Anything or Nothing

By Breech Loader

NOTE: I wrote this story before. But it was so long ago, and now I feel like I could have done way better – so don't let this being a rewrite put you off, okay? Hell, maybe you can even compare them? Anyway, this is a story about domestic abuse. It was initially inspired by PJ's line in "A Goofy Movie": "My dad is going to smash me like a bug".

There is zero sexual abuse in this story. Not because it doesn't happen in real life, but because it didn't feel realistic in this story.

As for a disclaimer? You do know those things have all the legal standing of used toilet paper?

I respect my dad.

No, 'respect' is not the right word. The right word is 'fear'. I fear my dad. And… well, that feeling makes me feel ashamed. Ashamed of myself. Ashamed of my dad.

Because a son shouldn't be afraid of his dad, you know? He should love him. Lord knows I've tried. But I'm still afraid. Where did it start? And why, and how? I think I've been afraid of him all my life. So it's a pretty long story.

Dad was always getting mad at Mom, as long as I can remember. Their arguments would always start small, with him saying how she was lucky to have him, or that the house needed to be cleaner, or that she should be home when he got home. He'd sometimes accuse her of cheating because she's so pretty that guys whistle at her in the street. And after he'd shouted right up in her face, he'd start hitting her.

Mom sometimes calls me her great big marriage saver; she says that she and dad were going through a rough patch and me coming along kept her and him together. I know she doesn't mean it that way, but sometimes that makes me feel like she'd be better off without me.

For sure she'd be better off without dad. As far back as I can remember, Mom was wearing long-sleeved shirts and making up over bruises.

But I do remember the first time dad hit me.

I was 6. We were at the pub, having a meal to celebrate Mom being pregnant with Pistol. Another little marriage saver. Not that dad had stopped hitting her yet.

Anyway, one of Mom's friends came over to the table and looked at her, and looked at dad, "Walked into another doorknob, Peg?" she asked, and there was a funny look on her face when she said it.

"Mom and dad argued again."

I remember everybody looked down at me, like they'd never seen me before. Then dad grabbed Mom and me, and we went straight home.

And he got so mad. And he started. He hit me, and then Mom got so angry and went for him. So he hit her again; swatted her like she was a bug right down to the floor, and told her to go upstairs and keep her mouth shut, or he'd get rid of the baby himself.

She looked so scared. More than I'd ever seen her before. She didn't know what to do. But she went upstairs, crying. I'm glad she did now. But then dad hit me again. And again. Until there was blood on the carpet. And finally he made me scrub it out while he stood over me, raging about 'respect' and all that bullshit the whole time.

It was the first time he hit me, but it wasn't the last.

The next time, I was 7 and Pistol was a baby. He got mad when Pistol wet herself on his lap, and I ran in and snatched her up. It's like there's something wired wrong in my dad's head; he can blow up over anything or nothing at all. Maybe that was what set him off, because he started whaling on me again. Mom was furious at him, but she was too busy trying to protect Pistol to help me.

When my Mom had to choose between me or Pistol, I came out the loser every time. I don't blame her; she took more than her share of punches for me. Anyway, if I could, I'd take all her punches, but she wouldn't let me.

And that wasn't the last time either.

Mom went out of town on business a lot. And she always took Pistol with her. But dad wouldn't let her take me. He didn't want me missing school. Some nights he'd get drunk. Too drunk to think, but not enough to fall over. He'd come back home with a beer in one hand and a fight in the other. Then we'd go a few rounds, and I'd always come out the loser.

Dad got fined and put away a few times, for DUI or D D or even GBA. I always wished they could lock him up forever, but he always came out again. Funny thing is that when he got out, he was always nice for a little while. The first time, I actually believed prison had changed him. I think Mom believed it too.

But it didn't last. He always switched back soon enough; the dealership wasn't doing well enough, Mom didn't clean the dishes properly, I got a D in Math. Any reason. Or no reason.

