The Rhino Never Knocks by: Dean Cook
Written under the pseudonym: Dean Kuch
The Rhino Never Knocks
Part One: Enter the Rhino
The gun is still smoking in my sweaty, trembling palm. The wound it has inflicted in the left side of my wife’s skull is not too intrusive to look at. But, on the other hand, if the mess on the passenger side window glass is any indication as to the condition of the right side of her once beautiful face well…let’s just say that we won’t take a gander at that any time soon, shall we?
I vaguely remember how we got to this fucked up position in our lives. At times, it all seems like some Hitchcockian nightmare, that at any given moment I’ll awake, sheets covered in cool sweat, gasping for breath and heart beating in my chest like an out of balance washing machine. But, this is not a dream my friends and neighbors, this shit is for real! This gripping, gut wrenching horror, while it seems surreal and existential; almost as if it were happening to someone else, this is happening to me…ME! The brains that were once inside my wife’s head and are now dripping in fragmented chunks down the carpeted door panel of our PT Cruiser are living proof of that. She always hated this goddamned car. How ironic she should die in it.
I recall begging her not to call the cops, that what I had done had indeed been for the best for all parties concerned and mixed up in this shitty, mangled mess. But Alyssa always had to do the right thing. And that’s exactly how she had put it, quite simply and undeterred; Howard, we’ve just got to do the right thing here!
Oh, I suppose it was OK that our lovely and vivacious daughter Chelsea, as vibrant and sweet natured a soul as you could ever hope to meet, (and only sixteen years old at the time!), had contracted H.I.V. from a human pin cushion named Todd that she claimed as her boyfriend? When someone once said opposites attract, they must have had this couple in mind. Chels, (that’s my pet name for my girl, Chels) was so unlike Todd in every aspect that it was nearly impossible for me to envision them together whether it be now, or in the future. I just couldn’t get the ole’ brain pan to form the mental picture, you see? And, yeah, I forbid her to see Todd under no conditions and in no uncertain terms, which I am sure only contributed to her sneaking out of the house at all hours of the night to be with him. At least, that’s what Alyssa had told me, that if I had not been so damn bull-headed and stubborn about the whole situation, Chelsea would’ve probably gave up the whole relationship after a short fling and forgot all about Todd, moved on to bigger and better things. Of course, I knew my girl, and that would never have transpired. She’d have clung to his leathered coat tails like a one-legged frog on a wilted lily pad, for as long as he cared to use her up and have her in his life. So, naturally, as any caring Dad would have done, I put my friggin’ foot down!
And, I suppose it was alright to watch Chels waste away in a hospital bed at the ripe old age of twenty three for eight long, grueling months after she had been diagnosed with full blown A.I.D.S., observe that once beautiful life force within her ebb out in tiny putrid puddles onto the cold tiled floor of the hospital room. Watch her waste away to a lifeless pulp of nothingness. I guess all of that was OK with my darling Alyssa. But, it was not OK by me! My Daddy once told me as a kid,
“ Son, it doesn’t do a frat boys fart of good to get mad at anything or anybody. What you gotta’ do is get even!”
And that’s exactly what I did.
Part Two: Wading knee deep in it.
Chelsea came to me five short days after her sixteenth birthday; the pitiful expression that wracked her facial expressions would have brought the stoutest of fathers to their collective knees.
” Daddy, I have something that I really need to talk to you about”, she moaned,” and it is very serious. I think I need your help.”
“What is it sweet heart, you need some money for a concert or some new outfit you’ve spied down at the mall, right?”
Instinctively, I reached for my wallet as I spoke. I had gone down this road a thousand times before.
“No daddy, this is nothing like that. This is about me and Todd…what we ‘did’.”
Now isn’t it funny how one tiny, single word can invoke stark terror and dread simply by the way one utters it? My stomach lurched up and into my throat when that word escaped her lips and resonated in my ear drums on that day. What we’ did’.
Oh dear God I thought. That comfortable road just took an ominous turn for the worse.
