“The Widow’s Son” | Novella | Written by Graves Asher | 4 - Mishmashers Mishmashers

“The Widow’s Son” | Novella | Written by Graves Asher | 4

XVI.

Elevator ride.

To the thirteenth floor.

Our conversation:

“Why did you make me beg?” she asked.

“I didn’t make you beg,” I said.

In my own defense.

“You made me beg.”

“I did not.”

Silence.

“I did not,” I said again.

One-man defense.

Mental and emotional fists up.

Ready to fight.

“I wanted your support. All you had to do was show up. That’s all. I don’t understand the difficulty in that,” she said.

I didn’t take the bait.

Didn’t bite.

Kept quiet.

Silent.

Just rode the elevator.

It was difficult.

Not to lash out.

Fight back.

She hurt.

Tremendously.

I understood that.

I got it.

But I wasn’t the enemy.

No.

No.

I was her son.

Her friend.

I was all she that had left of the man she loved. I was the reminder of his absence. Is this why she made me suffer?

It’s a possibility.

A definite possibility.

But I was too afraid to ask.

Too afraid.

Still am.

And now.

Now.

I’ll never know.

XVII.

Dr. Winchester’s office impressed me.

It was lavish.

Expensive.

Filled with unique items.

Antiques.

Trophies, he explained.

From various global adventures.

Statues.

Relics.

Trinkets.

Ancient texts.

Some of them frightening.

He believed in a lot of things. Subscribed to different theories. The Afterlife. God. Heaven. Hell. He said it all fit into a complex plan.

One we’d never understand.

Did he understand it?

No.

Never.

Not until death.

His joke.

Not mine.

We said down in his office.

Mom to my right.

Restless.

Nervous.

Fidgeting.

Shaking her legs.

The way Dad used to when he couldn’t sit still. When he needed to get outside and do something with his hands.

Anything.

To settle down.

“Where do we begin?” Mom asked.

“At the beginning,” Dr. Winchester replied with a smile.

A familiar line.

Mom sighed.

And began.

She told her life story.

Birth.

Parents.

Childhood.

Dad.

Marriage.

Death.

Dr. Winchester looked at me.

Sad smile.

He knew.

He understood.

I didn’t fit into the story.

Omitted.

Cut for time.

Extraneous.

A deleted scene.

His silent response confirmed my suspicions. Mom had collapsed into herself. Her transformation into a bitter widow was complete.

“So, you wish to bring him back,” the doctor asked.

“Yes, I do,” Mom replied.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

I didn’t understand.

They talked as though I wasn’t there.

Absent.

Invisible.

“Do you understand the terms?”

“Yes.”

“Did you read them from top to bottom?”

“I did.”

“Are you certain?”

“Yes.”

“Say it again.”

“Yes.”

“And again.”

“Yes.”

With that, Dr. Winchester gave her a quick nod. He placed a small wooden box on his desk and slid it across to her.

It looked expensive.

Very expensive.

I shuddered at the thought of his bill.

Could Mom afford this?

“Take this,” he said.

She did.

“Open it in your house.”

“I will.”

“Follow the directions.”

“I will.”

“Then, you will wait.”

“That’s all?”

“That’s all.”

Dr. Winchester turned to me.

Support her,” he said.

I nodded.

Will you?” he asked.

I nodded again.

Say it,” he demanded.

Yes, I will support her,” I told him.

Mom smiled.

I had no idea.

No idea whatsoever.

What she would ultimately do.

XVIII.

Dead quiet.

Pure silence.

On the ride home.

She didn’t say a word.

“Are we going to discuss it?” I finally asked.

“What?”

“That man.”

“No.”

“What about that box?”

“No.”

“Then why did I come?”

“Because I asked and I needed support.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

More silence.

I wanted to punch her. God help me, I wanted to break her perfect white teeth. I’d officially reached the end of my limit.

Pushed too far.

Over the edge.

Screaming.

Toward the bottom.

But I stayed silent.

Bit my tongue.

Hard.

Until it bled.

Down my throat.

And back into my heart.

“Who is he?” I asked.

