Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)
TITLE: Guilt and Misery, Divinely Yoked
By Loren T. Lowery
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Ethan’s eyes grew large. It was early morning and they were sitting at the kitchen table set with dishes and a single chocolate cupcake with a burning candle pressed in the center. Swinging his feet, he asked, “For me?”
“It is your birthday after all.” She hugged him.
Ethan tore into the paper, gasping to find a Little League Mitt inside. “It's terrific.”
“It’s like the one your dad used to have.”
Clutching the mitt to his slight chest, he extended his arms to admire it. “Wow!”
“There’s a bat behind the icebox. It wasn’t too convenient to wrap.”
He ran to find the wooden bat and his face lit up. “Maybe Dad will play catch when he wakes up.” He placed the bat on the table.
“Schuss,” you know he doesn’t like being woke up too early. But maybe he will.” She smiled. “He was a good player himself. You got his arm – it’s a gift.”
They heard cursing from the bedroom adjacent to the kitchen. Ethan’s father, Steve, emerged through the door. Wearing a stained white undershirt, the left sleeve was noticeably limp, hanging hollow with the hint of an arm stump beneath. He had lose-fitting boxer shorts and his eyes were bloodshot, his face unshaven, hair disheveled.
“Where’s my cigarettes, woman!” He demanded
“Pa, look what Ma got me for my birthday.” Ethan cried. “A mitt. Ma says it just like the one you used to have. Isn’t it terrific?” Running to his father, he held it up for him to see.
Steve slapped it out his son’s hand, causing it to hit the wall with a deathlike thud and fall to the floor. “I asked where’s my cigarettes. Now what do I gotta do to get an answer?” He kicked the glove under the table. “Get that thing out of my sight.”
“Steve, don’t. Please. It’s his birthday.” She bent to pick it up. “I forgot to get them at the store. I’ll go down after breakfast…”
“You won’t do anything after breakfast. You’ll go down and get them – now! You have all the time in the world to spend on this stupid brat, but can’t even take care of your husband.”
“He only wants to play catch with you.”
Steve snorted. “A one-armed man, playing pitch, now wouldn’t that make a pretty sight.”
“This isn’t about you for once; it’s about our son.”
“Your son, not mine. You’re the one that got pregnant.”
“Please, not in front of Ethan.”
“He’s old enough to know what’s what.” He sneered at his son. “Ain’t you, boy?”
“Ethan, go outside to play.”
“Don’t’ argue; just go.” When he was on the back porch, she continued. “Then he’s old enough to know how you got drunk when you found out about it; and lost your arm because you crashed into another car.”
“Shut up, woman.”
“I won’t shut up. It’s been seven years. You killed two people because of your drunkenness and now you’re doing your best to kill your son and me.”
He slammed his hand against the doorjamb. “I lost my arm because of you and that kid and I’d still be playing for the Cardinals if it hadn’t been for him.”
“You lost your position with the Cardinals as soon you put a bottle to your mouth.”
Steve exploded in rage. He picked up the bat lying on the table and lunged towards her.
Screaming, she ducked, the bat grazing the side of her head as it smashed into the dishes, shattering them against the window and onto the floor. The lone candle on the cupcake snuffed out and sent a faint swirl of pale gray smoke into the room.
Rushing from the porch, Ethan moved to defend his mother, “Stop it, Pa! Stop it!” He held his slender arms up to stave the blows; a windmill standing against the wind, its promised grist soon to be destroyed. His father continued to swing. A loud crack split the air. Destiny altered, hope abandoned. Ethan screamed in pain.
Steve threw the bat down, storming to the opened porch door, he slammed it behind himself. The door shook in its frame. A fissure bolted across the pane of glass. Time froze on this fragile portal, transparency turned translucent; any glimpse back, any glimpse forward inalterably changed. Guilt gleefully avenged.
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