It’s a hot summer evening in the small town of Uxbridge, as two men work to remove the old concrete patio in their father’s backyard. As the sun sets, Mark reveals the horrifying truth hidden beneath the patio, forcing one to question just exactly how far you will go to protect the ones you love?
|Publication Date||June 18, 2017|
|BCRS ratings?Learn more|
The Concrete Patio
By John Dodsworth
My brother, Derek, almost looked like an actual construction worker with all his safety equipment on. The oversized safety glasses hanging down off the tip of his nose, the yellow helmet barely fitting over the crown of his bulbous head, the safety gloves that were so-far unscathed, and the my old worn out pair of tanned steel-toe boots, just to top the entire ensemble off. He almost looked like a fully functioning adult. Of course, underneath all the safety equipment was a man with the mental capacity of a five-yearold. A giant five-year-old boy with powerful BO, booming flatulence, and aggressive erections. I loved the simpleton though, more than most fully functioning adults that I knew, if I’m being honest.
We were in the process of removing the concrete patio in our father’s backyard. The same patio that my brother and I built so many years ago. The sun winks down on us in the baby blue sky, and I can feel the heat on my exposed shoulders. It had been years since we’d come back to this house. The house we spent the worst years of our lives in. I release the throttle on the jackhammer, my forearms and shoulders burning.
“What do you think, bud – time for a break?”
“Yea boss!” Derek says, bounding towards the blue cooler sitting against the back of the house in the shade.
“Grab yourself a Sprite, and I’ll have a beer.”
Derek comes rushing over towards me with a fresh beer. He looked so damn happy, it really did break my heart.
“Good work, brother,” I say, taking a long drink from the bottle. “Damn fine work.” “Thanks Mawk!”
It was after our mother died and we had to sell our first home that we moved into this little house on Percy Street. I hated it from the beginning. Not because it was smaller than our first home, or that it only had one bathroom, or the fact that the walls were painted an off-putting shade of green which clashed horrendously with the brown shag carpet throughout. It was the plain and simple fact that my father’s little house on Percy Street was always missing something; our mother.
Her name was Teresa, and she died of Ovarian Cancer when I was nine years old.
I can still remember her, though. If only in the smallest flashes. I can still recall what her face looked like; the subtle dimples at the corners of her lips, the soft lines in her forehead, and the way she used to laugh, with her head held back and puffy hair bouncing to and fro. Derek could not remember her, at least as far as I could tell. I used to make him look at pictures of her, back years ago, and he never seemed to recognize her, even with me pointing and berating him. It only made him confused and sad, which usually led to loud outbursts of tears and flailing fists. It depressed me to think that he couldn’t remember our mother, because I know he still remembers Brenda.
When our mother died, my father was very much a defeated man. He wasn’t highly educated, but he did own and operate his own landscaping business, which was in all regards a very successful business. In a town like Uxbridge, there were plenty of homes year to year that required renovations or deck installations, and because of the Plant, everyone had the money to pay for such upgrades.
But when it came to juggling his own business and being responsible for two young boys, one of which was severely mentally handicapped, I think it was all too much for him. He couldn’t handle the grief, and he started drinking. I can still remember his face at the funeral. Derek had started to bawl, confused and afraid as I’m sure he was, and as our mother was slowly lowered into the cold earth, I watched my father look up into the blank grey sky, and I watched his mouth form two words that slipped silently from his mouth; fuck you.
Brenda came along soon after, sinking her claws into my father.
“When dad coming?” Derek asks suddenly from the cooler, which he is now utilizing as a seat. He holds his head up towards me and I can sense that he knows deep down, somewhere inside his being, he knows where our father is.
“I’m afraid he won’t be coming to join us today, old buddy. In fact, he won’t ever be coming back again.”
“But… this ‘is house?” he says, concernedly, “this our house.”
“Not anymore,” I tell him, taking another long drink from the bottle.
He drops his head and I watch the can of Sprite slip from his fingers. Burying his face in his large glove-like hands, he begins to cry.
“Hey, come on big man,” I say, rushing over and kneeling down in front of him. I pull his hands away and force him to look at me. “You still got me, isn’t that right bud?”
“Yes,” he says, wiping the tears. “I still you, Mawk.”
“Damn right,” I say, patting him on the head. “Now let’s get back to work!”
Derek resumes his task of collecting the loose chunks of concrete and wheeling them around to the front where my pick-up truck awaits to be loaded. The Real Estate agent suggested we get rid of the patio slab, seeing as it had become badly damaged throughout the many winters, and was more of an eye-sore now than anything. But it was and always had been much more than a patio. This concrete slab had a secret; and it all started with Brenda.
