Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Gag Reflex

I wrote the following fictional story when I was college. I'm not a writer by trade, but sometimes I surprise myself. The title of this piece is called "My Gag Reflex". I'm thinking of continuing this story too, this is the first version of what I presented in college. This is based on true events.

     Rain was pelting the windshield as I drove into the night.  Trees, mostly bare now, loomed overhead as I sped.  Mark was unconscious in the back, my mother silently crying next to me.  I knew she dared not make a sound.  It was only seven but the autumn nights come early and stay late.
     “How could you do this…”
     My mother didn’t respond, she just looked at me with eyes that pleaded for forgiveness.  What could she say?  Nothing that would make the situation any better anyway. 
     Ask me a few days ago if I was happy in my house and I wouldn’t have given it a second thought: Absolutely, positively, 100%, not a fucking chance.  No, my home’s been broken for as long as I can remember but my parents always stayed together, citing “the kids” as the reason.  Neither of them wanted to go through the hassle of a sticky divorce and I thought they had too much respect for each other to do anything rash.  What’s an 18 year old to do?  I think I was justified.

*    *    *

     I was 13 years old when I first noticed something had went wrong with my parents’ relationship.  My best friend was over.  We had a little game going and it went something like this:
     I looked my enemy in the eyes.  Blue.  Soon to be blood red, I thought.  A healthy steed stood under me, idle, waiting for the moment I would tell it to erupt forward.  Opposite me, my adversary, with the same pride and determination that I carried with me.  He too had a similar steed.  It was a good day for battle.  I held in my right hand a sword with which I would slay the demon in front of me.  I had to: my kingdom was depending on it.  I couldn’t break his stare.  I wouldn’t.  Then, all at once, we were off.  Charging toward each other like two bulls enraged by red, we still barely blinked.  We rode faster, faster, raising the sword in my hand, he raising his, we rode.  We hit hard, swords and steeds flying out in all directions.  My best friend was laughing.  I was laughing.  So hard in fact that tears were forming, and I was doubled over, scarcely able to breathe.  Our “swords” had turned to waffle ball bats, and “steeds” to bikes.  I remember the sky was dotted with several clouds, some I could barely see.  The day was comfortably warm, so as we stood outside we could just stand there, soaking up the sun rays.  We didn’t sweat, we didn’t feel like we were gasping for air when inhaling.  It was comfortable.
     We then walked down through the back yard.  My old house sat on a hill, but the back was only slightly sloped.  It was about 100 feet across and 75 feet wide.  A rock wall bound the pool area from the grass.  We stood at the threshold of the woods, looking at our world. 
      Stepping in, we were adventurers, crossing into uncharted territory, naming the newly discovered areas as we trekked.  I stopped abruptly 20 feet in.  Something on the woods floor was looking back at me. A black nose connected to a snout that rose into a face with two black eyes.  The face extended up and back into a head.  Atop the head, ears, longer than a dog’s, then further, a neck thick as a small tree.  Ah!  A deer!  I called to my friend.  He turned and saw a most disgusted look on my face.  Looking where I was, he found out why: normally a deer, no, any animal comes with a body below the neck, but this particular animal was without a body.  The head simply ended six inches down the neck.  What a glorious find this was for anyone!  So we thought.  Quite obviously we had to do something with this deer head, it couldn’t be left to do nothing! 
     Rummaging around the area around the head, we found a lead pipe about 10 feet long.  This would work perfectly.  My friend had his foot at one end of the head while I shoved the pipe up into the neck toward its brain.  It would make a fine trophy.  Propping it up, we marched down into the depths of the woods, proclaiming to anything that had ears (head included) that we were masters of this place, those who defy us will meet the same end this poor creature did.  We were left alone.
      I remember so vividly this day simply because it was the first time I saw my mother and father fight.  This was not just any fight however; it too was a battle.  Yes, there were words exchanged, some that my ears never heard before.  More than that, there were violent fits of yelling and it had escalated into the physical realm, not just the verbal.  It wasn’t so much my father as it was my mother.  She was doing most of the yelling and all of the hitting.  My father tried to subdue her, just by catching her slaps and holding her wrists.  She did not like that very much.
      There were of course many more instances of this sort of behavior throughout the next several years.  My mother would be the one yelling, crying, swinging, cursing.  My father would be the one sitting, standing, hands at his temples, eyes at the ground probably wondering when the beast of a woman will drop dead.  I didn’t blame him.

