By Chef Elias_Witherow
Some of you may have read my son’s account “Third Parent” about what happened regarding the monster Tommy Taffy. After reading it, after crying over it, I felt compelled to write this. I’m not here to defend my actions. I’m not here to make excuses. I did what I had to so that my family would survive. I knew what Tommy was capable of. I knew what we’d have to endure.
But I also knew that if we could make it five years without pissing off Tommy Taffy, we’d come out of the nightmare alive. How did I know that? Because I had already lived it. I had already been exposed to what that…thing…was capable of. I had seen Tommy’s temper, had seen what pushed his buttons. I had already done my five years.
Like I said, I’m not here to defend myself. What happened to my family is unspeakable…but we are alive. No, instead I’m writing this so you can understand why I did what I did. Why I chose to let Tommy do what he did to my wife and children. After you hear my side, after you read what I went through, then you can judge me.
God knows I deserve it.
Tommy first arrived on my street when I was seven. I was an only child and lived with both my parents in a middle class neighborhood. It was a mellow slice of the American Dream, like a cut of apple pie under a smothering layer of vanilla ice cream.
Our street was in a secluded residential neighborhood in the far corner of our sprawling development. There were six houses in total and we were a tight nit bunch, both the parents and children. In the summers we’d have cook outs and in the winter we’d have Christmas parties. It was almost like our block was one big family. Everyone looked out for one another, everyone was generous and considerate; it was a different time, when people trusted one another.
But our picture perfect life shattered when he arrived…
Jesus I’ll never forget it.
I had just gone to bed, my seven year old mind exploring my imagination, turning thought into dream. The moon was a warm slice of yellow in my window, an expanse of stars winking down at me as I drifted off to sleep. I could hear the tv on in the living room, a comforting reminder that my parents were still awake and the monsters under my bed would stay away tonight.
That’s when I bolted awake by a knock at the front door downstairs. It was such a sharp contrast to the comforting murmur of the tv that my mind went on full alert as the noise echoed into the house. I sat up in bed, irritated, clutching Growls, my teddy bear. I heard the heavy footsteps of my father walk to the door, probably expecting a neighbor.
The familiar creak of the front door was followed by the muted murmur of conversation. I could hear my father’s voice speaking, interrupted on occasion by another male voice I didn’t recognize. My mother joined the conversation and I could hear my father getting angry.
Minutes stretched on as the mysterious late night visitor continued to talk with my parents. I slid out of bed and went to my bedroom door, peaking my head out to listen. I still couldn’t make out the words but I could tell my father was getting furious. He started yelling and I heard him demand that the visitor leave our house or he was calling the police.
It got very quiet then, so quiet I could hear my heart beating in my chest. Then I heard my mother begin to cry. It was soft, so soft, but it scared me. The nighttime visitor was saying something to my parents, his voice low, and my mother continued to sob.
After a moment, my father said something I couldn’t make out. Immediately following, I heard something slam into the wall downstairs so hard the pictures in the hallway crashed to the floor. I slapped a hand over my mouth to stifle a scream, heart racing. What was going on?
My mother let out a pitiful noise and I could hear her pleading with someone. There was a scramble of feet and then another loud bang against the wall. The intruder was saying something to my parents, his voice oozing with authority. I strained to make out the words, but it came to me in a jumble of soft noise.
After another couple minutes of agonizing fear, I heard my father call down for me. My heart was a wild drum beat in my chest and I bit my lip, hands shaking. Why did he want me? What was happening? My father called again, his voice trembling slightly.
Slowly, I pulled the door to my bedroom open and walked to the edge of the stairs. I realized I was clutching Growls, my teddy bear. My palms were sweaty and I could feel the soft its fur growing damp.
I looked down the stairs to the front door and I froze, eyes going wide. My father was gripping his throat, wincing, tears in his eyes; something I had never seen before. My mother had her arms wrapped around herself, moisture staining her cheeks.
But that wasn’t what captured my attention. It was the stranger standing next to my parents, staring up at me. He wore a white t-shirt that read in red font: “HI!” His hair was blond and cut short, his two blue eyes pools of glowing brilliance set in a sea of snow.
And then I noticed the oddities of this intruder: His skin was impossibly smooth, a clean, pink sheen of absolute perfection. His nose wasn’t so much a nose as it was a nub jutting out of his face. His lips were twisted in a smile revealing white strips where his teeth should have been.
“Hi Spence!” He called up to me, his voice cheerful, “I’m Tommy Taffy! I’m going to be staying with you for a while!”
