Bareknuckles Pulp No. 14: Temporary Man of the House

What kind of people DO watch this shit, anyway?

Temporary Man of the House by Keith Rawson

You look up from what you're doing after thirty minutes and realize you've had Cinemax softcore on in the background the entire time.
Mostly you’ve been pacing.
Mostly wandering from room-to-room.
It’s a big house, lots of space to move around in.
The lights are out, you like the soft black of the shadows and stripes of light being thrown through the blinds by the street lamps.
You like it that it’s the type of neighborhood where the city actually makes an effort to keep the street lamps working. You grew up in the type neighborhood where once the sun went down, the only lights were from passing cars; the flash of gunfire or fireworks.
Your old man told you it was fireworks.
You bought into it until you were thirteen or fourteen.
You bought into it for as long as you bought into the Easter bunny, Santa Claus, the tooth fairy. It was ridiculous, but it was better that way. It was better than blaming your old man for keeping you somewhere so shitty.
You couldn’t blame him, though. After your mom died, something dried up in him. You wouldn’t describe the thing that shriveled up his soul, but it was pretty close.
If the old man had lost his soul, chances are he would have sold you to the pervy old man who lived a few houses down from you before the FBI busted him for kiddy porn.
This was a good neighborhood.
The kind of place where you kept a family.
It spoke of health.
Gym cut bodies.
Perfect teeth.
Maxed out plastic.
Student loan debt.
Scream matches in the middle of the night that the neighbors tried to ignore because it wasn’t any of their Goddamn business…
You like these kind of neighborhoods because people in deep debt tend to have nice things (They had to go into debt somehow.) and most of the time the home security system signs are nothing but pure bullshit.
....This home is protected by nothing but a sign lifted from the foreclosed house next door; by the sign bought from Home Depot.
In this kind of neighborhood where all you really had to worry about were dogs, and thanks to all the reality show stars carrying around Chihuahuas in their purses, most houses only sported easily pacified yappers.
Occasionally one of them would get brave.
They would ignore the pile of milk bones you laid at their feet and go after the cuffs of your pants; your Achilles tendon.
And when that happened, you’d be forced into playing a little yapper soccer. You hate hurting dogs, particularly the small ones.
But you do what you have to do.
That’s your justification in bringing the gun along, because sometimes you worm your way into some machoman’s house, and the machoman has a Rottweiler or a pit-bull, and neither one of those fuckers is going to just clamp on to the cuff of your pants.
They’re going to come at you like how a cop aims their guns:
Center mass.
But at least a bullet will put you out. With a dog, they go for your throat; they bite at your face; your arms and hands. You have a greater chance of surviving a dog attack then a bullet, but the pain…
Nothing hurts more than getting shaken around by one-hundred-and-fifty pounds of rabid pooch.
And you know for a fact people are lazy as hell about their pet’s vaccinations. The first big dog you ever encountered was a foaming at the mouth, shaking from tail-to-nose, and bleeding from the gums pitbull.
It wanted to tear your face off, and you spent fifteen minutes rolling around on the linoleum with it until you finally managed to get an arm around its neck and squeeeeeeeeeezed.
The emergency room doc nearly threw up when he was dressing your mutilated right arm, and you nearly did the same when they started jabbing you with rabies vaccine.
You didn’t learn your lesson, though.
Next house you walked into was the same situation, but this time out, it was a German Sheppard. That one didn’t do as much damage. Sure, it hit you with its full weight, but all that did was knock you into the kitchen counter and a rack of stainless steel kitchen knives.
You grabbed the biggest one and ginzued the big pup into ground beef.
Ever since, you’ve carried the .357
And ever since you haven’t run into a single dog that couldn’t be pacified with a handful of biscuits.
Until tonight.
Tonight you cruised this neighborhood scanning the bulk trash piles, eying the BIG boxes.
52 inch plasma screens.
Video game systems.
iStore speaker systems.
The remnants of middle class America post-Christmas hauls
AKA B&E bait.
