Gerard and Bandit go to the park for some fun but get caught in a storm. Gerard doubts his fathering with Bandit and slowly descends into a pit of depression.
“Daddy!” Bandit called. She had left the sandbox and was now standing in front of the swing, both hands on the seat of the swing. “Big swing!” she cried as she put both hands on the seat of the swing. Gerard got up from the park bench to help his daughter onto the seat. Bandit preferred to ride on the bigger swing than to ride on the baby swing. He lifted her up on the the seat and said,
“Hold on tight!” Bandit gripped the chain tightly and Gerard lightly pushed Bandit’s back. She giggled and started to kick her legs back and forth.
“Higher!” she squealed. Gerard pushed gently, but a little harder. Suddenly, as if someone had grabbed the sun away, it became much darker. Gerard looked up, still pushing Bandit rhythmically and saw that dark storm clouds had swallowed the light of the sun. Then, droplets of water landed on Gerard’s face.
“It’s raining!” shrieked Bandit happily. The little raindrops started to speckle the asphalt. Gradually, the little raindrops turned into huge blobs of cold water, splashing against the ground. The rushing of water and rain filled their ears. Gerard lifted Bandit off of the swing and the both of them ran towards the park bench where Gerard had left the umbrella.
“I’m gonna put you on my shoulders, okay?” Gerard yelled through the rain to Bandit. Bandit, eyes half closed to protect from the water, nodded. Gerard picked Bandit up and placed her on his shoulders. Bandit wrapped her arms around Gerard’s head while he struggled to open the umbrella, but when it finally popped open, he handed it to Bandit. She held it with one hand while the other was still wrapped around his head. Gerard put his hands around Bandit’s small ankles and started to walk towards the park entrance.
Bandit started to hum softly, barely perceptible through the sound of rain. Gerard did not recognize the tune, so he assumed she was just making it up as she went. The patter of rain on the umbrella almost drowned her voice out, but Gerard was glad he could just barely hear her sweet voice. Gerard turned onto the street his work was, only about half a mile from their apartment. Bandit’s arm had started to become tired from holding the umbrella and was starting to lean to the right, not serving any purpose. Gerard reached up to take the umbrella from her grip, when in the corner of his eye, through the mist the rain had created, he saw the figure of the very same homeless man he had encountered many times before. Gerard took Bandit off his shoulders and held the umbrella over her.
“Bandit, can we make a short stop? It won’t be far,” Gerard asked. Bandit nodded reluctantly. She wanted to get out of the rain, but she wanted to please her father in any way she could. They walked down the street, going the opposite direction from the route to their house, hand in hand. They neared the homeless man. Water was streaming down his face and arms. Being the fall, the rain was freezing cold, yet the man still neglected to wear the jacket next to him. Once Gerard stepped in front of him, the man looked up. His glasses were fogged and the tape at the sides of the frame was starting to fray. Although Gerard could not see his eyes, the corner of the man’s mouth turned upwards. Gerard, now shivering, said,
“Beautiful day, isn’t it?” The man, without sounding enthused, said,
“Just like every day here.” Gerard attempted to wipe the water off of his face, clearing his vision.
“You, ah, you should probably get some shelter. Like, under a porch or building or something.”
“No, I’m fine. I like the rain.” Gerard ran his hands through his soaking hair. He felt Bandit press her body against his leg. She was shivering. What kind of father am I? Gerard thought to himself. Despite his thoughts, Gerard said,
“Well, at least take this umbrella. You need it more than we do.” Regretfully, Gerard handed over the umbrella, exposing Bandit to the cold rain.
“...Thank you,” the man said gratefully, holding it over his head, showing gratitude.
“No problem. Take care.” Gerard and Bandit turned around to walk home. A little confused as to why the man he didn’t even know the name of came before his daughter in his decision, he didn’t notice until he looked down. That Bandit was waving goodbye to the man behind them. Gerard squinted through the rain and saw that the man was doing the same. Gerard raised his hand in goodbye, and then unzipped his hoodie. He picked Bandit up, who was still shivering and carried her. She curled up in his arms and Gerard took one side of the hoodie he was wearing and covered Bandit with it.
“Almost home sweetie,” he whispered.
Gerard opened the door to their apartment and closed it quietly behind him. Bandit had fallen asleep in his arms while he carried her home.
“Hey, B,” Gerard said softly as he tried to wake her up by placing her on the ground standing up. Bandit opened her eyes groggily, blinking them until everything came into focus.
“We’re home,” Gerard smiled. Bandit sneezed, and then sniffled into her arm. You’re a horrible father, Gerard. You got her sick, Gerard thought to himself.
