Call Me Robert by Wm. Brett Hill

Photo by Jed Owen on Unsplash

Robert Buckley looked around his bedroom for the last time. He thought he would feel sad, but everything inside him told him he was making the right decision. He latched his suitcase closed, annoyed that he couldn’t find one that stood out less, and set it by the door.

“Goodbye room, I will not miss you,” he said. Posters of varying shapes and sizes, all advertising carnivals and theater, covered the wall. His lamp, bowling pin body and rubber chicken lampshade sat next to a bed unrealistically shaped like a prawn. The trunks, some large enough to hide in, some small enough to hold merely a pea, were stacked in the corner underneath netting that had become damaged and unusable. It was a great room for a child, but Robert was no longer a child.

He picked up his case and walked down the hallway as quietly as he could, grateful that his shoes were as silent as the night. If he could just make it out of the house without his parents seeing him he would be scot free. Then it was just a matter of getting to the railway and hopping a car.

Robert was fifteen years, but he knew in normal clothes he looked a lot older. He was already beginning to grow the beginnings of a moustache, and once he let it grow out instead of shaving it every night he knew he would look older still. He was ready to be out from under his parents’ controlling lifestyle. He just wanted a normal life.

As he crept through the living room the light in the kitchen clicked on and he froze in his tracks. There was no way around it. He had been spotted.

“What do you have there, Bobo?” asked his father. He was sitting on one of the stools at the island in the center of the room lazily eating the remains of a cream pie with an oversized spoon. His ginger hair stuck out in all directions, giving him a slightly crazed look to people who didn’t know him, but Robert was accustomed to the look.

“Just, just some books and stuff,” he replied shyly. He tried to hide the case behind him. “And please, Dad, it’s Robert now.”

“I named you, I can call you what I like,” said his father. “Now why are you sneaking about at night with a case full of books, my boy?”

“I was just going to take them to Carmella,” Robert lied. “She was saying just the other day how she had so little to read.”

His father snorted. “She reads cards, Bobo. And she does that plenty. Sit down.”

Robert set the case down on the chair by the door. He slowly walked over to the island, pulling up the seat opposite.

“Explain yourself,” said his father. He looked strange in this light, and his usual face had faded so that his natural one stood out more. All Robert read on that face was disappointment.

“I was just going for a walk,” he said to his feet.

“With books?” asked his father.

“Just a few.”

“Books like THIS?” demanded the man as he slammed a familiar book down on the center of the table. His father always did have a thing for the dramatic.

Robert stared at the book on the table, his dog-eared copy of Principles of Accounting by C. Wallace Montegue. He felt his heart race at the thought of what lay between the light blue covers of that tome, numbers and figures, calculations and theories. It all made sense to him and excited him. He knew in his heart that his father wouldn’t understand.

He decided it was time to stand his ground.

“Yes, like that one. Did you even look inside?” he responded.

His father stood quickly, causing his shoes to squeak loudly and his stool to crash backwards into the counter, and pointed down at the book. His face was red, but that was hardly a new look for him.

“It’s filth like this that poisons the brain and turns a person into a corporate drone,” the man shouted. 

His oversized pants kept him from looming too much over the table, their expanded waistband pushing backwards as he leaned in, giving him the appearance of having an incredibly large posterior.

“Dad, you just don’t understand. It excites me,” explained Robert.

He heard a whimpering and looked over at the doorway to see his mother holding her hand over her mouth while tears rolled down her face and cut a line through the powder. She held a rubber chicken in one hand and was squeezing it to comfort herself, filling the air with the steady, wheezing noise Robert had grown to hate.

“Mom, you understand, don’t you,” begged Robert.

“How can you do this to us? We raised you better than this, Bobo,” she cried.

“It’s Robert! Call me Robert!” he yelled.

Sobs erupted from his mother as she tugged at the handkerchief in her pocket, pulling out a seemingly endless stream of multicolored cloths tied end to end. When she gathered up enough, she blew her nose noisily in the wadded mass.

“I won’t have this filth in my house,” spat his father. “The Buckleys are entertainers, Bobo, not number crunchers. Leave this nonsense to the commoners. My son will not be one of those.”

Robert began to cry, but stopped himself.  He had been prepared to leave already, so they had no power over him.

“I don’t want to be an entertainer, Dad,” he groaned.

“I don’t care what you want,” hissed his father. “Who taught you how to juggle when you were only four years old? Who helped you work out your balance so you could ride Babagosha without falling? Who gave you your first nose?”

“You did, Dad,” said Robert sadly. “But I don’t want those things anymore.”

His mother walked over to him and hugged him. “Please, Bobo, don’t turn against the family like this. We can get you help.  There are programs.”

He pushed her away. The flower on her lapel left a wet stream down the front of his polo shirt. “I’m not broken, Mom. I’m just not a clown.”

She burst into tears and ran from the room, shoes honking her retreat. His father stared at him, his face a mixture of fury and sorrow.

“How could you do this to your mother, Bobo? To me? After all we’ve given you.”

“It’s Robert,” he said quietly. He stood, nodded to his father, picked up his book, and walked over to the door to pick up his case. “I’ll be back one day, Dad. I promise. I just need to make my own way.”

His father returned his attention to the pie, spooning the contents around and ignoring the boy. “You’ll be back, alright, but you won’t be the same.”

Robert shook his head and left quietly.

His father, overcome with sadness, plunged his face down into the cream pie. He came up sputtering, and his wife came and hugged him as tightly as she could with their baggy pants getting in the way.

“It’s not the same,” cried the man, cream pie running down his face onto his shirt front.

Robert’s mother cried with him, the rubber chicken adding its mournful voice to the chorus as Bobo Buckley ran away from the circus.

About The Author

Wm. Brett Hill grew up outside Athens, Georgia, but now makes his home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where he spends time with his wife and daughter, works in IT, and writes stories. His short fiction has appeared in Literally Stones, Firewords, Dime Show Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Digging Through the Fat, and many more.

Bandit Fiction is an entirely not-for-profit organisation ran by passionate volunteers. We do our best to keep costs low, but we rely on the support of our readers and followers to be able to do what we do. The best way to support us is by purchasing one of our back issues. All issues are ‘pay what you want’, and all money goes directly towards paying operational costs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: