Tar and Feathers

Tar and Feathers

Gabriel Holt

Sometimes the tar and feathers man stands outside our window. He says nothing, does nothing, just breathes and stares with those hollow eyes bulging from inside his skull. When this happens I want to draw the curtains but I am not supposed to look at him. Not supposed to go near. Mother says to wait, to stay down, until he goes away. He takes a long time to go away. I sit for hours curled up under the couch, not moving like mother says, waiting for him to leave. I know he can see me. I know he’s waiting too.

Sometimes they don’t believe me when I tell them about the tar and feathers man. They tell me that I am imagining him. But mother sees him too. Mother told me not to go close. Mother knows that he is dangerous and so do I. I don’t know how, but I know he is. I don’t want to know how. I tried asking mother once, but she closed her mouth like a mousetrap and would not open it until I promised I would never ask again. Mother is strict about that.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I went close to the window, looked into the white wrinkled skin smeared black. I wonder what would happen if I put my palm to the glass to see what he would do. His eyes would keep watching. Waiting for me to go outside. They are hungry, his cheeks sunken, curved in like the sides of ships. Those gray pinpricks would eat me whole before I could take one step out, and I do not know what he would do then. I do not know what mother would do then. So I stay away.

Sometimes I think that things would have been different if father had never left. Father went out there once. To tell the tar and feathers man enough. Father did not come back inside. When the tar and feathers man left, mother drew the curtains and told me to go upstairs. Father stayed outside. I do not know where he went. Feathers blew past the window like snowflakes that evening. Father has been gone for years but the tar and feathers man comes back every week. It might be a Sunday or it might be a Wednesday. It might be morning or midnight. But he comes every week. He has come every week for as long as I can remember. I can remember before father left.

Sometimes I want to let him get me so I can stop hiding. But then mother says that if I went too she would go after me. I do not want mother to go after me, not to the tar and feathers man. So I stay away, because I do not know what mother would do then. We wait, Tuesday or Saturday, dawn or noon, for the tar and feathers man to come and go. And we stay inside.

***

Gabriel Holt is a young Canadian writer who likes to make up stories and eat cereal straight out of the box. He writes novels, poems, scripts, articles, essays, flash fiction, even flashier fiction, and love letters. In his spare time he likes to watch terrible movies and make people uncomfortable with his knowledge of stupid things.

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