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Play Date

By Matthew Treacy

Maynard's girls. Sweet. Annoying. Beautiful. Maddening. They were stomping around the house and singing. He was washing the dishes. He thought of telling them to be quiet but stopped himself. It was too early to start threatening them.

Julia whipped by him and poured coffee into her travel mug. She was running late for Saturday morning class, her hair still wet from a hasty shower. Maynard wished she would skip today. He felt the pressure mounting.

Julia zigzagged through the small apartment, grabbing stray papers and pencils off the table and stuffing them into her bag. She kissed and hugged the girls. They feigned cries and tears at her leaving, but Julia didn't have time for the standard explanation. She ran over to Maynard and pointed at the instructions she had written for him the night before. He nodded with a complacent look on his face and leaned in his cheek for her to kiss. Then she left.

As soon as the door closed Maynard put on a video for the kids. It was to silence them. The few precious moments he would gain would give him time to prepare for the next two hours and fifteen minutes of frustration.

He watched them sitting together on the couch, both with fingers in their mouths, both looking like tired little drones. Three year old Maya and two year old Stella. In their silence they were beautiful. More beautiful than usual.

Maynard finished the dishes and enjoyed the lack of little voices. He looked at the clock. Julia had left only eleven minutes ago. That meant two more hours. He pleaded with the hands of the clock to move swiftly.


It was Maya with the sad puppy face.


"I want a snack."

"It's too early for a snack. Just wait a while and I'll make you breakfast."

"But I want a snack now." She drew out the last word into a long whine.

"You can't have a snack now. Go watch your video. I'll make you breakfast."

"But -"


The sound of his own voice surprised him. It felt good.

Maya huffed, slumped her shoulders and walked to her room. Maynard shook his head at her.

He turned back to the counter, whipping up their oatmeal, clenching his jaw as he turned the spoon. "Do you always need to be this way?" It was Julia's voice in his thoughts. "Go to hell," he responded. Then he saw the flames there, how they curled around her books and her hands. He smiled for a moment, then instinctively looked around to see if anyone noticed the pleasure on his face.

He saw Maya below him, her arm raised above his bare feet. Just as he realized that she held a toy fork in her hand it was jamming into his tender flesh. Pain ripped through him. Maynard screamed. As she raised her hand for another go, Maynard picked her up and shook her to him. "What are you doing?" he said, still shaking her. She began to cry. Maynard put her down and pushed her out of the kitchen. She fell to her face and started crying. Stella who had been watching the events unfold joined in with her sister's sadness.

"Quit crying!" he told them. "Breakfast is ready."

The girls sat at the table, sniffling and twirling their spoons in their bowls. They stole glances at Maynard then quickly looked away from his blank stare. They didn't feel like eating anymore.

Maynard looked at the wall clock: one hour and fifty-seven minutes to go. He left the table to get his coffee and escape.

The morning summer sun shone hot through the kitchen window. It looked nice outside. Maynard reached up to the cupboard and opened it. He saw his favorite cup there. Then there was something else: a brown object falling. It was the knife block. Before he could wonder why it was there it had smashed his face. Maynard fell to the floor. Two steak knives lay near the knife block, feet from Maynard's quivering hand.

When he woke the girls were upon him. They were blurry. Maynard's face throbbed, his head crackled with pain, his face was wet with blood. His stomach lurched into his throat. The girls bounced up and down on him, smiling and shouting: "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!"

He tried to move them but couldn't. He tried to roll over but couldn't. Warm vomit shot up his throat and pushed from his mouth. There, in the midst of his own fluid, Maynard realized he could move only his head.

Maya stood up off of him. Stella followed. They looked with perplexed eyes upon the brown stuff running all over their Dad. He didn't look like himself.

Maynard tried to speak but all that came were sour breaths. He looked down at his chest and the floor. There were bubbles in his vomit. He began to gag from the stench.

Maya bent down to him and tried to wipe the smell away from her nose. "What's a matter, Daddy?" she said. "You fall down and hurt you head?"