You know what the worst part was? Sometimes he'd take it into his head to be all 'fatherly'. He'd take me to see baseball matches, or we'd go fishing. Or he'd give me lessons to be just as big of a scumbag as he was. I mean, actually sitting down with me and teaching me how to scam people into buying new cars, not just hitting me until he got sick of getting blood on his knuckles.

If I didn't like it – or if he thought I didn't like it – he'd get mad again. Start yelling at me, telling me how I'm an ungrateful little shit and he goes to all this trouble for me. And he'd start thrashing me again, and every hit I took, he'd be going on about respect. How I should respect him, and how I've got no self-respect, and how he owned me.

Don't think I never tried to fight back. Defend myself, or even defend Mom. But when it's you against your dad, and he's got a good 90lbs and half a meter on you, you don't have much of a chance. If I hit back, he just hit harder. It was easier to roll with the punches, like Mom did.

By the time I met Max, I swear to god I was bleeding just about every other night.

And I thought it was normal.

The first time Max came over, he stood in my room and looked around at all the collectible stuff my dad's bought and keeps boxed in there, and he said how lucky I was. I got to thinking, is this kid crazy, or is his dad even worse than mine? But it didn't take me long to work it out.

Goofy Goof never hit Max. Never. No matter how angry or upset he was, no matter what crazy stunt Max pulled off, he never hit him. He'd get disappointed, lecture him for a bit, maybe ground him, but he'd never hit him. I could see it in both their faces.

So was Max's father abnormal? It didn't take me long to work out that hell yeah, he was. But it wasn't because he'd rather die than hurt Max. My dad was the real freak. The way he used me as a punching bag – even more than Mom by now – wasn't normal. The way I hated him for it was.

I gotta admit, things got better after I met Max. Don't get me wrong, dad was still whaling on me. But I spent so much time out with Max, and Goofy is one helluva distraction even to somebody as focused as my dad. He couldn't do it with Max or Goofy there, and there's only so many times you can say "I fell over" before somebody gets suspicious.

Even so, he'd take any excuse. I didn't answer back, or hit back any more by then, but he'd think of something to get angry about. Dinner was overcooked. Dinner was undercooked. My room was a mess. Somebody whistled at Mom in the street. I squeezed the toothpaste from the wrong end.

Some days… I thought I was gonna die.

I still didn't dare tell Max though. Part of me was scared of what my dad would do. The other part was scared of what Max would think. He's my best friend.

He's my only friend.

Mom never told anybody. My guess is that she was as ashamed of dad as I was. Ashamed that she'd married a greedy, lying, violent slob who beat his wife and son, and gambled and drank away half the money he earned. But she never let him get at Pistol.

Not that Pistol couldn't see what was going on. She'd started hiding under her bed, eyes shut tight and hands over her ears when it started so she could pretend it wasn't happening. I'd remember why dad started on me, and I told her not to tell. Begged her.

And then it all changed.

I'd just turned 17, and dad was still going strong. Mom was out of town on business again, and as usual she'd taken Pistol with her. And dad was in a filthy temper over losing $2,000 on a baseball game. So he was taking it out on me again. I have no idea why it was that night and not sooner, but something in me just snapped.

I hauled off and punched him one, right in his ugly face.

I'll never forget how he looked at me. It was years since I'd hit back, and it was like he couldn't work out what he'd done wrong. Everything just kind of froze up. I was staring at my fist, and I was so scared at what I'd done that I couldn't move.

As soon as he saw me scared, he moved in. Gave this huge bellow of rage like a wounded bull elephant or something, and grabbed my right arm and twisted it. There was this flash of white pain in front of my eyes, and I screamed. Then he started hitting me again. Harder than ever. There was blood blurring my vision, but I could see he was hitting me so hard that his knuckles were bleeding. They hadn't done that in a while now. I was ready to collapse, but he grabbed me and held me up with one hand while he kept doling out the pain with the other.

And then, I swear to god this is true, he grabbed a beer mug, smashed it by the handle and held it ready to glass me in the face.