I suppose I looked really stupid at the time, mouth hanging open, right hand stuck in the back pocket of my jeans, ass cocked to one side of my recliner with the daily sports section of our newspaper scrunched up in my lap and spilling into the floor. Yeah, a real winner for Funniest Home Videos to be sure! But I simply could not speak, not even mumble a single word. All that managed to make its way outta’ me was a gurgled “ mmphhh! “
Chelsea had to come to my rescue and break the deafening silence that now enveloped us.
“ Daddy, please! For God’s sake say something, anything…!”
“ Well, uh, shouldn’t you be talkin’ to your Mom about this Chels?”, was all I
could seem to muster at the time.
“OK, fine Dad, forget it, it’s not your problem. I’ll deal with it myself!”
Chels abruptly whirled her petite frame around and headed back towards the door.
“ No hon, wait”, I grunted,” let’s hear what happened! I really wanna’ know!”
Chelsea looked down at the floor, and I could see tear drops plopping onto the coffee table below. She drew her breath in through short hyphenated gasps, and her chest jumped from her sobbing.
“Remember daddy, a few weeks ago when Kristina and a few of my other friends went on that camping trip to Jonah’s Lake awhile back?”
“Yeah”, I hissed through clinched teeth,” the one I had reservations about you goin’ on because of all the water moccasins out there? What about it?”
Chelsea peered up sheepishly from her crouching position in front of me. Fresh tears welled up in her eye sockets as she struggled to form the words she wanted to say to me. Well, dad, we, uh-we sorta’ made a stop along the way and picked up a few more people to take along on the trip with us. One of those people was Todd.
My throat was becoming more parched and cotton-like with each new syllable that escaped from Chelsea’s pale lips. I instinctively knew exactly what new road she was taking me down even before she’d even managed to complete the journey. And I didn’t like it’s destination, not one—little—-bit! I had feared this day as a father for quite some time now, ever since my little girl began to grow up and started getting phone calls from boys. We never let her go out on any dates un-chaperoned, her mom and I, but the camping trip seemed legit and harmless enough at the time.
“Chels, honey, I really think this is a topic more suited for your mother to handle, really! I could handle talking to a boy about, well, you know…but I don’t think that I’m qualified to give you proper advice on something like this.”
I tried my best to squirm my way out of this one, but Chelsea just continued on with her confession as if I had not spoken a word at all. Her mind was in some far-off place just then, and she had a distant, zombie-like look to her narrow face that scared the shit out of me.
“Really, hon, you need to”……
“Daddy, I have A.I D.S!”
The words came so suddenly and abruptly from her mouth that they caused me to spill my coffee down my chest. They had ripped through the air like a tornado through a trailer park, ripping my existence and the very fabric of my being away in one fell swoosh!
Once again, just as before, I was dumbstruck. I mean, c’mon, this all had to be a dream, right? Maybe it was some sorta’ she joke she had concocted to get back at me for being such a strict asshole. You know, teach me a lesson for being such a controlling prick? One glance into her moistened dark green eyes threw all doubt out the window. This was no joke.
“See, daddy, on that camping trip Todd and I were together, you know, for the first time? He told me that everything would be alright, he promised me and swore to me that he loved me more than anything! He said that I was his first too, and that he was just as nervous as I was about doing it. Only, it turns out that I wasn’t his first and that everything he said was just a lie to get me to do it. Otherwise, I would have never-ever done anything with him in the first place! Dad…I thought he loved me!”
I sat listening to my daughter’s tearful confessions totally expressionless. Everything that had once been good and caring inside me had now been transformed and replaced by a darker, more ominous thing.
“Daddy, Todd got really sick a few weeks ago, and his mom made him go to the doctor to find out exactly what was goin’ on with him. Todd’s only seventeen for chis’ sakes Dad, and he’s dying!”
Just like Chels, I thought. She always worries about the other guy, gets that from her mother, I’m sure.