“I want a patio,” I can remember her telling my father. “We could do a lot with a nice little patio out back.”
It didn’t take long for Brenda to manoeuvre her talons into my father. Into our home. She was a well trained predator, already having moved through two husbands by the time she met my old man, and she sensed his desperation from the beginning. During those first few months, I guess she must have seemed like a miracle to my old man, the poor bastard. She took a keen interest in Derek, and would insist on including him in family activities. She taught us how to play monopoly, and even though Derek never fully grasped the rules, he knew enough to roll the dice and move his little metal car from square to square, and I guess, for a short time, we were actually quite happy with Brenda.
And then they got married.
There was no engagement, no wedding, and no honeymoon. Just a legal document with a few signatures, and suddenly we had a new mommy. I was twelve at this point. Brenda did not work, which was fine with my father since he needed someone to stay at home with Derek, especially during the summer when school was out.
My father started getting up earlier, and staying at work later. Even through my young eyes, I could sense that something had changed again. Like an extinguished flame, the passion had blown out. I was a pretty active kid, and so I often had hockey or basketball practice after school. This meant that Derek was home alone with Brenda a lot, which didn’t seem like a problem until I came home early from school one day.
Hockey practice had been cancelled for some reason or another, and I had rushed home excited for the chance to sit on the couch and play video games for an entire night.
I remember I called out when I came in the front door, snow dripping from my boats, but heard no answer back. Usually Derek would come bounding into the front hallway when he heard my voice, but he was nowhere to be found. Neither was Brenda. As I came into the kitchen, which had a large window over the sink looking out into the backyard, I saw that Brenda was outside, and I could hear Derek. He was crying. When I came around to the back-screen door, I could hear Brenda speaking.
“You filthy little beast! What is the matter with you? Ten years old and still shitting your pants like an infant.”
I could see that Derek was standing naked in the snow, and Brenda had the hose in her hand. She was spraying him with the icy cold water, aiming the thin spray directly at Derek’s penis. His whole belly was a pinkish red, and he was wailing in the most horrible way.
“Serves you right for making such a disgusting mess! Honestly, if you were mine I would have had you put down. Like a rabid dog.”
It was at this point that I finally opened the backdoor, the hinges creaking as they always did, and Brenda whirled around to face me with wide eyes and a contorted mouth. Once she realised it was just me, a subtle smirk fell upon her face. She dropped the hose and began walking inside as if nothing out of the ordinary was occurring.
“Finish cleaning off your brother,” she said to me as she passed.
I took Derek with me into the bathroom and started a hot shower. He was still whimpering but the bawling had stopped. Whad I do ron, Mawk? He kept saying, repeating it over and over. What I do ron, Mawk? ‘Nothing,’ I told him. ‘You did nothing wrong. It’s okay now, here step into the shower with me, okay?’ His feet were swollen and grotesque, tinged a darkish purple at the toes. It’s a miracle the frost bite didn’t set in. He cried again when the water first hit his flesh, but after a while he stopped and sat down in the shower so that the water fell directly atop his head. I crouched down with him and wiped his face with a hand towel. The tears had finally run dry, but his lower lip still quivered and I could see that his feet were sore because he kept rubbing at them and grimacing. After a while I turned off the tap and helped him stand. I wrapped a towel around his shoulders and dried him with another, and when I was done he looked at me with half-eyes and a down-turned face and said, ‘I sowwy mawk, my ‘eet old, my ‘eet ohhhhld.’
I never told my father what I saw or heard that day, and when he came home later that night it was as if nothing had happened. But I carried my guilt like a deep scar. I started to worry about leaving Derek at home alone for too long with Brenda. Gradually, I stopped attending hockey practice after school. I started having problems with some of the other students, too. I got in my first fight that winter because some kid threw a snowball at Derek. I ended up breaking his nose in two places, and I was suspended for a full week. My father hardly noticed, but Brenda made sure that my time spent at home was long and insufferable.
“We got a tough guy on our hands, is that it?” she would say snidely, staring down at me with her hands on her hips. “A retard and a delinquent, these are the children I am blessed to share a home with!”
Everyday she had a new list of chores for me. One day I’d be tasked with building a barbeque, and the next day I would be told to take it apart. To this day, I think she simply enjoyed torturing us. It gave her some sort of perverted pleasure. She was infertile and quick to tell anyone willing to listen about how she was happy about it, the fact that she couldn’t have kids. Sacrifice my life, and my body for some little brat? I think not!