I remember thinking, This is it. I'm gonna die. My own dad is gonna kill me.

And then somebody started banging on the back door and it all froze up, all over again. Him with a broken beer mug in one hand, and me in the other.

"P.J! Hey, P.J!" It was Max's voice, "Get your butt out here! I just had THE best idea!" I wanted to scream for help but with dad there, I didn't dare, "The lights are on, P.J! I know you're in!" Another long pause and I actually opened my mouth. Dad punched me in the gut, keeping me quiet, "Fine, I know Bobby will help out!"

Max left. Dad looked at me, and there was something horrible in it for a split second. Not drunken anger or disgust, but like he really hated me. And I thought he was going to finish the job right there, but then he looked back at the broken mug, and at me again, and it was like all the fun had gone out of it for him.

He tossed the beer mug on the floor, punched me a few more times, and finished me off with a roundhouse that damn near knocked me halfway across the room. Then he kicked me so hard in the stomach that I threw up. Finally he spat on me, told me to clear up the mess I'd made, kicked me once more, and stormed out of the house to go to the bar.

I wasn't crying. Crying always made dad even angrier. But I hurt. There was blood on the carpet. I tried to get up off the glass dad knocked me onto, but when I moved my right arm I damn near screamed again.

I don't know how long I stayed there; long enough for a whole lot more blood to get on the carpet. But eventually I managed to get to my feet without using my right arm. As well as my arm, my ribs felt like they were on fire. My dad just tried to kill me. I couldn't think what to do. I don't know what I was thinking, or if I was thinking at all.

But I made it to Max's house, right next door, and banged on the door with my good hand.

When Max and his dad saw the state I was in, with my shirt cut up and me dripping blood on their doorstep, they were scared. Really scared. Goofy pulled me into the house and sat me down, and without asking, called my dad. But of course, dad wasn't in. So then he called the hospital. Max started asking me what the hell had just happened. I told him the first bullshit that came to mind, which was that a gang jumped me in the streets while I was going to buy a paper.

Then we drove me to the hospital, with Mister Goof telling me to stay awake. I was trying to; I was scared that if I blacked out from the pain, I wouldn't wake up. Or maybe I was scared of what I'd wake up to.

So anyway, we get to the hospital and I'm loaded onto a gantry. Turns out that as well as my arm being broken in three places, I've got a couple of fractured ribs, and glass lodged in my side. I can't see my face, but from the way I can feel it swelling up, it's gotta be one helluva mess even after all the blood is cleaned off.

"So, Mister Goof, are you this boy's… legal guardian?" the nurse speaks up, and I couldn't help but start worrying again. I'm pretty much helpless in this bed and it's so hard to think, too...

"Oh no, ma'am!" I watched Mister Goof smiling, "I'm a friend of his father's! And my son Max is his best friend, right Maxie?" he continued straight on, "We live right next door; I'm not surprised PJ came to us for help!"

The nurse turns to me, "So we'll call your parents and-"

"No!" I almost scream, then catch myself just in time, "…point. No point. Mom is out of town on business. And dad is… out."

"Do you know where he might be?"

Yeah, at the bar, getting in a few more rounds with some of his drinking buddies so that when he gets back home he can go a few more rounds with me… "No…"

"Oh, I know where he might be!" Mister Goof speaks up all helpful-like, "There's a bar down-town that he goes to of an evening; maybe you could try calling that place-"

"NO!" I really scream this one, and Max, Mister Goof and the nurse all look at me, like I've just gone insane, "I don't wanna see my dad!" I manage to change it, taking deep and painful breaths, "I don't want my dad to see me… like this…"

I think Mister Goof looked the most shocked. I think I remember my dad said something to him once, something about, 'Something's wrong when a boy doesn't want to spend time with his pop.' He didn't say that, but I knew he was thinking it. Max already knew why, but he didn't say it. I could tell he wanted to though.

