By- Tom Kubrak
A spider crawled across his desk as he began typing on his keyboard. He slowly began typing the memo for his most recent assignment. Then- the spider slowly began crawling from the top of the desk down towards his left hand. ‘Poor creature’- Owen thought- ‘It has no clue. No clue of the agonies a man has to face- no clue of the agonies I’ve caused to other people.’
The spider continued it’s crawl towards his left hand slowly and reassuringly.
Owen, usually, in the midst of crushing a spider at this point now suddently had a big wave of sympathy to the tiny creature. Maybe sympathy wasn’t the right word, but more understanding- understanding that the spider was just a simple thoughtless creature trying to make his way in the world too- and if it has to bite someone for no reason than so be it.
WHEFFWHEFF WHEFFFFF- the third blow finally had the spider flying off his desk to the ground somewhere. ‘You live another day’- he thought- ‘Another day.”
RINGG RINGGG RINGGE
“ALOOO- ALLLO who’s calling?”
“Mom it’s me…
“Mah it’s Owen your son.”
“Oh Jesus Christ- Owen Oh oh oh it’s..”she paused on the other end of the phone. Owen waited for her to finish. ..but she never did.
“Mah… are you alright?”
It had been twenty years since Owen called home. His mom and dad divorced when he was ten and him, his brother and older sister weren’t able to see their father until they each turned 18; as a legal adult.
Things had been contentious ever since he could remember between his parents. Yelling- plates smashing on the walls- beers thrown at one another. The other accusing the other of this; and the other accusing the other of that. Then finally they just ended it. Owen was too young to remember exactly the day or why but he was knew when his mom came into his room.
“Hey Owen…umm your Dad and I are…well not going to be together anymore.”
His response: “I know.”
He was a boy that took each blow to the chin and didn’t question or fight what was told him. He knew he wasn’t strong enough yet to solve things on his own but he yearned to grow up to be as big and strong as his father. So today, he just took it and his anger began to quell because he could do nothing about it. ‘One day’ he told himself ‘I’m going to be able to solve all this bull-shit.’
His father was stripped of his custody to ever see the kids in a bitter divorce battle that lasted for 6 months. His mother had invested in an excellent lawyer that proved his father was a danger to the kids safety because he had physically abused his mother and threatened to abuse the kids too.
All of this was speculative but the lawyer did excellent work and proved beyond a reasonable doubt that this was indeed the case with this matter. The lawyer had a reputation for winning cases of custody for women and didn’t fail with Owen’s mother.
“Mah I just wanted to say hi. It’s been awhile.”
“Awhile…a while…” Owens mother paused again.
“Well I just wanted to call and let you know I’ve been thinking about you- thinking about you a lot recently. Just know I love you al right- regardless of everything.”
His mother just couldn’t find the words as she was in tears on the other end of the phone.
“Alright I guess I’ll see..”
“Wait- wait- will I ever see you again Owen?”
“I can’t say…I don’t know.”
“Mah I gotta go… I’m sorry…I gotta go.”
Owen hung up the phone. He took a few deep breaths and then picked up the phone to call the Pennsylvania state prison, where his father was being held. The phone rang three times and then the automated voice came over.
“Thank you for calling the Pennsylvania state correctional facility, we are currently experiencing a high volume of calls ” ‘like usual’-owen thought- “So please hold and we will direct you to the next available operator–your current wait time is 5 mintutes.” ‘like usual’- owen thought again.
“Hi thank you for calling Pennsylvania ahhh” the prison secretary yawned, “How may I help you today?”
“Yea, I want to talk to my father, Vincent fall.”
“Hold on just a moment- It’ll be ten minutes to get him over okay?”
“Yea that’s fine I’ll wait.” Owen said politely.
Owen hadn’t spoken to his father in a year. He’d been in prison for 3 years now for his third domestic violence incident and the judge gave him a hefty 7 year penalty to set an example on him. It was a time when domestic violence incidents were beginning to be taken more seriously.
The ten minutes were finally up: “Hi Mr. Fall.”
“Thank you for your patience. Your father is on the other line.”
“I’ll patch him through. Hold on just a moment.”
“Thank you.” The elevator style music came on again to ease the longer-than-a-moment wait. But that gave time for Owen to think about what he wanted to say to his father.
“Yea hey.. dad how are ya?”
