Fear has seeped into my sixty-year-old bones. Dread is my shadow and accompanies my every step. Terror has hollowed me out, emptied me, leaving me broken and brittle.
It is coming, drawing closer, moving steady and true. Coming to me. After me.
I look at his pictures, his baby pictures, my firstborn. My undeniable pride and joy. Inquisitive, so, curious, bright, cunning, loving and kind and cruel in spells and spurts. But always full of joy at the world and it’s surprising turns.
Nursed at my breasts, found comfort in my voice, my touch, looked me in the eyes searching, beseeching, promising… never afraid.
Strong for a boy child. His sisters admired and despised him for his toughness, his grit. The three little scammers, plotting cookie raids, mapping hunts for hidden gifts, and ambushing their father and me for favors and relief.
Their never-ending intermural strife rubbed my nerves raw, but the trio was united against parents and outsiders, an unholy alliance.
We loved him too much for his energy, curiosity, and joy. He trapped us in his joy.
After one year of community college with good grades and possibilities so many possibilities – none involving foreign battlefields. He and three buddies, following in their parent’s and sibling’s footsteps, enlisted for Army Afghanistan adventures. Not economic coercion. Not under duress.
My mother called the day before the friends enlisted. Eighty-five-years and thirty days old. Summoned me. Met me on her porch. “Stop him. Don’t let him go. Break him. Hurt him. Cripple him. Don’t let him go.”
I didn’t understand. How could I? She loved him. Her favorite. Her special joy. We all knew it.
I was a question. “What? What’re you saying?”
My mother never raised her hand to my six sisters and me. Never cuffed, slapped, kicked or threatened us with that.
Two steps. I on the lower, she on the higher.
I never saw the blow coming that knocked me off the step, onto the ground, numbed the side of my face, bloodied my nose.
I remember her words ringing in my ears, “I have raised a fool.”
That night before the trio left, he was out with his girl and friends. I sat in my front room with their father’s Army forty-five, a round in the chamber. Waiting to wound him, leg or arm. Phone in my pocket to report the accident.
I fell asleep.
He came home, woke me, went to bed. I missed my opportunity. No, I didn’t. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t.
The dreams came to me three months after he left. A child blown to bits. A bomb. A rocket. A grenade. He was fascinated. Gathering her pieces like parts of a puzzle.
A man his own age captured. Scared. Proud. A father. A husband. They, he, they, he beat, cut, beat, cut the pride and life out of the prisoner. Curious about the process the death and dying, the pain and the suffering.
The rapes at the well. Six soldiers. She was all of thirteen.
The dreams kept coming.
My mother raised a fool.
It’s almost here. It carries his name. Looks like him except for the too bright eyes, the eagerness, greed, lust for blood, pain, suffering, death, slow death observed closely, joyfully.
I sit on my porch. Forty-five under my folded sweater by my side. I can see it now walking up the street, duffel on its back. Looking, its looking at me, smiling, quickening its pace.
I pick up the forty-five pregnant with a full clip, one in the chamber. I click off the safety. Too late to wound now.
I take a deep breath. I wait.
Banner Image: Pixabay.com
2 thoughts on “Joy by Frederick K Foote”
I don’t think I can say more than thank you. The story itself is ages old and will continue to be written. Your own version is devastatingly good. I don’t know if that’s the right expression.
The air is always heavy when I read your words.
How you get so much atmosphere into your stories is a talent I can only imagine!
Brilliant as usual.
All the very best my friend.