I clutched Growls to my chest, quivering, begging my parents for guidance. Instead, they cast their eyes to the floor, clearly shaken. I didn’t know what was happening, what had been said between them, but I could feel danger in the air, thick and malicious.
“Come on down here so I can get a good look at you!” Tommy said, waving me forward.
My father’s eyes suddenly met mine and I gulped. Even at that age, I could interpret the look he passed on to me.
Be careful, son.
Cautiously, I walked down the stairs, never letting go of my bear. When I reached the foot of the stairs, my mother reached out for me, but Tommy stepped in front of her, smiling down at me. He squat down and ruffled my hair, his immaculate skin looking almost polished and waxed at this proximity.
“Cute little fella, aren’t you? Oh, who’s that you got?” He asked, gesturing to my bear.
“H-his name is Growls,” I stammered.
Tommy grinned, “Of course he is. I’m going to help your parents for a while so I’d like the three of us to be friends. Me, you, and Growls. You think that’d be ok?”
Again I looked to my parents for help, confused and shaken. I had no idea what was going on, who this was, why my parents looked so scared. He seemed nice enough, but the way my father rubbed his throat told me otherwise.
“Boop, boop!” Tommy chuckled, knocking gently on my head, “Hey I asked you a question, Spence.”
“What did you do to my daddy?” I whispered, immediately wishing I hadn’t.
Tommy’s mouth remained a frozen smile, but his eyes darkened, ever so slightly, “Hehehehe.”
My father reached out and grasped my shoulder, “Spence, son, it’s ok. I’ll talk to you later about it. For now, Tommy is going to…he’s going to…” He shot a look at my mother, “He’s going to stay with us.
And that was the start of a five year stretch I can never forget.
A few days passed and soon I learned, through whispered inquiries, that Tommy Taffy had visited everyone on our street. He was in our home, but also in theirs. I learned this from my eventual wife, Megan, who lived across the street from me. She told me that some strange guy was living in their house. After she described him, I deducted it was one in the same…Tommy Taffy.
I didn’t understand how it was possible, but knew to keep my mouth shut. Tommy had sworn me to secrecy. He swore everyone to secrecy. This was enforced by my parents, who told me in hushed whispers to never tell anyone about Tommy.
I could tell everyone feared him.
I did too. There was something unsettling about his constant smile, his slightly off features, and the cool, enunciated way he spoke and laughed. I didn’t know what he had told my parents to keep them from going to the police, why they were allowing him to live in our home, but it must have been terrible.
We were a hostage in our own house. Of course, Tommy didn’t keep us there…but we knew he would be waiting once we came back.
At night, Tommy would sit us down and give us life lessons. He would tell us how to be good people, how to love one another. I remember one time, during the first week, I looked out my front window across the street into Megan’s living room.
I saw Tommy there, speaking to her family on the couch.
The Tommy in front of my family stopped speaking immediately and stared long and hard at me. Then he went to the window and closed the curtains before continuing.
During the evenings, as the fathers on our street came home from work, I’d see them meet briefly in the road, muttering to each other and casting looks over their shoulders. There was a mutual terror shared between them, an unspoken knowledge that they had to keep Tommy secret, that getting the police involved would only lead to…well…nothing good. I imagine upon arrival that Tommy threatened our family and then showed some sign of physical dominance over the men. I remembered the banging against the walls and the way my father had gripped his throat.
But what the hell had he said to them? Why did they allow him to infest our homes?
Well…a month later I found out.
They were plotting against Tommy.
They were going to kill him.
Again, I was awoken from slumber. I looked at my Spiderman clock and saw it was after midnight. I scrubbed sleep from my eyes, grasping in the dark for Growls. As I found my bear, I heard banging from downstairs along with several voices.
I slipped out of bed and went to my door. The lights downstairs were off, but I saw beams of light cutting through the black.
I called out for my parents but saw their bedroom door was wide open. I knew they weren’t in bed then. More voices from downstairs followed, along with scraping across the hardwood floors. I jumped as a bang shook the night and then the voices faded.
There’s people going into the basement, I thought, frightened. Our basement was unfinished, an expanse of empty cement.
Why are they going into the basement? I thought.
Silently, assuming my parents were down there, I crept to the first floor, clutching Growls to my chest. Sure enough, the basement door was open and I saw light reflecting off the dusty floor.
I could hear my father’s voice, and then the familiar voices of our neighbors. They were speaking to someone. They were angry.
My heart froze in my chest as someone laughed from the depths of the cellar.
Making sure to not make a sound, I slunk to the open door and descended the first two steps to look out at the scene below me.
