Grief's Melancholy Shade - Chapter 8
By: Susan McNeill and Rhonda Hallstrom
Kermit came to slowly. He found that there was a blanket draped over him
and his watch told him that he'd been asleep for nine hours straight.
At least his head had stopped throbbing. He arose from the hammock
cautiously but purposefully only to find the door locked from the inside
when he tried to enter.
He frowned as he turned to another entrance, also secured by one of
Paul's damnable locks. David was locked in with Paul Blaisdell. <God,
don't know who to feel sorry for, David or Paul.> Walking around to
the back door, he tried again. Locked. Beating on the door, he found
himself being ignored.
Now, Kermit was getting annoyed. Paul had locked him out! <The shit! > How
was he supposed to get in to help his brother?? Or was this another lesson?
The lesson of don't-sleep-an-extra-hour-when-your-brother-needs-you.
He paused as he heard the familiar voices. If he strained his hearing,
he could just make out the words. It was difficult with the thick
paneling and the fact that they were two rooms away. But he managed to
"You have it all wrong, kid," Paul told David. "He didn't want to leave
you. Hell, it was my idea in the first place! I was the one that made
the deal with the sheriff. Free and clear of charges in return for
leaving town. What else could he do?"
"He could have taken us with him," David snapped, unbending. His voice
was shaky but the resolve was strong. He knew he'd been screwed!
"Anything than what he did. He just left us to that bitch. He didn't
"Oh, really? Well, let me tell you something. I was there for the whole
"-but there were a few things that you weren't there to see," Paul
snapped. "For instance, I'm sure you recall that memorable day when
you got home from school. But just before you walked in, Kermit told
Helen point blank that if she ever laid a hand on you or your sister, he
would come back and kill her."
Kermit sighed. He hadn't wanted David to know what a killer he was back
then...and now. But Paul was unstoppable.
"And how about after?" Paul's rich tones were hard as steel. "You ran
away from the truth. Remember that? But I remember what happened after
Kermit remembered, too. The memory still made him sick.....
"YOU RUINED THE PLAN! OVER ONE FIGHT! ONE!!!" David
screamed. "I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! HOW COULD YOU DO THIS
TO US???!!! GO AWAY! I HATE YOU!!!" With a shove to his older
brother's shoulder, he ran off into the house.
Kermit was paralyzed, rooted to the ground.
"Kermit...?" Marilyn's shaky, tentative voice reached out to him, a
hand extended. She was even afraid to touch him. "He doesn't mean
it....I'll talk to him."
Kermit took her hand and pulled her to him, hugging her for all
eternity. He wanted to cry, but he wouldn't let the tears come, not in
front of her. He still had to be strong for her. That was the only thing
he had left to give her.
"Mar-" his voice broke and he started again after clearing his throat.
"Marilyn, I'm sorry. I guess I wasn't strong enough. I couldn't fight
"What IS it, Kermit? Please tell me - I want to know what's going on
with you, at least." Taking in a deep breath, she reiterated, "I want
to KNOW. I love you."
So Kermit told her -- not all of it, but enough. He didn't tell her about
beatings, the torture, the degradation he'd suffered at the hands of the
VC. All he told her was that somehow the instincts to make war couldn't
be turned off inside him. That he could control it for a little bit but
he could feel it building up even now. He told her that he was afraid of
hurting someone that he didn't want to hurt -- like his family. That was why
he needed to leave. He told her that Paul would help him so that he could
control the instincts better.
Paul was listening from the shade. Kermit could feel the man's
eyes on his back.
"I won't lose contact or forget about you, Marilyn. I promise," he
concluded. "I won't be here but I'll write you letters. I'll send you
money. When you get that money, I want you to do whatever you feel is
best with it. And don't just save it - it'll also be so that you and
David can go out and have fun. See movies, go out to dinner, get out of
the house. Okay? Work hard on your grades. Maybe when you win a
scholarship, you can take David with you. I don't think you'll be dumb
enough to get into any fights." Trying to smile, he hugged her again. "I
love you so much." Kermit nearly broke down then, but his sister was
still looking at him so he forced a smile to his face, no matter how
much it hurt. "I'm so sorry." he whispered, hugging her again.
"Kermit, it's not your fault," she whispered back, holding onto him,
comforting him with a soft pat . "I love you, too. And I'll talk to David-"
Kermit shook his head. "Just take care of him. And take care of
yourself." Kissing her on the forehead, then let her go. "Don't
worry about me - the big guy there behind the tree will
sit on me. Go on."
Kermit watched as she walked slowly to the house, throwing
looks over her shoulder on the way. Once she entered, the blinds were
shut resolutely, signally the end of their hope to be a normal family.
Paul came silently to Kermit's side. After an agonizing span of minutes,
Paul poked him hard in the ribs. Kermit flinched and glared at him,
once more having to control his anger. Paul, taking his life in his
own hands, poked him again. As Kermit turned in annoyance,
Paul invaded his space to jab him again. Now, the young man's
control was slipping as he tried to counter the jabbing fingers.
"Paul...," he warned.
