Mutiny, I Promise You

Posted: February 7, 2013 in Life
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When I was 8, my Dad killed my dog. I don’t have any proof of this, but I believe it in my heart. I guess that makes it true. I had been away doing a play in New Jersey (long time readers may remember some earlier posts about it), but we came home on the weekends. Things were bad between Mom and Dad – I remember them going away to have dinner or lunch and try to patch things up. From my point of view, it wasn’t working. I was rather glad of that, frankly. He issued an ultimatum – that I quit acting or he’d leave. The ultimatum wasn’t to me, mind you, but to Mom. I grant you that she had the power to decide, but it was my career after all. Regardless, this caused something of an impasse between my parents and drove even more of a wedge between my Dad and I. When I was home, we barely spoke, which was fine. Sometimes we never even saw each other, which was better. When we did see each other, and he tried to talk to me, communication was difficult. I had grown a lot during the play – I had gained a certain level of confidence and independence, I think. If he didn’t know how to relate to me before, he certainly didn’t now. He spoke to me as if I was 2 or 3, and in a high falsetto several pitches above his normal speaking voice.

Dad: Hello, Dan-dan! How are you today, little buddy?

I looked at him like he was an idiot. I couldn’t help myself. For what it’s worth, he more or less talked to Tim that way as well – the high falsetto, calling him Tim-tim, etc. Granted, Tim was about 4, and it was slightly more appropriate (but still rather stupid). It’s clear to me now looking back that he had no idea whatsoever on how to relate to children in general.

Anyway, when I was home, I’d hang out with Rocky. I didn’t see him half as much as usual since I was gone most of the week, and I missed him terribly. One weekend before I went back to the play, I got a terrible sinking in the pit of my stomach. Something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. I assumed at the time that I was just sad to be leaving home for the next few days, and missing Grandma and Rocky. I knelt down and put both my arms around Rocky’s gargantuan neck. I kissed his nose, and he licked mine, and I left. I never saw my dog again.

When I got home the next weekend, I didn’t see Rocky. Dad didn’t tell me what had happened right away – I think I was home for quite some time before he told me his tale. According to him, Rocky had supposedly gotten loose and ran out into the road. Right about the time he was hit, Dad was coming home from work. He saw the whole thing, the people were apologetic and Dad and them took Rocky to the vet. Supposedly, the vet tried to save him and couldn’t and he died in the vet’s office. He told me all this rather matter of factly – no real intonation to his voice. I was crushed and inconsolable for days.

Within seconds after hearing his story, even through my grief, I had doubts about the whole thing. I asked a lot of questions – when did this happen, where is he buried, can I go visit his grave. For perhaps the only time in my entire life, Dad wasn’t irritated that I peppered him with query after query. He answered quickly and smoothly, with no emotion I could detect – certainly no regret or empathy. I could not, it turns out, go visit Rocky’s grave – he was buried “somewhere in the woods” and Dad couldn’t remember exactly where. He promised to take me out there and said we could look, but he sounded doubtful of ever finding it again – not that he appeared to care much either way.

I was suspicious of his story at the time – still am – because I knew he hated Rocky. Rocky was my dog – not the family dog, but my dog. I believe animals choose people sometimes, and I was who he picked. He protected me – made sure I didn’t wander down stairs or near dangerous areas as a toddler, herded me back into the yard whenever I strayed, and was especially intolerant of Dad’s beatings. If Rocky saw Dad coming at me with something, he would get between us. He wouldn’t attack him – wouldn’t growl or anything either – just stand there and move between us. He even took the hits for me sometimes. When Dad couldn’t get to me for whatever reason, he wailed on Rocky – we were the only two in that house that he physically abused. I remember clearly him literally chasing Rocky around the house waving his belt in the air and screaming invectives. When Rocky hid behind a couch, Dad litterally tipped the couch over, cornered him, and wailed on him until he was pulled off. I couldn’t imagine any version of reality in which my father – who despised this dog almost as much as he despised me – would stop at the scene of the accident (which was conveniently timed and conveniently happened right on his route home, where he saw the whole thing), and rush Rocky to the vet for lifesaving measures. Do I doubt this? Hell yes, I do. Added to my calculations were his disgusting and malicious treatment of squirrels and other manner of woodland creatures, and I decided he didn’t have very great respect for animal life – most animals, at least. If he would swerve in the road to hit a squirrel or a woodchuck, would he swerve to hit a dog? I thought so. Add this to the fact that Rocky wasn’t exactly prone to escape per se. He was a smart dog, and he did like to chase rabbits and such, but he never strayed terribly far. Even when he did, he knew to go for the fields rather than the roads. My Grandfather had trained him to be careful of roads – at least, as much as you can train any dog in such a thing. I concede the possibility that he did wander too close to the road, but in my heart of hearts I know Dad’s story isn’t very likely. I give it a 5% chance of being true.

What I think happened, and I’ve had 20 years (give or take) to think about it, is that Rocky was crossing the road (or near to the road), Dad saw him, and ran him down. Or Dad got mad and in a fit of rage went a little too far and beat Rocky a little too long. Or maybe he just took him to the vet and had him put to sleep – no reason, really, other than that Rocky was an extension of me that he could more easily get away with hurting. And bonus: It would hurt me like hell, at least emotionally.

I wasn’t the only one that thought this – Grandma, who was well known for being unable to keep her opinions to herself, seemed to concur with my basic premise; Dad killed Rocky, probably deliberately, and timed it in such a way that it would happen while I was home.

Later, during the divorce, I had other animals that met grisly ends – I had an outside rabbit that was killed with what appeared to be a hammer, for example. Was it Dad? I think so. I know he skulked around our property quite a bit after he left. Besides, killing someone’s pet – particularly with a hammer – is a rather personal thing. No one else would have reason to do such a thing.

Thus, he was tried and convicted in the heart of an 8 year old boy. As an adult, and with a couple years of therapy under my belt, I am able to concede the possibility – no matter how slight – that Dad’s story is in any way true. At that point in my life, if you had told me that my father was Satan incarnate, I would have likely believed you. Now I see that he was just a very disturbed man, and perhaps had reasoning behind what he did – however twisted it may have been. Surely he wasn’t just an evil bastard just for the sake of being an evil bastard. Right?

The thing with Rocky helped heap hot coals on my already burning resentment and anger. I started slamming doors a lot. And believe it or not, I thought about suicide – I remember looking just a little too long at some of the sharp knives in the utensil drawer, and picking one of them up thoughtfully. I had a pretty good idea of what to do, and I have no idea if I actually would have gone through with it, but Grandma came in and asked what I was doing. Just like that, the bubble that encapsulated that moment popped. The deep, aching anger was back – like a churning in my chest. I decided in that moment that I didn’t want to kill myself – I wanted to kill that son of a bitch that killed my dog. I really, honest to God hated that man. It was that hate – the anger, the resentment, the fury of the injustice of it all – that brought out my belligerence and set Dad and I on a collision course.

  1. Reed says:

    I literally was sick after reading this.

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