Max decided to stay for a while, so of course his dad did too. After a while of me just lying there and trying not to move any of my broken bones too much, Mister Goof went off to get some coffee.

I grabbed Max's wrist with my good hand as soon as his dad was gone, "It wasn't some gang," I told him.

Max looked at me like I was talking crazy talk, "Then why'd you tell me and dad and the docs that it was?" he asked, "And who was it?"

"Just… just one guy…" God but everything was so seriously excruciating at that moment, the pain must have been clouding my judgement. Or maybe I had a concussion. That would explain why I was finally admitting this.

"Who?" he asked me, "I mean… would you know the creep, if you saw him again?"

"Yeah," I croaked out, "Big guy. Real mean, ugly-looking, fat bastard. A cat that looks like a dog. A lot like me…" I groaned then, at hearing what I'd just said, but what the hell, Max was staring at me, looking like he was getting the idea, but at the same time like he didn't want to ask in case he was right, "It was happening when you came knocking…"

"But… you were in when I came knocking…" he spoke after a long, long hesitation.

"Damn right."

He looked like he wanted to be sick, "You mean when I came around, your dad was…" he swallowed, "Your dad… was…"

I guess then I just got sick of him trying to avoid saying it, "Beating the living shit out of me?" I was having trouble seeing out of my left eye, my face was so swollen up, "A bit more'n that. He was… I think he was…" and now I was the one who didn't want to say it, "He'd just… smashed a glass. He was… aiming for the face… I think you coming around saved my life, Max…"

"But… but… he's your dad!" he blurted out, like he couldn't believe it. Like he didn't want to believe it was possible. I think he'd rather it was a dangerous gang roaming the streets of Spoonerville and beating up random kids. I don't blame him. If you can't feel safe around your dad, who can you feel safe around? I'd rather it was a gang than my dad. At least that way, we wouldn't be living together.

"So?" I was nearly crying, because just breathing made my ribs hurt, "That never stopped him before…"


"I'm back boys!" We both looked up. Mister Goof had returned. Amazing how a guy can get into that much mess fetching water for one, coffee for twelve. Max opened his mouth. I gave him a look; desperate, pleading. Max closed his mouth.

"Oh, PJ. You have been through the wars, haven't you?" Mister Goof asked, and he was being genuinely nice and sympathetic, talking to me practically like I'm his son just as much as Max is, "You sure you don't want me to call your dad? He'll be real worried about you if he gets home and you aren't there…"

Yeah, worried that this time I've gone to the cops, I remember thinking, "I'm sure, Mister Goof," I told him, "But thanks… thanks for driving me to the hospital… Max is real lucky… to have a dad like you…"

Mister Goof looked pleased for a moment, and then his expression became very serious, "And Pete is lucky to have a son like you," he told me. For just a moment, I thought I could tell him the truth, but then reality kicked in. I couldn't tell him like this. He'd tell the cops, or worse, Social Services.

And I know exactly what'd happen. Social's gonna come a-calling, and take me and Pistol away, which is great, but what's gonna happen to Mom then? She didn't dare leave dad even when he started whaling on me; what's gonna make her leave when she's alone with him? And what's gonna happen when he finds me and Pistol? And he will. I've never known anybody be as focused as my dad when he's angry.

When the nurse came back in, I let go of Max's wrist. She started poking at me, asking me if it hurt when she did this, or that. It always did. My dad is good at making it hurt. Oh yeah, and once again she was going through all the questions they ask you when you're ready to black out with pain. Stuff like, what is your name, how old are you, who are your parents, where do you live? Checking you've not got brain damage from all the blows to the head. Then she moved on to more complicated stuff like, who did this, where were you when it happened, how'd you get back?

And I'm starting to find making up convincing lies harder…

I guess that's where Mister Goof turned out to be a godsend; he told the nurse, politely but firmly, that can't she see I'm tired? And can't they leave the questions for a bit? She left off then, giving me a bit of time to try and work out what the hell I'm going to say. But then Goofy noticed that Max looked sick. As in, wanting to throw up, sick.

