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One of my favorite musicians is a guy from Australia named Paul Kelly. He has a couple songs that would work well for this tale’s soundtrack: From Little Things Big Things Grow...

And . . . Before the Old Man Died.

Revolver by Robert Swartwood

He comes home around three o’clock, already drunk. He opens the door and immediately starts shouting.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”


“Why aren’t you in bed?”

“I am. I mean—I was. But you still weren’t home and so I turned on the TV and—”

“I don’t give a shit about your excuses. I want a goddamned answer.”

“But I—”

He starts the beating. Using his fists, his feet, even his elbows. Throwing her at the wall, at the couch, at the floor. A table tips over. A lamp breaks.

He only stops when you step into the room and say his name.

He turns and looks at you. “What the fuck do you want?”

You pull the revolver out from behind your back. Its metallic sheen barely shines in the dim light.

He smiles. He laughs. He says, “What—you think I’m not gonna whip your ass for stealing one of my guns?”

He takes a step forward.

“Oh, I get it. You think you’re going to shoot me, do you?”

Another step.

“Then shoot me.”

You stand there staring back at him. Thinking about all the nights he’s come home drunk. All the nights he’s been looking for a fight. And all the nights you’ve promised yourself it would never happen again.

But how could you ever stop him? You’re just a boy, eight years old, and the man in front of you now, this monster, is your father.

“You gutless piece of shit,” he says, and that’s when you squeeze the trigger.

Nothing happens.

You squeeze it again.

Still nothing.

He laughs, even louder now. “You really think I’d keep it loaded? What the fuck do you take me for?”

He comes at you, his hands now balled into fists, but you stand your ground. You stand there and keep squeezing the trigger.

Listening to your heartbeat.

Listening to the dry click . . . click . . . click.

Robert Swartwood is the USA Today bestselling author of The Serial Killer’s Wife, Man of Wax, Bullet Rain, and several other novels. Visit him online at