ByJim Figueroa, writer at

The boy looked on from behind a slight opening of the barn door. His father, a slim and tempestuous man, was dealing with yet another American who did not want (or could not) pay full price for beef. Up the coin went, and down it flipped over and over bouncing softly against the straw padded ground. His father looked up at the smiling American and the boy knew instantly that his father had lost. Immediatly he felt borrowed embarrassment, and looked at his shoe laces to see how even the loops were. Little Antony knew, if father lost at anything (which was often), the only real loser would be Antony himself. His father, scratching his head, walked back toward the main house and Antony went deeper towards the back of the barn where the hay was piled high.

One hour, he thought. That's how long it would take for the man he loved more than anything in the world to come back out of the house; breath smelling heavy and toxic. Then he would have to go with him into the cleaning room with one of their few steers and... The boy curled up into a ball at the thought. He knew what was awaiting him tonight. It haunted him. More so because of his asthma. The cleaning room and his bedroom had only one thing in common but it was that one thing that would provide a lifetime of sleepless nights full of steel reflection. The long cylindrical tank in his room connected to his breathing apparatus, and the same exact style tank in the cleaning room; connected to the air gun. To a nine year old boy, for all intended purposes, it was the exact same thing.

Antony looked up suddenly and thought, Frank. He would be the next one to die at his hands. The first time it had been so unexpected, his father suddenly dragging him off to the cleaning room after one of his poker nights. He didn't and couldn't believe any of it had happened even as it was happening. But later that night, as he sucked air into his mouth dry and sweet from the tank, he pictured what he had done. The shakiness of his own fathers hands over his own. The steadiness of his own hands as it was happening. The placement of such a simple looking tool connected to nothing but a hose on the forehead of a docile, yet gigantic creature. And the sudden drop of lifelessness to the ground. The hole. The small trickle of blood. The eyes turned up. The tongue protruding in an almost comical yet finite way. The tank. The tank in his room. And his breath through the hose and the cup over his mouth. That same air killed that animal. It will kill frank tonight. It was giving him life. Easing his pain throughout the night. And this was a concept that was slowly directing his thoughts away from his heart, and capturing his imagination in a new way. Life. He is given life. God has seen fit to do so. But through his father's shaky hands, and through the tank and the hose and the air (that sweet, sweet air), God had sentenced the animal to death.

Anton lifted his head up out of his lap, tears streaking down his cheeks. His face as smooth as stone and his eyes as blue as lapis. God had made him death. Or at least a wild card, like the ones in his father's deck. He thought again of frank and felt a mild pang in his stomach. God wants you dead Frank, he thought. Not my father. Not even me. Just God. Though you could blame me frank. You could blame my father. You could even blame the tank, or the hose or the steel tool covering the end of the hose. Hell, Antony thought; you could even blame the air inside the tank. But then you would be blaming the exact same thing that has given me life. And the air in that tank, just like me frank, just like the air that I've been breathing through the apparatus since the first time I almost died of asphyxiation? Well... That air got here the same way I did. Didn't it?

The night sky outside the barn flashed white. Rain would soon follow. And soon after his old man would grab him by the scruff of his neck and guide him to the cleaning room, blame and rum on his lips. This had happened in almost the exact same way a few times before. And each time the surrealism had lessened. And each time he thought less about his father's woes in this somewhat new country. He would think less about his father's decision to continue relying on the flipping coin or the cards, or the races that almost never provided him or his family with comfort.

Antony smiled and stood up. He felt refreshed although nothing tonight should have indicated change. He did feel somehow new. The haunting feeling that normally engulfed him at the thought of handling the tank tonight was gone. He suddenly felt the urge show his father the gift God had bestowed upon them. For while his father's luck and ability at the games of chance were nil, his only son was that which he wanted. He was chance. And he hoped he could bestow this chance upon everyone and everything. At this moment in particular it was frank. If he got better, then maybe he could bless his father with it as well. Suddenly too excited for his own good, 9 year old Antony Chigurh thought to go get some sweet and much needed air from the tank in his room. But that would give his father too much time, and he wanted to be the one to show him how fortune smiled upon them. No, the tank in the cleaning room was fine. Killing Frank would be fine too. It would all be fine. The boy smiled in the dark.


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