*    *    *

      I arrived home from school as I would any other day.  Parked in the driveway in front of me was my mother’s SUV and a black BMW.  The fact that my mother was home was out of the ordinary but even stranger was the BMW.  This was foreign. 
     I walked into the house.  Stifled laughter and muffled noises vibrated in my ears.  It seemed to be coming from the bedroom.  Creeping over towards the sounds, I made my way down the hall.  I found that my parents’ room was the source of the chatter.   Opening the door just a crack, I looked in.  The image was forever burned into my brain.  It elicited several gags. 
      “Mom, what the hell is going on?!  Who the hell is that?  Dad never did anything!”
      “Listen, just list—” My mother was trying to maintain a soothing, calming voice.  I heard it crack more than it should.
     “No! No!  I can’t believe this!”
     “Where are you going?” turning to her lover, “Mark you better leave before he gets back, I don’t know what my son is doing.”
      Stumbling backward some, I put my hand to the wall to steady myself; I was utterly disgusted.  I knew exactly what I was looking for when I sprinted to the garage.  Up on the shelf, my father kept a box.  In it held several cases of ammunition and a hunting rifle.  My father used to take me hunting so I knew where to find the gun.  Loading the gun as I walked, I marched back towards the bedroom. 
     I was so furious, hot tears formed at the corners of my eyes.  I was fighting a personal battle:  No, I can’t do it, what am I doing with this thing?  But I have to!  Dad’s a good guy, I’ve got to stand up for him! 
     Through the kitchen, passed the front entrance, into the hallway and finally at the door I stopped.  I could still hear them arguing and fighting.  Idiots.  They were caught in the act and still had the nerve to blame each other.  Barely hesitating, I kicked open the door and pointed the gun directly at the nude man scampering away from my mother.  The look on his face was of complete shock and utter fear.  I felt the corner of my mouth turn up ever so slightly; I tried to hide the satisfaction I got from making this wretched human being shit out his soul…or what was left of spiritual fungus that was decaying inside him.
     “Jesus!  Goddamnit kid, put the gun down.”
     “Fuck you, don’t you fucking move.” I was so angry, I could feel the tears running down my face.  I was hurt.  I was deceived to the utmost extent.  By my mother of all people.
     “There’s no need for this honey, please, I made a mistake.”
     “You make me sick; I don’t even want to call you mother.”
     “Kid, for God’s sake…”
     “Sweetie, this is insane, just stop.  Your father’s been working so much th—”
     “Damnit Carol, shut up!  I’m outta here.  What the hell, I gotta get outta here.”
     “No, Mark don—!”
      The nude man, whose name I’d gathered to be Mark, lunged towards the bathroom door to my right.  Without second guessing, I leaped toward him with the butt end of the rifle.  I came around hard and a low “thud” told me I landed a solid hit on his temple.  Almost immediately he fell to the ground.  I was satisfied.
     I was both fortunate enough and dumb enough to forget to unlock the safety right above the trigger.  It would have been atrocious for all three of us in that room if I had remembered to remove the safety, for the barrel of the gun ended up pointing in my mother’s direction.
     My mother was screaming at me.  She was screaming in general, but the sheer gratification I got from slugging Mark who had the nerve to defile whatever goodness was left in this house, in MY house, drowned out any and all yelling that my mother could get out.  I had to take matters into my own hands if I was to save the family, no, if I wanted to save my father.

*    *    *

     My dad has been a decent man.  In no way was he perfect as a father or a husband, but how can anyone be.  He always worked himself to the bone to provide for the family first and himself second.  He was not weak but my mother thought he was.  We are created with flaws and will thereby die with them.  I think it’s the acceptance and understanding of these flaws that will allow us to get through life amicably.  My mother had other ideas.
     They met in college as most couples did in their generation.  My father was a senior, my mother a sophomore.  She was a stunning red head, bubbly and kind of slutty.  My father was (and still is) a burly guy, but he’s withdrawn; he’s not cocky, never has been.  Whenever she walked into a room, she stole the show and she knew it.  She was used to guys hitting on her, making passes at her but this one night at the bar would prove to be slightly different.
     Within only minutes, several guys were buying her drinks and spitting out pick-up lines like they were going out of style.  Of course, she took them without batting an eyelash and slid them right into her pocket.  She spotted my dad (his name was Greg):
     “So Greggie, buy me a drink and we’ll see where the night goes…” So heavy was the seduction that I’m surprised my father could still stand up.
     Before my dad could answer, Justin, this multi-sport meathead, stepped in between them,
     “Listen baby, don’t waste your time with this guy.  His mama still picks out his panties for him.  How bout you hit some shots?”  The guy’s cronies laughed and high fived.  Poor guys thought they were invincible.
     “Hey dickbag, you know I pick your mom’s panties for her right?”  My father wasn’t blessed with superior wit, but with his size, he rarely needed it.
     Justin turned around just in time to see my father’s fist heading straight for his face.  There was no time to react whatsoever.  Justin took the hit right on his nose.  It shattered.  Blood poured from the broken mess on his face as he fell to the ground.  My dad just stared at the cringing kid on the floor.  Justin’s cronies dared not make a sound, with their leader down, they could not function as a group.
     Stunned, my mother-to-be moved over towards my father, took his hand, and they walked out.

