American Gothic Redux is an ongoing series of vignettes giving the reader a glimpse into the lives of the people in a small New Jersey town. Don't miss the earlier entries, as they all tie together. Links at the bottom of the page.
Amber Leigh Krakowitz casually strolled into Benzinger’s Garage on High Street, wearing her cheerleader uniform which she bought a size too small to emphasize her breasts and ass. She knew she had a hot body, all the guys ogled her ever since she hit puberty, and now at eighteen, a few weeks away from graduating high school, she was facing the real possibility of having to make her own way in the world, and she was already letting her instincts to capture a man who will take care of her take over. Maybe they weren’t the right instincts, but she learned them at her mother’s knee and now it was time to put them into practice.
She leaned on the trunk of the car parked in the bay and called out. “Todd? Are you in here?”
Todd Benzinger Sr. popped up from under the open hood of the old car. “I’m here little girl.”
Amber straightened up. “I was looking for your son.”
“You mean your stepbrother?” Todd asked.
“Ex-stepbrother,” Amber said. “He’s driving me to the basketball game.” She looked at her former stepfather in his greasy overhauls and torn t-shirt and remembered the times when she thought he was attractive. She shook her head, trying to shake the thoughts away. Memories of her stepfather now sickened her, but that wasn’t always the case, and she was ashamed of how she had seduced him while he was married to her mother.
“You and your stepbrother are awful close for siblings,” Todd teased. “Like you and I used to be close.” He moved closer to her, reaching out and tracing his finger along her bare arm.
She recoiled from his touch. “Get away from me, perv.”
Her ex-stepfather grabbed her, and squeezed her arms. “Who was the perv back when you were coming on to me in our garage late at night when I was your stepfather? Who was the one who made the first moves?”
Amber struggled and pulled away from the older man’s grip. “That doesn’t matter. You were the adult. You shouldn’t have done anything.”
“How do you think your mother would react, even now after we’re divorced? Do you think she’ll blame me, or will you share some of that blame?” Todd asked, letting his eyes roam over her, making her feel uncomfortable.
She looked down at the floor. “Where’s Todd? I really don’t want to be late for the game.”
“He’s back in the house, probably getting ready for the game, or fantasizing about you,” his father said.
“And you’re a whore just like your mother,” he said with a smirk. “How’s your new stepfather? Is he as good as me?”
“Billy’s never around. He’s in Tokyo most of the time, and he’s not a perv like you.”
“Billy Wong is a loser.”
“He’s got a great job, he doesn’t get all hot and greasy, and best of all he’s never around like you were,” Amber said. “I’m going to find Todd.”
He grabbed her by the shoulders again. “Not so fast, little girl. I think you need a reminder of who you are,” he said, as pulled her struggling body to his and pressed his lips hard against hers.
She fought him, but couldn’t move as he pressed her against the side of the car. She tried to kick him, but he was anticipating her moves. “Just like your mother, only hotter.” He slammed her hard against the rear of the car. “She never knew her place either.”
Todd Jr. entered the garage and saw the scene before him; his father forcing himself on Amber. “Hey! Leave her alone!”
The elder Benzinger shoved Amber back. “Wha—“ He was caught off guard by his son’s fist, but he whirled around grabbed him by the throat, and slammed him down on the trunk of the car. “Don’t have what it takes to beat your old man yet. Maybe some day, but not today.” He grabbed a wrench and held it up over his son’s head.
Amber screamed. “Stop! Please!” She jumped on the older man's back, but he easily threw her off.
“Little girl, your man here ain't nothing but a boy.” The father grabbed his son and threw him to the ground along side his girlfriend. “Get outta here. Both of you. I’ve got real work to do. I don’t have time for children’s games.”
Todd helped Amber to her feet, glaring at his father. “Someday, dad. Someday you’re gonna go too far.”
Amber grabbed Todd’s arm. “Forget about him. Let’s go.” She pulled him out of the garage and to his car.
His hands were balled into fists as he pounded on the roof of his car. “God! I hate that man. I swear, someday I’m gonna kill him.”
Amber opened the car door and pushed Todd in the driver’s seat. “Baby, don’t talk like that. He is your father.”
“Don’t you hate him?”
Amber shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. I’ve hated him since he was married to my mom.”
“Yeah, so why can’t we kill him?”
“Because it’s wrong to kill your parents,” said Amber, as she reached into her purse and withdrew a compact. “It’s in the Bible.”
“Yeah. I remember hearing it in church once. It’s a commandment or something.”
“Do you believe in the Bible?” Todd asked as he turned the corner into the high school parking lot.
Amber shrugged. “I guess. I mean, I’m not gonna actually read it or anything like that, but I suppose it has a purpose.”
“I guess. I’m not really sure what I believe in anymore,” said Todd. He parked and leaned his head against the steering wheel. “I just want school to be over so I can go away to college and get away from this town, and my father, and life and everything.”
“Oh, is Scott gonna be playing today?” Amber asked, changing the subject.
“Yeah. He told Coach Phillips he wanted to play instead of going to the hospital to sit with his grandmother.”
“I can’t imagine growing old like Mrs. Crawford. I mean, I know I’ll get old someday, but she’s really old.” Amber applied a light coat of lip gloss while she talked.
“Baby, you’ve got decades before you become some dried up old lady.” He leaned across the seat and kissed her.
Amber moved her head away. “Hey, I just fixed my makeup. So how is Scott’s grandmother?”
“I guess she’s okay. He told me she didn’t have a stroke, only a nervous breakdown.”
“I can see that. Scott’s grandfather is really cranky most of the time. Do you think you’ll get like your father when you get old?”
Todd shook his head. “No way! I’m never gonna be like my old man. He’s evil. I still wanna kill him.”
“Todd,” said Amber, “stop saying that. Your dad’s a jerk, and a perv, but God wouldn’t want you to kill him just because he came on to me and groped me.”
Todd didn’t answer her. Those aren’t the only reasons, he thought. “Better get going. I’ve got a team meeting in like five minutes.”
Amber leaned across the seat again and pecked him on the cheek. “Good luck. Win for us tonight. I’ll see you at the party afterwards.”
The two teenagers got out of the car and held hands as they walked to the high school gym, like any other normal teenage couple on the night of a big game. Like any other couple they had serious concerns about their futures, and were wrestling with multiple solutions.
Below are the links to the previous chapters in order.
American Gothic Redux
Stairway to Heaven
Out of Sorrow Comes Joy
Chuck and Lola
Met a Pieman
Dead of Night
The Lady and the Transvestite
Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.
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