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by Deanna Rittinger

Tyrone casually pressed the edge of his cigarette down on the flank of the neighbor’s cat.  He had watched the way the cat seemed so free, able to catch anything it hunted.  It didn’t seem at all fair that a mangy cat could go anywhere it liked and get everything it tried for when he couldn’t.  The cat gave a strangled meow that ended in a hiss before he shot out of Tyrone’s grip and under the bushes that bordered the yard.

“You know Paw’ll cream you if he sees you smoking his cigarettes, Tyrone.”  Tyrone saw Brant coming out of the corner of his eye, and he knew his brother would flinch at what he’d been doing to the cat.

“You gonna tell him?”  Tyrone swiveled his head and pinned his brother with his eyes. 

He felt a shiver of pleasure, as Brant jerked his head  in a “No.” 

“So how is he goin to find out then?” 

“Did the old man send you to find me or are you just out spying on me like you do him?”  Brant had caught Daddy last week walking into the crack house down the street.  When he told Tyrone, he’d just laughed in his face.  There were lots of things that went on down the street that Brant didn’t know about.  Brant wasn’t retarded or anything, but their momma hovered over him and protected him so much that he just didn’t get the way the world worked, or who owned who. 

Tyrone knew who owned him.  Daddy’d made that very clear the night he took him into the cellar, made him do things he’d only seen done in the magazines he’d hid down there.  That was the first time.

“You like what you see there, boy?”  The voice daddy used was the one when he was in trouble, but instead of anger there was a smile on his face, all-cruel at the edges.  That smile made Tyrone suddenly afraid.  He wasn’t sure if he should tell Daddy the truth or tell him what he wanted to hear, he was shaking in fear so badly that it took too long in answering him.  That’s when his is dad cuffed him in the ear and started yanking on his zipper.

Cigarette burns were Daddy’s way of branding him, a reminder of who owned him.  Tyrone had been practicing with the neighborhood cats.  He would be moving up soon to people, trying out his own power, feeling free.  Yes, even now, he could feel his power growing, there was fear in his brothers eyes as he’d been watching him and he felt the first stirrings of pleasure reach down and excite him there, just like Daddy.

“Where’s momma at, Brant?”  There was a command, a smoothness to his tone that wasn’t there a month ago, when his voice was still cracking and changing. 

“She’s talking to Aunt LaWanda on the phone… why?” 

“No reason.  I have something to show you in the cellar.”


Deanna Rittinger has decided at 41 that what she wants to be when she grows up is an author.  In this way, her imagination can invite others to play with her.  After all, writing is such a lonely sport.  You can find her other stories on the web at Haruah, Long Story Short and Ultraverse.  Currently, she’s working on a paranormal thriller, her first novel.

Contact Deanna.