I didn’t think it was a big deal when my sister Kate started dating a Golden Gloves champ. Sure, my Mom got uptight, but when wasn’t she? And my Dad? Oblivious. He was far more interested in that big tit broad at the office. The thought of his daughter banging a guy who bench-pressed four hundred pounds, someone with seventeen KOs to his name, was just one more fart in the windstorm to my old man.
His name was Tommy Flatlin. People called him Flatline, but never to his face. Since puberty, his forehead had sailed at half-mast. By age twenty, he was bald. Maybe that’s why he had a bad temper. With his Cro-Magnon good looks and James Coburn sideburns, Flatline was a shoo-in for the pro wrestling circuit.
Growing up, he lived with his dad in a two bedroom rambler at the ass end of our street. The Union Pacific ran a few feet behind their house, and on lazy afternoons, Tommy bounced pennies onto the tracks from his bedroom window. He later used those same skills to court my sister, chucking beer cans at her from his lawn chair in the front yard as she walked home from high school.
My friend, Scotty, heard one time that when Flatline was fifteen years old, his dad got drunk and took a belt after him. Flatline’s father chased him through the kitchen and out the front door. When they reached the mailbox, Flatline had had enough. He turned around and punched his dad in the face. One hit, and the old man was out. I said that was bullshit. Nobody beats up their dad, even if he is an asshole.
Despite his temper, Flatline was pretty cool. He slipped me beers when my folks weren’t looking, and one time he gave me a joint. After they hooked up, my sister wasn’t home much. Seeing how Mom got a stomach ache whenever they were around, that was fine by me.
One night, they had a big fight in my sister’s bedroom. Flatline got up to leave. As he stormed through the living room, he pushed my mom. It was an accident, mostly. Mom stood frozen in the doorway when Flatline came charging out. She didn’t even try to get out of his way.
It shouldn’t have been a big deal. She wasn’t hurt or anything, just banged her head on the door frame. My dad followed Flatline out to the driveway and bitched him out for disrespecting his wife and his home, all that jazz. I didn’t think he had it in him, confronting Flatline like that. All those gin and tonics must have made him brave. Flatline slouched back inside and apologized to my mom.
My sister apologized as well. Sorry I was such a bitch, Tommy. Then they held this half-assed group therapy session, there in the living room. Hugs all around, and Flatline bawled like a little kid. Here’s this gorilla with steel pipes for arms, snot running down his nose, going on about how his Dad was so mean to him growing up. It was disgusting. I went to bed.
Kate moved out after that. I didn’t mind. Her room was bigger than mine, and it looked out on the street. After enough of my ragging, mom let me move my stuff in there. Kate wasn’t coming back anyway.
They rented this nice apartment on the other end of town, with overstuffed furniture, a flat screen TV, and a swimming pool. They let me visit sometimes, and Flatline taught me to play billiards. We drank beer and watched Rambo reruns. Most days, I didn’t want to go home.
One night, I was lying in bed. Sometime after midnight, I heard tires squeal, and a door slam. Flatline’s pickup truck sat crookedly on the curb. He carried my sister into the house, like something he’d bought at the flea market, and I knew she was drunk again. Then I saw the blood.
They’d been driving to their apartment. After the bar. Some guy had hit on her, and Flatline cornered him out in the parking lot. Just like Flatline’s dad—one punch, and the guy was out. They took off before the cops arrived.
Arguing about it on the way home, she jumped out of the truck. Wham! Thirty-five miles an hour and she steps out. Who does that?
Mom rolled her eyes when he told her that. “You’re a liar,” she said.
Flatline put his hands up, as if he’d never laid a hand on her. All those bruises, she’s just clumsy. Mom took Kate in the bathroom, fixed her up, and put her in my bed. I slept on the couch.
The next morning, everyone acted like nothing happened. Dad asked Kate where she got the shiner. She mumbled past her cornflakes, something about a doorknob. Dad went back to his newspaper.
They got married in Las Vegas a few weeks later. When they came home, they were Mr. and Mrs. Tommy Flatlin. Kate bragged about the size of her diamond, and Flatline laughed about the drive-through wedding chapel. The Elvis impersonator was a real hoot.
I watched her stomach for months, but as far as I know, she never got pregnant, despite trying. Two days after their first wedding anniversary, the apartment caught fire. The cops told my parents that Flatline fell asleep smoking a cigarette.
Like I said, it was no big deal.
Kip lives in sunny Phoenix, where he chronicles the life of an exiled Nordic Warrior King at http://misterass.com. You can find him at Bartleby Snopes, Every Day Fiction, Waterhouse Review, Eunoia Review, A Twist of Noir, and a few other places. He writes to keep the flying monkeys away.