It was something Dennis hadn’t experienced in the Racket manor for quite some time. He softly shut the door to his parents’ room and proceeded down the hallway. When he reached the stairwell, he strained his ears for any sound of activity. The only sound he noticed was a singular creaky step.
Dennis pondered the strange occurrence of events that had created the perfect circumstances for a big, empty, peaceful house as he walked into the kitchen.
Marigold had dozed on the couch after playing six rounds of Race’em’Cars. She had been like a kid in a candy store when he offered to teach her. The woman was a natural, but halfway through her final round, she lost interest and chucked the handheld controller at the television. Marigold’s dementia made her prone to bits. Dennis had to carry her upstairs to her bed because the woman was mentally exhausted from concentrating, and physically weak.
Shark was working upstate, and wouldn’t be back until the spring. Dennis had been disappointed when his son decided to join the family business, but he didn’t try to talk him out of it. Shark hadn’t seemed interested in listening to his father anyhow. Dennis had hoped his son would make better decisions, but he knew the powerful hook the organization had on anyone who joined. He knew how it was damn near impossible to leave, and once Shark was in, short of a miracle, he was in.
His brother had stepped out for pizza two hours ago, and knowing Bill, got side-tracked with something frivolous, or stopped for a six-pack, and didn’t know when to stop. He would probably be dragging the man’s sorry ass home from whatever local joint he passed out in.
Max had randomly decided to take Rachel and the granddaughters on a vacation to Roaring Heights. Dennis, at first, wasn’t thrilled with the idea, mostly because he didn’t trust his father, but he figured how much trouble could the man get into with a toddler and a teenage girl? And Dennis really couldn’t say anything for his brother’s wife. It wasn’t his place. Rachel could handle herself, he thought as he reached for a soda on the top shelf of the fridge. She was a powerhouse.
The can made a satisfying snapping sound as the metal broke followed by happy fizzing. Dennis lifted the drink to his lips. A powerhouse I find immensely attractive. He knew he was in dangerous territory if that admission ever left his brain. Dennis wiped his upper lip and sighed as he settled into a dining room chair. He almost told her he loved her two years ago on Spooky Day party at Gala Ball’s house. The party had quickly erupted into chaos and he remembered dragging his wife wrapped in a soaking wet towel to the car and home. It was for the best, he decided. He was married. She was married. Silver was puking in the front seat of his VFN Kompensator. What else was new?
Silver had spent the summer in rehab. She was supposedly receiving a pass to come home for the holidays. Dennis wasn’t sure he was ready. The woman had angrily slapped, bit, kicked, scratched, and pulled his hair when he told her she was being admitted. She did everything in her power to stop him, but at the last minute, relented with that big phony smile of hers because she didn’t want to “look bad” in front of the attendees.
Dennis dropped his head on the table. He had utterly failed as a husband. He had hoped with time, he could soften his wife and gain her love again, but now he was certain she never loved him to begin with, and he had loved her too much to stop her sooner. He had left home at seventeen to get away from his horrible family, only to come back at the age of twenty-five, married, broke, and about to become a father.
The only reason he’d even considered crawling back to his dad was because Silver begged him to stop taking dead-end jobs. He graduated college with a business degree but with no experience, no references, and a name like Racket, no one would hire him. Plus he had huge debt since his father disowned him because he wouldn’t come work for the family.
Dennis had worked at a diner, bowling alley, an arcade, taken tickets at an amusement park, tended bar, sold computers at a box electronics store… hell… he’d even done a stint as a clown at kids birthday parties. Anything to make Silver happy. Had he known at the time she was just running up massive amounts of credit card debt, dropping on shoes, fancy clothes, makeup, jewelry, and basically anything else to make her look good, he would’ve put a stop to it. But he wanted to please his new wife, and having no experience with a happy marriage given his parent’s weird one, he just put up with her moods.
When Silver told him she was pregnant, she screamed at him and said he “did it to her” as if it didn’t take two to make a baby. This was his first experience with her wild mood swings. Once she had settled into the notion she was going to be a mother, Silver spent a fortune… they didn’t have… on baby clothes, toys, furniture for their unborn son and diet pills, diet drinks, diet books, and diet plans so she could stay super fit while pregnant. Silver had the misguided notion that she wouldn’t gain any weight, and of course, this ended disastrously and contributed to further mood swings. Dennis had been so afraid of losing her and terrified she would abort the baby like she kept threatening that he promised her he would do anything
Like a drowned cat in the rain, he showed up at his parent’s home on a windy and wet Simuary night. Max had been only too happy to let his son back into the family home if he agreed to oversee the arms division. Dennis didn’t want to, but he knew the only way he would be able to provide for his wife and son was to join forces with his father. Max promised him he could have anything. No want would go unfulfilled. Unlike his brothers before him, Dennis was finally signing his life away on the dotted line, making a deal with the devil, all to keep his marriage together and his son alive.
Initially Silver had been thrilled with living in the mansion. They got their own wing. Dennis got a 400% raise. They both got fancy cars. Silver pranced around their bedroom modeling her new maternity wardrobe and claiming she was going to be such a hip mom. But Dennis started putting in long hours at “the office” to secure deals, overhaul department inventory, and balance the books. Silver’s obsession to stay thing induced an early labor, and she nearly lost the baby.
Post the birth of Shark, Silver suffered from depression. There were days when Dennis couldn’t rouse her out of bed. He did a little research and discovered this was a somewhat common occurrence in new, ill-prepared mothers. He tried everything to make her happy, but everything he did seemed to only make it worse.