“A man,” she said in a flat tone.

“I figured that much.”

“Don’t sass.”

“I’m not.”

But I was. I wanted to know her intentions with that box. It looked like an expensive cigar container from a foreign land.

But it was more.

Much more.

So much more.

Mom stuck her guns.

Dug in her heels.

Didn’t budge.

We drove to my apartment in silence.

I opened the door.

Got out.

She sped away.

Before it had a chance to close the door.

I watched the car.

Speed.

Down the road.

And we didn’t speak again.

For two months.

XIX.

I took that time to learn things.

About Dr. Philip G. Winchester.

He spent some time in Nepal.

Thailand.

Taiwan.

Researching.

Studying.

Ancient religions.

Cults.

Tribes.

Things of that nature.

At one of his many very expensive lectures, he talked about ghosts. Spirits. Haunted places. The stuff that surrounds us.

He made declarations.

Bold claims.

About trapping spirits.

Loved ones.

From beyond the grave.

Miss your husband?

Easy.

Accept his help.

Pay him money.

And receive the box.

Follow the directions.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

For your loved one to return.

That was mom’s plan laid bare. She wanted Dad back. Plain and simple. Not only to open drawers, but to linger there.

Forever.

In that house.

Not Heaven.

Or Hell.

Limbo.

Suburban purgatory.

A brick-and-mortar jail for the dead.

I didn’t know how to react.

What to say.

So I said nothing.

Dr. Winchester was a con man.

A predator.

She’d fallen for a charlatan’s game, but she wouldn’t listen to me. I let her have the box and her dreams.

Dreams of Dad.

Dead Dad.

Resurrected.

In a sense.

Inside that house.

Haunting it.

Roaming in it.

Invisible.

Inside a house he hated.

He must have hated it.

He was so angry all the time.

None of that mattered.

None of it.

Mom had the box.

And the box would bring Dad.

XX.

Over two months.

Nine weeks.

To be exact.

Silence.

No calls.

No texts.

No visits.

No lunches.

No dinners.

Nothing.

Then, out of the blue, she called me. She was sobbing. She was crying. She was upset. I’d become Mr. Fix-It.

Again.

“I’m so disappointed,” she cried.

“About what?” I ask.

No hello.

No “How are you?”

None of that.

Mom thinks about herself.

Only herself.

All the time.

It might not seem that way.

To outsiders.

But you can trace everything.

Back to her.

“I am so disappointed,” she said again.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

She sounded like a three-year-old.

Hurt.

Wounded.

Scared.

Afraid.

Alone.

“I tried the box,” she said, weeping. “I followed the instructions. But I must have done something wrong. I must have.”

“Dr. Winchester is a con man.”

“No, he isn’t.”

“He is.”

“Don’t say things like that.”

“How much did you pay him for that box?”

Silence.

Again: “How much did you pay him for that box?”

“That’s none of your business.”

“You made it my business.”

“How is this any of your business?”

“Because you brought me along.”

“Don’t start with me.”

“This is your problem.”

“Don’t hang up!”

“I’m not hanging up.”

“I need your help.”

“What do you need help with?”

“I need help with this box.”

“You want me to help you trap Dad.”

“That’s not what this is.”

“It’s exactly what this is.”

“How can you say that?”

“Because you bought a ghost trap, Mom. It’s a box that traps spirits. Dad is a spirit. He’s dead. He’s a ghost. You want him back.”

She cried harder.

Angrier.

I peeled away that flap of skin.

The one that hid a delicate nerve.

And I plucked it.

Pinched it.

I fucking bit into it.

“That’s not what this is,” she cried.

“I beg to differ,” I told her.

“Well, we don’t have to agree, do we? But you have to help me. I am your mother, okay? I am your mother. Remember?”

“What does that have to do with it?”

“Help me.”

I said nothing.

“Help me,” she begged.

Again, nothing.

“Help me,” she continued.

She said it.

Again.

And again.

And again.

Over.

And over.

And over.

I closed my eyes.

“Okay, Mom,” I said. “I’ll help you.”

And help her.

I did.

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