“I’m doing alright. Foods been better I’ll say.”
“Yeah well that’s good. How’s your health doing?
“Ahh you know me son- strong as a bull.” his father said.
They both laughed. “Except for my appendix that is.” He added.
‘Jeez what the hell? Your appendix?”
“Yea first thing in this fucking prison that’s gone wrong- least they paid for the surgery- just got to unbearable Owen. Had to do it-plus my cellmate was bitchin about my bitchin”
“Makes sense. Surgery go well?”
“Yea I guess- They don’t give us pain meds past like 3 days though- so we don’t go around the prison sellin on even trying to overdose.”
“Yea yea forgetta about it? Anyways how have you haven’t spoken to ya since last Christmas.”
“Yea I’m sorry Dad works been hell this year crazy.”
“Yea have you gotten any new contracts?”
“A few yea enough to keep my blood at a boiling point?”
Owen’s father didn’t know what he actually did for a living. In fact no one in his family did. His work wasn’t to be shared with anyone. He didn’t have a wife but if he did he wasn’t even to tell her. So what everyone thought he did was construction; A Construction contractor for assignments all throughout the country. And what he told them too was that it was construction for the government so many of his projects he wasn’t allowed to share with them.
“Sooo.” His father began. “You taking any medication?”
“Come on dad you know I don’t fuck around with that stuff.”
“Yea I know I know just thought I’d ask if you’ve finally changed over.” They laughed again for a little while since that was always his father’s joke and now Owen just felt inclined every time he used it to laugh to keep his father happy.
His mother and his father’s relationship had been on his mind as of recent though and he wanted to know. Knowing that his father was on his last leg and his mother too he finally just wanted some answers about what happened and what drove them apart all those years ago. Owen never asked why- deep in his heart had an idea- but just never felt like he needed to get it all out of his father. But today was different.
“ Yea what is it Son.”
“You and ma..?”
“Yea what about her? She doin alright?”
“Yea she’s fine…just spoke with her. Just for a minute. You know I don’t really talk to her.”
“Yea I know.”
“So I never asked ya…”
“Asked me what?”
“You and ma…what happened between the two of you? I mean why did it get to that point?”
‘You really wanna know?”
“Alright well for starts your mothers a great woman. I don’t have anything bad to say about her. What happened was… well your mother and I are both very passionate individuals to say the least. We both love what we love and we love it with all our hearts. What happened was a dangerous and volatile mix of two passionate uncompromising individuals.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well..you remember when I lost my job right?”
“Yes I do.”
“Well that’s when it all started…your mother’s knight-in-shining-armor had lost his armor and he didn’t have a way of providing for his family. More importantly he lost his shine. You see, your mother grew up a very luxurious lifestyle. She never once had to worry about not getting anything she wanted.”
His father continued: “Me on the other hand, well it was tough for my father, your grandfather, working at the factory some weeks and sometimes all we had to go by was a pound of raviolis from Mrs Geirdali Deli around the corner and a couple loaves of bread from the market. That’s all my pops could afford. But we never complained we always knew it would get better- that’s what my father told us- you and your uncles that is. And it did but we had to wait a year or two before he got that promotion to get us some consistency around the place.”
“Okay dad so what’s this got to do with Ma?”
“I’m getting there hold on… so your mother, when that happened to me I was broken and I knew we weren’t going to have that life anymore that we always dreamed about. I mean at least for awhile until I could get another decent job ya know?
“Yea” Owen responded questiongly.
“So here I am with my balls cut off- but hanging on still- and your mother just sending out these nasty blows every day to me. ‘How’s the job hunt, you feel good about yourself, baseball seasons coming up we don’t have money to buy them cleats, when are we gonna be able to afford a vacation, I guess it’s pasta again’ You know what I mean?’
The other line was quiet for awhile and Owen let his father think and dwell on what he wanted to say next. He was engaged. Then his father continued again.
“I mean Owen, I tried, but your mother, your mother just has a way and a way to break a man’s spirit. She has the secret recipe of breaking the human spirit; and instead of giving me that boost to go get that job it threw me down even deeper. And instead of trying to prove her wrong I was taking longer…on purpose.”
“Dad…” Owen began.
“Yes I did. My anger was growing by the day. I would get into the bed when I knew she was asleep so I wouldn’t have to deal with her. We avoided each other as much as possible. But when every she could she’d throw a jab at me. It was a place I’d never been before and then I finally had it.”
