Being dead. I can't complain.
I really can't. It's got to do with glands, I haven't got any. I didn't know what to expect but it wasn't this. It certainly wasn't this.
I didn't even get a chance to catch my breath. Or my teeth. When you're hit that hard by a speeding car. There's no pain, just force.
Then I blink and I'm staring at the ceiling of my son's room. I expect to feel a wash of relief. I must have fallen asleep I think to myself. 15 and he still likes to hear old Dad read him a story. He says it's like his own personal podcast. He said he'd planned to start recording me. Wish he had, too late now. I'm as certain as the absence of any wash of relief, I feel nothing. I can think but I can't feel. Then I do feel something. A sinking feeling I recognize from my own days in high school. My son's voice in my head.
"I don't want to go to school," he says. Does he? I hear him but I don't. Did he think it?
The feeling dissipates but doesn't fully go away as I have the awkward experience of feeling myself in a body I can't control, feeling feelings not my own, hearing the private thoughts of the boy who doesn't yet know his father is dead.
I know I'm dead, if I wasn't I would cry.
He checks his watch, I haven't missed a day. Three thousand miles away on a business trip but distance and time seem no obstacle to the powers that put me here. I don't understand why but I begin to understand what.
What my son feels, I feel.
What he thinks, I think.
His breakfast is shovelled into his mouth, and he's out the door before my wife wakes up. I wish I could have seen her but it's just a wish. I care but I can't get upset about it. I'm curious to find out if I'm gong to have to go on like this forever.
I certainly hope my own father wasn't trapped in my head all those times I masturbated after his death.
I begin to dread coming home. We run through hand lotion and kleenex fast. I face these realities dispassionately.
If kitsch is life with the necessary shit removed.
Death is shit with all the necessary life removed.
I have no illusions and gain no satisfaction from my newfound clarity.
I fade out. Let the scenes run through like a late night movie. On the bus, at the school, homeroom, second period, third period, fourth period, lunch.
Lunch is awful. I remind myself to give him more pocket money for the sandwich place on the corner, then I remember I'm never going to be able to give him anything again.
Then my son's heartrate goes up, his breathing gets shallow, he's standing up but just as he finds his feet he's pushed to the wall.
The kid is bigger and his eyes are full of bored-ass affluenza bullshit. I feel anger, and fear.
It's so natural, I forget these feelings are not mine, reflexively I imagine heel striking this little shit right in the nose.
My son's hand lashes out and don't hear so much as feel a satisfying crack of bone under my son's palm.
The bully is howling. My son is terrified now, he doesn't know why he did that.
I imagine grabbing the little shit by his ears and shoving my knee into his teeth.
It works! One of the coaches pulls my son off the boy and he's yelling and my son is freaking out, he can't look away from the mess on the floor. The cafeteria is roaring.
In the principals office, midway through the expulsion, they get the news.
My wife comes and picks him up. There's a lot of tears.
Through it all, I feel my son's confusion and fear and loss. Running through it all is another feeling.
Deep relief. "He'll never bother me again," he thinks. I know who he's talking about. You got lucky son, I think to myself. I was a loving father but back before I met your mother, bad things happened when I was around. If they hadn't pulled you off him right then and there, I know we'd have killed him.
I'd died a grown man with a grown man's restraint, gaining control had caught me by surprise.
I wouldn't be so sloppy next time, if there was a next time.
Just like in life, I didn't know how long I had, stuck riding my son like a voodoo god.
But only in anger and fear.
My wife gave him something to help him sleep. I didn't sleep. When he shut his eyes, after about fifteen minutes, I felt the control return.
I sat up.
I tried opening his eyes and felt control slipping away.
I closed them.
Growing boy. Needed his rest. Lost his father.
"I'm here son, we're going to be alright," I whisper. My son's voice.
"Dad?" I've lost control now. I can't answer him.
He drifts back down into dreamless sleep.
I remain awake. My son was always the kindest of us. Which is good and right but I'm sure the cops would be round to talk to him tomorrow. He'd say nothing without his lawyer present.
In the dark, dialling by feel. I make a call I haven't made in nearly two decades.
"Zeke's." the voice hasn't changed.
"Charlie, tell Zeke Flannery O'Connor called for Jimmy, he'll know what I mean."
"Hey! Who is this? How'd you get this number?"
I hang up.
The phone rings in my hand.
"Flannery?" It's Zeke.
"Hi Zeke, it's not Flannery, it's his son Sean. Flannery is dead," I lie. or do I? I don't know anymore.
"My Dad is dead and I've got trouble, I can pay."
The line is silent.
"Kid, you sure you can pay for Jimmy?"
"You don't want to know what happened?"
"Kid, you're paying for Jimmy, by the time you hang up, we'll know everything."
I hang up. Eyes shut tight.
my son is going to have to do some sleep-digging under the rosebushes but I think that's only fair.
Tomorrow night is soon enough. I let him sleep.
He won't have any explaining to do, my old lawyer will fix it. Then I'll have a week to mail him the gold.
I realize I can't risk waiting.
I get up again.
Morning finds my son exhausted, a hole in the garden a package in the mail and my poor worried wife on the phone to the school excusing him indefinitely. Sorry honey, I had to do it, no telling how long I'll be around.
My son will skip an assault charge. He won't be expelled either. Nor will that little shit bother him again.
Not while I'm still around.