I’ve always loved the name Calvin.
Growing up I had fond memories of reading Calvin and Hobbes comics in the backyard with my little brother. We’d spend the day hanging out in the tree fort laughing like mad men at the mischief caused by those two. It was the only name that came to mind when my wife told me we were pregnant and the thought of having a scrappy little tyke running around causing mischief just made the idea of becoming a father less scary. There were other famous Calvin’s; Calvin Coolidge is the only one that comes to mind at the moment and maybe that’s the Calvin my wife thought of when she agreed to the name, but to me it was always after that rambunctious little trouble maker.
Sadly she never got to meet our little Calvin as she died giving birth to him.
Needless to say he was brought into this world tainted and though his blonde hair and soft brown eyes were unlike his mothers, he was the spitting image of her to our family and friends. It’s an odd thing passing around a child with the fresh thought of death in everyone’s mind, looking at this small human, so innocent and pure and yet knowing it had already taken a life. I think that’s part of the reason I decided to have him baptized. I don’t believe in God – but I had to take my feelings out of it. Becoming a father – a single father at that – meant that I wasn’t just in charge of looking out only for myself anymore; I was responsible for someone else’s soul. I could care less if I spend eternity in so-called Hellfire, but I wasn’t going to risk putting Calvin through that. The term is called Pascal’s Wager; essentially it means that it is better to follow the belief that there is a God than to not follow and find out there is a Hell. I had to think of it as insurance; better to be safe than sorry. The priest gave me the run down, informing me that we are all born into this world with original sin but I felt like my son had more than others. In the eyes of God; the tiny hands that could barely hold a rattle were covered in my wife’s blood.
Landing in Houston on the day of his Baptism was an ordeal. I was already nervous about the flight with Calvin, but as luck would have it his ears didn’t pop coming back down and Calvin serenaded the entire plane with his heart wrenching rendition of “There is a terrible pain in my head” – what can I say he’s a natural singer. I remember dashing through the airport, weary and drained from the lengthy flight, just praying for his wailing to cease, when all of a sudden as if the sea itself had parted, he stopped. As if disarming a bomb I nervously pulled him back from over my shoulder where I was holding him to see him staring wide-eyed at a stuffed animal pinned to a long trail of other stuffed toys in the small shop I was standing next to. That day, the day of his baptism, we welcomed “Jake,” the loveable stuffed green alligator into our little family.
For the next few weeks of his life Calvin was quiet; eerily so – which is the fear of every new parent that something is wrong with their child. If they’re too loud, too quiet, too smart, too slow; it’s a sea of endless black that you’re navigating with a pen-light, but the doctors assured me that he was normal. “Normal,” is such a subjective word, but in the context of a healthy baby boy it was perfect for me.
Slowly he grew. It wasn’t that he looked like his mother; his eyes, nose and lips were all different; in fact pretty much the only thing he got from her were his ears; sticking out like a taxi with the doors open –sorry bud. No, it wasn’t the look of her but his little micro mannerisms: the way he pointed when he wanted up; the small way he lift his eye brows; the crinkle his forehead made….it was all so reminiscent of her that often times I would catch myself just staring at him remembering the past.
As he matured our relationship got more complex; I never bothered dating – between a new child and work I was a full time dad which I was more than okay with. Calvin, Daddy and Jake would do to the park, the Zoo, the Science Center; hell, I had seen more of Seattle with Calvin and that little stuffed alligator than I had in the seven years I spent living here. But like all good things…well you know the rest. The point is, Calvin grew up fast and before I knew it he was starting Kindergarten. Leaving him at school was always the absolute darkest part of my day, someone that had consumed so much of my life was gone from my life and handing him over to the teachers there was just heart wrenching. However, seeing him again was always the highlight – it was when he started school that the realization of just how much I loved being a father dawned on me; he was my whole world and I was happy to always be his.
It was around that time I started noticing my neighbour across the street.
Little glances at first. A parting of the curtains, a light on in the office far later than I felt it should have been on, but it wasn’t until I saw him walking from his car one day that I really started to become suspicious. He was an older man with no wife or kids and he seemed to work from home like myself; but every time I saw him…he was looking at Calvin. The most concerning thing was that he was relatively new to the area, neighbours that I had ended up becoming close with knew nothing of him and most of them didn’t even know his name and yet I always caught him staring at our house.