A year went by and things slowly returned to normal. Our brains are hardwired to survive, and no matter how angry or disturbed I was, eventually, those feelings faded beneath the sound of the ticking clock. I started playing hockey after school again, and my father continued staying out late after work. Brenda still wanted her damn backyard patio, and my father had gone as far as buying bags of concrete to mix, although they sat idly in our backyard, untouched. Derek seemed happy enough, although I would find bruises on his arms and torso some nights. I knew Brenda was still abusing him, but it hadn’t reached a point to where I was going to let it affect my life, at least not yet. I was a thirteen-year-old boy navigating the treacherous waters of puberty. I had a lot on my plate.
Brenda convinced my father to apply for disability support for Derek, and on her advice, my father opened up an RRSP in Derek’s name. It was around this time that she began berating my father for his drinking, and demanded that she be put in sole control of all the family finances. My father said that was fine, it’s not as if there was much leftover after mortgage payments, car insurance, life insurance, and living expenses. The lack of a backyard patio came to epitomize my father’s neglect and procrastination in Brenda’s eyes, and she would instigate fights with him at every opportunity. But a broken man cares not for the meanderings of an unhappy wife. A broken man only needs enough for bar tabs and cigarettes, and he certainly had pockets full enough for that.
I watch as Derek wheels another load of broken concrete around to the front. Derek and I had spent a lot of time out here, after Brenda was gone. I drill the jack-hammer against the concrete slab, smashing the grey chunks into dust and feeling as if I was cursed into performing the same evil deed twice, which did not seem fair to me. In fact, I was angry at the fucking concrete. For all the trouble it had caused me and my family. But looking over my shoulder I see Derek bounding around the corner of the house, smiling his doofus smile, and I remember what it was all for; and what it all meant.
You see my father, the broken man (how I hated him sometimes. I didn’t mean to, but the hateful thoughts would flash through my brain like an unchecked bullet), never got over the death of our mother. Moving from our home wasn’t enough, and getting a new wife sure as hell wasn’t working out how he’d planned. Every day she would scream at him. Why are you so late? Where is all of our money going, huh? It’s going to your booze and your fucking gambling, that’s where! And my father would just sit there and take it. He didn’t bother arguing, because he honestly didn’t care. That’s how Brenda was able to slowly gain complete control over my father’s estate. She started giving him a weekly allowance, and so long as he had enough for his bar tab week to week it was a non-issue.
It was the winter of my fifteenth birthday, and I came home one weeknight after hockey practice. At this point, my father had gone out West for a couple of months. There was money to be made out west, he said, but even then, I knew. He simply did not want to deal with life, and the further away he was from his home, his family, that house on Percy, well, it probably made his life not feel so miserable.
It was a brutally cold winter that year, and I remember the snot freezing in my nostrils as I walked briskly down the sidewalk, my hockey bag hung over my shoulder. Derek was sitting on the front steps of our house when I got there, wearing nothing but his pyjamas.
“Hey buddy, what are you doing out here?” I asked him.
“Hi Mawk! Bwenda say I stay outside.”
That’s when I noticed he wasn’t wearing shoes. Looking at his red and swollen feet, I felt the rage building up in the pit of my stomach, a threatening tingle at the back of my throat. I went to open the door but found it to be locked.
“Doo’ locked,” Derek said with a smile.
I started pounding on the front door with my closed fists, screaming Brenda’s name.
After a couple minutes, she finally came to the door.
“What?” she said from behind the still locked door.
“Open the fucking door!”
I heard her sigh, and then a voice I didn’t recognize. A man’s voice.
“Who the fuck is in our house?” I said to her, my eyes watering.
“This is my house,” she said curtly, “and you will do well to remember it.”
I watched the man leave. He was clean shaven and slim and dressed in a buttoned shirt and black pants. Basically, the complete opposite of my father. In my youth, I couldn’t quite comprehend what had occurred, but I had a good enough idea.
It was about this time that I realized Brenda seemed to be wearing new clothes, and her jewellery seemed to sparkle a bit brighter; the diamonds a little larger than they were before. Derek, on the other hand, was wearing clothes with holes in them. Brenda was using the Disability money for her own indulgences, leaving Derek worse off than he was. One day shortly after this, I found an envelope in the trash from the bank. It stated that Derek’s RRSP account had been closed, due to inactivity.
When my father finally returned from out west, I tried to tell him. I showed him the letter from the bank as well.