Paul got in Kermit's face and stayed there. "You want to hit something -
hit me. I dare you!" He jabbed him again. "I dare you to connect! I bet
you can't. You can't lay a finger on me-"
Kermit exploded, lashing out, but Paul could see it coming and adjusted
his strategy accordingly. He pulled the fists to the side as he
forced Kermit to his knees on the ground, holding him, as the tornado
raged in his arms. Finally, there was the hacking and gasping sound as
the waterfall of tears finally came out, the body trembling with sobs.
Paul held him close and heard the barest whisper.
"Why me? Oh, God, why me...why them? I hate this life....I didn't
"Yeah, kid," Paul concluded sarcastically. "It sure sounds to me like he
wanted to leave you...that he didn't care. Yep, that sounds like the
Kermit Griffin I know."
A rough sound startled the listening Kermit as Paul undoubtedly slammed
David against something. "I don't lie," Paul snarled. "But if you don't
believe me, ask your sister. She saw it all. I could see her peeking
through the window curtain."
"What do you mean, beatings?" David asked, almost as an afterthought.
"What kind of torture?"
<God, Paul, don't tell him about that! > Kermit tried desperately
to jimmy the door lock.
"You forgot how he was captured in Vietnam?" Paul's voice was like ice.
"But then, it's just words to you. You don't know what torture means.
When I rescued Kermit after six weeks in the Hanoi Hilton, he looked
worse than you do. It took me two weeks to convince him that he was
alive and safe, and back in the States. It took him months to learn how to
stand daylight after he'd had bright lights shining in his face for days
"THAT'S why he wears sunglasses all the time?" David's tone was pure
astonishment. Nothing like that would have ever occurred to him.
Paul's stony silence was all the answer the younger Griffin needed. "It
took him months to learn how to live again and all for nothing,"
Blaisdell continued. "He came back home, only to see it ripped away from
"He was in a fight! HE ruined our Plan!" protested David stubbornly.
"Sure, he ruined it on purpose, right? I'm sure the town gossips had a
field day with that. Bet you've heard every version, huh? Except maybe
the truth. Let's give that version a whirl."
Paul began to tell the hateful story about the disastrous end of "The Plan"
that Kermit had related years ago.....
"Oh, Kermit, you are such a dear." Mrs. Buckley patted his arm in
thanks. Frail and gentle, she was your classic little old lady; light
blue tint to her hair and white patent leather purse on her arm, driving
an extremely large DeSoto from another era.
Kermit deftly held her overflowing bag of groceries and opened her car
door. "Any time, Mrs. Buckley." Grinning warmly at her as she
arranged herself behind the wheel he said, "Consider it partial repayment
for all those baseballs I knocked through your window."
Mrs. Buckley smiled at the mention of those baseballs. Kermit had always
liked the old woman. Many times, he had cut her yard for free and climbed
up her oak tree to fetch her cat. "Paid in full, dear. Why don't you and
that precious brother and sister come by for dinner on Friday?"
"We'd be delighted." They could use a night out, even if it was just a
dinner at a little old lady's house. A newly forming scene caught
Kermit's attention across the parking lot as Mrs. Buckley drove away.
He saw two loud-mouthed jerks he remembered from high school, Donny
and Blake. Donny was leaning on Mrs. Latham's wood-paneled station
wagon. Blake had his hand stuck through the window, tormenting a
catatonic Benjy Latham and gleaning a great deal of pleasure at his lack
"Some trained killer, huh, Donny?" Blake taunted as he rifled his hand
through Benjy's hair. His victim merely sat, vision fixed on nothing,
mind a blessed blank with all the horror wiped clean. Benjy Latham had
disappeared in Vietnam leaving only this shell in his place.
"Maybe he's on one of those LSD flashbacks." Leaning down into the young
man's ear, Donny yelled, "All you guys were dope heads, right, Benj?!
Bad trip maybe?!"
Kermit had visited Benjy once and tried to reach his boyhood friend as
they sat in the Latham's backyard. All Benjy could do now was exist.
Even the control over wakefulness and sleep was denied to the broken
young man. Benjy would stare into a scene only he could see for
sometimes days at a time until he literally passed out.
Kermit understood the subconscious motivation. In country, the odd
term soldiers used to define the hellhole of Vietnam, G.I.'s feared
the night. Sleep was an enemy and darkness as dangerous as the
opposition. That's when the VC roamed the jungle, aching
to find a dozing soldier to slice. They ruled the night. Benjy fought
sleep like a demon. It was the only victory left to him.
The dark circles under his friend's eyes pulled Kermit across the
parking lot to his side, to his brother in arms. "Maybe I should just send
you on a bad trip to the hospital, you little shit." He stood defiantly
on the sidewalk, keeping a discreet distance from the two. <Don't hurt
them...don't do it...>. All he wanted was to make them leave. "Maybe you
might understand if you'd had the guts to see what it was like."
Facing his high school rival, Donny kept his hand on Benjy's
unresponsive head. "So, it's the other town hero. Or maybe you're just
as nuts as good ole Benjy. Ain't that right Benj?!" Giving his head a
shove, Donny leaned away from his target and focused on the next one.
Blake moved in behind as Kermit approached Donny and his smart mouth.
