He looked in the foggy bathroom mirror at his three-day old beard. He'd have to go down to Romy's and get a shave. He hated wasting money there…he opened the medicine cabinet and took out his straight razor. He flipped it open and watched the fluorescent light glint off the dull unused-for years edge.
He sat tied to the rickety wooden chair, thinking if he only had a few seconds he could get up, run backwards into the wall and break it, maybe get away. Foolish thought, there were too many more of them than him, with guns, and they had come for entertainment. All except the man approaching with the razor blade…he had come for information.
"Mad-Dog" Morgendorffer shook off the nightmarish memory and flipped the blade closed. He hadn't told them what they'd wanted to hear, and if paying someone else for a shave was the price he had to pay to keep his country free, then so be it. Damn Ruth and her 'go see a psychiatrist, it'll help'. Nonsense. He was a man, he didn't need some wishy-washy quack head doctor telling him his POW camp experience had given him a razor phobia, he already knew that. No need to waste money on that, at least.
He finished dressing just as he heard Ruth and Jake enter the front door down stairs. He could hear his son blubbering from the bedroom on the second floor. "Dammit, Jake!" He swore and marched down the stairs to find out what had happened this time.
"Now, Jakey, it'll be all right. Those boys won't bother you anymore. We'll find a new park to go to." Ruth said comfortingly as she wiped her son's bloody nose with her embroidered handkerchief. The handkerchief her mother had given her as 'something old' on her wedding day.
"What's this nonsense all about?" He asked roughly. Ruth looked up from her administrations, trying to shield her son from his father's piercing gaze while also trying to hide the bloody handkerchief.
"Nothing, dear. Just a little rough play at the park, boys will be boys, you know." She tittered nervously.
Jake wiped a hand across his eyes quickly. His father was always the angriest when he cried. He didn't seem to mind the fighting so much, it was the constant losing and 'blubbering' that seemed to make his eyes get so cold. Jake didn't know what to do, he couldn't help being smaller than everyone else. The fact he wasn't very athletic wasn't helping. Maybe if he could be good at some sport…
Mad-Dog stared at his son. The constant babying Ruth gave him was making him weak and spineless. Every time he got in a fight, she'd rush in and drag him away before he could learn anything from it, before it could toughen him up. He understood the mothering instinct to protect, but she was coddling the boy. He was going to have a mighty hard life if he couldn't stand up for himself. Jake tried not to flinch under his father's stare.
"We have to do something about this." Mad-Dog's voice sounded harsh, even to him. Well, someone had to show the boy how to be a man.
"But you know what the school nurse said about him, he has a delicate constitution!" Ruth implored.
"Fuck her." Jake mumbled.
"What was that?" Mad-Dog said sharply, almost hoping he had heard what he thought he'd heard.
"Structure." Ruth covered quickly. "Maybe something to give him some structure. Summer camp, perhaps?"
Jake brightened. He'd been good at tennis in gym. They made you do athletic stuff at tennis camp, Joey Millbanks said so. Maybe if he was really good at tennis his dad would be proud of him for once. He wiped his eyes again. He didn't mean to cry, but that kid had hit him right in the nose, his eyes were still watering.
"Joey Millbanks goes to tennis camp, they make you run laps every morning and have training schedules and everything. Can I do that?" Jake asked hopefully.
Mad-Dog looked at his son, picturing him at some hoity-toity tennis camp, getting picked on because he wasn't as rich as the rest of the trust-fund brats. That wasn't going to help at all. There was only one place where they'd all get the same treatment no matter where they came from, and might give Jake the toughening and pride he so sorely needed. He shuddered to think what would happen if Jake ever got drafted into a war. Something drastic had to be done. He prayed to God he was doing the right thing.
"Son, you're going to military school."