During the summer months we would play outside, I would usually read on the porch while Calvin would dig holes in the lawn or run through the sprinkler – we lived in a small quiet street just outside the city so playing outside was always a safe and viable option. On this day Calvin was on the lawn while I sat on the porch reading something by Michael Crichton and after a paragraph or so I glanced up at Cal to see the man from across the street had come walking by with his dog and was letting Cal pet it. Quickly I stood up and briskly jogged over to them at the curb side, absentmindedly losing my spot in the novel as I did.
His name was Gavin; a disheveled looking, light skinned man who was far too smiley for my liking. He was everything a new parent feared in a neighbour and adding to the fact that he had moved in just a few weeks ago left an uneasy feeling in my stomach.
I can’t explain how or why I didn’t trust Gavin; I like to think of it as a primal instinct, something that just feels off about someone when you meet them for the first time like our body’s way of telling us to shut up and listen for once because something isn’t right. It didn’t help that he seemed to be staring at the house even more frequently after that afternoon and over time my suspicions towards him only grew. Nearly every time Cal and I were out in the front yard he’d walk by with his dog and make small talk with Cal in a soothing childish way as if he were talking to his own child. It grew to the point where I decided that we should stay inside most sunny days or play in the backyard and overtime the uneasiness I felt subsided. Though I never completely let my guard down, I did breathe easier as my nightly surveillance of his house showed that he was no longer keeping his lights on after hours.
For a long time nothing stuck, we both saw less and less of Gavin and by the time Winter came I had almost stopped checking his house entirely until one evening after school when I was picking Cal up from Kindergarten and I noticed that Gavin was standing there at the school gate. As if acting purely on instinct I exited my car and walked straight towards him, slowing my pace as I approached him forcibly changing my demeanor from anger to friendly but curious. I called his name from a few feet away and with a sharp turn he spun around. He started acting squirrely the minute he saw me and almost instinctively began to leave until I called his name again, this time loud enough for the other parents waiting around to hear.
As I stood before him I saw the cracks in his lips, the white hairs in his peppered mustache, the lines in his face and every inch of me seethed. I could feel a heat inside me growing as he stood before me keeping one of his hands in his pocket the entire time….was he touching himself? Was this sick fuck touching himself while watching the kids in the schoolyard? As my eyes darted from his hidden hand back to his face he smiled coyly, and with the faintest wetness in his eyes he made some excuse about looking for his dog that had somehow gotten out and quickly excused himself. I watched him leave as I clenched my hands into fists, unaware at how tense I had become. From the school yard I heard the bell ring and moments later Cal came out holding the hand of his teacher Mrs. Henley, who came over to me mentioned how great Cal had been doing, it’s always a proud moment for a parent when a teacher remarks at how great their child is.
That night after I tucked Calvin into bed I went to my office to get some work done, the office is understanding of my situation and allows me to log on and off at my leisure so long as I get the work done and I always get it done. I had just sat down as Calvin called out to me, slowly I climbed the stairs to find Calvin in tears from having just had a nightmare. A climbed into bed next to him and with a soft touch I stroked his hair as he told me of the man in his room. Softly I told him that everything was fine, no one was here and that he should go back to sleep. Just as he was nodding off he slowly sat back up pushing off my chest and asked where his stuffed alligator Jake was. After a begrudging sigh I spent the next little while poking around but couldn’t find him and told Calvin that we’d look for him first thing tomorrow.
With Calvin asleep I slowly walked back down the stairs to my office just as a quiet knock came from the front door. I turned with a puzzled look and listened again, thinking I had imagined it. Once more, a quiet knock came from the front door and I unlocked the door and threw it open to see Gavin standing there. The colour drained from my face and my mind raced as he stood there inches from the inside of my house, steps from the front hall and a short jog from my sleeping child. After a moment I slowly moved my foot behind the door and tensed my body. Gavin looked at me with his large glasses and smiled an eerily grin, the metal from his cavities twinkled in the porch light as he apologized for disturbing me. Curtly I asked what he needed and as if taken aback he quickly and quietly apologized for running off so abruptly earlier today at the schoolyard.
Through his dark eyes I saw a fire burn deep, something sinister hid behind his gaze and at that moment I knew that Gavin was not a good man by any means – and in that moment I just wanted him gone. After a long pause he held out a thin cold hand. Hesitantly I took it but when I shook his hand goodbye, I noticed for the first time that for an older man he had a number of tattoos – my eyes gave me away and when he noticed me looking at them he quickly pulled his thin sweater sleeve down and mentioned that it was actually from when he had spent some time in prison. As the words left his mouth his eyes darted nervously and the lump in my throat sank to my stomach. He smiled weakly and spun around leaving a shadow on the porch as he did, slowly I closed the door and locked it tight. Standing with my back to the front door a chill ran up my spine as I drifted my gaze up towards Calvin’s room.