Maynard screamed in his thoughts. Anger and annoyance cursed through his limbs, yet they had no outlet. It was better for the girls that he was incapacitated.

Maynard squinted up to the clock on the microwave. Five minutes. It was all the time that had passed.

He grunted at the girls. They laughed at him. He needed water. He needed help. He could only wait for Julia to come home.

In the meantime the girls went to work.

Maya walked out of the kitchen and Stella followed. Maynard breathed at them harsh and forced breaths. The girls kept on walking.

He heard them opening drawers in the bathroom, rummaging and laughing. Little ungraceful fingers grabbed at toothpaste and hairspray and cotton balls. They unrolled the toilet paper, they splashed in the toilet. Laughing, singing, and pushing. Maynard tried to remember if there was anything dangerous in the drawers. He worried for them suddenly: they could drown in the toilet, get cleaner in their eyes, eat hair gel. But it was the makeup they wanted.

Tiny feet shuffled out of the bathroom and into the kitchen. One of them kicked a knife across the floor. The glint of turning steel in the sun caught Maynard's eye. He gulped. Stella saw it too. She watched it for a moment then turned to her sister.

"Hi Dad," said Maya. Stella repeated in a thicker, less practiced tongue.

Maynard forced a grunt out in reply. The girls smiled. His face was a mass of drying blood and puke now and on his forehead a knotted ball grew. He tried to speak but there was only air. To the girls it sounded like he wanted to play.

They kneeled down next to him on the floor, their hands holding onto as much lipstick, eyeliner, and blush as would fit. Maya directed Stella to put everything on the ground in a neat pile. She was the oldest and therefore in charge of the games. She took the top off each of the containers and hummed her own song. Stella watched her big sister. Someday she wanted to be just like her.

Maynard told his head to move as Maya drew crude lipstick faces on his cheeks, but it wouldn't listen. She put down the pink and moved onto red and orange, drawing swirls and stars and eyeballs. Maynard told them "No!" in his caveman groan. The girls laughed. He did it again, louder. They laughed harder. They looked at each other and waited for him to do it again, giggling with anticipation. Maynard sighed.

Stella grew tired of waiting for Dad to make the funny sound again so she smacked him on the nose with her baby hand. It worked. She hit him again this time on the forehead where the big bump was. Dad made the funny sound every time. Maya joined her sister. They slapped the top of his head, his cheeks, his throat and chest, his arms, legs, and balls. Their hands turned brown and red and wet. Stella bent down to Maynard's forearm and bit. Dad's sounds grew louder. She looked up and smiled at Maya with bloody teeth. Maya clamped down on his hand. Together they bit like little pigs at a trough.

The pain was unbearable. There were a million spikes inside him. His head felt ready to burst forth its contents, his aching balls sent the lurches back up his throat. And the biting. He couldn't see the clock through his wet eyes. He wondered if he would die there.

Fury helped dull the pain. This was Julia's fault. She left him alone with them. She put the knife block in the cupboard. Bitch.

Maynard wanted to scream. But the girls wouldn't stop if he responded. So he was silent. Pained, incensed, incapacitated, and silent.

The girls grew bored of Dad's lack of participation in the game. They moved over to the kitchen drawers and began throwing out plates and pots and silverware. They drummed on the kitchenware: forks scratching against plates, wooden spoons hammering on pots, the girls singing along with the chaos, their mouths streaked with blood. Maynard could feel his brain pulsing.

He wondered if things could possibly get worse. The phone rang.

The answering machine picked up and Julia spoke from it. The girls stopped their pounding and listened intently to Julia's message: "Where are you guys? Out having fun? I'm going to be late. Have about an hours worth of errands to run. Love you all."

Maynard began to cry. The tears burned salt into his cuts another ingredient added to the stew on his face.

Maya dropped her utensils to the ground and leaned over Maynard. Stella followed. They had never seen Dad cry before. They started crying too. Maynard's sniffles and moans accompanied by Maya's low sobbing and Stella's wale made for a miserable cacophony.

"Dad, I'm hungry," said Maya, halting her fit suddenly.

Maynard was silent. His lips quivered.

