Bully

Although he was proud of his son for discovering his identity so early in life, Sutherland had worries. While he was fine with whatever a seven-year-old thought gay was, probably not much different than what other nine-year-olds thought of close friends, he didn’t have much faith in the youth of Polk County Public Schools. They would be ruthless, if not yet, then soon.

“Son, you have to watch your lisping. I’m your dad and I love you no matter what, but other people don’t know you yet, and they’ll see any sign of weakness as a chance to attack.”

Allen nodded seriously at this advice. He was a good kid, sensitive and socially focused. When Sutherland corrected him on his walk, “You’re swinging your hips too much. You’ve got to make your motions deliberate,” the boy followed his advice exactly, and asked clarifying questions.

“What should I be doing with my arms?”

The boy would be great at choreography someday, Sutherland thought.

He remembered how unhelpful his own father had been, about everything. Interests in painting and guitar had been personality flaws. With a little encouragement, he might have gone to art school, but the way his father sneered at him about impracticality turned him into the vague professional he was today. He was not his father. He would do all he could to help his son be the best person he could be.

“You cannot wear that shirt. They’ll kill you. You go upstairs and you change it right now. And stop that mincing!”

The boy complied as best he could, without complaint or will of his own.

#abuse, #good-intentions, #identity, #parents, #self-fulfilling-prophecy, #society

Deathbed

Waking up had never felt so important. As David Blanchett gasped himself awake, the crowd around him murmured in relief. They had thought he was gone, and he had been.

“Dad, we thought we lost you.”

“It’s a miracle.”

They crammed around the bed, trying their best to hug him through the wires and the tubes. They touched his hands. He tried to squeeze back.

“Give him some space. He’s had a long day.” The doctor pulled away Kaitlin, the youngest, and the rest of the family dispersed behind her and out the door. Kaitlin lingered another moment, and as Timothy, the oldest, grabbed her shoulder, she took a deep swallow. “I love you, Daddy,” she said, and as though she’d said something wrong, scampered off into the hallway.

A few days later, he left the hospital. The kids were at school, but his wife drove him home. “What do you think it’s going to cost?” she asked.

“I don’t know. You can’t really put a price tag on your health.”

Regina seemed to contemplate this premise until they were home. She opened up a can of beans and emptied it into a plastic microwavable container. When it was hot, she set it in front of him and made to leave.

He coughed. “I thought we might celebrate later.”

“But darling, you hate celebrations.” She kissed him on the forehead and got in the car.

When the kids came home, they rushed past him to the living room, where they had an Xbox. He followed after.

“What’s that you’re playing there? Some game?”

“Nothing,” said Timothy, shutting off the console. The rest of them scampered off behind him. “Please don’t be mad. It’s my fault.”

David said nothing.

“Aren’t you going to hit him, Daddy?”

#abuse, #family, #father, #microfiction, #parents, #patriarchy, #second-chances, #terrible, #violence

Comfort

Greta didn’t have a key anymore to the old house, and though her parents lived far away from civilization and had nothing worth stealing, they kept their estate secure. She’d grown up in this unfamiliar place. As she waited for her mother to walk herself to the door, she looked across the wasted farmland to the nearest semblance of a landmark, the tombstones of her grandparents.

The door opened. “Oh it’s you,” her mother said, neither joyful or dismissive. Greta followed the pace of the walker to the back of the house and her father’s bed. His deathbed, soon enough. Her mother collapsed in her favorite chair, and though she didn’t sleep and hardly ever did, Greta felt like she was alone in the room with her dad. He wasn’t awake, but he was breathing. His breathing was loud and augmented by machines.

“You’ve never felt pain,” her mother said behind her, “so you don’t understand.”

Her dad had always snored, and it was strange to see him sleep without snarling. Now that he was quiet, she wanted to talk to him.

“We kept you comfortable all your life,” her mother said. “You never so much as scraped your knee. All you know about suffering is we made you brush your teeth, we made you eat broccoli. You were spoiled, child, spoiled rotten, and you never recovered.”

Greta grabbed her father’s hand, though she couldn’t remember touching him before. He had a warmth to him she didn’t expect, because he wasn’t yet dead. Machines were keeping him alive in a way he’d never been able to do himself.

“We never beat you like we should have. We loved you too much.”

Greta never beat her parents either. And soon it would be too late.

#death, #memory, #microfiction, #parents, #sickness, #weird