The Break-In

A couple kids cruising for kicks? Getting high and causing trouble because they can? Or is it something much more sinister? You can stick your thumb out, hop a fast car and fuck your way till dawn—but in the race to leave it all behind, the one thing you can't outrun is your past...

The Break-In by Jack Ryan

They broke in. They found a window with the storm pulled halfway up. Robert and Jeanine. He made a show of kicking in the screen. She was nearly as high as he was, and she laughed in that empty, silent way. He made a karate chop against the aluminum siding. She continued to buckle over. When she looked back up he had a leg over the sill.

“You dog,” she said.

“I’m gonna piss yet,” he proclaimed, jutting his groin forward. “Feel it.”

She made as if to grab his crotch, but she couldn’t follow through. He was already in. For a moment she saw how the darkness swallows. Again. She wanted to stop him. She wanted to say Robert. She hated his name then. His hand thrust out into the moonlit patio. Just a hand. His jacket obscured his arm. He reached out like the phantom in her old room growing up. He reached out like the old man outside the reststop near Paducah. The one who smiled at her, touched her arm friendly like. Wouldn’t let go as he gripped harder and the smile became a leer. And Robert sat on a picnic bench, some metal blaring in his ears, oblivious. She had screamed then and thought she might do it now. Instead her mouth just opened in the unexpected silence. Robert’s teeth showed up over the sill.

“C’mon,” he urged. “I know it’s empty. I cased it just an hour ago.” He waved his hand at her.

Maybe it was empty. The stillness and darkness were complete. And Robert was horny. Even that hour away from Jeanine at the diner had been too long. An hour spent cruising by the house, then buying cigarettes and failing to buy alcohol. They had hitched all day, arriving near where she said she had grown up. Direct from Asheville with some urban doucher turned farmer.

Robert gripped Jeanine’s arm. She froze. “We’ll be fast,” he said, stroking her biceps. She giggled then, the way he liked. He felt her tit as she came in. “Not now, you fucker,” she said, half meaning it. He grabbed her ass after she got her balance, and then for a little they plunged their tongues into each other’s mouths. They both tasted like pot and cigarettes, he more so.

She giggled again, and then she heard how different her voice was off the tiles of the kitchen. She found that spot in her mouth where a badly healed cut made a flap of scar tissue. Her mouth opened a little as she tongued the flesh. She no longer had to recall the beating that spawned it.

“I wanna steal something he’ll see first thing in the morning,” Robert said, doped and invincible. He was trying to whisper.

Goddamn, she thought, and then she thought she had said it. He looked at her funny in the gloom. She moved his arm around her waist tight and started walking like she knew the place. They made the living room. He wacked his hip on the corner of a table. She put his hands on her tits and ground against him. Lights from an approaching car flashed through the front windows. She was on her ass in an instant. She saw Robert’s off-kilter left eye as he disappeared around the kitchen corner. Feet slapping tile, feet pounding carpeted stairs. Was he going up? Panic. She lurched after him. The footfalls stopped. She heard a low moaning—guttural, inarticulate—then dry heaves.

Robert was recoiling from a bedpost when she found him. He was trembling. He looked like the boy he still was. In the bed lay an old man, eyes fearfully wide and stricken, one arm across his chest, the other curved back behind him as though seeking a release lever. Defensive stab wounds blended with sticky blood up and down his crossed arm. His pants were halfway down his thighs, and his withered pecker rested limply to one side. His knees were twisted from some unimaginable pain or surprise or both.

“Do you see that? Do you see that?” Robert was hyperventilating, his voice quavering at a high pitch. “Do you?”

Jeanine looked back at the familiar form in the bed. “Robert.” That name. Why not Rob or Bob or Bobby or Robbie? Why Robert? “Goddammit, let’s get out of here!”

He was wheezing, his childhood asthma abetted by his recent years of smoking. He stared at Jeanine with his good eye, his trick one wandering towards the ceiling. “Why are you so calm? Is he dead? Is he dead? Why are you so calm? Jeanine! Jeanine?” He looked at the body. “His fuckin’ dick’s out. What the hell?” Then he looked at Jeanine again. His gimp eye rested on one of her hands, his good eye staring in her eyes. “Did you do him? Did you fucking do him? Did you?”

All she said was, “We need to get the fuck out of here now.” She was not going to give him another chance.

“I can’t—I can’t breathe. Jeanine. I—” Robert was nearly seizing. Lights flashed outside again in the front drive. This time flashlights. Fuck. Cops. Had to be. Robert leaned against the footboard. He made a sound like “howp.” His bad eye searched upwards again. Jeanine did nothing. She turned and plummeted down the stairs, two at a time, ramming the wall at the bottom as she spun towards the kitchen. The front door pounded. She practically leaped through the open rear window, scraping her back along her spine and snapping the clasp of her bra. She rolled on the back deck, splintering her palms and trying not to cry out. She jumped up, and adrenaline drove her through the bushes, past her old rusting play set, through the neighboring yard, and out into the southern night, the ravelling tires of I-40 calling her back again.

Jack Ryan’s poetry chapbook was published by Sungrazer Press, and his poems and stories have appeared in numerous magazines, both in print and online. An MFA graduate from the University of Missouri and former Co-Director of the Howard Nemerov Writing Scholars Program at Washington University, Jack currently teaches high school English in St. Louis.

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