Paulie, Stop

“You’re sick in the head,” Dad snarls.

“I probably am, living with you.”

I punch myself in the head again. It hurts more this time, but I try not to show it.

“Paulie, stop,” says Mum.

“Why? He’s gonna kill me anyway. Might as well get it over and done with.”

“You’re a fucking looney tune, that’s what you are.”

His whiskers, all up in my face.

“Be a man. Try and hit me.”

His fist, clenched, twitches like a gunslinger’s.

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you? You’re the one fucked in the head.”

“Go on and hit yourself, then, you little gobshite.”

His sour breath up my nose. I hold his gaze and take half a step back to wipe his spittle from my face.

“Have you finished?”

“Go’way before I finish you.”

I turn my back and bang the door after me. As I climb the stairs, Mum says, quietly, “Why are you such a bastard?” I don’t hear if he responds.

In my room, my fingers press the right side of my face. It doesn’t feel too different from the left, but I hope I won’t look a dick in school. I daren’t check the bathroom mirror. I need to listen in case he comes up. My sisters listen in their rooms.

I open the window and smoke a fag nicked from his coat pocket, making sure the smell stays out the room. My heart’s still pounding. My fingertips are yellow. I have an exam in the morning.

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