The story so far:
I quickly jerked my knee back with a sense of dread and scooted over. It was a single, dark red rivulet that glimmered like a liquid ruby across the subdued sheen of the hardwood floor. I don’t know how long I sat there between the sound of the shot to the point the blood hit my knee. It felt like hours. It might have been hours. The only thing I could be certain of in that moment was that my life was about to change forever.
I didn’t want it to change. The only thing I could do to prevent the inevitable was to sit silently, staring at the blood, still wet on the floor. I thought about Mother and our ice cream trips, about Father/Doctor’s loving smile towards my mother, and I tried to piece together just what it all meant as much as my nine year-old brain would deduct.
Eventually, I got up the courage to peer over the edge of the couch. There was my father…curled up in a fetal position on the floor in front of the recliner and couch. His salt and pepper head just over the edge of the Persian rug, the rivulet of blood reaching under the couch to the other side, where I had been sitting…like he was trying to reach me one last time moments after the life had left his body.
As I carefully walked around the couch, I saw that his left hand loosely held a photo of my mother. It was a beautiful photo. She looked like a movie star from the 40’s, her dark hair waving sweetly around her flawless face and her luminous green eyes glowing with the light of her beauty within…A photo of my mother in innocence not knowing of the turmoil to come or the mistakes of her rash decisions of teenage love. The gun rested on a throw pillow my father must have been clutching for comfort moments before taking his life. He had dropped it perfectly on the throw pillow, probably by accident, but it lay there, gleaming, a soft black on mother’s ivory brocade pillow like wedding rings on the pillow of a ring bearer. A presentation of death for one who thought he was betrayed and ended it all before seeking answers.
What haunted me most was his face…the pall of death settling around his features. The relaxation of death taking over the body when one knows not of the journey the soul must endure.
“John?” came my mother’s weak voice from the room on the other side of the recliner, “Bradley? What was that noise?”
I walked to the door of my mother’s room. She was lifted off the pillow as much as her strength would carry her. It had been two weeks since she had been bedridden. She told my father she must have been sick with the flu. It was after two weeks had gone by of her strange behavior that father finally started asking questions.
My father had caught me with money in my hands, that day. It was a Sunday. My mother had given me the money and told me to catch a bus to the town where Father/Doctor lived to tell him she was not coming. She had an urgent, wild look in her eyes.
“We can’t worry him,” she had whispered, “We didn’t show last week…we can’t not show up two weeks in a row…”
Little did I know that father had been standing outside the door and heard her urgent plea and that is when he took me upon his lap and forced me to tell him my mother’s secret. I couldn’t bear the pain in his eyes and I loved my father very much. I had to tell.
And now he lay dead, on the floor, and my mother was asking what the noise was.
“I think I need to call the ambulance, Mommy…”
“Why? Why?! What’s wrong, honey? Oh my God, what happened?” Her mind was piecing it together with the sound of the gunshot and I heard her voice rise into hysteria. She forced herself out of bed with strength she hadn’t possessed in days and ran past me, her long nightgown fluttering around her ivory legs.
When she saw him, she screamed. It was the most horrible sound I’d ever heard.