My Father's Son, Part III

The evidence suggested to me that the murderer had wanted there to be no doubt that he had done it—and that his recent manner had been one not of kind ease but of cruel condolence. As these thoughts raced through my mind, a cold, clammy hand clasped itself around my neck. I stiffened until I was consummately frozen. My father pushed me face forward on the ground, and then pointed at Charlie. “Pick up this mess, and make some use of this carcass,” he shouted. “I need some dinner, and you will have a hat and mittens—now!”

He stood there and watched me callously as I wiped out all traces of his evil deed— and of my loved one. As I picked up the cane and wiped off the blood, then extracted the nail from Charlie to remove him from the post, so that fresh blood from his heart poured out anew upon my hand, I could not help sobbing aloud. I was unable to control my grief, even in front of the passionate hatred and yet more abhorrent marmoreal evil of my father. Twice, in a strident voice, he yelled at me, “Stop it!” As I was dismantling the cage he beat me with his cane with which he had so recently killed Charlie. The fresh sting on the scars of my back that had felt this pain so many times before stifled my cries, though I still convulsed silently.

Chopping Charlie up for dinner sickened me to the point that I almost vomited straight into the soup as I was preparing it, and I know that it was a soup made with many of my own tears. It was a process requiring sadism beyond that of a cannibalistic ritual; several times I turned away to sob before returning to the task. My father then forced me to skin Charlie and prepare his coat for sewing, watching me with a close eye, making sure I did not flinch from my duty, while he ate his soup. Charlie’s hide then became my hat and mittens, to be worn on my head and covering my hands every day when I went out to collect wood. So many times I had the urge to rip them off and cast them on the ground, to bury them with some ounce of respect. As time wore on, the memory of his soul faded, and his body, an empty shell, looked upon me darkly, with a curious concentration of a person threatening to burst with a dark and tormenting secret. He was dangling it in front of me, daring me silently to come and find it out, whatever it was he could not contain. It was as if he were interrogating me, silently, testing my resilience though my guilt an irrevocable fact frozen in that small head of his for all eternity. My father was even cruel enough to extend the torture of wearing this guilt upon my head to any time I went outside, so that from then on I stayed in, and rarely escaped his presence as I had in days of old.

Around that time the first snow of the winter fell upon our isolated abode. A few weeks later, my father developed a severe cough. During the night, it ruthlessly and incessantly forced itself upon him in agonizing spasms. Often he would even cough up blood. He was finally receiving his deserts. In the middle of the night he would suddenly let out a shriek for me to come and nurse him, as if he took it for granted that I was his abject slave boy. At first, I always answered to his supplications, but after a while I quickly became tired of caring for this deteriorating man spilling forth his blood until he eventually became little more than an empty, white carcass. And furthermore I became canny in my rising advantageous position, ignoring his cries and letting him suffer as he had me. During the day he had no strength left in him from the torments of the night to requite me for my neglect. Slowly he sank into that deeper, darker world where cries are heard by no one. For once seeing a light at the end of the dark tunnel of my life, I prayed often that he would die. Then one night my father had the most turbulent episode of coughing that attacked him during the entire period of his illness. “James!” he cried out hoarsely in his desperate but fruitless appeals to me. I ignored him—for the last time. The next day, he was no more.

No human, I think, has ever reached the height of exuberance which I ascended to upon realizing that my father was dead and that I was free. I immediately set out to hide his horrid person forever from my sight. The first place that came to mind was the long, dark box in the cellar. I dragged his cold, purplish body down the stairs and into the closet where he had so many times before imprisoned me. I opened the lid of the box, and, with a carefree heart unwary of any unknown contents which might have lain inside, heaved the body in. I shut the closet door and locked it, as well as the door to the cellar itself. I felt as I never had in my entire life. I had had more fulfilling revenge against my father than even my most fecund imaginations could have concocted: he was sealed eternally in what should have been my own grave. I, on the other hand, was now eternally free from the damning presence both of my father and of the cellar, the most execrable remnants of a past that I never wanted to revisit.

Yet woe to any man who claims to be free, for he will always be a slave—either to God or to the devil. The first few days without my father, I was able to taste life as instinct told me it always should have been. I cooked for myself and ate until I was satisfied; I felt like a god feasting on ambrosia. After washing my father’s sheets, I slept in them at night, and for the first time I can remember I slept comfortably and soundly.

Although one may think my first impulse would have been to flee the place, I knew my father and I must have been long forgotten by that time, and I held a certain fear of facing the world all alone after living my whole life in the mansion. Thus, to my detriment, I remained.





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