By W. T. Paterson
From the outside, George had a good life and a good family. His wife Martha cooked dinner every night and his kids Annabelle and Sam did well in school. Annabelle sang in chorus and Sam played baseball as an all-star short stop. Even Martha, who had no job and stayed home all day, could not complain. She raised the children and walked the dog. She cooked and cleaned to make sure George was happy.
But George wasn’t happy. No one knew why. Often times he would find himself staying late at work not wanting to go home. He found himself feeling trapped and strangled. There were the nights where he’d work so late into the evening that by the time he returned home, the dinner would be cold and everyone would be asleep. Most times, he wouldn’t eat.
Martha worried about her poor George so she worked extra hard at making sure that when he got home, everything would be in order. But lately, this did not seem to work. Mornings would come and she would find last night’s dinner still in the kitchen without a bite on them.
Annabelle was in the paper for an outstanding performance at her school and Sam won a great big trophy after his team won a state championship. Both children had wanted their father George to attend their events, but he went to neither and had no real explanation as to why. When they showed him their achievements, he nodded his head and went into another room without a word.
Something was going on and no one could figure out what. No one, that was, except for George and his personal assistant Evelyn, for it was she that was the source. While George stayed late, Evelyn would come into his office and kiss him on the mouth. She made him do things with her that broke the sanctity of marriage and made him question his commitment to another. The worst part was, he allowed it to happen and thought he could hide it. Although George knew he was doing wrong, a part of him felt free.
Finally a day came when George returned to his house before dinner. There was separation in the air and he found Martha in the kitchen. She sounded like she was weeping with a sad and hollow grief, so George did not say a word. He watched as his wife took a sharp kitchen knife and cut off three of her fingers and, as the blood leaked into the sink, she cut off another. The sight was so ghastly that the man could hardly make a sound. Martha then took the knife and cut her face from her lips to her ear on both sides forever creating the mask of happiness.
“My dear love,” George screamed, “what have you done to yourself?”
But at that moment, Annabelle and Sam entered the kitchen through the south door and saw their mother bleeding.
“If mother cries so, then I shall share in her suffering,” Annabelle said. “I am her daughter, therefore I must become her pain,” and she took a knife and cut out her tongue. Her beautiful singing voice was now swept away.
Sam said “If they weep, then I must remain strong and become a man. For this, I shall sacrifice my childhood.” George could not believe his eyes as his son grew until there was hair on his face, and his clothes turned into a suit. No longer was Sam a little boy, instead a full grown man. All of the things he had yet to experience as a youth were now impossibilities.
George cried out, “My family! What have you done to yourselves?”
To which they replied, “Nothing that you haven’t already done to us.”
It was at this moment that George saw how much he had actually hurt them all. Most people never have a family who can manifest their inner and outer feelings as well as they could and knowing that he was responsible for the mess he banished himself from his own kingdom.
A year went by and George found he could not focus at work. He was soon fired and forced to move into a small and rundown apartment. With no job, there was little money and he quickly ran out of food. He could not afford to pay the electricity. His dreams became recurring visions of failure and his stomach cried out for the substance of a meal.
Many tears fell from the face of the once successful man. They fell into the bowls before him and became a soup. He drank this soup to ease his hunger. When the soup became scarce, he took a knife and began cutting out pieces of his own heart to eat. This caused much pain, but it was the only way he could stay alive. When he ate his heart, he wept. When he wept, he drank his tearful soup. It was a never ending cycle and he did this until he died.
Martha and her family lived on for many years later and tried to forget about the past, but so much had already been lost. The past is hard forgotten. They learned to carry with them the burdens of choice.
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W. T. Paterson is a Chicago writer who's recent work can be seen in Maudlin House, Procyon Press's Anthology, and Whispers from the Past. Send him a tweet @WTPaterson
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