We Killed Daddy
Katherine Forbes Riley

Enter this now and everyone is already bonded and you know you're not part of it. Laying down your hat and keys, you're tired after a long day. Could use a little special attention, but they barely acknowledge you.

Kid's busy dancing a jig and talking a mile a minute as you put your coat away. He's got some story going with his mother—again—both of them pulling their lines out of thin air. Tonight it's about mice flying airplanes. He says, Guess what they just stopped it in the middle of the air! She says, But can they make it go the speed of light?

You hate mice.

Mess in that mudroom, you mutter, walking past them toward the bedroom to change, and then the kid hits you. Whacks you right on the thigh. It doesn't hurt but still. He never hits her. Just you. He'll hit you if he thinks he's protecting her and if he's mad at her too. Sometimes he'll hit you just for trying to make him feel better. Trying to make him feel you. What'd you hit me for? you say. She says, It means he's secure in your love. You say you knew your dad loved you but he would've taken his belt to you if you ever hit him.

Even though you might feel the urge sometimes, you couldn't ever do that. Really you can't understand how your dad did. But those were different times. They've got better techniques now. Your wife knows them. She was raised even worse than you and it made her extremely maternal. That's one of the reasons you married her. You knew she'd put the kids first.

You didn't expect to come last though.

Now here's the baby come running into the bedroom where you're putting on your house clothes. Dada on repeat. It's sweet, it really is, all that excited love she brings you. But she's fickle. Like tonight as soon as you pick her up she wants down again. And now it's Nehneh on repeat, which means Milk, or Mama, or sometimes just Not You.

You're taking things out of the fridge and of course no one's helping. She only stops playing long enough to call out, If you want a potato you'll have to make one. You do. Besides that there's chicken and kale salad—again. She's already made the kids' plates and her own, but when you come to the table no one joins you. The kids only come to the table for bites. Bite! Bite! You can't believe how tired you are of hearing her say that night after night. But you have to admit they're healthy-looking. They eat all their vegetables—even if it takes them all night—and they don't like treats all that much because she hardly ever has them in the house.

Used to be she did. She had all the treats you liked. Lemon tarts, truffles, pizza, beer, even a little weed sometimes. Used to be you could say, Let's eat out and you would. Used to be you might say it three, four times a week. Got to where you thought of yourselves as foodies. Now it's only Saturday nights and either you go somewhere the kids can get hotdogs or you buy something special like breakfast sausage and eat it for dinner.

Used to be you'd see a movie every weekend and discuss it afterward. At night you could watch all the TV you liked and she'd lie next to you reading so you could rub her ass if you felt like it. You'd rub those tendons high in her thighs and sometimes if you'd both had a few it would lead to a whole lot more. Sometimes you'd be dirty dancing with music blasting, feeling like movie stars yourselves. Now when you put on music the kids want to dance with you. Hard to bust a move with a kid in your arms. And she won't let you turn on the TV until after they've gone to bed, and you haven't seen a whole movie in years. Same reason you don't make love at night, both of you are just too damn beat. Instead some mornings she'll plop the kids down with the iPad for twenty minutes while the two of you have a "conversation," but it sure is tough to concentrate with that Elmo voice blaring from the other room. Right about now there's not much you wouldn't do for a whole day with a movie channel and a bottle of champagne and some sushi and her naked body lying next to you.

That body still so fine, which is currently on all fours neighing like a horse, two kids on her back, laughing fit to split. As you rise with your plate, going to carry it to the sink, she turns and looks over her shoulder at you. And for a second there's this look in her eye that makes you sure she knows what you've been thinking. It used to be if she looked at you like that you'd have gotten down on all fours with her.

Now she's groaning, falling flat, kids tumbling all around her. One of them grabs your leg, yelling Daddy, Daddy, almost toppling you over. And just when you open your mouth to yell the other one grabs your other leg. Dada on repeat.

Now hold on, you say, Just hold on, and you put down your plate. You lie down on that rug too—only get the edge so you're half on the cold bare floor, that's how it is these days—right up next to your son, who's right up next to your wife, and your baby daughter is crawling around on your chest, squealing like she's just conquered you.

Katherine Forbes Riley is a computational linguist, writer, wife and mother in Vermont. A graduate of Dartmouth College with a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, her professional writing appears in many places. Her creative writing appears in Storyscape, Whiskey Island, Lunch Ticket, Eunoia Review, Literary Orphans, Eclectica, BlazeVOX, McNeese Review, Akashic Books, and Buffalo Almanack, from whom she received the Inkslinger's Award.