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Secrets of the Night (KL)

Short story By: Keith LaFountaine
Other


A teen goes to see his his father who is awaiting the death penalty.


Submitted:Jan 28, 2013    Reads: 30    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


I

There is nothing like losing a parent. If you have experienced a death of any kind, you understand the horror and pain that comes with it. But the death of a parent, that's the worst kind of death, aside from the death of a child. The worst part, for me that is, is realizing I never really knew my mother at all. My mother is the one who had died, not my father. My dad was in jail. He was arrested last year for drug possession and murder. He was hooked on a lot of things. The big one was meth, but he also did heroin, coke, and occasionally popped prescription pills. It was hard, especially as a teenager, to see my dad go through all of this. I think deep down he didn't want the drugs, but he felt he needed them. I think if he had enough willpower he could have gotten off them.

My mother lay in the casket, so still. I kept expecting her to jump up, to pretend it was all a joke. I wished for that to happen. But of course it didn't. This was reality and miracles do not exist. If they did, then my family wouldn't have been torn in two. And there I was, sitting in the front row of this sick, demented play watching it unfold before my very eyes. And all the while I felt sick, as though the very sight of my mother made me want to vomit. And I felt ashamed.

As the casket was lowered, I was reminded of the fact that I had no relationship with my mother. In fact, this was the first time I had honestly shown any emotion in her presence. I had nothing against my mother, you must understand that, but as I watched the wood being lowered into the hungry earth, I realized that this was the first time I had cried in years. And the only difference was that she was dead, leaving me alone.

I guess I'm not truly alone. I do have my dad, but being a parent is hard when you're sitting behind bars. Not to mention, he wasn't a great dad to begin with. When he wasn't shooting up or hitting my mother, he was sleeping or working. I still have a scar his ring left under my left eye. I show it proudly, and I do not attempt to hide it. I wear it like war paint. I guess because, in a sense, that's what it is.

I live with my aunt now. She's single and has her own two bedroom apartment. Convenient, right? I got lucky, though. My aunt really isn't a bad woman. She hangs around with shady characters and she does a lot of things I internally raise an eyebrow at, but who am I to judge? I don't know the circumstances.

II

About a week or so after I got settled at my aunt's, I got a letter in the mail. It was from Dad. I didn't want to open it at first. I left it on the coffee table, trying to ignore it. Every time I found myself looking at it, I tried to analyze the chipped wallpaper in the apartment. I tried to ignore it as though it didn't exist. I didn't want to give in to such a temptation. Even though I didn't know what was contained within those folds of paper, I still did not want to risk anything. I acted like the envelope contained a plague that would make my hands break out in boils and blind me.

I gave in about three hours after this intense battle of will. I ripped open the letter. There was not much in it. A lot of it was bullshit about him being a changed man. I guess it's possible, but it's very unlikely. If you knew him, you would understand. There was nothing hopeful left in him.

The other part of the letter was about his trial coming up. The state was bringing back the murder charges, which could give him the chair. I didn't know what to think. I mean, how was I supposed to react to this? My morals told me that I should feel bad. He was the man who created me. But he was never a true father. So in that respect, I couldn't feel anything for him. As terrible as that sounds, it's the truth. He said he had five days until the trial. I threw away the letter. There was no way I wanted to go to that. There was no way I wanted to see my father being put to death.

On nights I can't sleep, I go for a walk around town. It's very quiet. Everything seems to be calm, serene, mysterious. The night holds secrets, however. Secrets that, to be completely honest, scare the shit out of me. They scare me because I can't see them. Shadows hide their true nature, make them seem sinister when they could just as easily be innocent. It is things like this that make me scared on those nights I go walking.

After I read the letter, I felt an air of unease. Therefore, that night I decided to go walking. Usually when I go it's a brisk walk. I take maybe twenty minutes to let the crisp air clear my head, then I go home and sleep. Not that night, though. I had far too much on my mind. The weather was nice, and I felt comfortable just walking around, thinking about everything that was going on in my life.