"You feeling okay there, Maxie?"

"Yeah, I guess…" Max looked real unsure about that. I knew he wanted to tell his dad. He was obviously going over what I'd told him in his head and he was itching to say something, "I guess it's just hard to believe that… there's somebody in Spoonerville who's sick enough to do this to a kid…"

"It's terrible, just terrible," Mister Goof agreed, "In Spoonerville! Who'd have thought the world would ever come to this?"

So here I am, lying on a hospital bed with my right arm in a temporary cast and tacking stitches in my side, waiting for doctors to come and put me back together again, my best friend and his dad looking after me while I desperately try to convince them that my dad doesn't need to know I've been attacked in the street, when it gets even more complicated.

You wouldn't think it could, but it did.

The cops arrived.

The hospital had called them. Well, you got to, don't you? A kid gets beaten up in the street at night, to within an inch of his life, and you've gotta call the cops. I should have expected it. Shit. Now I've gotta lie to cops. Before, dad always made sure the cops didn't even come into it, so I don't have much experience. Hell, I've never been that good at lying to anybody.

They started with the questions. They questioned me, questioned Mister Goof, questioned Max, questioned the nurses and doctors. I'm pretty sure they were getting suspicious already, especially since I still couldn't think up a good reason for why I was out at this time of night, and alone. Eventually I could only beg them to leave me alone. Mister Goof stood up for me there, at least.

The cops left. Mister Goof and Max left, with Max promising to come visit me tomorrow. The doctors finished putting on my cast and seven stitches in my side. Finally I'm alone. Finally I can get some rest.

Except I can't. First off, I still hurt real bad, even with the painkillers. The nurse herself said she was shocked at the savagery of the beating. I keep on going through all of tonight in my head too. Went through a lot of things in my head. Not all the beatings; that'd take a lot longer than one night. But some of them stick out worse than others.

I remember some of the times dad took his belt to me. Four feet of hard leather against your back isn't easy to forget, regardless of how much 'padding' you've got. And then one time he swapped around and used the buckle end. I've still got the scars.

There are plenty of old scars from cigar burns too, mostly on my upper arms. I don't remember any one time – there are too many. But I do know that dad would go for the same places over and over again, so he was making it look like it happened less. I know the nurse saw them. She just didn't talk about them. Thank god. I don't know how I'd ever start explaining.

I remember how one time he put my hand in the waffle iron, and pressed down. I can't begin to express how much that hurt. Another time, he kicked me down into the basement, and locked me in the dark for three days. Afterwards I had to tell everybody I'd been sick in bed. Once I tried to lock myself in the bathroom, and he broke in. He put my head down the toilet and flushed, and I nearly drowned. One other time, he gave me a couple of hits in the side with a wrench.

You know what really sucks about having black fur? He could beat me black and blue, and nobody saw the bruises. Why else do you think I was almost always wearing long sleeves and a jacket?

I remembered how he did all those things, and more, for any reason or no reason. And I decided something that night, lying in that bed. I don't know how to explain it properly. I'd always prayed for it to stop. And finally I knew I had to make it stop.

The next afternoon, Max shows up, just like he promised he would. His dad's dropped him off, and he told him to call when he's ready to be picked up. And I ache. I think I might just hurt even worse now, because the numb feeling that kicked in at some point yesterday has faded, and now it's like I can feel every agonising bruise. And my face is swollen up even worse.

At least I've stopped bleeding by now.

First thing I find out is that my dad is… pretty mad that nobody called to tell him where I was yesterday. He still hasn't come here, though. This means he's probably saving it up for when I get back. Oh, and as if that wasn't bad enough, Mom is back in town.

If she hasn't come to see me, I figure dad's keeping her from leaving the house.