You cruised past the biggest pile three times, taking note of the boxes, activity at the residence, activity at the surrounding houses.
No porch lights, no cars in the driveways, just the hum of streetlamps.
Likelihood that the owners of all three houses were off spending the remainder of 2011 at grandma and grandpas: 85% with a 10% variance that all three of them just forgot to put on the porchlights before they hit the sack.
It happens.
You turned off you headlights, parked in the driveway with the mammoth stack of boxes, slipped out of the car, clicking the door shut, gave the neighborhood another quick scan to make sure that there weren’t any cop cars ghosting in the shadows, or noisy insomniacs chain smoking and looking for something to easy their 2 AM boredom, and vaulted the chest high cinderblock wall next to the garage in one quick motion.
You pulled the canon as soon as your feet hit the ground, expecting motion lights to flip on.
Nothing but the quiet hum of a swimming pool motor at the far end of the yard.
There was a side door leading into the garage, you jiggled the handle, found it locked.
Simple thumb bolt, you didn’t even bother with your lock picks and slipped your flip knife into the jam.
The garage was musty, crowd with boxes overflowing with baby clothes, old magazines, moldering paperbacks, broken toys, rusted bicycles.
You’re always amazed at all the shit people hold onto; all the things they can never let go.
Of course, you’ve spent the last five years of your life in one faceless studio apartment after the next; all of your possessions can easily fit into a gym bag.
The door leading into the house was a bit trickier, deadbolt and a thumb latch.
The locks are basic, nothing to get your panties in a bunch about, the door whispers open.
It leads into a kitchen where it seems like every square inch of granite countertop is lined with every overpriced, late night infomercial piece of shit ever made.
They’re good, quick scores; fifteen, twenty dollars apiece from one of the dozens of pawnshops you use around the city.
You step into the living room.
52 inch Panasonic LCD on the wall
TWO video game systems, a couple dozen games
Overstuffed furniture which seemed to take up 2/3rds of the area.
A pair of reddish-gold eyes moving forward with a low growl.
Your first chance to play cowboy.
You pull the piece slow and easy from your waist band, aim, squeeze.
And the shot is fucking
You’ve only fired the gun once before; out in the middle of the desert, hot wind and yellow grit peppering your face as you squeezed and made cans of Keystone light evaporate, it didn’t seem that loud, but in this strange living room, it makes your ears to ring; it makes you break your #1 rule:
But you flip the fuck out.
You head for a sliding glass door that leads out into the backyard instead of back out the way you came; out to the car you boosted specifically for this job.
But you’re convinced that everyone in the neighborhood has heard the shot and has already dialed 911; the cops are surrounding the car in force waiting for you to make your move, and your move is to start vaulting privacy walls from one yard to this next like one of those fruity French street gymnasts.
You trip motion lights
You cause dogs to start barking
You now, for sure, are causing neighbors to scramble out of bed and pick up their phones.
So you jiggle door handles trying to find some place to chill out.
And you find yourself here.
The patio door was unlocked; you make a quick scan of the house, nobody’s home.
You make your way to the master bedroom.
You get comfy.
You strip down to your underwear.
You find the remote to the little 20 inch flat screen on one of the bedside tables and you flip it onto:
Fake tits
Washboard abs
Machine made tans.
You half watch a bottled blonde pretending to finger a redhead.
And then you start to pace, waiting for the inevitable knock at the front door.
You’re going to play it like you live here.
You’re going to play it like they woke you out of a dead sleep.
You’re going to play it all confused if they start asking you about:
Phone number
You finally take notice of what’s happening on the screen:
Steroid case faking doggy style with a brunette while he cups her HUGE tits.
-Who the fuck watches this shit? You ask yourself when you notice something that looks like a walkie-talkie on the other night stand.
A bloopy, rounded walkie-talkie and the green indicator lights are going nuts.
Baby monitor.
You walk over to it, and thumb the volume control, and a shrill cry nearly takes your head off.
A baby?
You searched the rooms.
You searched them all.
True, you were more than a little distracted and you didn’t turn on any lights as you opened each door and you could have sworn that nobody, absolutely nobody was here.
You leave the monitor and started reopening doors, making sure to slip the lights on as you go.
It doesn’t take you long to find the baby.
You flip on the lights, the .357 held out military style, two handed grip, ready for some spazed out housewife to come charging out of a closet with a Cinderella nightlight cocked like a baseball bat. But there’s no sleep deprived mama bird; just a howling squall filled with hunger and the stink of shit.
You stand in front of the crib, stare down at the red faced creature, its eyes squirting tears.
The kid’s diaper is enormous and nearly the same size as the kid it’s wrapped around.
You tuck your piece into the elastic waistband of your tighty-whities and scoop the kid out of the crib, it immediately starts to quiet.
The human touch, so comforting, even the touch of a complete stranger.
You lay the baby down on the changing table across from the crib and set down your piece. You reach into a little pouch that’s crammed with diapers and tubes of cream for rashes.
You pull the old diaper away and you can’t help but dry heave.
Shit is caked EVERYWHERE.
You snap up a dozen alcohol wipes.
The kid coos as you wipe off the layers of crud.
How long has it been since he last had his diaper changed?
How long since he’s last eaten?
You feel tears pricking at the corners of your eyes; you want to wipe them away, but you don’t want to get shit and piss in them.
You get the kid as clean as possible, strap him into a new diaper, and wrap him in a baby blanket that was stashed along with the lotions and other junk.
You pull him close to your chest, his heart beat seeming to synch up with yours.
And finally, the doorbell rings.
The sound of the electronic chimes makes you jump and makes the baby squall like someone’s set it on fire.
You pull the .357 from you waistband and tuck it under the baby and its blanket.
You take a couple of minutes to make your way downstairs, readying yourself to play the part of half-asleep suburban dad.
You open the front door, the kid still letting it rip.
The cop standing in front of you is young, maybe 21 or 22 at most.
The kid should be out the bars trying to score some pussy instead of playing cops. But, fuck, everybody’s got to pay their bills somehow.
-Sir, I’m sorry to bother you at this hour, but…
Blah blah blah
You nod and shake your head, say yes and no when appropriate, punctuating each answer with Sir.
Your finger tightens around the trigger of the .357.
You imagine the shot flaring out from underneath the baby; the young cop crumbling, bent in half.
At this range, not even Kevlar will shot a bullet, particularly the hollow points you have loaded in it.
Every crook daydreams about taking out a cop, laughing in his face as they’re dying.
-Sorry to have bothered you and your family, sir. Please don’t hesitate to call if you notice anything peculiar.
You let out a huge breath that you didn’t realize you were holding in once the door’s closed.
You lean against it and go week kneed and you let the gun thump to the carpet.
The baby’s still crying, starting to thrash a bit.
You straighten up, choke back a little bile that’s managed to crawl its way up your throat, and head for the kitchen.
You’ve got to calm the kid down, and you figure a little milk might do the trick.
-That’s what babies like, right? Milk?
It’s your lucky night, because the only thing in the fridge is milk and it’s two days away from expiring.
You give it a sniff all the same before filling one of the bottles sitting in the drainer next to the sink.
You put the kid back in his crib, sucking contently.
You think that maybe tomorrow you’ll call child protective services and let them know that the little guy is going it solo and someone needs to come pick him up.
You sit back down in front of the television and screens now filled with three cosmetically altered women crammed into a steaming shower, scrubbing each other pink, and you answer the question you asked yourself ten minutes ago.
-I am. I’m the kind of guy who watches this shit…

Keith Rawson is a little-known pulp writer whose writing has been widely published both online and in print. He is the author of the short story collections The Chaos We Know and Laughing at Dead Men (SnubNose Press)and Co-Editor of the anthology Crime Factory: The First Shift. He's also a regular contributor to LitReactor and Spinetingler Magazine. He lives in Southern Arizona with his wife and daughter.