“The Widow’s Son” | Novella | Written by Graves Asher | 7 - Mishmashers Mishmashers

“The Widow’s Son” | Novella | Written by Graves Asher | 7

XXXI.

I took Latin in high school.

Remembered some of it.

Not much.

But some.

The instructions claimed to be in Latin. According to Dr. Winchester, these texts date back thousands of years. Maybe more.

Who knows?

It was probably bullshit.

Nonsense.

But all that remains.

Today.

Is the Latin translation.

I remembered Latin.

That wasn’t Latin.

Far from it.

But I tried my best.

I said the words aloud.

Feeling stupid.

While Mom cried.

Wept.

Dried her eyes.

Wept some more.

And when I finished, she applauded. I remember her doing this during my years in the elementary school band.

Her, the proud parent.

Me, the bashful student.

With my clarinet.

In my Sunday best.

Before the whole school.

Of giggling classmates.

Playing “The Saints Come Marching In.”

Proud parent.

Bashful son.

And there I stood.

Man.

Middle-aged.

Old.

Balding.

Performing for her once again.

A ritual this time.

But a performance nonetheless.

And with the ancient text recited, I had completed the second step. All that remained was the final phase.

The final step.

The final sacrifice.

“Are you sure about this?” I asked.

“I am sure,” she said.

Cold.

Distant.

Desperate.

And with that.

I continued.

XXXII.

The text outlined instructions.

Specific instructions.

To ensnare.

To harness.

To trap.

The intended spirit.

Including the removal of a weakness.

A singular flaw.

Something you hate.

About yourself.

I looked at Mom.

She smiled.

A warm smile.

Genuine.

She didn’t care what it cost. She didn’t care about my pain. She wanted Dad, plain and simple. Nothing more, nothing less.

If I suffered?

So be it.

If I bled?

So be it.

I wondered.

I wanted to know.

How far she would have gone.

I know the extent.

I saw the line.

And I watched her push me over it.

Scalpel in hand.

But I wondered if she would trade me for him. Would she swap a son for a husband? A devoted servant for a life-long lover?

I wondered.

I still wonder.

I took a deep breath.

Gripped the scalpel.

Tight.

Knuckles white.

Bit my tongue.

And shoved the blade into my lazy eye. I screeched, uncontrollable. Primal. The sound came out on its own. I had no choice. No control.

Mom covered her mouth.

“My son,” she whispered.

But she did not stop me.

No movement.

Nothing.

I had passed the point of no return.

I twisted the scalpel.

Yelled.

Screamed.

Bled.

Fell to my knees.

Blood everywhere.

Face.

Clothes.

Floor.

Gushing.

“No, stop,” she finally said.

Too late.

Much too late.

Mom.

Too late.

I twisted the blade.

Screamed.

Twisted.

Took a deep breath.

My lazy eye.

Ruined.

My flaw.

For you, Mom.

For you.

XXXIII.

I passed out.

Into the darkness.

I fell.

Reeling.

Spinning.

Screaming.

Agony.

Suffering.

Then…

It faded.

And I stood alone.

In the void.

With my father.

He smiled. And I smiled. And we smiled. And he hugged. And I hugged. And we hugged. I felt his warmth. Realized how much I missed it.

Forgotten already.

His size.

His hugs.

But wait.

Wait.

Wait.

No.

I didn’t remember that sensation.

Because I never felt it.

As a child.

I remember his coldness, his solitude. His demands. I remember thinking Dad was something to fear. A stranger under the roof.

He wasn’t my hero.

My savior.

My friend.

My pal.

Buddy.

Mentor.

Role model.

He was that guy.

Who married my mom.

And created me.

I remember his anger, that furious temper. I remember living in fear of which version we’d get at the end of the day.

Mean?

Cold?

Indifferent?

Anyone’s guess.

We didn’t know.

My mom and I.

We’d wait.

For him to return from work.

And we’d eat dinner.

Together.

At the dining room table.

Sometimes it was good.

Others, bad.

But no hugs.

No.

No hugs.

No.

None.

This void.

With Dad.

Was a lie.

A goddamn lie.

XXXIV.

Floating.

Listless.

Lazy.

In this void.

I can remember.

I can recall.

A bowling alley.

A table.

Giggling friends.

I am told by a little red-haired girl that I am cross-eyed. I laughed, thought they were joking. No, my mom said. You have a lazy eye.

A lazy eye.

A joke.

A constant joke.

In my life.

Why didn’t she tell me sooner?

Why hide it?

Why not prepare me?

Why?

Why?

Why subject me to humiliation?

Why didn’t she prepare me?

Why?

“I didn’t think it was important,” she told me.

But it was.

It was.

Very important.

It became a running joke.

For years.

Through school.

Jobs.

Relationships.

Everything.

My biggest flaw.

Biggest physical flaw, anyway.

Destroyed.

I writhed.

In agony.

As a result.

Of my decision.

And Mom couldn’t have been happier.

XXXV.

Washcloth.

Held to my damaged eye.

Almost in the socket.

I blacked in and out.

Like an old television set.

Trying to catch an elusive station.

Airing a drama.

About a family falling apart.

I fought bad signals.

Static.

And then the picture cleared.

I saw Mom standing in the middle of the living room. She stared down the hallway, mouth agape.

“Do you hear it?” she asked.

“Hear what,” I said from the floor.

“The banging.”

“Banging?”

“Yes, the banging.”

“Where?”

“From the bedroom.”

I stopped.

Listened.

Nothing.

“I don’t hear anything,” I told her.

“It’s there,” she said.

“I don’t hear it.”

“Wait.”

We waited.

“Wait,” she repeated.

Waited.

And then I heard it.

A faint banging.

From the bedroom.

“He’s back.”

I felt pain.

Shame.

I suffered.

Hurt.

I wanted my mom.

But no.

She wanted my dad.

And no one else.

XXXVI.

Mom crepted down the dark hallway.

Didn’t help me.

Didn’t check on me.

Didn’t ask if I was okay.

Not a thing.

No concern.

No care.

Walked away.

I pulled myself up.

Stumbled.

Fell to my knees.

Tried again.

And again.

By the time I finally joined her at the end of the hall, she was slowly reaching for the door knob to the bedroom.

“Should I?” she asked.

Stupid question.

Was this all for nothing?

If she didn’t indulge, what was the point?

“Yes,” I told her.

“Are you sure?”

My eye oozed.

Throbbed.

Pain.

Suffering.

Hurt.

Physical.

And mental.

I wanted to point to my wounds. The injuries I made to bring this to fruition. I wanted to scream at her. Shove them in her face.

Stain her nightgown.

But I didn’t.

I held back.

A coward.

Like always.

“Yes,” I told her. “You should.”

She gripped the knob.

Turned.

The door open.

She gasped.

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