"Dad! I'm hungry!" repeated Maya.

Then she screamed it at him, got low and right into his ear and shrieked it over and over again. Maynard looked at silent Stella. She was staring at the knife next to her foot.

Stella bent down and picked up the knife by the blade. She winced, looked at the imprint of the blade on her palm, then grabbed it by the handle. She looked down at the pointed end of the knife pressing against her shirt. She mumbled something.

Maya turned from Maynard and stood up. "No, Stella," she said. "You not supposed to touch knives. Only grown-ups." She had her hands on her hips and narrowed her eyes. Stella smiled at her. She gripped the knife tighter.

Maya held out her hand. "You give me the knife Stella," she said. Stella grunted a laugh and took a step backward. Maya walked forward, hitting her foot against the knife block. She bent over to rub the pain away when she spotted the other knife. She picked it up, holding it with the blade pointed outward towards Stella. "You silly Stella."

Maynard started to wheeze, blowing blood and spit and puke remnants out his mouth. He moaned and grunted, lifting his head from the floor and shaking it. Stella looked from Maya to Maynard and laughed. Then Maya laughed, her tiny shoulders shrugging, the knife bobbing up and down in her hand. She turned and waited for more entertainment.

Maynard - slightly relieved - relaxed his neck muscles. His head crashed on the linoleum. He closed his eyes and wailed.

Maya was happy as she walked toward Maynard, the knife now at her side. Stella followed, holding her free hand to her mouth as she giggled. The girls stood together over Maynard, smiling and waiting.

Maynard opened his eyes. The brutal yellow of the sunlight complimented the hot patch of hell at the back of his head. It felt like his brain was leaking onto the floor.

He saw the girls above him. They looked like shadows in the sunlight. He heard something muffled from them, something lost in the thick sound of blood in his ears.

"Do it again!" they said. "Do it again!" But he didn't. He stared at them through half-closed eyes, remaining silent save for his breath.

Maya's smile faded. She wished Dad would get up and be normal and make her some food. She wished he would stop breathing like that. She remembered she was hungry.

Maya licked her lips. The taste of the blood was yucky but it made her stomach growl. She looked down at the tiny bite marks on Maynard's arm and hand. The outside of the wounds were crusted with black, the center held teeth shaped pools of red. Maya's mouth began to water.

Stella sensed something from her sister. Trembling. And she wasn't smiling. And Dad wasn't being funny. Stella took a step back from the strangeness she didn't understand. She looked down at the pain in her chest, where the knife point poked at her skin. She pulled the knife away, saying "Oww," then held it up to her face. It looked pretty in the sun.

Maynard watched the shadow above him. He moved his tongue around his cracked mouth, searching for moisture. He wondered where the knives were. Then the shadow moved.

Maya dropped to her knees and pushed aside Maynard's robe. She put her hands on his large white thigh, digging her nails in with the left hand, squeezing the knife handle with the right. She buried her face into the plump flesh of his leg and bit. The meat ripped freely in her tiny jaws and filled her mouth with skin and fat and blood. She rose from Maynard's body - slowly champing, juices dripping from the corners of her mouth with a puzzled look on her face. It didn't taste good. Dad was crying again and spitting. Mom wasn't home. There was red stuff everywhere. She just wanted to eat.

Stella backed into the oven, her hand tugging at her ear. The knife scraped on the glass. Dad was sad. Maya was sad too. She had just spit something out on him. Her arm was in the air and she was screaming. She moved her arm down and Dad made a sound Stella hadn't heard before. Stella stepped forward too look, her curiosity guiding her.

Maynard couldn't hear anything. He knew he was shrieking, but heard only the thud of his pulse coursing in his head. He stared at the knife sticking straight into his leg next to the ragged hole. The knife acted as the center point of his pain, washing waves of chill and lava back and forth over his body. He was nauseous. His head was going to burst. His children were killing him.

Stella looked at the knife quivering in Dad's leg. Then she looked at Maya's face, wet and pink with tears. Maya was yelling at Dad. Stella was confused. She didn't like seeing Maya this way.

