A Damn Good Dad
by Travis Richardson
How long has he been up, thirty-two, thirty-five hours? Don’t know and it don’t matter. He has been making batches of primo meth, and the product is goooood. He will testify to that. Sampling a little here and there, for quality control, of course. He’s always been a good cooker, but this is something special, an intense blast-your-brain-to-the-moon-and-back supreme awesomeness. He has a reason to be cooking. There’s always a reason -- dough, mullah, greenbacks – but this time it is important. It isn’t for him. It’s for somebody. Who is it again?
He hears a movement from behind him and twists quickly to see Jenny, Jenny-Penny-oh-so-skinny, waking up. Her sleepy soft blue eyes look at him. He guesses she’s smiling, but can’t tell because she wears that paper mask doctors wear, but hers has jagged hand-drawn vampire fangs and red magic marker blood dripping off of them.
See, I’m a good father, a damn good dad, he thinks. Not like Clyde McDonnell, tweaked out of his fucking gourd, put his newborn in a freezer. Or Jimmy Treat who left his toddler in a car for three days in ninety-degree heat. Or even worse that asshole Steve Hobbes who sold his daughter to pervs so he could buy more crank. Not me, no way no sir no how. I’ve got her with me so no harm will come and she is protected. I’m the best father in Okfuskee County. Other tweakers might…
“Daddy?” Jenny-Penny asks.
“When’s mommy coming back?”
He stops, holding a beaker full of steaming anhydrous ammonia. That’s the reason for this meth-rage cooking spree. Bail money for Gloria.
“Well funny-bunny, I gotta get this batch here done and maybe one more. Then we sell it to Uncle Blaine and then we get mommy out in no time flat.”
“Are you making Metha…methafetamins?”
“Oh no honey, this is… medicine for sick folks.” See, he’s protecting her from illegal activities.
She sits up. “Wha’s in it?”
”Well, a little of this, pseudoephedrine, and a little of that, sodium and then mix it with ammonia and let it boil an bubble while adding just the right amount of ethanol… without exploding and when the ammonia evaporates, we get these beautiful, sparkly crystals of meth… medicine.”
Losing his concentration he looks over at her. What did she say? That mask is creeping him out. It looks like the blood is dripping off the mask on the floor. Those teeth chomping. He looks back at his chemistry project. What is he mixing again? He looks at the small kitchen crammed into this camping trailer. His lab. See, he keeps the chemicals out of the house next door. That way everybody’s safe. What a good man. No a good dad.
He feels a tug on his pants and looks down to see a two-foot creature with hungry fangs. He shouts and jumps back, tripping over a boot, and tosses the flask of whatever he was holding. A flame shoots up from the kitchen sink and the ceiling is engulfed in orange heat. The little creature screams a high pitched squeal.
Oh shit, oh shit. Fire. I’ve got to save ‘em. He turns, grabbing the tray of drying meth crystals off the dining table and hits the front door. It won’t open. He reaches for the door handle, the tray tilts, and a few crystals fall. NOOO! The fire is intense and he feels flames licking his neck and ears. He opens the door, telling himself he’ll come back later for them and sprints into the open air.
An explosion blasts him to his knees into the hard dirt, but he holds the tray steady. Only a few crystals fell. He smiles setting the tray down and arranging the crystals in precise order. He thinks, I’m a good cook. I take good care of my product. I’m the best damn… Then he realizes.
Panicked, he scans the yard, but doesn’t see her. The camper is aflame, the roof totally blown off. No, no, no. He’s a good father, a damn good dad. Nothing bad can happen to Jenny. He runs to the door and the handle singes his hand, but he tugs and is engulfed by an ocean of flames.
BIO: Travis Richardson was born in Germany, raised in Oklahoma, and currently lives in Los Angeles. He has worked over 20 jobs in fields ranging from secret bus rider to television post production to university fundraising. He is editing his first crime novel "The Prodigal Detective". His story "The Movement" was published in the anthology Scoundrels: Tales of Greed, Murder and Financial Crimes (Down and Out Books) edited by Gary Phillips. He has a story in Shotgun Honey and will have one in All Due Respect in January. Find out more at http://tsrichardson.com