"C’mon, Bandit, lets get these wet clothes off.” Gerard ran to the bathroom and pulled out a towel and returned to Bandit. He took her clothes off gently, the cloth sticking to her skin because of the water. Wrapped her in the towel and picked her up again.
“I’m sorry, Little B,” Gerard said apologetically.
“S’okay,” Bandit squeaked quietly, sneezing again.
“You wanna take a bath?” Gerard asked sympathetically. Bandit nodded, still shivering in her towel. Gerard picked her up again and took her to the bathroom. He put her on the ground again and turned the warm water on in the bathtub. Red water. Blood. Gerard shook his head in denial. He couldn’t shake those thoughts out of his head. Minutes later, the tub was halfway full with steaming water.
“Bubble bath?” Gerard asked Bandit. Excitedly, Bandit answered yes and Gerard took out the bubble bath soap. After pouring the pink liquid near the spout where the water was rushing out, bubbles started to appear on the surface of the water. Finally, the bathtub was full. Gerard helped Bandit climb into the water. He pulled up his sleeves. The scars on his wrists seemed hopelessly exposed to his innocent daughter. He knew that the grim topic of suicide and self-injury had yet to reach her mind, but nonetheless, he wanted it to have little to do with her. He wished she could stay the young toddler she was now, splashing in the bubbly water, amusing herself while molding the bubbles into different shapes. The world was too ugly for such a beautiful person. Gerard was brought out of his regret when Bandit splashed him with the warm water.
“Hey!” Gerard yelled, and playfully splashed her back. Bandit giggled and scooped up an armful of bubbles. She beckoned to her father to come near her. Gerard leaned over the tub and Bandit put the bubbles on Gerard’s face. Gerard closed his eyes shut and waited for Bandit to finish applying the foam.
“Bubble beard!” shouted Bandit, her voice echoing around the bathroom. Gerard opened his eyes and spit out some soap that had gotten into his mouth. Bandit was giggling uncontrollably at her father’s ridiculous getup.
“Very funny, B, now let’s see how you like it!” Gerard took a handful of bubbles and placed them on Bandit’s face. Bandit sat in the warm water patiently, waiting for Gerard to finish, barely able to contain herself. After he finished, he grabbed a small mirror for Bandit to look in. She peered into the mirror and inspected her new “facial hair”. She started to laugh even harder than she had before, delighted by the unreal display of a beard.
“Bandit, you want hot chocolate?”
“YEAH!” It seemed as though all of Bandit’s energy had been restored. Gerard left Bandit in the bathtub and went to the kitchen to make her hot chocolate. He took out the cocoa powder from the cabinet and the milk from the fridge. After pouring a couple tablespoons of cocoa into a pot, he mixed in a few drops of milk to make a bitter, dark syrupy substance. He poured in more milk and some sugar. He placed the pot onto the stove and turned the flame on. After stirring the mixture until the milk turned brown, he went back to the bathroom to check on Bandit. She was still frolicking in the water, splashing around. Gerard stood there for a while, watching his daughter, before he went back to the kitchen and poured the hot chocolate into a mug. He got the whipped cream from the refrigerator and made a small puff of it on top of the liquid. He walked back to the bathroom and told Bandit,
“Your drink is ready, B.” Bandit climbed out of the tub and Gerard wrapped her in a soft, fluffy towel, he wiped the bubbles off of her hair and dried her off completely. When he finished, he wrapped the towel around her and carried her to her room.
“How about you surprise me with an outfit, huh?” Gerard said after putting her back on the ground.
“Okay!” Bandit agreed, holding the towel around her. Gerard walked out of her room to make himself a little coffee.
Gerard sipped his coffee. He had mixed a little bit of hot chocolate in it to add sweetness. He felt a little accomplished for making a delicious mid-day beverage. He heard some footsteps nearing the kitchen and soon saw Bandit step into view. Gerard took one more sip of his drink before getting ready to judge Bandit’s dressing skills. After lowering the mug he looked down to Bandit. She was wearing an oversized black t-shirt. Printed on it was a white skull stained brown. Gerard choked on the coffee. He tried to place the mug on the table, but let go to early. The mug toppled off the counter and shattered on the linoleum floor. Brown liquid splatter everywhere. Bandit winced at the noise and the mess. Still coughing, Gerard fell onto his knees and said, quivering,
“B-Bandit. You-Where--How did you...?” Utterly confused, and unsure whether she had done something wrong or not, answered,
“Under the bed...” Gerard felt tears rise from his eyes.