So we talk some more. I tell Max everything I told you, and a bunch more of shit when he starts asking questions. Most of them are because he's having trouble believing a lot of it. But he doesn't really say a lot; most of the time he just looks like he wants to be sick. I guess before today, he didn't really believe that shit like this really happens. And to somebody he thought he knew. Since before we'd even met, too.

It takes hours. But eventually I finish up at last night, when I hit my dad for the first time in years and he nearly killed me for it.

"So…" he's gonna ask the big question now, "Why didn't you tell somebody?"

Bingo. But I look away. Knowing he'd ask doesn't make it easier to explain, "Max… did your dad ever hit you? Like, ever?"

"No. Never."

"I didn't tell anybody because… lots of reasons," I sit up carefully, and it's like a sledgehammer to the ribs, "I'm scared, okay? I don't know what's gonna happen now, even for telling you. And I trust you."

"Thanks," he shrugs, "I think…"

"And… I'm trying to protect Mom and Pistol, you know?" I ask.

"By letting your dad beat on you instead? PJ, are you crazy?! Just tell the cops, okay?"

"The cops? Social? Bullshit," I grunt, "They didn't give a rat's ass when I was a kid; how much help are they gonna be now?"

Max considers this. I don't think he agrees, but he doesn't push it, "You… really wanna go back there?" he asks me.

"I've thought about it," I tell him, "I really have. And I figure I'm even more scared about what'll happen if I don't. I know what I've gotta do, Max," I try and explain, "I gotta do this."

It's not easy, but I manage to convince Max that I mean it. We talk a bit more, and then he calls his dad, and Mister Goof drives us both back after I persuade him I'm good to go. I'm still a mess, with my right arm in a cast and bandages around my chest and stitches in my side. I don't know if I should even be out of hospital, but I have to do this…

I can feel Max watching even as I go in the front door. He's not the only one. I figure the best part of the block is out there watching.

I wish I was out there watching.

When I get in, dad is sitting in his chair, and he's got that look on his face when he's building up to something nasty. I can see Mom at the top of the stairs, holding Pistol tightly in case she tries to stop dad. She saw him beating me bloody once and ran at him, and he swatted her clear across the garage like a bug. I had to let him break three of my fingers to get his mind off her.

I'm trying to keep from shaking. Dad looks at the cast, then at me.

"Cops come a'callin' this mornin', son," he tells me, all nice and friendly, "They was askin' me all sortsa funny questions about me, you, your mom, your sister… Seems they were awful concerned at how you didn't want to see me after that nasty gang beat you up. For sure somethin's wrong when a son don't wanna spend time with his pop."

"Guess so," I tell him shortly.

"You know the rules, PJ," he growls, eyes narrowing, "You call me 'sir'. You show me some goddamn respect."

"I don't see nothing in this room to respect." My body still aches whenever I move. But instead of the black and white spots flashing in front of my eyes, it's like this time I can see tomorrow's headlines; "Teenager Found Beaten To Death".

He starts standing up, looming over me – he's good at looming – and bunching up his fists, "You get down on your knees, boy," he tells me, his voice a growl, "And you apologise now."

"I can't think why I should apologise," I tell him. God, I'm terrified. But I have to hide it. I can't show him fear… not this time.

He growls again, and this time it escalates into a bellow of rage, "YOU WORTHLESS LITTLE MAGGOT!" he pulls his fist back, "I'LL TEACH YOU TH' MEANIN' OF RESPECT!"

I don't wait. I punch him in the face so hard with my left fist, that I actually knock him onto his back, "No, dad! How 'bout I teach you?!" I shout. He's looking up at me, amazed. I'm pretty surprised too; I just floored my dad. And now I'm shaking. But not with fear. It's the effort of not hitting out again; of not laying into him until he's bloodier than he ever made me or Mom.

"Wh-wh-what?" he stammers. He reaches up and touches his face, then looks at his hand. His nose is bloody.

"I'm not taking your shit any more, dad! You got that?" I shout at him, "You want to swing a punch at me? Go ahead, I'll give it you straight back!"