Caution had drained away from Kermit's body. The desire to restrain
faded with each step.
"Kermit! Let it go!" Mrs. Latham had seen the building storm and rushed
out of the grocery store to her son.
Her words fell on deaf ears, as Kermit focused only on his prey. "Why
don't you stop picking on sick people and crawl back under your
mama's skirt? You, too, Blake." They were becoming VC in Kermit's
twisted memory; cruel, sadistic bastards who could find humor in
tormenting a mentally broken man.
Donny shot back, "You been wanting a piece of me since-"
"Since the last time I kicked your ass in high school, Donny-boy?"
Blake squared himself for a fight; unbeknownst to him, one he had no
chance to win. "Big talk from a guy who spends all his time shopping and
doing laundry. Maybe tonight while you're busy, I could pay that prissy
sister of yours a visit." As he reached out to provoke his adversary
with a fist to his shoulder, a doomed Blake added, "She oughta' be just
about ripe by now."
The world spun in slow motion. As if Blake's hand flicked an invisible
switch. <Kill him...>. Kermit broke his wrist with one twist, reveling
as the bones crushed within his grip. Blake crumpled to the ground as
Kermit jerked his knee upward to break his jaw. Casually, Kermit flung Blake
to the ground and kicked in his ribs as Donny leaped onto his back.
Red hot fury blinded the man behind the dark glasses. With the reflexes
of a frenzied animal, Kermit methodically set out to destroy his prey.
That was what the two men were at this moment, the objects of a brutal
killer who contained a vicious blood lust beyond their comprehension.
Grabbing Donny's arms from around his neck, Kermit bent forward and used
the young man's own momentum to fling him over his head and slam him
onto the hood of a car. <Kill him...>. Blake screamed his agony, lying
in the street blinded by his own blood. Donny kicked out at his
crazed attacker. A near-fatal mistake - a hand caught the leg, used it
to twist the body over and a crippling punch landed in his ribs. Donny
lay stretched atop the hood of the car, body seizing from the trauma to
his nervous system. The trained assassin held his victim's head between
his hands and began to pound it onto the metal body of the vehicle,
banging the stunned man into oblivion.
Kermit couldn't stop. The boy who grew up here no longer existed. The
control he'd fought for day and night dripped away with that bully's
blood onto the street. Desperate desire to kill pounded in his ears as
he slammed the bully's head repeatedly to the hood. The screams of
frightened bystanders couldn't penetrate his swirling rage. Sirens never
penetrated the wall of anger and rage. Deadly urges that were part of
him now blocked any sane response.
The icy blow of a nightstick was finally able to disconnect the killer
from the man. Blackness was his only rescue.
"Hmmm," Paul mused as Kermit fought with the uncooperative lock. "Yep -
he really started that fight." There was ominous silence from the young
Kermit listened nervously. He wasn't really interested in having his
"Then what happened?" came the soft inquiry.
"Then what?...Boy, do you have any gray matter in that thick head?" Paul
snapped. "He left so as to not hurt anyone he loved."
Kermit swung the unlocked door open with a crash, glaring at Paul
Blaisdell for divulging secrets that no one had a right to hear. Paul
was nonplused. "About time, kid. That lock took you way too long.
Losing your touch?"
Paul smiled with amusement as Kermit conveniently forgot that the cabin
was Paul's. "Of course. I think you two have a lot to discuss."
In typical Blaisdell fashion, he left without a word.
Kermit surveyed his brother's condition carefully. For want of a better
word, he looked beaten, trembling and white as a ghost. While David was in
a respite from the waves of withdrawal, Kermit tried to connect once
again. "Did you eat?"
The boy nodded weakly.
Sitting down on the edge of the bed, Kermit tried to make use of the
fact that David hadn't attacked his every word. "David, can you tell me
how it started? I really want to know."
David answered truthfully this time. "I had a hit. One hit and it
was magic. Then," grabbing his stomach as the hateful cramping returned,
he said, "one week later, I couldn't live without it. I still can't!!!!"
In the space of a few seconds, the tremors and retching returned. David
found himself in the circle of strong arms once again. Guts twisting and
skin on fire, the boy could not resist the steady comfort of Kermit's
embrace, the one steady point in the frenzy of pain. "I...can't do
it...please help me!!! I wanna die...."
"NO, YOU DON'T!!!" Kermit screamed into his brother's torment. Holding
the boy tightly against his chest, he demanded, "Don't say that! You
live through this, dammit! If you can live through it, you can use it!
Trust me. I KNOW! You use the thing that tries to kill you and live in
spite of it! That's the revenge! Get angry at it and use it!"
David tried to focus on the words. He felt tired and beaten and dead.
Words were all he had. The body was gone, at the mercy of something
"Is that...what...you did?" Inside his head, he was screaming. Reality
allowed only a whisper.
The time for privacy had long gone. There could be no secrets between them
in this battle. "Yes, Davey. They beat me and shocked me and starved me but
I lived and I can say, 'Screw you!' to all of them. I feed off that every
day. If you live, you win. End of story."
David doubled over with a groan of pain and the battle began once more.
To Be Continued...