Tommy was bound to a metal chair in the middle of the room, surrounded by the six pairs of parents that lived in our neighborhood. Their backs were to me but I could see Tommy’s flawless face gazing up at them. Megan’s father was there, his face a mess of bruises and swollen flesh. His arm was in a sling and it looked like his shoulders slumped like his back was in pain.
I sucked in a breath as I realized one of the men was passing my father a pistol. The women stood by their husbands with grim looks on their faces. There was no disagreement among the executioners.
“It’s time you leave our lives,” One of the men said, looming over Tommy. I recognized him as my friend Luke’s father. They lived two houses down. “This is your last chance,” He growled.
Tommy didn’t even struggle in his rope bindings, that ever present smile still on his face. He looked up at them, the overhead light illuminating his sparkling blue eyes, “I don’t understand, I’m just trying to help all of you raise your children properly. I’m not going anywhere.”
A look passed between the parents and then my father put the gun to Tommy’s head, “You’re not helping anyone. You’re a monster. You can’t come into our homes and threaten our children, threaten our lives. That’s not how this works. All those threats you whispered to us while we were caught off guard…well look at you now,” My father spat on him, “Pathetic. And now you’ll get yours.”
My father shot him in the head.
The report was deafening and I almost screamed, slamming my hand over my mouth at the last second.
Tommy’s head whipped back as the smell of gunsmoke spiked the air.
It was silent for a moment…and then…
In horror, I watched as Tommy slowly raised his head to stare back up at my father.
“What the hell,” one of the women breathed, her voice shaking.
There was no blood, no shatter of bone…nothing. Just a dark circle in Tommy’s forehead where the bullet had passed.
“What the fuck are you?” Someone whispered.
Tommy’s eyes spun to the man who had spoken, “I’m Tommy Taffy. And I’m not going anywhere.”
My mother suddenly pointed to the corner of the room, her hand trembling, “Gas…get the gas…”
Megan’s mother went to the far corner of the room and picked up a small red can. I could hear the slosh of gasoline and I smelled it in the air.
My father grabbed the can from her hand, his eyes wide and never leaving Tommy. Without a word, his upended it over the bound man, soaking him.
Tommy kept smiling, “Hehehehehe.”
Another father passed my dad a box of matches.
My father struck one, his hand hovering in the air, “Go back to hell, leave us alone.”
Tommy grinned wider, “Hell is going to seem like a fantasy when I come back for you.”
My father dropped the match and Tommy burst into flame. He didn’t scream, he didn’t thrash …he simply burned.
As his face began to melt, his eyes shifted and suddenly he saw me.
Heart exploding in my throat, I fled back to my room, tears streaming down my face. From the safety of my bed, I eventually heard the neighbors leaving, relief in their voices.
Two weeks later, Tommy came back.
We were eating supper, a sense of normalcy returning to our home. My parents never told me they had murdered Tommy, instead opting to inform me that his visit was over and he “went back home”. I still caught whiffs of gasoline about our house, but kept my mouth shut. I was just happy my family was ok.
The sun was setting and the dying orange light filtered in through the living room window, stretching out across the floor to cover the dinner table. My mother and father sat at opposite ends of the table, chatting about their days. I could tell they were still shaken, but I admired the way they were trying to return their lives to what it had been before Tommy showed up.
As I shoveled mashed potatoes into my mouth, the front door exploded open.
I spun around, jumping as the wood splintered and the hinges creaked.
I dropped my fork, eyes growing wide.
It was Tommy…and he looked furious.
My parent’s mouths dropped in unison, but before they could speak, Tommy marched towards us with alarming speed and upended the kitchen table. Dishes filled with food shattered to the floor and my father half rose, fear paralyzing him.
Without a word, Tommy grabbed my father by the neck and dragged him to the wall where he plowed his face through the sheet rock.
My mother screamed and ran to aid my dad, but Tommy spun on her and punched her in the teeth, sending her crashing to the floor.
Feeling my bladder go, panic clawing at my throat, I watched as Tommy pulled my father’s bloody head from the wall. Sputtering, dazed, my father tried to release himself from Tommy’s iron grip, but it did no good.
His eyes dark and his mouth clamped in a snarl, Tommy clamped a hand over my father’s throat and dragged him into the living room.
Without stopping, his threw him through the window and out into the front yard.
I was a mess of tears and terror, snot bubbling from my nose as Tommy turned back to my mother and I.
Now, he was smiling.
He went to my stunned mother and hauled her up, “You’re going to need to see this,” he said darkly, his lips curled in a grin. He looked at me and jerked his head towards the door, “Come on Spence, you too.”
