Hood Ornament ~ Bob Kesh
Larry punched the gold, winged figure on the hood of his fathers rolls royce. He’d show off to his friends often. Boxing that hood ornament. He jabbed with professional agility, never using his full strength, but his knuckles had grown hard.
‘Come on, Give it a hit’ Larry challenged his friends.
‘Aren’t you scared it’ll break?’ his friend answered.
‘Don’t worry about that. My dad used to brag about how this thing was unbreakable when he bought it, “see this” he’d say, “hoodlums couldn’t steal this”, not that he’d have a clue who hoodlums were,’ Larry thought of that every time he hit it.
He was right. His father had no idea who hoodlums were, nor did he have any idea who his son was. Larry was pretty indifferent to it. His parents were both successful lawyers. They always had money but never seemed to enjoy anything in life, no affection between each other, even that big rolls royce was just an instrument to get them from one place to another.
It was getting close to six and Larry and his friends knew their parents would be coming home soon.
‘We should do one,’ Larry’s friend said.
‘Alright, let’s get on. I’ll walk you to the park,’ Larry said. ‘We can smoke a joint on the way.’
They walked through the park not saying much. They never said much and Larry liked that. Larry never knew how much he shared in common with his friends. He knew they all shared the frustration of not being in control of their own lives, overseen by people they had little more than blood in common with. Getting high with each other passed the time. At the edge of the park they parted and said goodbye as well as they could.
Back across the park he didn’t think about home. It all seemed bright and a good place to be. The dogs ran around the trees and stopped, then continued off across the grass. There wasn’t much noise from the people but he knew they were all there in the noise of the day. He picked out a spot just in front of the shade and lay down, watching the planes make lines in the sky. He watched them for a long time, then just listened with his eyes closed.
When Larry woke the shade had covered the park and everything was silent. He got up and started off home. He knew the scene that waited for him. Mum sat in the kitchen reading over work papers, his father drinking Chivas in his big leather chair in front of the t.v. He’d look on the table to see if they’d ordered food and if not take something from the pantry and disappear upstairs.
Through the garage he saw his parents cars, parked either side of the winged Rolls. A shrill noise blared from inside. The sound of hollow commercials, turned up too loud and something else, worse, like a metal chair dragged across a hard floor.
In the kitchen he found his mother slumped over her work papers crying. Next to her was a bottle of wine and a glass filled to the top. Larry knew his parents thought themselves decent people, who knew not to pour wine over a certain level. Things of that sort were for the common people. He stood there and watched her. He couldn’t see her eyes. Both her elbows were either side of her paper and a few strands of scruffed out hair hung between the fingers above her forehead.
Larry said nothing. He moved to the front room and found his father as usual, in his big leather chair. The smell of whiskey scoured his nose. He looked at the t.v and saw blue light. The sound pressed against him.
‘What’s wrong with mum?’ Larry shouted. His father didn’t respond and continued to look blankly at the television.
Larry didn’t want to but he went back to the kitchen.
‘Mum?’ he said softly as she continued sobbing, ‘What’s happened?’ She dropped one hand around the base of her wine glass and continued to cry. Larry went up next to her and hesitantly put a hand on her wrist. ‘Mum, what’s wrong?’
She regained herself a little, breathing in short bursts. ‘Your father. . . he’s. . . he’s leaving.’
‘What?’ Larry said as if he hadn’t understood the words.
She started crying again, this time deeper and more forceful, ‘The damn bastard’s leaving me!’ she flung her papers towards him. He saw only one word. Divorce. He stepped back and looked at her. They were in their own worlds. Separate from each other. Separate from him.
He went out to the garage and punched the hood ornament of his fathers Rolls as hard as he could. It made a thunderous noise and flicked back into place. He hit it a few more times but couldn’t gather the same strength as his first. Then he took his foot to it, kicking it straight back with his heel feeling the metal press into the rubber of his sole and then slide out and smack back into place. He jumped down on it with both hands around its legs and his fingers wrapped around its wings and pulled as hard as he could. He used his whole back and shoulders and legs and everything he had. He could feel it, as solid as a safe. He knew he had lost. He let his legs go limp and slumped over the ornament. He lay there for a few moments and gave in to the inevitable helplessness of it all.
He stood back up. His hands shook. He turned them palms down and looked at them. His right hand pulsed. The knuckle of his middle finger was between his index and middle fingers. His ring finger knuckle pointed right up towards his fingertip.