I drove Cal to school the next day and returned home to round out the latest piece I had been working on. During the summer when I had been watching Gavin’s house nightly I had moved my office so that the window overlooking the front lawn was right behind my desk giving me a great view of those passing our lot and Gavin’s house across the street. Work was a struggle, after every line I wrote I would look up to Gavin’s house across the street hoping – but not wanting – to see something, anything to alleviate my fears. Every sentence typed was like one step forward two steps back as I began writing things that made no sense. I shot up out of my chair and kicked over the coffee table in frustration. What the fuck is that sicko doing over there? I could feel the heat in my chest boiling up within me, driving my heartbeat, growing faster with each image that flashed through my mind. I walked to the front door and grabbed my jacket, I had to confront him, I had to do something. I stopped at the front door and paused, my hand hovering above the knob; what if I’m right? I am right. I know it. What is he planning to do to my son? As images of the most horrific acts burned into my brain questions came pouring out of my lips; what if I can’t stop it?, what if I can’t help him?, what if I go over there and he kills me? – what stands between Gavin and my child then? My son, my life: my entire world.
I turned around and walked to the kitchen with determination in my steps. Every step on the hardwood floor clicked beneath my shoes and without so much as a break in my stride I retrieved a large kitchen knife from the wooden block on the counter. I turned around to face the front door, my legs giving out as I fell to the floor weeping. What the fuck was I doing, what have I become; nothing about this is normal or right. Do I put on the blinders? Go about my business and live my life praying that Cal grows up without being molested or kidnapped or worse – just hoping that he grows up at all. For as long as I could remember, the Edmund Burke quote hung by my desk, I had always thought it sounded crisp the way the phrase turned but maybe it was meant to be more than that to me; All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
In that moment I knew that I would do anything to protect my son and nothing in this world would stand in the way of that.
With tears in my eyes I stood up and slipped the knife into my jacket pocket. I left the house and closed the front door behind me as I wiped the tears from my eyes. I stopped halfway across the street as I noticed that Gavin’s car was gone and after a quick knock on the front door my suspicions were confirmed, Gavin was indeed out for the day. Slowly I looked around the street, during the day it was always quiet but today not even the wind blew, no one and nothing but the snow peaked houses sat watching. After a moment I walked around back and sure enough the back door was unlocked; with fire in my stomach I stepped inside.
Stepping into the house was a waking nightmare, its corners were dark and muddy, all the curtains were drawn and little to no natural light touched a single surface. He had only been here for a short while but he had already turned this house into a cesspool. Plates and dirty dishes littered the counter and showed early signs of mold – clothes were strewn about and the floor was covered with dirt and dust. Slowly I stepped in and called his name, quietly listening for movement. As I continued inwards I looked over my shoulder every once in a while, again calling out Gavin’s name to ensure that he wasn’t home. The house sat a putrid tableau of filth and my suspicions for trespassing were not supported through anything I could see, that was, until I found the basement.
I descended a set of cold cement steps as my heart beat audibly in the cellar. At the bottom of the stairs I could see a single light bulb hanging on a string and nervously I gave it a pull filling the basement with shadows cast by the single yellow light. Sitting across from an old stained couch was a large cork board affixed to the stone wall of the basement. I walked over and studied it with cold prejudice like a herder surveying the grassy field for wolves. Pinned to the board were pictures; the school yard, the name of Cal’s school….then my heart sank.
There was a picture of Cal.
Standing there with his teacher, holding her hand; his blonde hair and soft brown eyes that were so unlike his mother’s… but Cal’s hair was shorter in this picture and his teacher was wearing a sun dress. As I reached out and took the picture from the board it dawned on me that this picture was taken months ago in the early summer, before Gavin had even moved here. I turned away from the board as tears began to well in my eyes and as I did I nearly choked – there, sitting on the couch was Jake, Cal’s stuffed alligator.
The room started spinning; had he been in my house? Did he go into Cal’s room? What would have happened if I hadn’t of found this? Cal is my life, he’s my world and everything I do is for him. I would do anything for him. What would the police do with this? It isn’t enough but I know what it is, what it means…it’s the sick twisted pedophile across the street who wants to rape and murder my son.
