Note from Emanita01: This is an extract from an untitled story in the works.
Not a new father, the man, watches his newborn son, this innocent babe who’s just entered the father’s world.
Is that love in the father’s eyes? Or, is it something else?
In one context, it could be said that no child chooses his or her parents. While I do have other takes on this statement, for the sake of this post, I’m going to put them all aside.
Life attributes children their parents. As for the parents life gives them, it could be likened to playing Russian roulette: there are bullets pointed at some and empty chambers pointed at others. It’s the ones with the empty chambers that are the luckiest. For them, their parents will learn as they go. They harbor no negative experiences to which they’ll subject their offspring.
However, when the parents are already loaded with negative experiences from their own childhoods, well, they’re like loaded guns ready to go off whenever a worldly spark ignites the powder or, whenever an innocent child pushes the wrong button.
Last, Sunday morning, I witnessed a fully loaded gun explode in the face of a frail bespectacled boy of six. Unknowingly, my own thirteen-year old son and I were the catalyst that set the gun off.
Feeling an odd sensation I looked up just as my son stormed into the dining hall.
“What’s the matter?”
“This kid just broke my MP3!”
“He wasn’t even supposed to be there!”
“In our room! Jean, Enzo & me…we were having a pillow fight…”
“And this kid comes in and starts hitting us! We were telling him to stop when he belted my MP3 with his pillow!”
“So, he didn’t do it on purpose?”
“NO! But he WASN’T supposed to…”
“OK, okay! Do you know the kid’s name?”
“No, but I know who his parents are.”
“OK. So we’ll go talk to them and their insurance will cover the broken MP3.”
In my mind it was that simple. As it turned out, it wasn’t.
We headed to the dorm rooms. My son pointed out the kid’s mom. We explained what happened. Before I could get to the insurance part, a man who’d been listening from afar exploded.
“Karen, go get your brother!”
In the nanosecond that followed, all blood drained from the mother’s and the daughter’s faces. The room went eerily quiet. The booming voice sent Karen scurrying from the room. but oddly, it also attracted a dozen of more pairs of feet.
My son and I watched this frantic going and coming. I caught the look of satisfaction that came across his face. He anticipated the trouble the kid was in for. Me? I sensed that something was terribly wrong.
Karen arrived with her little brother in tow. She approached her father. She was shaking, as was her brother.
The father’s voice boomed. Karen shrank away.
“WHAT’S THIS I HEAR? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?”
The utter vehemence of his voice, shocked us all. But it was when he grabbed the boy by the arm and began kicking his son’s bottom that we froze in total disbelief. The violence of each connection lifted the boy into the air. No one moved. It seemed as if no one could.
The small band of children who’d come running into the room swayed as one. It was clear they wanted to help, but that they didn’t know how. The smug look on my son’s face changed into one of disbelieving horror. The father was now wrenching the boy’s arm as he dragged him towards a bed.
I looked from them to the mother. She had lowered her gaze to the linoleum floor. The mother in me suddenly revolted. I didn’t know this violent man but I could not let him continue harming his son. I found myself at the man’s side, just as he grabbed a fistful of the child’s hair. No, he’s not really trying to lift…
“Please ,” I spoke softly as I gently stayed his arm, “please, stop, it was just an accident. Please, please, calm down.”
He whipped around so fast, I thought maybe he intended on striking me. His eyes were wild but he’d released the boy’s hair.
“I’M CALM! HE’S THE ONE WHO’S NOT!”
Our eyes locked. Then I glanced down at the child. He looked as if he wished the mattress would open up to swallow him. I looked back at the man, willing him to stop.
In the silence that followed, something happened.
Everyone in the room was looking back and forth between us and the whimpering fragile ball, cowering on the bed. The man sensed it and left the room.
I made my way back to the chair in front of the window. As I sat down, trembling from the realization that I could have been hurt in doing what I’d just done, I spotted the father. He’d gone to his car. He was throwing this and that into the trunk, the violence that inhabited him was more than clear.
I looked from the man to his son, still cowering and sobbing on the bed, to the mother who was searching frantically in her handbag. Suddenly, I was on my feet heading for the child.
I smoothed his hair then took him ever so lightly by the shoulders.
“I’m so sorry that your father hit you like he did. But I want you to know that my son and I KNOW that you did not break his MP3 on purpose. Do you hear me? WE are not angry with you. Hear me well, WE KNOW IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!”
He looked up at me and I knew it was the first time in his young life that an adult had said anything of the kind to him. He breathed deeply and stopped shaking. I gently squeezed his shoulders and repeated my words, the only comfort I could give him.
Heavy footsteps set him to shuddering again. I made my way back to the chair by the window.
The group of children who’d witnessed the scene with his father and what I had just done crowded around me. I asked my son to get me some tissues. I knew I was going to cry.
There was nothing else I could do.
The man came back before my son did. As I turned towards the window, I noticed the woman sighing with relief. She’d found what she’d been looking for: a checkbook.
She placed it on the table as if it scalded her fingers.
“GET ME THE CHECKBOOK!”
“It’s here on the table.”
“DON’T TELL ME THAT! I SAID GET ME THE…”
I stayed my tears long enough to intervene again.
“There,” I pointed, “it is. Do you need a pen?”
His attitude changed slightly.
The woman looked at me with a surprised expression tinged with admiration. I held out my pen. For the life of me, I don’t know from where I’d whipped it out!
My son entered the room with a fistful of toilet paper. The father asked him how much the MP3 had cost. He filled out the check and handed it to me.
“I’ll let you fill in your son’s name…”
Check in hand, I didn’t know what to do with myself. My son and I had unwittingly set off this avalanche. It seemed inappropriate, my holding a check.
In that moment the tears broke and flooded down my face.
The man slipped from the room again.
The children crowded round, again wanting to help but not knowing what to do.
“Why are you crying?”
“Because I’m shocked. I’ve never…. such… such violence….”
A shy voice spoke, “It’s not the first time.”
I looked up into Karen’s sad eyes. No tears, but I could see she’d been in the shoes of her brother. She told me she was twelve and that her brother was six. My mind calculated. Six years, at least six years!
I wept. My chest literally pained me. Unknown to me, some of the children had gone in search of the friend who’d invited me to the chalet.
She came rushing to my side.
“I’m in shock. I just can’t…”
She took my in her arms and began to cry as well.
“I’m so sorry you had to see this. I can choose my friends, but not my family!”
I hadn’t realized that these people were her relatives. It hit me full force then. These children were the cousins, the folks who’d done nothing… the aunts, uncles, grandparents.
This second shock dried my tears.
Hi folks. Emanita01 here.
Sorry to post such darkness under such a wonderful image, but this story is inspired by something I’ve recently experienced.
Putting the two together, I wondered if the father in my story ever looked at his son in this manner.
My muses took it from there.
We’ll get back to that fundamental question…but it looks like this is not going to be a short story.