and stood at the foot of the wooden Jesus, chanting louder.
A wind began to stir in the heavy arched branches of the trees, and his hair blew up around his face. Louder he chanted, and the wooden mess began to shake and groan. It seemed to rise higher on thin legs, to tower over him, each tendon a little Jesus nailed in passion. Tommy was screaming now, the old tongue pouring out of him, more it seemed than he had ever learned.
’Ti tech tata yetel. Oh, yum hunab k’u. Ti tech tata yetel. Calanten, hunab k’u’.
The wind rose ever higher, drowing Tommy’s voice. Then nothing. The wind fell and Tommy stood deathly still in the ancient circle, painfully holding back the tears. Later he would become an alcoholic, and blame his father every time he beat his own kids.
Magic doesn’t work.