“She’s mean, dad,” I told him. “Especially to Derek, and there was a man here the other night…”
“I know,” my father sighed, and I watched his eyes wander off then, out the window and into the distance. “She has me in a vice trap, son. I know you can’t quite understand it, but if I try to leave, we will be worse off, trust me,” and he paused then, rubbing his eyes and taking another drink from his brown-stained glass. “I miss your mother.”
He stuck around for a few months, then returned to Alberta, leaving us with Brenda.
By this time, I was sixteen and dealing with an assault charge in court. I beat a kid so bad that I broke his jaw. I can’t even remember why I did it. All I can remember is the sound of his bone cracking, and the geyser of blood gushing from his mouth.
It was at this point that Brenda suggested to my father that I be sent to a military boarding school outside of Ottawa. I would overhear on the phone with him every night. He’s out of control, and I simply do not feel safe in this house with him. I’m enrolling him for next semester and that’s all there is to it. I knew what she was doing. The way she would smirk at me as we passed each other silently in the hallway, and I would catch her looking back at me with narrowed eyes. She wanted me out of the picture. And I could only imagine what that would mean for Derek.
So that’s when I came up with a plan.
One morning, I told Brenda that I had hockey practice that night.
“Coach says we might go late,” I told her. “We have a big game coming up this weekend.”
“Yeah, yeah,” she said. “That’s fine.”
Her response gave me all the information I needed.
So that night, rather than going to hockey practice, I camped outside the house and waited. Sure enough, the man with nice clothes showed up driving a red convertible and entered our home. I remember wanting to rush him right then and there, but I managed to make myself stay put. This is for Derek. I watched and I waited.
After a couple hours, I saw the door opening, and that’s when I put my mask on. I was a bigger kid, always had been, and I figured with a mask and a knife in my hand, I
would be scary enough to any grown man.
I caught him as he was opening the door of his convertible, sneaking up from behind and placing the point of the knife on the back of his neck.
“Feel that, buddy?” I said. “You move, and you’re fucking dead.”
I had never seen a grown man piss his pants before, but the sound of his urine trickling onto the pavement was unmistakable.
“Pl-please,” he stuttered. “Take it, take the car, my wallet, whatever you want…”
“I don’t want you’re fucking car, or your wallet,” I said. “You listen to me now, and you listen close. If you ever come back to this fucking house, you’re dead. In fact, if you stay in this town, you’re dead.”
I slipped his wallet out from his back pocket and took his driver’s license from the inside. Holding the knife in place, I showed him the license.
“I know who you are, and I know where you live. So, you’d best not be living where you do when I come looking.”
He couldn’t even muster the words, but he nodded and sobbed and I let him get into his car. As he drove off I let out a repressed and desperate sigh. Step one was done.
I could see the light in Derek’s room still on, and that was good.
Walking in through the front door, I called out to Derek. He came running out to meet me, as he always did, wrapping his arms around me in a strong embrace. I could feel the knife bulging from the back of my pants, and tried to push him off me as gently as I could.
“Look at you two,” Brenda said, leaning up against the kitchen doorway, a half-empty glass of red wine in her hand. “So precious,” she said through red-stained lips.
“You look tired,” I said to her.
“You look like a little shit,” she said back, glaring at us both. “I’m going to bed, so you best keep the noise down.”
I watched her walk upstairs and went with Derek to his room.
“Read time?” he asked me, smiling. I could see a patch of fresh bruises on his arm, probably from someone grabbing him, and the sight of the purplish grey-brown patches made my blood boil.
“No, not read time,” I told him. “I need you to do something, Derek. Can you do something for me?”
“Yes Mawk!” he exclaimed, smiling and nodding and looking at me with nothing but affection. The innocence of it made me burst into tears, and I sat there on Derek’s bed for a while sobbing while he rubbed my back. Once I had composed myself, I told him what to do.
I brought Derek out into the backyard and instructed him to hide behind the unused bags of concrete mix piled in the corner, a few feet from the fence. He obliged and waited out back while I prepared. I brought the hose over to him and told him to wait for my signal. As he waited behind the concrete mixer, I went to work building a makeshift fire pit. I had been gathering branches for days, and had a stockpile of them hidden against the side of the house. Derek waited patiently as I worked.
When everything was ready, I gathered my tools. Then I went to the back door and opened it, leaving it ajar. Lastly, I turned the faucet for the hose in the backyard.
“Okay Derek,” I whispered. “Signal.”
On cue, Derek began spraying the hose at Brenda’s upstairs window, the heavy stream thumping against the pane of glass like a fist. I could hear her call out from upstairs, and kept myself flat against the house wall. I heard the window open, and her voice rang out clear in the night air.