“What’d you do?”
“I started yelling back at her little remarks. I mean it started with me yelling across the room and then I started getting in her face and questioning what she was saying and why. I started asking her do you really think that? Do you really…I mean looking back at it I think she thought what she was doing was the only thing she could do and the best way to motivate me but that’s not me. But I finally just wanted her to apologize…
And of course…you know your mother… she ain’t never wrong Owen.”
Owen laughed “no.. never has been in her life. Not once. Jesus Christ ain’t got shit on her.” They both were laughing again now.
“Anyways son…our relationships got worse after that- she broke me prodded me- stuck me in every part of my body until I finally- you were at school that day but I finally lost it and just tore the whole house apart. I made her watch. I made her watch me do it. She tried to call the cops but I ripped the phone out of the wall I blocked the doors and made sure she watched every moment of me turning that house into nothing. I just couldn’t take the mental games anymore… I was through…”
His father paused for awhile now…lost for words.
“Did you…hit her dad?”
“Noo… nooo I didn’t touch your mother. She was a woman and where I grew up you get your ass beat to a pulp if you put your hands on a woman.
The only thing I did to your mother is I grabbed her by the shoulders firmly, probably too hard and put her in a chair in the middle of the room to watch. She tried to get up a few times but I grabbed her arms firmly again and pushed her back in the chair. She cried and cried and cried Owen and I didn’t care.”
“I know it’s bad..I know what I did was wrong and I deserve it.”
“No…that’s not what I was gonna say.”
“What were you gonna say?”
“Sorry sorry for what?”
“I’m sorry they did that to you. That fucking lawyer. Ma… saying you hit her and abused her.”
“No dad fuck them fuck them. She did the same shit to me when you were gone when they wouldn’t let me see you all those years. It was all a fuckin game. And I think she enjoyed it. I think she enjoyed every second of it.”
“No dad I hope she rots….no I don’t want that.. it’s just I’ve seen it so many times with people…dad I love you and I’m sorry.”
“Son…it’s okay. Women…you see they don’t’ have the strength as men do and some find ways with their words to do the most heinous things. And Owen…they’re pretty damn good at it. I .. I just wasn’t strong enough to deal with it…to block it out. Your mother has a devilish power to rip apart a mans soul. And God only knows where she got that uncanny ability from… but son.”
“I should’ve left before it got to that point.”
“It’s the truth there was no way of getting through to your mother and if I was smart I would’ve left long before but I wasn’t …I wasn’t strong enough and…”
“I couldn’t leave you and your sister. I just.” He began to get emotional, “I loved you so much and I couldn’t bear to be without you three. You were..and are still my world. You’re all I think about in this fuckin prison.”
“I chose her as my wife though son. It was my mistake. But son…we had you and your sister and your brother. I still love your mother but your mother is your mother and she’s too proud of a woman to ever admit she’s ever done anything wrong.”
“Yea…” Owen replied sadly.
“I know what I did was wrong…I know I know but I mean there’s not but I fucked up.
“The only solution is…well to let it be. You know my story now…you know what happened but trying anything with your mother will just make you more angry-and you can’t let that happen. You just have to let it be. And learn from me…if you ever find anyone son. Actually when you do…”
Owen interrupted, “Dad there ain’t a women out there for me.”
“That’s where your wrong son…there is.”
“Sure dad sure.”
“Anyways, your mother… don’t ever stop loving her but remember…choose wisely.”
‘Times up!” the guard yelled to him across the small room.
“Owen I gotta go but I love you alright.”
“I love you too dad.”
Owen got a call a year later that his father had died from a heart attack. He had a year left on his prison sentence. There was no funeral for Owens’ father. He was ostracized from his family a long time ago. His sister and his brother never spoke to him after the divorce. Only Owen contacted him after he turned 18- a legal independent man. Although it wasn’t frequent their love for each other was strong. He never brought up the story before because he always believed his father was wronged somehow. He was the only one that could relate to their father.
His mother died two years later from a heat stroke in her garden. She was 73 years old. There was a large funeral. Owen didn’t show up. He was on a mission in Mumbai india. He never knew it happened until five years later when the government sent him an unpaid debt his mother still had.
Owen paid the debt.