TITLE: Hateful love. 6 feb 2015
By Trace Pezzali
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Redolent on the couch, the young adult flicked through the Foxtel channels, until the flickering lights and ready empty images put him in a trance; his mind as numb as a zombie dumbing down.
Or was this a siren’s song and he smashed against the couch, spent? The heaviness in his limbs hard to motivate. With this declining drive to rouse, the bewitching fluorescent siren had surely won another victim.
Ben glanced down at the crisps spilling out of their bag, the empty chocolate and lolly wrappers, the crumb-tacky fork and cream-smeared plate… Ben whinged a plaintive cry: “Muuum, I’m hungry!”
There was no reply. Exasperated, he got up to help himself.
Outside the master bedroom he heard low voices and halted to eavesdrop.
“No more. He’s on his own,” Ben’s father decided.
“Please, Jack, give him another chance,” his mother pleaded.
“Locks on the pantry, no allowance. He gets a roof over his head, the bare minimum for meals, and that’s all. And you, Cassie, will not give in. It’s for his good. The boy must get a job.”
A dreadful wave suffused Ben with fear and self-pity, these emotions riding a slipstream into his habitual hatred of Jack. How dare his father do this to him? He was their responsibility.
Ben knew with sickening certainty that his world was about to change.
The front door slammed so loudly that Cassie jumped, cutting her finger with the knife. When Ben stormed into the kitchen, she was sucking on the profuse bleed. Without a greeting he launched into his news.
“Well, I’ve told him where to stick his job. Bad customer service – ptah! Always at me: You’re not fast enough, your attitude stinks. Well, I had enough of it, mum...” He leaned towards her over the counter. “You’d be proud of me. I stood up for myself.”
Cassie’s mouth gaped. “Proud of you?”
“Yeh,” Ben replied sullenly. Switching tone he wheedled, “Hey mum. I’m hungry. Give me something.”
“Not. Until. Dinner. Ben.” Cassie bit out her words in small angry measure.
“Awww mum, I’ve been trying!” Ben’s face reddened in fury. “This isn’t fair. I’m STARVING.”
“Good.” Jack spoke coldly from the doorway. “Yet another job, hey son? You’re a disgrace. Get out of my sight.”
Ben’s eyes shot daggers as he left. A minute later, loud punk metal screamed from his room. Jack shot after his son. Cassie’s nerves, always strung taut, stretched pain across the back of her neck. There were raised voices, then silence as the music was switched off. When Jack returned to the kitchen he was shaking, intent on taking his fury out on Cassie. A verbal tirade assaulted her, until, unable to breathe under its violence, she fled, bawling, to seek respite in the garden.
On the counter, the carrots marinated in spilt blood.
When she finally calmed down, Cassie knew she couldn’t be annoyed at Jack. His venting was justified. Cassie knew she’d spoilt Ben and these were the results: A lazy self-absorbed immature fool wasted of his talents. She sank to the floor in grief and wished that she could repair previous mistakes. But of course, she couldn’t. Dear God, how in my love I hated Ben into this!
It was terrifying how much a father could despise a son. If Jack were given to violence, his fists would have pulped Ben into a broken mess of blows. In despair, Jack looked down at his hands. These fists had taught his son how to hold a baseball, back when Ben had been beautiful and innocent.
At his wits’ end, Jack didn’t know what to do other than to push on with this ruthless discipline. He hadn’t shared in this responsibility when Ben was a lad. Jack had martyred his spare time with loads of work. It was noble, so he’d inwardly bragged, supporting his family, giving them all of this. Giving HIMSELF all of this.
In Ben’s bedroom, the way his son had looked at him… it had socked out the air in Jack’s lungs. That naked glaring hatred so perfectly reflected his own deadly gaze. But worse – as if there could be anything worse – this hatred targeted at HIM, had made Jack realise just how vile a man he was… how… despicable. He had become the sum of his hatred. What he’d named as love in himself, was conditional, hard in its rules and expectations.
Oh poor Ben, what have I done to you?
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