Chapter - 9
Jim was cleaned up and ready by the time his son arrived home from school. He was about to light up his pipe when he heard his son enter the house crying. Jim ran to the front door and held his son which only escalated the boy’s sobbing. Jim broke off the hug and dropped to one knee and looked into Daniel’s tear streaked face.
“What happened?” Jim said. His son continued to whimper. He shook him a little and repeated louder. “Daniel, what happened?”
“I got beat up,” Daniel looked the picture of shame. He wiped his sleeve across his face, smearing mucus over his right cheek.
“Who did this to you?” Jim felt anger well up inside.
“Some kids from school.” Daniel dropped his backpack and Jim saw the urine stains on his pants. Jim’s fury drained instantly and he walked his son to the bathroom. He drew a bath and helped his son strip down. Both saying nothing. Daniel stepped into the bath and put his hands over his face. Jim splashed some water down his back from a pitcher and put a hand on his shoulder. His eyes searched his boy over for signs of abuse. After awhile he spoke.
“Are you hurt?” Jim asked.
“No,” Daniel’s voice was barely a whisper.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Jim prodded.
“No,” Daniel kept his hands over his face. Jim didn’t know what to say to him. He didn’t know how to get him to open up. Daniel’s body shook with humiliation. He thought again of Daniel’s mother, his wife, she would know what to say. Jim felt a wave of anger at her for her absence but let it go. There was nothing to be done about it.
“It will be okay buddy,” Jim said. He scooped another pitcher of water and washed the day from his young son’s shoulders, the weight of which seemed heavy on his own. There was no protection from a hard world. Boys should stay small, Jim thought, the bigger they get the bigger come their problems.
“I’m nothing,” Daniel said.
“You’re not nothing. You’re my boy. I love you,” Jim said. Inside he felt like the pot calling the kettle black. One nothing trying to lift up another.
“I’m nothing and I want to die,” Daniel said softly. Jim felt his soul squeeze as if in a vice.
“You don’t mean that,” Jim said. “Don’t say that.”
“I want to die. I hate myself. I’m nothing.” Daniel began to cry. It was an unearthed sobbing that came slow and spent itself long and hollow.
“You’re my boy,” Jim said. “I love you.” Jim dropped the pitcher and hugged his son.
“I want to die. I want to die. I want to die.” Daniel let the litany rise and fall with the rocking of his body. Jim had never felt so powerless. “Fuck you mother,” Jim thought with deep hatred. “Fuck that bitch for leaving us. She’s the one that should die. Not my boy. Not my son.”
Jim rocked holding Daniel in the bathtub. One reeling in sorrow, one with anger. Neither thinking about the other. Lost in themselves and their own miseries.
The evening came quickly. “Do you want me to drive you to school tomorrow?” Jim asked. “I could also pick you up at the end of the day. Save your legs from all that walking.” Daniel shook his head.
“Is there anything I can do?” Jim asked. He felt a little helpless.
“No. I’m okay.” Daniel shut him out again.
“I have to go to work now,” Jim said. He looked at Daniel. He searched his face to see if the boy would be alright with him leaving tonight.
Jim stood up. “Don’t stay up too late.” Daniel nodded.
“Bye, Dad.” Jim left his son sitting at the table.
“Don’t worry about the dishes. I’ll do them when I get home.”
“Okay,” Daniel said. With one last look, Jim walked out into the darkening sky.