“As it turns out, Todd had messed around with one of his baby-sitters when he was about twelve or so, or she messed around with him…we’re really not too sure about the whole thing, and his mom and dad found out that she died of the disease a couple of years ago. They began checking everyone Todd had come into contact with over the last several years, and Todd offered up her name and that little secret that he’d kept from them about her. BINGO! That’s how he’d gotten it too! He just…he just…”
I knew. I knew right then and there exactly what I was going to do to the wretched mother-fucker that did this to my little girl. I knew the moment the words had come flyin’ outta’ her mouth. He would not have to worry about a long, slow, torturous death from the virus he had infected her with. He only had to worry about me, and making right with his Maker, ‘cause I was going to blow his pimple-faced head off of his shoulders for him! Oh yeah, I was gonna’ put an end to his suffering for once and for all! A .357 Magnum round to the forehead should do the deed nicely!
Part Three: Kidz will be kidz…
I came to a few conclusions in the days immediately following Chelsea’s death;
One, that it does not matter what type of Mother and Father that you think that you are, or how much you seem to have a handle on all aspects of your child’s life; kids will be kids, and they are going to experiment with all manners of evils. And…
Two, life is a lot like a rampaging rhino, bursting through the doors of your safe and cozy existence, stomping and crushing the life out of everything and everyone that you hold near and dear to your heart. Relentless and unstoppable in his mission of destruction, he rapes the very life out of you and tramples your weak and weary soul into the dirt. Without conscious, without remorse, and totally bereft of pity; just hell bent on destroying everything that you’ve made.
Everything that you have built. Everything that you have ever loved.
He needn’t knock on the door and ask permission for admittance into the confines of your life. Hell, he doesn’t have to. He simply plows his way in and fucks anyone or anything that gets in his path! He sets off a series of events that you seemingly have no control over what-so-ever, as you plunder downhill at breakneck speeds, powerless to turn back.
Oh yeah, make no mistake about it, that rhino is a bad mother-fucker. A bad mother-fucker indeed! He can turn your once peaceful life upside down, transform it into something that closely resembles the aftermath of a Belgian soccer match, and leave you behind to clean up the shit.
“Mr. Clement, you are free to go in now. She is resting peacefully finally.”
The doctor now addressing Alyssa and myself spoke in a hushed, hoarse tongue that was nearly indecipherable. His curly black hair sat in disarray atop his balding pate, and it appeared as if he hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep in ages. His name didn’t matter, nor did he wear a name tag displaying as much. Chelsea had seen so many different physicians over the last few years that they had all kind of blended together into one large faceless entity by now.
His green hospital gown was showing the signs of fatigue as well, with faint outlines of perspiration beneath his armpits and a crumpled, untidy appearance about the whole of it.
“I have given her a mild sedative to help her sleep but I’m afraid I can do nothing to assist her in helping to relieve her pain. That would be useless at this juncture. She has but a few hours left and she is quite adamant about not getting too groggy to say what she needs to say to the both of you.”
Alyssa could manage only subtle grunts and groans as the doctor updated us on the worsening condition of our daughter.
“Miss Clement has asked me to have each one of you come individually, not together. She has not said why she wanted to face each of you alone, nor have I asked her. It is none of my business. I am simply trying to convey her wishes to you both in the hopes that you would honor it as one of your daughters’ last. I am her physician and I feel that I owe her at least that much. I should also advise you that it would be wise to comply with her request. That is all I will say on the matter, the rest is up to you.”
Alyssa moaned something incoherent, glanced up briefly at me, and slunk back into the orange vinyl clad chair.
Doctor what’s-‘iz-name vaguely gestured towards the door that led to my little girl’s death chamber. As he stepped slightly back, I opened the heavy wooden door with the words; INTENSIVE CARE / One Forty Nine; inscribed in red on a metal face plate screwed upon its surface. The faint odor of ether and alcohol drifted out into the small cubby waiting room when I first opened the door. Ghostly fingers of pale fluorescent lighting danced across the carpeting in the room, and faint beeps and whirring noises emitted from somewhere within. The door closed behind me in a gulping ‘WHOOSH!’
I felt as if I had entered the atmospheric chamber of some clandestine space ship in another galaxy. Gadgets of all shapes and sizes were hooked up to Chelsea now. They whirred and chirped and beeped along merrily, almost in unison, as if performing some sort of morbid death melody, oblivious to my approach. A wave of nausea overcame me and I bit my tongue to fight back whatever It was that was making a hearty attempt to gain exit from my guts.
Chelsea’s eyes were slowly beginning to open as I carefully made my way to her bedside.