“What the fucking Christ!” she cried. “Derek, don’t you…”
Derek looked at me then, and I guess I could have called it off at that point.
Sometimes I wish I would have.
But I didn’t.
I nodded at Derek and he proceeded to spray the hose again, and I could hear Brenda shriek as the water came pouring in through her open bedroom window. I braced myself in the shadows, feeling less human than a corpse.
I could hear her stomping down the stairs through the thin walls, and as her figure appeared in the moonlight, I leapt from the shadows swinging. The sickening crack echoed in my ears as the bat connected against her temple. She fell to the ground and began to seizure, her skeleton fingers clenching, then unclenching. In the silver moonlight, I could see blood and brain matter gushing from the hole in her skull. Did you know that blood looks black in the moonlight? I didn’t until that night.
At this point, I vomited and collapsed onto my hands and knees. Derek ran to me then, and when he saw Brenda, he began to bawl, bending over her and trying to stop the blood. Despite how hateful she had been towards him, he still wanted to help her. He was, and will always be a much better man than me.
I told him to be quiet, and when he didn’t listen I slapped him. I can still feel the hot slap on my palm some nights, and I know there is special place in Hell reserved especially for me, not for what I did to Brenda, but for that slap.
After I had composed myself, I slit her throat and ended the clenching. The blood seemed to pour forever. I honestly didn’t think it was going to stop. Derek sat by the open back door, sobbing quietly into his hands, while I lit the fire. Her flesh smelled of rubber and sweat as it burned, and the crackling of her bones in the flame seemed to mock me as I began mixing concrete. I let the fire burn for hours, adding my gloves and the wooden baseball bat to the flames, as well as the man’s driver’s license. But her bones didn’t melt like I thought they would. I had Derek help me smash them with a sledgehammer, and we worked until the greyish-blue of dawn started to soak through the blackness of night. We crushed her bones as best we could, and I mixed them into the concrete.
Derek helped me all the way through, and I pray nightly that whatever God or entity exists won’t hold him accountable for my actions. When morning came there was nothing left of Brenda but ash and crushed bone mixed in with concrete. We built the patio throughout that day, me and Derek. He kept asking me where Bwenda was, and I kept telling him she was gone. He would cry, then forget, then cry again. I kept waiting for one of our neighbours to come outside, or for the cops to show up, but they never did.
Neighbours hardly notice anything anymore.
“Hey Mawk!” Derek calls out as I’m in the process of smashing the last remaining square of concrete.
“When dad coming?”
“He’s gone,” I say again, “but you still got me.”
“Still got you,” he says smiling, and I break the last chunk up into jagged little pieces with one final swing of the sledgehammer. The same sledgehammer that we used to break up her bones all those years ago. Life was funny that way, it always came back around.
After we had laid the concrete all those years ago, I called my father and told him Brenda was gone.
“What do you mean gone?” he had asked me.
“She’s gone,” I said again, “with that man.”
There was silence from the other end, and my father flew home the next day to find himself down a wife, and up one concrete patio. I don’t even think he noticed the patio, to be honest. The police came eventually, after my father conceded that Brenda was gone and not coming back. They asked us a few questions, and I almost shit my pants when Derek said Bwenda gone in the fawe. But the cops didn’t put one and two together, and disregarded his statement as the meanderings of a retard. I watched them with clenched teeth and sweat leaking from my skin as they stood atop the concrete patio, even commenting on it to my father, asking if it was him who built it. Our father shrugged, and the cops left, and after a while it was as if Brenda had never existed.
The sun begins its descent in the clear blue sky, and I can feel the blisters on my fingers pulsing. The patio was gone now, completely smashed and obliterated.
“It’s time to go,” I tell Derek, as he comes around from the corner of the house with the empty wheelbarrow. Nothing was left of the patio now except dead dirt, all brown and sickly beneath my feet. I see a white chunk and wonder if it’s Brenda. Picking it up, I stick it in my pocket and gather our tools.
“Patio gone!” Derek says. “Bye Bwenda!”
“Yes,” I say back to him. “Bye Bwenda.”
We load up the truck and head down the road. We still had an hour to make it to dad’s funeral, just enough time to stop at the LCBO and pick up a bottle of whiskey. And as the sun sets on the horizon, I can feel my heart swell in the yellow-white light, and I turn to Derek and tell him how much I love him, and he smiles at me then, in that way that he did, and says wove you too Mawk, and I cry again because I can’t help but think that the world would be better off if we were all a bit more like my brother, because as far as I can tell, the capably minded are the most dangerous creatures of all.