“Bandit, you can’t t-touch Daddy’s things, o-okay?” he said, forcing himself to sound calm. Bandit slowly started to take the shirt off. When she did, she handed it to Gerard and walked out of the kitchen back into her room. Gerard was kneeling alone in the kitchen, the shirt once again clutched in his hands. This shirt. It would never stop haunting him. It was a curse. It would cling to conscience forever. But he couldn’t get rid of it. He hadn’t remembered why he didn’t get rid of the shirt earlier, but but now he realized why. It was a part of him. It gave him the satisfaction and knowing of how he was able to leave at any time. That he had the courage before, he could do it now. It wasn’t that he wanted to leave. He didn’t, really. He didn’t want to leave Bandit or Lindsey, but still, he could part with something that connected him with one of the most life changing experiences of his life. Looking at the shirt once more, reminiscing the events that happened while wearing that shirt, then folded it neatly. He stood up, wobbling, a little fazed, and went to apologize to Bandit. He knocked on the frame of her doorway. She was now dressed in a plain white t-shirt and jeans and was playing with her action figures, distracted and uninterested in them, then looked up.
“I’m sorry, Daddy,” she apologized regretfully. Gerard walked over to her on her bed and sat down on the edge.
“No, Bandit, I’m sorry. You did nothing wrong.” He knew her intentions were good. She just wanted to be like her father. She had watched Gerard shove the shirt under his bed.
“Just don’t take stuff out of daddy’s room. This shirt means a lot to me.” Bandit nodded and looked a little relieved that she had not disappointed her father.
“Gerard, honey, wake up...” Gerard rubbed his eyes and sat up on the couch. Lindsey was dripping wet from the rain and standing next to Gerard.
“Hi, Lindz,” Gerard said groggily.
“What’s that?” she asked, pointing at the black shirt Gerard was holding in his hands. He did not realize that he had slept with it in his hands.
“Just a shirt...” he said, trying to hide it behind him. Lindsey knew about his attempt at suicide, but he had never elaborated.
“Where’s Bandit?” Lindsey asked.
“Shit...” Gerard muttered. He had forgotten about her. He had been so exhausted and mentally tired from the events before, he had fallen asleep on the couch.
Lindsey went to find Bandit in her room coloring with her crayons. Abstract designs made up of lines filled the paper, her hand gripping the crayon as the tip jerked across the page in uneven motions.
“How was your day?”Lindsey asked.
“Good! Me ‘n Daddy went to the park! Bu’ then it started raining but Daddy gave the umbrella to a man. It was cold.” Then, to involuntarily prove her point, Bandit sneezed.
“Aw, I’m sorry honey!” Trying to hide her mild anger. Who was this man? Why did Gerard give up his umbrella? “Do you want hot chocolate?”
“Daddy made me some, but he never gave it to me...” Bandit said disappointedly.
“Okay we’ll go get it and warm it up,” Lindsey said as she offered her hand to Bandit. Bandit took her hand and they walked to the kitchen.
The both of them found Gerard leaning against the counter waiting by the microwave as it softly hummed. He had beat them to it.
“Sorry I didn’t give you your hot chocolate, B,” Gerard said regretfully.
“S’okay,” she replied. Gerard slipped out of the room leaving his wife and daughter alone with the humming microwave. Seconds later, Lindsey heard their bedroom door shut quietly down the hallway, followed by the beep of the microwave, after handing Bandit the warm cocoa, she went to find Gerard in their room. She hesitantly put her hand on the chilling doorknob. She knew something was wrong with Gerard. He was acting peculiar and distant these days and she didn’t know what it was. Gerard always had a weak barrier between his own poisonous self-image and reality. As happy as he seemed to be with his family, Lindsey could always find gestures of psychological exhaustion in his movements and diction. Whatever was hiding behind the door, Gerard’s deepest and secrets and sorrows, would be released when she opened it. Was she ready? Did she want to know? Muffled sounds came from beyond the door, silencing her thoughts. She lifted her hand from the doorknob. She wasn’t ready. She didn’t want to know.
Gerard sat on the foot of his bed. He saw his wife’s shadow standing in front of the doorway. He saw the doorknob quiver ever so slightly. He saw that she had walked away. A stab of loneliness struck Gerard in the chest. He whimpered softly and brought his hand up to his chest. His chest felt tight, but it loosed a little when he heard Bandit’s shrieks of laughter from the other room. Immediately, though, it grew tighter again. How could he have brought her into this evil world? As much as she was a joy in his life, he couldn’t help but feel guilty. After what he had experienced as an adolescent, hadn’t he learned anything? This world was dark. To rid of the horrible thoughts swimming through his mind, he stood up suddenly and paced the room. Eventually, he stripped everything off except his boxers. He shivered in the cold but appreciated the distraction. His skin tingled from the chill and he climbed under the blankets on his bed. He curled up into a fetal position and closed his eyes.