Stella tried to cheer up Maya. She looked into her face and smiled, laughed. Maya didn't stop crying. Stella went to give her a kiss when Maya pushed her away, knocking her against the cupboards. Stella huffed and narrowed her eyes. She just wanted Maya to be happy.

Stella stood up, her face tightened in anger. She looked at the knife in Dad's leg, then looked at the one in her hand. Maya wouldn't stop crying. Stella's feelings were hurt. She wanted her Mom. She didn't like Dad. She raised the knife and threw it down to his leg. It bounced off his stomach and onto the floor.

Maya's crying stopped. She looked at the knife on the floor, then looked at Stella. She stepped over to her younger sister and gave her a hug. Stella smiled. "Stella," said Maya, "you have to do it like this." Maya bent down and grabbed the knife from the floor. "Give me you hand Stella." Stella grabbed the knife with her sister. Together they held it over Maynard's other leg, looking at each other, smiling.

Maynard looked at his daughters. He tried to raise his head but lacked the energy. He could only breath the quick breaths and show the whites of his eyes to tell them to stop, stop, please just stop. He would do anything just not to die here, this way. He couldn't see the clock anymore, couldn't focus his eyes enough to see how much longer he had to hold on.

He looked back over to the girls for a second. He closed his eyes as Maya counted from three, guiding Stella's hand downward with the knife. He clenched his jaw when the new pain came fresh and raw. His breathing became erratic.

Through the thickness Maynard could make out muffled laughter. A second later he went unconscious.

* * * * * * *

Julia walked through the door an hour-and-a-half later.

She kicked away the blocks, stuffed animals, and videos that covered the carpet. She passed by the walls covered in multi-colored stickmen and spiders. She smelled the heavy scent of puke and blood and piss. It was too quiet in the apartment.

She couldn't breathe when she saw the kitchen. The girls were there, laying on top of something. The something had several blankets laid over it and two points rose from inside it. Blood had soaked through the blankets. At the top there was a white mask - a rabbit mask from Maya's room. Smudges of red and brown covered it. Below the mask there was hair and skin a neck, wet and red and brown. A thin pool of rust colored liquid covered half the floor. The blankets were wet with its color, the girls feet rippled it with their toes. Crackers and fruit snacks floated in it. Utensils and bowls and plates and the knife block were strewn about. A small chair from Stella's room stood against the cabinets, the snack door was open just above it.

Julia screamed and ran to the children. They stirred from their rest. Dried blood streaked their cheeks and lips. They opened their eyes and yelled her name and held out their arms to her. Julia squeezed them tight, asked them if they were okay while looking at the something covered in blankets. She picked up the girls and took them out of the kitchen. She knew what the something was.

Julia hesitated at the mask until she heard the labored breathing coming from the rabbit mouth. She flipped the mask back and held her hand to her mouth. It only slightly resembled Maynard. The fluids had dried on his face. The bulge on his forehead was blue with a red gash in the middle. He looked dead.

She flipped back the blankets from his body and saw the knives sticking in him. She felt nauseous. Then there was the hole in his leg where a chunk of flesh was missing. And the bite marks on his arm and hands.

Julia gagged, holding it into her mouth. She looked at the girls, back to Maynard, then to the girls again, covered in Maynard's fluids. She picked up the phone and called for an ambulance.

She held the girls close while they waited. She asked the girls what had happened to Dad. Maya explained as best she could. Nothing made sense. Maynard looked dead. Maynard looked dead.

In minutes the ambulance arrived. They put Maynard on a stretcher. He had an oxygen mask on.

Julia was getting the girls ready to follow in the car. They came out of their room as Maynard was being lead out the door. He half opened his eyes and saw his girls there. He opened his mouth and cried out. The oxygen mask turned white like Maynard's eyes. His hands curled into fists below the blanket he was covered in.

The girls looked at each other and started to giggle. Dad was funny.

Copyright Matthew Treacy 2004

Matthew Treacy is 26 years old, married with two children, and employed as a Technical Support Engineer for a software company. When the work is done and the children are asleep, he spends his time reading and writing until much too late in the evening.


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