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Broken

50% of marriages in America end in divorce. In the Gutter, we call that number optimistic.

Til death do you part? Only if youre one of the lucky ones...

Broken by Donald Glass



Hiding in his closet, Johnny heard the knock at the door and knew who it was. The police were at the house again. They would question his father, maybe take him in. His mother had called the police three times on his father this month, causing trouble, like she always did. 

He wiped the tears from his eyes, lay on his side, and lowered his head to the floor. His room sat directly over the downstairs entryway. If he positioned himself just right, he could hear everything clearly. He’d discovered this acoustic anomaly when he was a small child, playing hide and go seek. Now he needed to hear everything. 

His parents had split up over a year ago. Thirteen months to be exact; Johnny had kept track. His mother had been fooling around with someone. Johnny knew but had stayed silent. If his father found out he would leave. Johnny didn’t want that; he wanted his parents to be together, to be a family. 

His mother didn’t work. She stayed at home. She kept the house clean and cooked all the meals. But from what Johnny saw she mostly sat on the couch all day watching TV. 

His father worked hard, ten-hour shifts, and always pulled overtime when he could. His father wasn’t perfect. But he always doted on Johnny and provided for them both.

Johnny’s fears came to light. Just as school was preparing to let out for the summer, his father had found out about his mother’s affair. The arguments and following days were tense for him as he waited for his father to leave. At age thirteen, a tough age for a boy, Johnny swallowed the pain and fear of the situation and prepared himself. Not wanting to, but ready to step up and become the man of the house, his father had surprised him. He didn’t leave. 

On his final day of school he came home to discover his mother’s things packed and stacked on the front lawn. She stood crying, and shouting at his father, who stood defiantly on the front porch. None of Johnny’s things were among the boxes. His father had told him to say goodbye to his mother. He’d see her on the coming weekend, if he chose to. He tried to feel bad for her but the emotion refused to surface. After all it was her own fault. 

As the police entered the house he glanced up, out through the closet door to the window. Looking up into the starless night he secretly prayed for his father to be nice this time and not cause a scene. 

“Mr. Robinson, I’m Officer Daniels and this is Officer Williams.” 

“I know who you are; you boys were here last week.” 

“Yes sir,” he replied, his voice solemn. 

“What’d my wife call you for now? Did she say I threw a rock through her window again or was it harassing phone calls this time? Every time she says jump you fellas listen. Don’t you have anything better to do, like solve real crimes? 

“It’s a little more serious this time I afraid. May we sit down?” 

“Sure, have a seat,” he said. 

“Mr. Robinson, have you been drinking tonight?” 

“Not that it’s any of your business but yeah I’ve had a few beers. What’s it to you?” 

“Have you been to your wife’s—?” 

“Ex-wife,” he interrupted. 

“Yes sir ... ex-wife, have you been to her house tonight?” 

‘No, why would I go see that bitch?” 

“Mr. Robinson there’s been an incident.” 

“Incident?” 

“Your wife … she’s been murdered. Someone stabbed her fifteen maybe twenty times.” 

Johnny inhaled sharply, a violent gasp. Things got quiet for a moment. He closed his eyes tightly and held his breath blocking everything out except the voices from downstairs. “Oh yeah,” was his father’s only response. 

“You don’t seem that upset.” 

“Why should I be? She’s a lying bitch, probably deserves it. She tore our family apart, and broke my boy’s heart. Now she’s trying to take him away from me. Custody battle.” Contempt seethed in his voice. 

“Yes, sir, we know. We’d like you to come down to the station and answer some questions … while we sort things out.” 

“You think I did it?” 

“Well, you two have had issues of late and we are exploring all options. If you could just answer a few questions and make a statement, it’ll make our job a lot easier.” 

“Sure, anything to make your job easier,” he said, voice bleeding sarcasm. 

“Maybe you could ride down with us. You shouldn’t be driving if you’ve been drinking. Is there someone you can call to look in on your boy?” 

“He’s fourteen, he can look after himself. Besides he’s asleep. He’s got a big geometry test tomorrow, gonna get himself a scholarship, go to college,” he said proudly,” let me go check on him and then I’ll go with you and answer all your questions.” 

“Of course.” 

The footsteps on the stairway where like thunder to Johnny’s ears. Each approaching step filled him with dread. His mother was dead. What would happen if his father never came back home? His broken family would be shattered. He heard his name being called gently. His bedroom light flicked on and his name sounded again, this time with a small tremor of fear in his father’s voice. 

The closet door slowly swung open and his father stared down at him, disbelief in his eyes. Johnny lay in his closet, legs pulled to his chest in a fetal position. His shirt and pants covered in blood that looked black in the dim closet. His face awash in fear, he had a hollow vacant look in his eyes. “She ruined everything” was all he could say. 

Pity and pride welled up in his father as he reached out and lovingly caressed Johnny’s head, wiping a spot of blood off of his son’s face. 

“I gotta go downtown for a little bit,” he said gently. “I’ll be home soon as I can. Get your shower, son, and then get to bed. You gotta big test tomorrow.” 

“Will you be coming back?” 


“Of course,” he lied, wiping the spot of blood on the pocket of the boy’s jeans.

Donald Glass lives in Altoona, PA. He writes mostly about the underside of life that dwells in every city … including yours. He’s had work published in all the usual places online, including Shotgun Honey, Yellow Mama, Near to the Knuckle, and Dead Guns Press. He has a story, No Place Like Home, in the Dead Guns Press anthology Hardboiled: Crime Scene.