The Baby

When Earl got back from the war, he was a changed man. His old friends didn’t even recognize the recluse that he became, not to mention his insatiable appetite for booze. Most nights the man left his pregnant wife alone while he occupied a stool at The Alibi bar. Often, he’d sit alone, drinking like a fish, and babbling to himself about nonsense.

“Earl, buddy. How’s it going?” Calvin plopped down on the empty stool next to Earl and ordered a drink. Earl just looked at the man, confused.

“How has your day been, Calvin?”

“Oh, a real shit show. Had a leaky septic tank at the Borough’s home so now that the day’s through I figure it’s time to throw back a few.”

Calvin gave Earl a look. “Mind if I join you?”

“By all means.”

The two men drank in silence for a while before Calvin decided to cut the tension.

“So how does it feel to be back home?”

“Weird. A year in a combat zone distorts your worldview.”

“Yeah, I bet you gave them sand niggers a run for their money.”

The bartender refilled their drinks.

“So, I hear Glenda’s pregnant?” Calvin asked before taking a sip of his beer.

“She is.” He looked hurt.

“What’s wrong, that’s some good fucking news, man. You’re going to have a baby.”

Earl shook his head, took a heavy breath, and sighed.

“It’s not my baby.”

“You mean, old girl cheated on you?”

“I’m afraid so.”

Calvin let that stew in his brain for a moment. Hell, had he caught his own old lady cheating he’d slit her throat. He couldn’t imagine the pain Earl must be going through. To be away all those months, in a fucking war zone. She couldn’t just keep her legs closed?

“Do you know who the fucker is?”

“Sure do.”

“Well then,” Calvin slapped Earl’s arm playfully. “let’s go over to his house right now and give him a good ol’ country ass beating.”

“I’m afraid it’s not that simple.”

“Why not, you know who it is? Let’s go fuck him up.”

Earl hesitated, took a sip, and dropped his head, muttering something. Calvin asked him to repeat what he just said.

“The father is the devil.”

This was an awkward moment. Calvin suspected that Earl had lost his mind overseas, but to think that his wife was having the devil’s child. Suddenly Calvin felt extremely uncomfortable.

“Listen, man, I’m going to get going. It was good seeing you.”

As Calvin paid out his tab, he hesitated for a moment, as if to give Earl some advice, but he stopped himself and walked out of the bar.

“You need to chill with that shit.” The bartender, Lee, demanded of the broken veteran.

“What do you mean?” Earl asked, genuinely unaware that anything he did was wrong.

“You’re scaring the customers away with your psychobabble. Why don’t you just head home?

He did leave, driving his pickup across town to his house. As he pulled into the driveway, he thought about his unfaithful wife and how she gave herself to the prince of darkness while he was fighting a bullshit war. He turned off the truck and went inside.

Glenda was sitting on the couch when he walked in, but quickly stood to greet her husband. She knew that he had been through a lot, so she made excuse after excuse for his bizarre behavior.

“Hey honey.”

“How long?” Earl asked, stopping Glenda in her tracks.

“How long for what?”

“How long have you been the devil’s whore?”

Glenda shook her head, confused. “I got pregnant when you were on leave. I’ve always been faithful to you.” She approached him, rubbing her pregnant belly. “This baby is yours.”

Earl looked at her with hurt and hatred. Before he knew it, he was pounding his fists into her face. He broke her nose, knocked out her front teeth, and shattered her cheekbone. Glenda fell to the ground when Earl began to kick her stomach repeatedly, hard, until she began to bleed from her vagina.

Earl stopped and took a breather. Glenda was on the floor, crying. And although he loved her, he knew that she had the devil’s child and therefore her life could not be spared. He crawled on her like a wild animal, striking her repeatedly with left and right fists until her face looked like ground hamburger.

When she was dead, he stopped. He slowly stood up, hands aching, and reached into his pocket for a pack of cigarettes. He calmly lit one and took a seat on the living room couch.

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