by Tony Domaille
My father lay at my feet. Blood ran from his head and his eyes stared up at me, but I knew he couldn’t see anymore.
My mum stood with her hand to her mouth, and tears falling slowly down her cheeks. I reached out my hand to her, but she turned away.
“Is he…?” She couldn’t finish the question.
I said, “I should call the police.”
“Ambulance,” she said. “They’ll help him. The police can’t help him.” She wiped at her tears with the back of her hand. “Call an ambulance. You’re taking too long.”
The blood from his head seeped across the floor and I took a half step away to stop it reaching my trainers. The mess from his head looked so wrong in the kitchen he wanted perfect all the time. Nothing on the granite worktops. Everything in the cabinets, and if anything was out of place, mum would get it from him. It was weird that it was his body making things wrong.
“Call an ambulance,” she said again.
“It’s too late,” I told her.
“No.” She shook her head, hard. “He’ll be okay…he’ll be…”
I took a step toward her. “For God’s sake, mum, look at him.” But she backed away again, shaking her head. Then her eyes finally seemed to see he would never take another breath.
“Oh, God,” she whispered. “Oh, no,” and she sank to her knees at his feet, bent forward and sobbing.
I wanted to kneel beside her and put my arms around her. More than that, I wanted to take her away from the sight of the head that seemed to keep bleeding. But I knew she wouldn’t come. I knew that she’d prefer his touch. That’s how it’s always been all fourteen years of my life. Nothing changes.
I thought I might be sick. Maybe it was the blood, or seeing him dead, or maybe it was the thought of what would happen to us. I swallowed hard and pulled my phone from my pocket. “I’ll make the call,” I said, but she heard no more than my father.
How are you supposed to be when you make a call like that? I knew what I felt. I was glad he was lying on a kitchen floor with his head cracked open and that he’d never stand again. But you don’t say that when you call the police, do you? I actually wondered about putting on a voice and which would fit best. Panic? Devastation?
As I punched the three numbers into the keypad, I settled on sounding as if I might burst into tears any moment. I knew no tears would come, but it’s an easy voice to do. That’s one of the things that have changed over the years. There was a time when I cried easily, but I guess I became numb over time.
“My dad is dead,” I told the operator.
“Tell me what’s happened.” The female voice was calm and efficient.
I was just as calm. “He’s got a massive head injury. He’s dead in our kitchen.”
The operator tried to convince me to go and check for breathing, but I told her there was no point. I didn’t tell her that even if he had been breathing, I would have put my hand over his nose and mouth and held it there until he stopped.
“I’m going to get an ambulance and some officers to you right away,” she told me. She asked for the address and if I was okay and I realised that I actually was. A change. I hadn’t been okay for as long as I could remember.
“I’m fine,” I told her. “I think my mum is in shock, but I’m okay.”
She asked me again what had happened, but I told her I had to go, and I cut the call before she could say another word.
I walked back into the kitchen and my mother had moved. Now she was kneeling at his head, her hands covered in blood as she ran them over his hair and then wiped them on her dress.
“Wake up, Rob. Wake up,” she kept saying, but his eyes stared past her.
I reached out and touched her shoulder, but she swung around and aimed a slap at my face. “You!” she screamed, and whilst her hand didn’t connect, as I dodged away, the blood from her hands splashed across my chest.
“Leave him, Mum,” I said. “He’s gone.”
She stood up and looked at her hands before wiping them down her dress again. Then I saw her eyes and I knew what was coming. “He’s dead because of you,” she said. “This is all because of you.”
I wanted to tell her she was wrong, but I knew it would change nothing. Ever since I could remember almost every day had ended the same. He would be sorry he’d lost his temper. He’d say he was sorry he’d shouted at her and hit her, but didn’t she see it was my fault? Didn’t she see that, if she showed him a bit more respect and spent less time fussing after me, things would be different?
And she would agree. She would treat her own cuts or change from her ripped clothes and tell him he was right. She’d tell him I was a bad kid and that she would put me right and put him first.
“You know how much I love you, Rob.”
“Then you need to show me,” he’d say.
“I will,” she would tell him, and move into his arms, still flinching in case he blew again.
When he wasn’t there, she’d tell me that dad was under pressure. She’d say that I really was a good kid and that dad just couldn’t see it. That he would in time, and things would change, but I knew that wasn’t true.
My mother looked at her hands again. Then she moved over to the sink and began to rinse them under the tap. “I should get changed,” she said. “Can’t have people seeing me like this.”
“They’ll be here in a minute,” I told her. “Maybe I should do the talking. Tell them what happened.”
She turned from the sink. “No. You’ve never understood your father and you’d just tell them things that would make him look bad.”
“What? That he beat you up almost every day?” I almost laughed.
“I upset him. It’s my fault,” she said. “You upset him. We shouldn’t have upset him.”
I moved towards her. This time she didn’t try to pull away and I held her tight. “He hit you, mum. He was always upset, and he always hit you.”
She nodded and rested her head on my chest. “Please don’t tell them how he was. If you tell them, they’ll think…”
“They’ll think he’s dead for no reason when there is,” I said, softly.
“What’s going to happen?” she asked, lifting her head and searching my eyes for an answer. Then the doorbell sounded.
I let her go and went to the door. I’m not sure now what the police officers said, but I pointed them to the kitchen, and they were quickly past me with two paramedics close behind them.
I watched as the paramedics checked my father and confirmed what I could have told them all along. A policewoman had taken my mother to a corner of the room and the policeman turned his attention towards me.
“I need you to tell me what’s happened,” he said.
My mum and I looked at each other. Both of us knew that the answer was simple if everything that had gone before today was told, but my mother’s eyes begged me not to tell them what my father had been.
“We argued,” I told the officer.
“And I hit him with a hammer.” I looked to my mother, but she looked away and said nothing. She’d never said anything to defend me before, so why start then?
The officer told me I was under arrest. I know he told me my rights, but I wasn’t listening. In that moment I knew that my mother’s unshakable love for my father wouldn’t change and she would protect him beyond the grave.
The time between that moment and my standing in the dock went quickly. On the day the judge sentenced me, I watched my mother sat small in the public gallery and was sure the price I was about to pay was the price of change. For the first time in my life I knew she was safe and that was a change worth paying for.
It’s not so bad in here. I guess the bad boys leave me alone because I’m in for murder. But there aren’t many days go by without other kids in the detention centre asking me what it was like to kill my dad. Maybe when I’m free my mum will tell me.
About the author
Tony has written a number of award winning plays, published by Lazy Bee Scripts and Pint Sized Plays, that have been performed across the world. He has also had a number of stories published in anthologies and magazines. You can follow him here - https://www.facebook.com/tonydomaillewriting/