Every Halloween I try to post a piece apropos to my favorite month, October, and my favorite holiday, Halloween. Here’s a snippet from my work-in-progress, a collection of dark, macabre and absurdist short stories titled October Dark. Pay heed, all you procrastinators who had, shall we say, father issues.
My first memory of him. I was in the backyard, pushing a toy lawnmower. I was following right behind the biggest man in the world who was pushing a real lawnmower. The biggest man in the world, and the strongest. Isn’t that how all four year old boys see their fathers?
I remember he was chewing gum as he mowed. When he stopped for a break, I approached him and asked if I could also have a stick. He smiled and said, “Sure- open your mouth.” I opened wide, and he spat the chewed wad into my mouth, then put a fresh stick into his. At four, you don’t question these things. You just assume that this is how all fathers behave.
Sometime later, perhaps a year or so, he was in a jovial mood, and gave me a kiss. His tongue darted down my throat and wiggled like a small snake. Then he giggled. Yes. When abusing me he always emitted an incongruous girlish giggle.
I’ve always wondered if he sexually molested me, and I repressed the trauma- the horror. But the cruelty, the continuous acts of physical and psychological abuse are not repressed. They are fresh in memory, as if from yesterday. We were a Catholic family. My parents observed the rhythm method. They wanted to stop bearing children after my two older sisters were born. Sadly, I had usurped the rhythm, and was inadvertently spawned. Oh how he would delight in telling me, out of ear shot of my mother, that I was a mistake, and that he had been suffering for it since the day I was born. Often, I even wondered if he knew my name. His favorite moniker for me was Stupido, or Stupe, as in stupid. He was Sicilian. Oh such exquisite Sicilian wit! Odd. I say that as if somehow I was not Sicilian. Indeed, if I could have my father’s genes “liposucked” out of me I’d do it in a heartbeat.
When I was ten years old I began to have intestinal bleeding. Ulcerative Colitis. My father had no health insurance for his family, and thus I was placed in a “teaching hospital,”a lame euphemism for charity ward. I was in the hands of clumsy, indifferent interns and nearly died, as much from malpractice as from the disease.
When I was twelve, something happened, I’m not sure what, that really set him off. He began slapping me in the face, hard, back and forth, back and forth, with both hands as hard as he could until my mother finally intervened as I felt consciousness slipping away.
I could certainly go on. My mother had no immunity to his reflexive cruelty. For most of her life she was also assailed by his malevolence. After her kids were grown, she wanted a job. Oh how important to be liberated from his oppressive yoke and affirm her worth and self esteem. She got a job as a receptionist at a local grammar school. On her first day, the floors had been waxed and buffed the night before. Her footing was precarious, she slipped and severely sprained her ankle. My father’s response? “Instead of making me money, you’re costing me money.” But far greater in cruelty, he would boast to my mother of his many infidelities and tell her if he had it all to do over again he would have married a more attractive woman.
In my early twenties, after I had an opportunity to exchange life stories with other young men, I developed points of reference. I realized my father was a monster. He was also dead, purportedly from cancer.
Years went by, but I could never liberate myself from my father’s ghost and memory. He persisted to torment me from beyond the grave. And thus I began my plan.
I had, on numerous occasions, literally pissed on his grave, hoping for some degree of catharsis. But it wasn’t enough, a feeble gesture always leaving closure far from reach. No. I needed much, much more.
I bought a pick and shovel, the heaviest and sharpest I could find. I trained with weights, and dug practice holes in my backyard. For a week, I surveilled the cemetery to ascertain when the fewest potential witnesses would be present. The gates opened at 9:AM. If I started at six, there should be enough daylight and time to do my handiwork.
D Day. D as in desecration. I arrived just before six. It was easy to climb the wall. The plan? Exhume dear old dad, pop open the coffin, and tote away his remains where I could take my time with the father and son reunion. Oh, the possibilities- the varieties of desecration!
The digging went much faster than I had calculated. I was expecting the ground around the grave would be hard and packed, but it yielded much more easily to my pick and shovel. There. The coffin was exposed. Now, for the moment of truth. I popped open the lid with my pick. Incredulity. Anticlimax and disappointment. The coffin was empty, except for a note. I opened it and read:
Sorry Bro- Beat You To It. You Weren’t His Only Son