I was walking down a street, coming home after that long journey, when I saw one of those many secrets the night holds. It was a man walking towards me. He was overweight, his shirt baggy, his pants worn in the same fashion. His hair came out in tufts out of his scalp, almost like a clown's. He walked with a small limp. I didn't want to pass him. I crossed the deserted street to the other side of the sidewalk. I watched as he turned to a bench and sat down near the end of the street. He just sat there, looked up at the stars, and cried. I heard his gasps clearly, and pieces of the words he was saying were discernible. I turned my head and walked home. By the time I got to the apartment I knew I was going to attend my father's trial.

III

The courtroom was filled with people. I had only seen trials in movies or on the occasional TV show. I had never actually been in a courtroom. I guess this was a good thing. I certainly didn't want to be in the courtroom, but I felt like I needed to be. Even if it was only to keep my conscious clear.

Dad's lawyer was dressed in a crisp, clean suit. The tie fell about halfway down his chest and seemed to resemble a dead snake. The tie was covered in splotches of white and black, almost as if the tie itself was a Rorschach test. His teeth were bright white and evenly spaced. The light reflected off of them whenever he smiled. He walked with an air of confidence, as though he knew this was a case he could win. But even I could tell it was all a show. He wasn't confident about anything. The case against my father was practically unbeatable. And he knew that. Yet he was going to try anyway. I found that admirable, even though he was defending a murderer.

The trial was full of wordplay. Lawyers asking where everyone was, what they remembered. I just sat there and watched this unfold before me. It reminded me of my mother's funeral; the feeling that I was powerless to do anything. And I hate that feeling. Whenever I get it, I know that there is truly nothing I can do.

The trial ended for the day, the judge picked a day it would start up again, and my father was dragged away. I watched as the cop literally pulled my father across the court floor. My father did not struggle. I don't think he had the will, nor the strength, to fight the person bringing him to his inevitable doom.

IV

I visited my father once after that day. I stared into the wired glass, talking into a phone, looking at my father's decrepit, aged faced which was carved with worry and regret. He talked slowly. There were cops surrounding the small space on his side. He accepted what was happening. He never struggled when people dragged him from one place to another. I guess deep in his mind he thought he could still get off for good behavior. He never truly gave up hope, even when he was strapped into the chair with the wires all hooked up to him. Even then I think he still believed he could somehow escape.

After I visited him I took a trip down to the lake. It was quiet. I like that. It helps me think. I love when there is nothing around me but the wind and the birds. I love when there is nothing keeping me from my thoughts. It's this peace that helps me through this thing I call life. I can't explain it so you can understand, whoever you are. I guess it's just one of those things you have to experience for yourself. Something that each and every one of us takes something different out of. Something that nobody feels the same about.

There are a couple more things I'd like to touch on before I go. Because I am going. Maybe not in the sense you're thinking of, but I am going in my own way. Can you manage to bear with me?

I didn't attend the sentencing. I already knew what the outcome was going to be. I had it called out the second he took the stand. My father was never a good liar. If I could call it out, I guarantee a jury and a judge could, too. He was convicted that day with first degree murder. And as everyone left the courtroom to go about their daily lives, my father went to spend the last of his life behind bars. That has to be one of the hardest things to go through. To know how and when you are going to die.

There is something to be said about this whole morality thing, though. The laws are supposed to make people do the right thing, yet all they do is make people do the exact opposite. There will always be people who break the law, and yet the government acts like they can cure it like they cured polio. They think all it takes is a simple injection of reality to make you understand. They are very, very, very, wrong.

I have no parents now. Not that I had any to begin with. I don't know whether I should feel bad or not feel anything. It's hard, being stuck in this situation where people expect me to feel one way and I don't feel that way at all. It's hard going against the norm, being the one that sticks out. It's hard. Life is hard.

I often find myself thinking about my parents. About what it was like having them around. I remember my childhood, before my dad got hooked on drugs and put a bullet in a guy. I remember my mother before her breakdown. I remember myself as a child. God, I miss that. Being a kid is such an easy thing. I didn't have any cares in the world, my parents were Gods, friends never changed, the only girl I had in my life was my mother, the best thing in the world was seeing Spongebob on TV or eating my favorite dinner. I recall those times when I could go outside and throw snowballs at icicles, go to the beach and not have to worry about how I look, be able to eat all the calories I wanted and not worry about gaining weight. When there was no drama. When having a girlfriend meant holding another girl's hand in the back of the bus. Those are the times I wish I could go back to. Where everyone laughs, and everyone smiles. Where everyone lives happily ever after.





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