"But son, I'm your dad," he grins nervously as he stands up, "I've made a few mistakes but now I won't-"

"Shut up!" I tell him, louder than ever, "When I turn 18, I'm leaving for college! Understand? But I'm not running away! I'll be coming back! To visit Mom, and Pistol. And if you hurt them, even once more… I'll punch you so hard you'll be shitting your own teeth!"

"PJ, son, I would never…" we both look up at Mom and Pistol at the top of the stairs. They both look real scared, and I don't blame them. Because if this goes wrong, I'm gonna be a corpse at the bottom of the garden, and them… well, they're dad's punching bags. But I won't let that happen. I can't let that happen.

I look back at him, "You know what, dad?" I ask, my fist clenched and my teeth gritted, "You spout out a lot of bullshit about respect. But what you're really looking for is fear! Well, sucks to be you because I'm not afraid of you anymore!"

"You think that?" he growls, dropping any façade and pulling his fist back, "You mouthin' off a lot of words, boy. Let's see what words you mouthin' off after I-"

I hit him again, the swing so hard that I feel like my ribs are on fire, and this punch is hard enough to spin him around and land him on the carpet, facing away from me, "You wanna go a few rounds, dad? You and me, man-to-man!" I shout, "We can do this day in and out for ten years, the way you did to me! Whatever you got… bring it on! But maybe you feel like going a few rounds with Mom? Or starting on Pistol?" I snatch my switchblade out of my pocket and flick it open sharply, "You so much as raise your hand to them, and I swear to god I'll kill you…"

He pushes himself back up, looking at me, and the knife, and me again. It's a new look from him, something I've never seen before. Not anger. And no way is it respect. It's fear. He's trying to hide it but he's too late; I've seen it, and so have Mom and Pistol. It's all I can do to hold back from stabbing him one to pay him back for more than ten years of pain. Or start whaling on him like he would on me. But I am not my dad. I am not my dad.

"Son, you know I would never-"

"And I know what to look for too!" I interrupt.

There's a long silence. He wants to say something or do something, but I've just knocked him down twice even with one arm in a cast. He's not used to people hitting back.

"Okay then," I snap shut the switchblade again, and put it back in my pocket, "I'm taking the VW, and I'm going to the mall to hang with Max. I'll be back in a couple of hours or so."

"But you can't just run out on me, son!" dad grins nervously, "There's a gutter as needs cleaning, and cans to crush and you'll get a quarter of what they bring in-"

"Do it yourself!" I snarl at him, "And keep the quarter!" I pause, thinking for a moment, "And if you lay a finger on Mom or Pistol while I'm out, you are meat."

I slam the door on my way out, so hard and loud that a car alarm goes off.

"So… how'd it feel to hit your dad before he got the punch in?" Max asked PJ in the fast food resturaunt.

PJ stared at his burger for a long moment, thinking about it, "It felt… great," he admitted finally, "I mean, I'm still scared of him. I think part of me always will be. But now I know… now I know I'm better than he is. I don't have to knock him down to prove it. I just have to keep from hitting him when I don't need to."

"You think it's gonna turn out alright?" Max took a sip of his milkshake, "I mean, what if he does hurt your mom again? You think you'd really kill him?"

PJ grimaced a little, "Maybe. If I needed to," he took a bite of his burger.

"But with the knife and all?" Max swallowed, "You think you'll have to do that again?"

"I hope not," PJ chewed slowly, before swallowing, "Still, I hate to admit it but… I guess fear really is the only language some people understand."

NOTE: This story is Truth In Fiction. While it's not based on a single story of abuse, it's no exaggeration, neither is it just me sticking together as many methods of abuse as I can think of. It all happens. Please, please, PLEASE, if you're worried that somebody you know is being abused, it's a good idea to voice your concerns.

If you are being abused, I doubt you're being given the freedom of the Internet, but if you are here, tell somebody you trust. Teachers are pretty fucking useless when it comes to giving a rat's ass, but family and friends are a good option.