He pulled my mother to the front door and pushed her outside. I hadn’t moved, my face frozen in a silent scream. Tommy looked over his shoulder and winked at me, “Don’t make me ask again, sport. Oh, and bring that broom behind you.”
Pulled off my chair by fear, I got up and dutifully grabbed the kitchen broom and walked it to Tommy, my pants reeking of urine. Tommy put a hand on my shoulder and guided me outside to stand by our mailbox. I saw my father rolling in the grass, a mess of blood and glass, my mother kneeling before him, weeping.
Our neighbors were coming out of their houses, eyes wide, shocked looks of horror on their faces as they saw Tommy.
“Gather round!” He yelled, motioning for them to come closer. “Look at what you’ve done!”
I saw Megan at her doorstep across the street, face a pale sheet of snow. She looked at me and I saw her begin to cry, burying her face in her hands.
Shocked into obedience, our neighbors came and stood around our tiny front lawn by the street, all eyes on my father and mother.
“This is your fault,” Tommy said, meeting every one of their terrified faces.
He suddenly snatched the broom from my hands. In one quick motion, he snapped the head off, tossed the duster aside, and advanced on my father gripping the splintered pole. My mother screamed and covered her bleeding husband with her body, but Tommy booted her in the face, wrenching my heart in the process.
“Up you go,” Tommy growled, pulling my father up by the hair onto his knees.
Glass jutting from his face, my father looked up at Tommy, agony burning in his eyes.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of your son,” Tommy whispered.
He raised the broken broom over his head like a spear and slammed it into my father’s mouth, down his throat until it erupted from his stomach and plunged into the earth. Blood shot like a geyser out of my father and splattered Tommy’s perfect features. My mother howled, her bloodshot eyes rattling in their sockets as my father gasped…and then died, his lips wrapping around the broom handle jutting from his mouth.
The neighbors watching were paralyzed, a few of the women crying out at the sudden display of brutal violence. The men’s faces were pale and shocked into silence, Megan’s father leaning over and emptying his stomach onto the road.
Blood dripping from his face, Tommy turned to face them, eyes alight, “I want you to think about this moment the next time you want to have a bonfire. Do I make myself crystal clear?”
All eyes were trained to the impaled figure of my father, pinned to the earth.
“I said do I make myself clear?” Tommy repeated, the smile dropping from his face.
Everyone slowly nodded, every eye wet with tears and wide with horror.
Tommy threw a thumb over his shoulder, “Now get rid of him. I need to put his son to bed.”
I took a step back, tears flowing freely from my eyes, shaken to the core, unable to stop staring at my dead father. My world swam and rocked, my vision a streaking blur of color. I felt like I was going to throw up, pass out, scream until I couldn’t breathe anymore.
Tommy was suddenly looming over me, sweeping me up in his arms. He pressed my shocked face into his shoulder and stroked my hair.
As we went into the house and up to my bedroom, I heard a rumble in Tommy’s chest.
How do I describe the following three and a half years? Words don’t…can’t…make you understand what life was like for my mother and I. My father’s murder was covered up by the neighborhood and my mother, despite the crippling pain it must have brought her. When the police eventually came to investigate, on request from his job, a story had already been carefully collaborated by the families.
They told the police that my father had been cheating on my mother and she had found out and then kicked him out. Lies about arguments heard were told, along with a few scenarios where the neighbors “saw my father sneaking out late at night.”
It was enough to get the police off our street. They saw the pain in my mother’s eyes, but misinterpreted the source. Everyone was petrified of Tommy Taffy, the lies told in order to assure safety of themselves and their families.
An example had been given, a lesson learned. Listen to Tommy Taffy. Do what he wants. And pray that one day he’d go away and leave our broken community.
My father wasn’t the only one who had been punished. I noticed a couple of the neighbors sporting broken limbs or bruised faces. I can’t even imagine the lies they told the outside world to cover up the truth.
Tommy was a haunting nightmare in our lives and we could find no way to get rid of him. The nightly lessons resumed, just my mother and I now, sitting on the couch listening to our captor explain how to be good people. I was ten then and it made me sick, age slowly clarifying just how dismal our situation was.
But I kept my mouth shut. I kept it shut for my mother. The memory of my father’s execution burned bright in my skull every day.
The years that followed my father’s death marked a change in Tommy’s habits. He now slept with my mother, every night leading her to bed after I was tucked in and told one last lesson about life. I would lay awake for hours, listening to her cry from her room.
Sometimes it’d be for a few moments, other times…hours.
He didn’t always stay with her through the night though.