Soon she was pregnant again, with Lolly. This time she was even moodier and prone to violent outbursts. Dennis recalled the time Silver had threatened to throw their infant son out a second story window because he wouldn’t stop crying and she couldn’t get the tape to stick properly on his diaper. That was the first time he considered having her committed.
After their second child was born, Max had Dennis working twenty hour days and taking several week long trips. Silver started hanging out with the Clay sisters and partying at all hours of the day and night. Dennis knew about the drinking, and possibly drugs, but Max had him working so many hours, he didn’t… no… he couldn’t keep tabs on her. Years passed and it seemed like husband and wife hardly knew each other. When Silver got pregnant a third time, he couldn’t even be sure the child was his own.
Dennis had decided then and there that he would be a good husband and a good father. He started delegating at work more so he could be at home more often. At first, Silver didn’t seem to want to attention. In fact, she protested by going out to God knows where when he would come home for dinner with the family and bring her flowers. Dennis would sigh heavily and sit down to help Shark with his long division, and play Go Fish with Lolly. After supper, he’d take the kids out for parfaits. By the time, he got the kids through the bathroom, tucked in bed, and finished reading them stories, Silver would usually be home, but she would turn away from him on the bed and fall asleep within minutes.
Dennis tossed his can into the garbage as he passed by and walked through the house. Silver didn’t want him. She wanted the money. She never wanted to be a wife and mother. She wanted the prestige. He remembered the day she stood by the pool sipping margaritas with her friends. When he angrily took the alcohol away from her, she laughed and said, “Well you didn’t believe I was keeping it, did you?” He had stood there in shock as if someone had knifed him in the back. While he was still writhing in pain, she wiggled the weapon out and stabbed again.
“Oh and I got my tubies tied. It won’t happen again.”
So nonchalantly. As if killing their child was like taking out the trash. He remembered feeling angry. He wanted to kill her, but he couldn’t. They had two other children. More than anything, he remembered the betrayal.
Dennis stood at the back door and absently touched his reflection on the glass. How did I get stuck in such a one-sided relationship? I guess Racket men don’t get healthy marriages.
He recalled the stares, the whispers, the gossip. Max told him countless times to “take care of the little bitch.” Marigold hugged him at least once a week and told him she wanted him to be happy. He always shoved her away. Bill tried to hook him up with a few of his female friends. Dennis wasn’t interested. As much as he was infuriated and distressed, he didn’t hate Silver. He loved her. He loved her enough to do anything for her… like take a job in the family business. Like kill for her once.
Dennis frowned, pushing the glass door aside with incredible force. He didn’t even bother closing it as he stalked out to the garage. That same week Max had been arrested. Russ, the nephew, had gone from a low number six spot to number one in hours in Max’s family business. Russ wanted Dennis out too, but he did offer him a spot in accounting. Dennis should’ve walked away then. He should’ve walked away, taken his kids, and his wife and moved far, far, far away. He could’ve bought a house someplace remote and started over, got a dog, picked up a woodworking hobby, made love to his wife every night, taught his kids how to drive…
But no, like an idiot lapdog I stayed! Dennis collapsed on the leather couch. I stayed because Silver threatened to have me arrested too. And he could’ve been. He may have been estranged from his wife in their own home, but he still had the kids to worry about, and he couldn’t do that to them – leave them with… their mother. He hated the way his inner thoughts sounded.
Silver cleaned up her act, started acting civil to everyone, actually spent time with her children, and even attended night school. But Dennis knew. He knew it was all an act. She was still a cruel woman to him behind closed doors. In hushed tones, she’d tell him exactly what she thought of him. She told him the truth about all the men she’d been with, and how anyone was better than him. She threatened to expose everything if he ever came forward or tried to divorce her. He was trapped. There was no way out.
When he discovered Silver face-down in the swimming pool, he was terrified. The horrible truth of the matter was he was terrified about what it would do to the kids if she drowned, not what it would do to him. It was too much. She had gone too far with her wild drunken antics and everyone knew it. He had her committed, though she insisted she committed herself.
Initially, he was worried she would expose him, tell someone everything he’d ever done. Silver knew it all. He had no secrets. He half-expected someone would show up at the “office” and haul his sorry ass off to prison, but after several weeks, he relaxed, knowing no one would. Who would believe Silver anyhow locked up in rehabilitation?
Dennis lifted his controller and picked up his headset, logging into Simadden National Fantasy Football League using his unique credentials – 333Thre@tMan. He sifted through the most recent log-ins looking for someone to play a game with when he received a message from someone he was expecting.
“Right on time,” he murmured to himself as he clicked ‘yes’ to an audio conversation with CLOAKNDAGGER.
“Running, passing, or kicking?”
Dennis adjusted the headset, took a deep breath, and replied. “What the hell? I’ll kick off.”
“Once you’re in, you’re playing. There’s no sidelining.”
Dennis cleared his throat. “I know.”
There was a moment of silence. “You got the ball.”
“How does this work? Will you catch the ball or will you be running it up field?” Dennis asked, lining up his avatar for the opening of their game.
“Will you quit dawdlin’ and make you play? That is if you’re absolutely certain. You can still back out now and I can run this play just as well…”
Dennis held his breath.
“…or you have the chance to take out the dirtiest team in the league and go down in history.”
“No pressure,” Dennis scoffed.
“No pressure,” was the response. “You in?”
It was time to take back control of his life. It was time to beat her to the punch instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was time to do something he should’ve done long ago.