He drank more. He smoked more. He cussed more, and had a reputation around town for having a short temper and a mean right hook. He never used it on her though–he didn’t think he’d be able to forgive himself if he had–and never with Pete either, aside from the occasional stern spanking when the boy had talked back. He looked like a filthy lout, but as horrified as he knew he should be at these memories, as hard as part of him clawed back and tried to hold onto something from his other self, from either of his other selves, there just…wasn’t anything there. Just this brutish fuck, and nothing more.
They slipped away, back into his mind, slotting right into place, exactly where Mr. Elroy wanted them, and he looked down at Harry, at his dull eyes spinning their dull wheels, trying to sort out what had just happened, but Harry had never been much of a thinker, had he? “Ya…ya fucker,” he said, his voice picking up a heavy drawl, “Ya piece a shit, I ain’t supposed tha…this is all a crock a shit.”
“It’s true as far as you’re concerned, Harry–this is what you get. If you can’t be trusted with a mind, then this is what you get to be from now on, just a simple minded, illiterate dumbfucking brute.”
“Illiterate,” Mr. Elroy said, slower, enunciating clearly, “It means, Harry, that you never learned to read.”
“I can read shit!”
“Well, I suppose you can read a bit. Some numbers, simple sentences, but tell me Harry, what’s the last book you read in school?”
“I…I dropped the fuck outta school! Learnin’ ain’t something a man should care about. A man don’t gotta think tah work, after all.” He paused, running what he’d just said back to himself. “Wait..no, that ain’t right, is it?”
“On the contrary, Harry, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Well, I could have, because I have an above average vocabulary and a mastery of grammar, but you can’t have everything, right?” He took his hand from Harry’s shoulder. “Now, do we have an understanding again, Harry? Because I was just beginning to enjoy tasting your son here, and I would very much like to enjoy him some more–and I’m sure you would too, right Harry? Or are you going to give me more trouble than you’re worth?”
“No sir, I won’t…” he muttered.
“Good. Now, we’re going to have to start all the way back in the beginning, now that you went and messed up my flow. Still, I think this will be much more fun this time around, for both of us–and for your son too.”
Mr. Elroy went back over to the sofa and sat back down beside Pete, who gave a sudden start and woke up from his sudden slumber, and gave a hacking cough, not quite as severe as Harry’s had become, but still concerning. “Fuck, did I fall asleep?” he muttered, “I feel like I got hit by a fuckin’ semi.”
Mr. Elroy laughed, “You haven’t felt anything yet, Pete–now, we were strolling down memory lane, right?”
Just like that, they were back in the past, back in their memories, back in the house he remembered…or at least, the house Harry thought he remembered. It didn’t seem quite right to him, actually. Everything was a bit…dirtier, and grungier, and when Patricia flitted through the room in a flicker, she wasn’t the prim and dainty 50’s housewife he thought he’d recalled. She seemed…harder, and fatter, smoking her slim cigarettes in the kitchen and listening to the radio, the dishes undone in the sink. There was a thick layer of smoke everywhere, he sensed–he’d been a heavy smoker before, but now he could barely recall a time when he didn’t have a cigar in his mouth, from the moment he woke to the moment he crawled into his lonely twin bed to masturbate, thinking about Wilbur.
“Focus Harry,” a voice said, Mr, Elroy’s voice said, but it was Wilbur speaking, in the memory. And there was Pete, his boy, looking up at him…but not quite as handsome as he was. Then again, mix a brute like Harry with a comely woman like Patricia, and you weren’t going to get movie star looks. “Focus on your boy–on what he needs to know to be a man, a real man like you.”
Suddenly, they were wrestling, him and his son, in the middle of the living room. He’d always loved wrestling and brawling, and he wanted his son to love it to–dominating other men, beating them down. That was how you showed them you were important, that was how you showed them what a man you were. There were other flashes, his notes coming home from teachers and administrators, accusing his boy of being a bully–but he was just being a boy, in Harry’s opinion. In fact, he encouraged it in him, told him it was good to push other guys around, that it was just a sign of how strong he was. That is, until he broke that kid’s arm one day, pushing him into a gully. That had been enough for the school, and they’d expelled him from the eighth grade. Still, that was plenty of school for a boy, in Harry’s opinion. He was old enough to start working, and so he helped him find some jobs around town, sweeping the mechanic’s garage, mowing the lawns at the church–good things for a big boy like Pete to do. Still, he needed an outlet, and Wilbur had the best suggestion–Pete ought to be a boxer.
Wilbur knew just the gym to take him to as well, and Pete took to it like a fish to water. But like before, there were a lot of complaints coming from guys at the gym, as Pete got older, that he tended to fight dirty, and once he was an older teenager, and picked up a taste for alcohol, he took to picking fights and starting brawls in the bars around town. Still, Harry just waved it off, when he wasn’t outright enabling him. Wilbur didn’t see anything wrong with it either–it was just youthful abandon. They’d been the same way when they were young after all, before they’d settled down. Once Pete found a woman, they said, he’d mellow out a bit.