Carpenter, Demon Hunter, Father
by Sara Codair
I sneak back into the house. Despite my stealth, Erin hears the door and screams. I stash my Glock under that loose floor board Grace complains I never fix and rush up stairs.
Erin is heaven in my arms after a night chasing nightmares down dark alleys. I savor the sound of her little heart beating. I love my family, but often feel cursed to be an Evanstar, a scion of an old demon-hunting family.
My daughter looks so much like me with her leaf-green eyes and fluffy red hair. I change her soiled diaper, feed her and just hold her before I take off my clothes and slip into bed. Grace rolls over. “Thanks, Liam. I’ll change her next time.”
“I love you,” I whisper drinking in the sight of her coffee eyes and maple hair.
“I love you too.” She closes her eyes and falls back to sleep.
I’m at the job site unloading the trailer. My subs shoot envious glances at how easily I carry sheets of drywall. They don’t know I could take three times the load without breaking a sweat. If they weren’t there to see, I would carry it all myself. I’d move so fast they would only see a blur. Sometimes, I wonder why I spend the money on their salaries.
Then Dawn cracks a joke, I smile, and we get to work. Pneumatic guns shoot nails into walls. Sharp blades slice through wood like butter. Our laughter and curses float up to the heavens. We finish framing the first floor before lunch. They guys invite me to the pizza shop with them, but I have other plans.
Grace and Erin meet me at the diner.
“I swear this girl is nocturnal.” Grace sips her coffee with shaking hands. “Cries all night, sleeps all day.”
Erin’s eyes are closed and she is sucking her thumb. Dark circles surround Grace’s sunken eyes and her hair sticks up five directions. Six months after giving birth, she is the thinnest I’ve ever seen her.
“What are your plans for this afternoon?” I tuck a stray strand of hair behind her ear.
“Yard work—your sister said vinegar will kill the weeds that keep growing between the pavers.”
“When did you talk to Lucy?”
“This morning. I woke up to Amelia rummaging through our fridge.”
I nearly choke on my coffee, hiding fear with a laugh. “How’d she get in?”
Grace shakes her head and twirls hair around her fingers. “She found the spare key and piled up a bunch of toys to help her reach the lock. When I caught her, she just looked up at me with wide eyes and asked for bacon.”
My laughter comes easier when I realize Amelia was just looking for food and not on some foolish mission to tell Aunty Grace the Truth. “So did you feed her?”
Grace nods. “My call woke Lucy. She hadn’t even realized her daughter was gone. I didn’t want to give Amelia the wrong idea, but Lucy said she would learn her lesson either way.”
“Sounds like I missed a fun morning.”
“Lucy said she wants you to stop by after work. She needs you to fix something.”
“Alright,” I sigh, wondering how many nights I can sneak out before Grace gets suspicious.
I stop by my sister’s on the way home.
Nothing is broken at Lucy’s house that I can fix. She’s perfectly capable of repairing broken banisters, leaky plumbing, and shorted wiring—she worked construction with me until Amelia was born.
With a sigh, I raise my hand and knock on her plum colored door. It opens before my hand hits the wood. A ball of blinding light flies at me with enough force to knock me off the steps.
“Uncle Li Li!” squeals Amelia as she wraps her tiny arms around me. “Aunty Gracie cooked me the best bacon ever!”
I pick Amelia up and spin her around, resulting in a flurry of bell-like giggles.
“Mommy thinks you’re going to have to go hunting tonight,” she says as the question forms in my mind. “I told her you don’t like hunting and that you wish you were a stay-at-home daddy, but she says you have to do it because it’s your blood, but that doesn’t make any sense. How can—”
“Amelia, do you remember that talk we had about privacy and mind reading?” scolds Lucy as she stomps out to the porch.
Light fades from Amelia’s swirling green and blue eyes. “But Uncle Li Li is family!”
“Go play with the kitties. Uncle Liam and I have business to talk about.”
I’m greeted by the warm aroma of meatloaf and the sound of Grace’s angelic voice singing to Erin.
She yawns through dinner and passes out on the couch soon after. Her snores serenade me while I load the dishwasher.
I choose not to wake my wife. I tell Erin stories Grace wouldn’t believe. I know Erin can’t understand and won’t remember, but I tell her anyways, because I’m not sure I’ll see her grow up.
I’m never there when I dream her future.
I get the call. Pixies spotted a pack of demons roaming through an abandoned factory. I gather my weapons and conceal them under my coat.
I’m speeding down 495 in my sister’s Chevy.
I’m surrounded by teeth and cold, black eyes and bone white bodies. I unsheathe my sword and time slows down. I’m faster than them, faster than anything else man or monster.
Seven demons are vanquished.
My sister is laughing. “You never let me have any fun.”
I shake my head. Hunting isn’t fun. It’s a life that burns like vinegar. It taxes my sanity. I’m a carpenter and father. I’m not cut out to be a soldier.
I’m home, changing Erin’s diaper.
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Sara Codair writes because her brain is overcrowded with stories. If she doesn’t get them out, she fears her head will explode. When she isn’t making things up, she is teaching, binge reading fantasy novels or enjoying nature. She won second place in Women on Writing’s 2016 Winter Flash Fiction Contest and her work has appeared in several e-zines including 101 Words, Foliate oak, Sick Lit Magazine and Mash Stories. You can find her online at https://saracodair.com/ and @shatteredsmooth.