The Day I Killed My Father

Being a little kid has its privileges. People tend to take your presence for granted, once they have gotten over how cute you are and have pinched your cheeks a time or two. They assume you cannot understand so you get ignored.

Therefore, kids can find themselves in a position to hear things that they are not meant to hear.

Sitting on the floor in a downstairs hallway, playing with a Tonka fire truck, I overheard the following exchange between my parents upstairs:

“Go back to your slut, I don’t want you here any more!”

“If you weren't such a bitch I wouldn't need to look elsewhere for affection!”

“Affection! How about some common decency!”

I heard the slap, the sharp retort of flesh on flesh, and I heard my mother’s shocked gasp, followed by a lumbering thud and a crash, as something ceramic died. What followed was unknowable at the time, my young mind unable to conceive of my parents scuffling and actually fist fighting upstairs in their room, but I will never forget the look on my father’s face as he stormed downstairs and out the door. Nor will my mind ever be free of the look on my mother’s face, one hand covering a growing welt, as she appeared at the top of the stairs.

Hate is not something that a five-year-old kid can get a handle on, but I would have gladly stabbed my father in the eye that summer morning.

Time passed as it always does, and things settled down to what we all knew as normal. My father’s drinking continued, my big brother was still a pain, and my mom was still my mom.

Some time later, I was sitting on the floor in front of the console TV, watching Red Skelton, currently my favorite grown up at the time, having just replaced Captain Kangaroo in my affections. The back door opened with a crash, and in stumbled my old man, reeking of booze, his tie skewed over to one side. He stumbled over the threshold, cursing it for tripping him, and he slammed the door behind him hard enough to rattle the glass.

“Wassup lil’ man, how’s daddy’s boy t’day?” He leaned backwards as if he would sail over but righted himself at the last moment. He lurched to the couch and threw himself on it, completely ignoring my silent shrug. I really did not like him when he was like this.

“Hey.” This was accompanied by a nudge with his right shoe that nearly knocked me over. “Hey, you’re in th’way, move over.”

I shuffled to the side on my haunches, declining to inform him that I was here first, and he could move too, since I knew how that would turn out.

“Whattaya watching this crap for?” I thought he would continue, but then he let out a huge belch, so I just looked at him. “I ask’t a quest-shun, boy, answer me.”

“I like it.”

“TV is crap anyway, le’s you ‘n me do sumthin else. Wanna box?”

I was not sure what we were going to do with a box, and I knew he did not have one on him to play with, so I just looked at him.

“Are you retarded, boy, I ask’t you if you wanna box!” His voice rose in volume, and I knew that he could hurt me bad if he wanted to.

“Yes, please.”

“Get up.”

Here followed a few minutes of him trying to get me to stand just so, with my ‘dukes’ held up high, despite the fact that I had no idea what dukes were, and also despite the fact that he could barely stand. He drooped and stumbled around, stepping on my foot more than once, until, eventually, we were squared off as combatants in our imaginary boxing ring.

“OK, li’l man, give me your best shot.”

I stood there, unsure of what to do next. What shot was he looking for, like with a gun?

“Hit me dammit, hit me hard!”

So I reached way back, putting my right duke behind my right ear, and flung it with all of my might straight out, aiming for a point behind him. My chubby little five-year-old fist smashed into his crotch, he fell to his knees, his eyes rolled up into his head, and he fell face forward onto the couch, bouncing off and rolling backward to land on the floor, his head hitting the floor with a dull thump.

I had killed him, I thought.


I sat back down in front of the TV and turned it back on. I ignored my mother’s screams and the paramedics comforting words, and the look on my father’s face as they strapped an oxygen mask over it and wheeled him out the door on a shiny gurney. Red Skelton made me laugh.

It would be some time later that I learned and came to understand about alcohol-induced epilepsy and the cause and effects of seizures.

I was just disappointed that he eventually came home.

©2014 Christopher Reilley

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