Flames flicked from my every pore as the fire within me raged wild and untamed. I could taste the bitter sting of bile on the back of my tongue and the iron-like taste of blood filled my mouth as my whole body quaked with anger.
My little boy.
Pascal’s Wager; better to be safe than sorry. I couldn’t care less if I spend eternity in Hell but I’m not putting Calvin through that.
It was at that moment that I heard Gavin come home.
Slowly I pulled the knife from my jacket pocket, switched off the light above my head and waited at the bottom of the stairs for him in the darkness.
Dust fell from the ceiling like brown bits of snow as each floor board above creaked and groaned under Gavin’s weight. I could hear him in the kitchen above and after a pause he turned to the stairs and began walking down the cold cement steps to the basement. I rose silently in the shadows and waited until he was right before me. With each step the cold click of his heel matched the beat of my heart and finally, as if acting on muscle memory alone, he reached for the light just as I turned it on.
There, inches from my face was Gavin, with tears welling in his eyes.
A stream of questions ripped through my mind in an instant; Why are you crying? Are you crying because you didn’t get to rape and murder my son? Are you crying because I’m here to find you out? You fuck. You fucking sicko. Are you thinking about the lives of all those you’ve taken? How many was it? How many little children have you raped and murdered? You fucking foul cunt, you are filth, you deserve to rot like a pig…
Gavin simply stood there, frozen in the moment as tears ran down his cheeks. The thoughts raced through my mind as I glanced back and forth between Gavin’s eyes and after a beat he simply looked down at the knife in my hand with a puzzled and pained look. Through his spit filled mouth he managed to sputter out a single word before I pierced his stomach with the blade, “Why?”
As I drove the knife repeatedly into his abdomen the pained look of confusion that painted his face slowly twisted into a horrific scream. With my free hand I grabbed his lower jaw with such force that I could feel his lower teeth, brittle and warm, bend beneath my palm.
I’m not going to describe what I did. Suffice it to say that I was eventually only stabbing a pulpy mess of sinew and guts. By the time I was done the tip of the knife had been driven with such force that it was embedded into the cement stairs. With speckles of blood on my face and shoes, I sat back wiping the tears from my eyes. As I sat slumped at the bottom of the stairs with the lifeless corpse of this monster beside me, I could feel myself starting to breathe again as I filled my lungs with the deep iron filled air. After a moment I reached out, grabbing a wet piece of his shirt and wiped down the hilt of the knife before driving it one last time into his head, leaving the blade protruding from his cheek. The way a sick fucking pedophile should be left.
Eventually I caught my breath and stood up; walking over to Jake on the couch and with a smile I went to pick him up…stopping when I realized that it wasn’t Jake.
In fact it wasn’t even a stuffed animal; it was a green t-shirt that was thrown carelessly on the couch with the other clothes from the laundry.
In the dark of the basement I let out a weak laugh and shook my head softly. I turned away from the couch and walked up the cold stone steps to the main floor, stepping over Gavin’s lifeless body. I left through the back door taking one last look at the putrid cesspool of a life this man had lived, and went home. In the shower I kept thinking over what had transpired; it was like a dream, something that didn’t happen. I kept replaying the moment over and over in my mind, the feeling of give while holding the knife the second it pierced his flesh, the bits of skin and muscle that loosened with each stab, the look on his face as I took his life.
It felt good.
It felt good to do something right; to stand in the way of Evil men.
I have totally lost track of time and it’s been nearly an hour since Cal has finished school but luckily Mrs. Henley was at the door a little while ago with Cal. When I saw him my heart nearly burst and when he ran into my arms I couldn’t help but giggle like a kid, he’s the kind of child that brings it out of me. I thanked Mrs. Henley profusely and invited her in for a cup of tea, which she reluctantly accepted. We talked for a while (you know she is quite beautiful) but I couldn’t help but notice that she had a sadness behind her eyes today.
Normally I wouldn’t push but as Cal played in the other room I coaxed it out of her. She told me that an older man had come to her school today claiming to be her father, this man who spent the last ten years of his life in prison for breaking and entering, a man who could never be the kind of father I am to Cal – her words not mine. She even said “I’m the Perfect Father,” which I have to admit made my heart flutter a tad.
Anyway, before she left she reminded Cal not to leave his toys at school again and handed Jake back to Cal and you know what? He said, “Thank You.” I didn’t have to prompt him or remind him or anything; he looked right at her and said “Thank You.”
I have never been so proud of him; my Cal. My Calvin.
I’ve always loved the name Calvin.