A week after Manny overdosed behind the Sonic drive-thru, his father enters his apartment to begin the wrenching process of sorting through his belongings. After he packs all his clothes and boxes up his toiletries, Manny’s father slumps before his son’s laptop. He hopes to print out copies of whatever personal papers his son saved on the machine. He clicks on an icon after spotting its incomprehensible, rambling label comprised of random letters, numbers and punctuation. The laptop’s video player warms up a few moments before a moving image streams across the screen. A nude Manny lies on his back as a boy unknown to the father fucks him, pounds him so urgently the father instinctively fears for his son’s safety, the safety of his dead son. The father knows Manny preferred men but only in an abstract way, like knowing the sun has reached full eclipse without staring into it. He gapes dumbly at the screen. His son seems so alive. As their fuck intensifies, Manny begins moaning. Soon, the words become clear. “Oh, fuck me, Daddy. Fuck me. Fuck me harder, Daddy.” Manny’s father listens to his son hopscotch among these gutter phrases, his cries an archaic tribal chant. After a minute or two more, the father realizes Manny is about to climax. It disturbs him he guessed this correctly. Soon, his son will wilt back onto the bed exhausted, his stillness too much like death. The father grazes the screen with his fingers, watches his son’s lean, smooth torso shake and buck under his touch. “Oh, Daddy. I fucking need it. Give it to me, Daddy.” After the amateur video concludes and the ending frame freezes on the screen, Manny’s father closes the laptop, scurries outside and slips the machine underneath the false bottom in the trunk of his car. It fits snugly above the spare tire. At least once a week, after his near-catatonic wife chokes down her nightly handful of benzodiazepines, he sneaks into the basement and powers on the laptop. He has yet to open any of Manny’s remaining files. He watches his only son writhe and shudder, listens to him scream for his father. Or, at least, a man he calls Daddy. Close enough. “Oh, fuck me, Daddy. Fuck me. Fuck me harder, Daddy. Never fucking leave me! ”
Thomas Kearnes holds an MA in film writing from UT-Austin. His fiction has appeared in Hobart, Berkeley Fiction Review, PANK, Adroit Journal, Sundog Lit, Gulf Stream Magazine, and dozens more. Originally from small-town East Texas, he now lives in Houston. His debut collection, Steers and Queers, is slated to publish next year at Lethe Press.