A bubbling fluid seeped from my daughter’s swollen lips as she struggled to gurgle out her message to me.
Once again I fought the overwhelming urge to barf.
Chel’s pallid faced emitted an almost eerie phosphorescence, nearly phantom-esque, as she slowly lifted her head from the pillow it rested upon. The impression upon the pillow was stained a piss yellow color, and the pillow itself appeared as if it had been hung out in the rain. Gaping, she made another attempt to speak to me.
“Why…did yuh…you do this to… me? All I ever…wanted was fuh-for you to love me-e-e-e.”
I stared down at Chels’ misshapen features as she began to mouth the words in rough, hoarse whispers.
“I always knuh-knew that you were…so jealous of any boy whu-who came to call on me. Mom never cau-caught on…but I knew. We both knew, didn’t we?”
Oh God, dear God…I don’t want to hear this!
“Duh-does mom even know that you are sick? Does she have even the faintest idea that you are HIV positive? Todd did not give this to me daddy. I gave it to him…
and I got this from you!”
God, please God, make that mother fuckin’ rhino go away!
“I hate you for this, yuh-you bastard! I huh…hope you die!”
Part Four: Riding in Cars with Corpses
Well, that about sums up the story to this point. Hey, I did what I did, what can I say to make amends? I just loved my girl so damned much…she was so much like her mother, ya’ know, when we first met? So beautiful and pure…
The mind plays cruel and evil tricks on a body after a while, doesn’t it? I just could not bring myself to the realization that I had been the one responsible for Chel’s untimely demise-death-whatever the fuck ya’ want to call it. I wanted her all for myself. Does that make me such a prick?
Alyssa thought so.
After I left Chelsea’s bedside and I went back out to the waiting area of the hospital, you could say that I was in sort of a stupor or somethin’, just wandering around the halls and what-not. I had the .357 Magnum in my pocket, and I pulled it out more than once in the waiting rooms adjoining men’s john while my wife was in the room with our daughter. I removed three of the six rounds I’d always kept in the pistol, and I put them in my shirt pocket just in case I needed them. That much I can remember. Hell, I even put the .357’s cold, blue muzzle in my mouth a couple’a times…
But I never pulled the trigger.
See, you gotta’ understand something about my darling wife Alyssa. She is (was, heh) such a proud woman. Never could stand it when someone spoke badly of her or had something negative to say about our little family. So, naturally, when she came out of Chelsea’s room (I could feel the utter horror emitting from every pore in her body), face all askew and white, well…I knew.
Our daughter is asleep now Howard she groaned. I think you and I need to go for a ride and talk. You did it, didn’t you?
I just managed a deep sigh and stared down at the floor.
“ Please, if you did…do what she told me, what she says that you did to her, then, for the love of God Howard ,you are going to have to turn yourself in!”
“What is it that she said that I am supposed to have done Alyssa? Can’t you see that the girl is in agony? She’s probably delirious from all the friggin’ meds they been givin’ her and she is liable to say anything!”
“This is not the time or the place to be discussing this you bastard”, Alyssa hissed. “ Can’t we go for a ride and discuss this in more private surroundings?…”
So, here we are, me and what’s left of my darling Alyssa. She tried her best to convince me to turn myself into the cops after I finally admitted it all to her. I didn’t go into any gory details about the whole sordid affair with our daughter, but hell, I didn’t have to.
“ …you have to do the right thing here Howard.”
Then, her cell phone rang. It was the hospital. Chels had passed on.
It was near about then when all hell broke loose in that goddamned car. Alyssa had transformed into some kinda’ shrieking banshee or something’, scratching and clawing at my face, threatening to call 911 and tell the cops everything.
“You smug son-of-a-bitch, you smug son-of-a-bitch, you…”
She kept screamin’ that at me over and over and over…
And when Alyssa she went for her phone to dial-POW!-right in the side of her pretty lil’ head. Sure did make a fuckin’ mess in here too.
Oops…hold on, Todd’s place is just around this corner here.
Got two bullets left Todd ol’ boy, one for you…and one for me.
And you’re next on my to- do list.
He sure is a prick!