Text Box: Chris Phipps

In The Dark

 

         One moonlit night, sixteen-year-old Ben Watson shot the headlights out of his father’s old hay-hauling truck.

         “Why the hell would anyone in his right mind shoot a truck?” his father sputtered. “Lord God, Bennie, you don’t never shoot ’til you know for sure what you’re aimin’ at. Couldn’t you see it was the hay truck? It wasn’t even movin’, for christsake!”

         “It looked like eyes. Big eyes . . .” Ben let out a deep breath and looked down at the dangling lace of his sneaker. How could he explain the dread that  clutched his heart, surged through his veins, and numbed his mind to all rational thought? He’d studied the eyes a long time —from the safety of his bedroom window—trying to imagine what else they might be. But his mind registered only eyes: big, yellow unworldly eyes.

         “Prob’ly the moon, reflectin’ off the headlights. Why didn’t you go see what it was before you shot?” But, even as he uttered those words, Frank Watson’s face betrayed his knowledge that Ben would never willingly venture outside the house after dark.

         Some months later, one of the dairy cows escaped from the shed and ambled too close to Ben’s bedroom window. When Ben shot Old Bossie, an exasperated Frank Watson took away the twenty-two rifle he’d given his son for his fifteenth birthday.

         Despite the teasing and ridicule Ben endured from his siblings—or perhaps because of it—he never outgrew his fear of the dark. He joined the Navy just before his eighteenth birthday, reasoning that he wouldn’t have to stand night-guard on a ship. After his four-year stint, he thought about going home to Idaho, but his parents now lived in a one-bedroom house in town. Lois, his oldest sister, had

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