I remember times I’d wake up and he’d be standing in the dark corner of my room, watching me sleep, his eyes like shining oceans. Other times he’d be staring at me through the crack in my door. He’d stand there for hours, just…fucking…watching.
Sometimes I’d wake up to him sliding into bed with me, always placing a cool hand over my thigh.
Heart thundering, fear ripping apart my insides, I’d always turn away from him, breaking out in cold sweats. I still had Growls, my constant source of child-like comfort. I’d hug him to my chest, tears running down my face until either the sun came up or exhaustion shut my brain down.
We endured this silently, begging for it to end.
I was eleven. It was the fifth year, to the day, since Tommy had entered our lives. I sat in the living room, reading a book while my mother prepared supper for us. She was pale and gaunt, the long years wearing her to the bone. Her eyes were lifeless these days and had sunk into her sockets, her cheekbones pronounced, skin thinly stretching over them.
Growls lay on my chest as I reclined, trying to focus on my book. Tommy was sitting in the chair across from me, watching.
I turned a page and jumped as Tommy spoke.
“You really love that thing don’t you.”
I turned to Tommy, “M-my book?”
Tommy shook his head, smiling, “No, son. That bear.”
I looked at Growls on my chest and shrugged uncomfortably, “I-I guess so.”
Tommy leaned forward, lacing his fingers together, “Put your book down, Spence.”
Licking my suddenly dry lips, I obeyed. I noticed my mother was watching from the kitchen, looking alarmed.
“Do you know what love…means?” Tommy asked.
I fiddled with Growls, eyes downcast, “I-it means you care for someone very much.”
Tommy shook his head, “No…no. Good try.” He suddenly came and sat next to me, placing a hand on my leg, caressing it, “Love means you want to fuck something so bad you’d die if you didn’t.”
I heard my mother drop something in the kitchen but I didn’t dare take my eyes off of Tommy.
Tommy pointed to Growls, “Do you want to fuck your teddy bear?”
I had heard some kids in school talking about fucking, but I didn’t have a clear understanding of what it was yet, so I just shook my head, palms sweaty.
Tommy looked confused, “But you just said you loved Growls. So…you don’t love him?”
My mother took a step towards us, but her hands balled into fists, but kept her mouth sealed shut, her lips a thin white line.
“I-I guess I don’t love him them,” I stammered, feeling Tommy’s hand tighten on my thigh.
Tommy placed his other hand on the back of my head, “Why don’t you give him a little kiss. See what you think, yeah?”
I felt embarrassed and humiliated just at the thought, my cheeks burning. I tried to chuckle, like I thought it was a joke, but Tommy slowly pushed my head towards my bear.
“Go ahead son, don’t be afraid,” he coached.
I could feel tears brimming in my eyes as he guided my mouth towards my bear and I gently kissed its nose, turning away immediately.
“Do it again,” Tommy whispered, “Show him how much you love him.”
Sniffling, tears now rolling down my face, I held up Growls and planted a few kisses on his worn nose. My face was flush and my heart was racing. I felt foolish and absolutely terrified, Tommy’s hand like a vice grip on the back of my head, urging me on.
“Lick him a little,” Tommy whispered in my ear.
I suddenly jerked my head away and threw Growls across the room, openly sobbing now, “I don’t love him! I hate him! I HATE HIM!”
I covered my face, ashamed, hands shaking. I pulled myself into a ball and lay there, sobbing. I felt Tommy get up next to me and turn to my mother.
“It sounds like he’s learned his last lesson. I’d be proud of him if I were you. He’s a man now.”
I looked up at him through tear soaked eyes.
His eyes sparkled, “It took five years…” He suddenly leaned down and cupped his mouth over my ear.
His voice was cold glass, his breath like hot fire, “Your little ones will get five years as well, Spence.”
And with that, he looked at my mother one last time and then walked out the door.
My mother rushed me and took me in her arms, comforting me as I cried.
Tommy never returned to our home.
Time passed and I grew up…I grew up always expecting Tommy to show up again, come barging through our front door. But he never did. The years faded and some of the horror and pain began to fade as well.
We were never the same though.
How could we be? My mother was a shell of the women she used to be. The mental torture she had undergone had broken something inside of her she’d never regain. But God, did she love me and try to heal to nightmares of those five years.
A full year passed before my mother dared ask Megan’s mom if Tommy was gone from their home as well.
The neighborhood was free, impossibly, unbelievably free from the monster that had terrorized us for five awful years.
I never understood what Tommy’s final words were to me…what they meant.
Until it was too late…
When I turned twenty-five I married Megan.
A year later we were expecting. You’ve heard the rest from my poor son…
God forgive me for having children…
God forgive me.