In the history of my violence, I only have one regret; it’s that when I was presented my opportunity to kill my coward father, I failed to act. See, my mother was off world, visiting the few remaining relatives that would still speak to her, as her decision to marry my father had been an unforgivable one to most of her relatives. They did not know, so couldn’t consider that her pregnancy had been the impetus of her decision. From the little I heard of them, and the even less I saw of them, I doubted they would have cared. I was an abomination in their eyes, therefore so was she. So, this left me in the care of my father, during one of his sober periods, numbering so few I can recall them all and count them on one hand. He woke me early. He had borrowed a Range Hoover from the local impound, and he asked me if I wanted to go for a quick jaunt out near the synth grove. He promised we could pick balloon mangos and maybe even take a swim in Purple Lake. All I wanted was to be away from him, but I had no real choice.

The ride out was silent. I stared out the side screen, curious how the Triple-Lingos complex managed to stay in constant rotation, both around Friendly Grove and tidally locked to one another. Three spherical balls floating through space like a ballet against the stars. I thought of the people, the droids, and the flowers that might be there, how different they might be, could I ever see them, and if I did, would I find out what it felt like to be happy?

He did it silently, almost casually. He slid the bottle down the seat between my restraint and my belt. What strikes me the most on my memory is my utter lack of surprise, that a father would hand his child a bottle of alcohol, the very substance that, up to that tender age, had absolutely decimated my young life. It felt right, obvious, even necessary. I didn’t flinch, or bother to ask, I simply unscrewed the thin metal cap and drank. The taste was like fire. It burned my tongue and my guts at the same time, and although the burn almost made me cry, I wouldn’t show it. I refused to give that bastard the satisfaction. I only drank more. Soon, the burn began to settle, and an easy peace started to descend upon me.

By the time we reached Purple Lake, I was reeling. I couldn’t quite focus and in the full glare of the artificial sun, the horizon seemed to have come unglued, I felt as though my feet were no longer my own. My father came quickly out of the Rover and started off through the thick of the mango grove. I stumbled to follow him, horrified that I might be abandoned in this condition. We were hundreds of clicks away from anyone or any settlement. My mind began to race that maybe leaving me here was his plan all along. I ran to catch him, my short legs getting tangled in the undergrowth. When I was but 10 meters back of him, he slowed and turned, smiling. He yelled for me to hurry along; he had a surprise for me. Only then did I notice the bundle tucked under his arm. And the fresh bottle he had in his free hand.

When we finally reached the clearing, I was choking on my own sweat. My legs and arms were a warrant of cuts and bruises from the rushing undergrowth, and my feet were numb. My tongue felt like a furry caterpillar trapped behind my teeth. I fairly collapsed in my father’s general direction, but he scooped me up, set me right, and handed me the fresh bottle. I drank with a greed and desperation I had never known. Only when the contents were drained did I notice the unrolled bundle laying on the clearing floor, a long cartridge rifle, and ammo. I had seen him use it before, mostly to scare scrappers and mongrels off the court. I had even touched it once, when I found it hidden in the larder behind the loo, the cold steel and worn wood sections feeling terrifying and fantastic under my fingers. I traced the curves in the dark, then, sensing the items shattering potential for violence. Now it lay on the ground before me.

My father had stumbled up the way to place our emptied bottles on a range fence post cross beam. Three empties all in a row. Had it already been three? I didn’t know and didn’t care. I didn’t understand the rules of this game and it made me nervous. My father brought the rifle behind me, thrusting the barrel through my underarm, and placed my finger on the trigger. He told me to breathe, to look past the target, to squeeze, DON'T pull the trigger. His hot, alcohol breath at my ear was grotesque, and I thought about my own breath. Would it now reek as his, as he so often did? Was I now his equal? I washed these uglinesses from my thoughts, and I pulled the trigger. I only managed to catch the bow of a low hanging branch, and my shot whipped the beams, dislodging all our targets. My father bellowed, called me an idiot, and that it must be the filthy poisoned Roma in my blood that ruined my aim. As he stumbled back to reset the bottles, my eyes burned with drunken tears, all rage and pure hatred. To be here, mocked and scared, and failing, and having to endure it all with this horrible creature chiding me was unbearable. I cocked the weapon.  The sound was loud and resounding in the mango grove. My father clearly heard the report. He slowed, only just for a moment, then seemed to linger, being overly fussy as to how he replaced the bottles. He took his time. He never turned back to face me. He was waiting for my shot.

I did not shoot him that day, or on any of the other days that followed. And the smile he wore when he finally turned and walked back to me remained his default expression to me from them on. He had given me every opportunity, the reason, and even the alibi, but I had not had the heart, the fire, the minerals to end my enemy. My heart was a coward, so I took that shot, one million times over, in my mind for the rest of my life.  And I always drank like I was dying of thirst, back there, shamed, in those mango groves.

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