From under the table Les could just make out his father's face, cheek down on the floor, lying in an odd mashup of turkey dressing, white wine and dark red blood. The visible eyebrow wasn't perched in the usual manner, pointing to the ground as if an exclamation point to his dad's seemingly eternal anger. It was raised up, flat-lined and exasperated. Not surprised. Just annoyed that anything would think of disturbing Thanksgiving dinner. Les tried focusing on his father, tried turning his eyes into binoculars with which he'd map the contours of an aged mountain now sinking into a landslide. Tried creating the cartography in his mind, the way the valleys and ridges in the cheeks, the twin lakes of the eyes, the foothills of the mouth all led into the towering peak of the nose, a spectacular center in an otherwise boring panorama of unremarkable surroundings.
But that noise kept drawing him away. That sound he'd been unsuccessfully trying to evade in his refuge under the table. That grinding mix of aural torture, reaching out to him from across the room.
Look at your dad Les. Memorize him. Know that he did it for you. All the yelling. All the groundings. The weeks at karate and boot camps, the fierce discipline, the times you ran away and he found you. It was for you, to prepare you. For this.
But he couldn't focus it out. It was too near, too present. It entered his ear like a whisper of a wave, slowly growing tidal as it raced around the inside of his head, swelling and cresting only to swell and crest again with each new drop. He wanted to leave. He wanted to shut his eyes and ears and be gone. He wanted a new pair of pants.
He didn't know how the dogs got in the house. They were his stepmom's. They loved her and hated Les and his father. Two little power-mad Malteses that cried with righteous fury when Les put them outside, alone, dirtying their white coats in mud and shit in an act of defiant revenge. Normally they ate with the family, but not on Thanksgiving. Not if his father had any say. He didn't anymore.
But now they were inside with their master, by her side as always, like little gargoyles who growled and nipped whenever Les got too close. They'd sit in her lap and chew on bones, clearing the gristle, their little lips sucking, tiny teeth grinding away. They'd snap at him, she'd yell at him, and he'd hide in his room.
Couldn't make the sounds stop. Couldn't drive the noise out.
Couldn't focus, change pants, run away, or understand why dad's body was so far away from his face. Couldn't move.
"please…get them off…"