BELT by Brandon Layng

The belt.

His father was coming up the stairs, his steps slow, timed with the branch-breaking snap of belt. The two sections of leather were brought violently together as each foot took a new step under it. A bass and snare rhythm carrying to the bedroom at the end of the hall.

He cowered.

All children feign in fear when the toll comes for their punishment. He was not alone, though. In some ways, yes, he was alone, in his room, not in the outcome of this terrible music he will face, his brother would be huddled in a corner of the room beside his and he would be expecting the belt first. It was his brother, the older yet not wiser of the two, who had instigated the scuffle leading up to the breaking of the stein.

The stein.

It was a beer stein, one of twelve in his father’s prized collection, made from ceramic or clay – at the age of seven he could not be expected to know the difference — and never touched with spirits of any kind, with the exception of his father’s good spirits each time a new one was added to the line atop the entertainment unit. His father wasn’t a drinker, so the collection was not for that purpose or related to a nostalgia of pub days gone by, and had never touched alcohol actually. He simply had a hobby that had become an obsession. He enjoyed the artwork. The sculpting. The history portrayed on their glazed surfaces. The craftsmanship was what he appreciated. Being a carpenter, he understood the time quality takes. He loved his steins, some with lids that open with hinges and others open-mouthed, they were priceless to him. After they were paid for, they cost him nothing.

Children were free to make and he was always paying for them.

During arguments, he often heard his father say, he hadn’t wanted the kids. His mother had wanted children and his father loved her very much, at first. They had two boys. Mother was happy.
Father bought more steins.

After a new addition his father visibly lost interest in his family. More often than not he would find his father asleep in the recliner in the morning, a polishing clothe in one hand and a piece of the collection in the other. This was the way things were on the morning of the fateful day that would end with him shaking and crying while huddled in the covers on his bed. His father held his favorite stein cradled in his arm as he snored. The stein depicted a fox hunt, a baying dogs, British noblemen astride charging horses on the heels of a surefooted fox. It had been the first. The one that had started the obsession when it was past down from his father’s grandfather. The two boys weren’t allowed to touch it, to do so would invite a day long grounding to their rooms. Breaking it would invite the belt.

The bowl of cereal.

His brother was six years older and felt none of the responsibilities of older siblings. His brother was not compelled to watch out for him or share with him. And that included the last bowl of breakfast cereal. They argued, then yelled, soon pushing and hitting followed, from the kitchen to the living room all in the name of not sharing the little chocolate marshmallows with a little brother. His brother had pushed him. He’d stumbled back unable to regain his balance and… knocked into the back of the recliner. There was a sound of crashing behind him and his face went as white as the walls.

It was like waking a sleeping lion who has a tooth ache. The roar was deafening and the stare so filled with hate he’d nearly pissed himself upon seeing it. They couldn’t speak. Not a single word. Not even the one everyone expects to hear when there is an accident. But they had run, up to their rooms where they irrationally hoped to be safe.

His father was in his brother’s room, the snap of the belt was a thunderclap against skin and his brother’s screams easily pierced the drywall to make his blood curdle. His father said nothing. His brother cried for help and apologized simultaneously. After many minutes it had become silent in the other room. Then there was a thump on the floor.

The hall light was turned off and the only illumination in his room was the morning sunlight filtering through the blinds. When his father had come out of his brother’s room his head was down, the face hidden in shadow. He could not be concerned with his father’s face, he only stared at the belt, which hung beside a jean pant leg wagging from side to side like the tail of a puppy. A hungry puppy. In movies went something drops during times of fear or suspense they are always in slow motion. He was crying – silently – and his tears were trickling around his eyes and down his cheeks. The drops of blood falling off of the treated leather in his father’s hands were fast. The sound they made when they hit the floor weren’t great echoing bell tolls of death. They were soft and barely audible, completely muffled when his father took a step forward and walked into his room. He was quiet on the bed, with the tears streaming down until the door closed and the belt cracked.

Copyright 2007, Brandon Layng. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “BELT by Brandon Layng”

  1. Not a bad little tale of fear and sorrow.

    • Thank you Dale. I’m glad you enjoyed it. The sad thing is this kind of tale is all too real for too many kids. On the flip-side you’d be amazed by the alarming and increasing number of parents being abused by their children these days. It’s a crazy world we live in and there is no end to inpiration to a writer if only he/she opens the newspaper.

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