*    *    *

     I turned down Vera Drive.  It was an old dirt road, which, if one were to drive down it during the day in the summer, so little light would shine through the thick canopy created by the hundreds of trees alongside the road, it would seem like dusk.  Tonight though, the bare trees were menacing giants, looking down at the nearly invisible car as we sped under them.  Mark’s BMW took the divots, bumps, and rocks rather nicely.  In fact, the car rode well in general, so I thought why not test the limits of this luxury vehicle.  I went just a bit faster, slid around turns. 
     Mark was confined to the back behind my mother.  He was face down on the seat.
     I didn’t mind much when I heard the squeal and scrape of rock against metal either.  This wasn’t my sinful car, it belonged to a sinful man. I tied his hands behind his back so, if he decided to come to, he wouldn’t be a nuisance.  I also opted to bind his feet just for insurance sake.  I smiled.  A job well done.

*    *    *

      I had met Mark briefly when he stopped over the house to set up a network so my mother could work from home.  As an up and comer in the business world, my mom was putting in too many hours as the office and not enough at home.  She needed a way to resolve that so she had her computer guy come over and link her computer at home to her office.
     I was oblivious to any relationship that Mark and my mother had at that point, so I had no reason to suspect anything.  The only reason that anything seemed out of place was that my father had offered to help her the day before.  She refused explaining that Mark was familiar with her computers and her network.  A blind man could see through that.
     I was inside when Mark came in.
     “Hey how are ya?” He was jolly man, not unlike Santa Clause.  The red beard he sported on this face looked like he hadn’t shaved it in awhile.
      “Not bad.” I cracked just a hint of a smile to show a hint of courtesy.
      “What a day huh?  Shame I’m stuck in one these all day,” he motioned to the tower that he brought with him. “I’d rather be out there.”
     “Yep.”  I didn’t give him any wiggle room.
     “Hm.  Right, well, is Carol here?”
     I hesitated.  I wanted to tell him that if he did anything to her that I would take his BMW and run over his legs just so that he would know what he was doing this family.  I wanted to tell him that he should probably move out of state and change his name.  I wanted to tell him that he should be careful who he talks to.  I wanted to tell him this but instead I pointed to the back.
     “Yeah, over there.”
      I watched him meander over to where my mother was.  I could see her face light up when he walked in.  Odd, I thought.  There was too much touching.  The seemingly innocent “laugh touch” where my mother threw back her head, obviously laughing at something that wasn’t funny, and in the process put her hand on his shoulder—the fake stable herself routine—and slid it down to his forearm.
     That was unpleasant.

*    *    *

      So here I am, driving like a maniac down a lonely dirt road.  Already they can pin kidnapping on me, auto theft, assault with a deadly weapon.  Sweet.  Whatever.
     I hadn’t really planned to drive out this way.  Truthfully, I hadn’t planned anything, everything just happened.  I’m not one to do anything rash like this, nor am I one to advocate doing anything like this.  I didn’t know where I was going, I just knew that I had to go somewhere.  I didn’t know what I was going to do, I just knew that I had to do something.  This man destroyed my family, ruined my father.  This man burned a scarlet letter on my mother.  This is the only thing I will see when I look at her. I couldn’t just stand idle and let this happen.
     I know for certain that I will never, ever look at a computer the same way again.
     I also wish I remembered to tell my father what the hell was going on.


  1. One interesting thing I noticed: In this story, other than the moment when the main character announces that he doesn't want to call Carol his mother, he spends relatively little time blaming her.

    She is, at times, almost portrayed as a victim, which I think speaks to the narrator's inability (or difficulty) in accepting who this woman really is: "This man destroyed my family, ruined my father. This man burned a scarlet letter on my mother." Here, in particular, we see the narrator placing the entirety of the blame on Mark, rather than any of it on his mother, who is just as much, if not more at fault, for destroying her own family.

    At the same time, the voice of the narrator has to face some pretty rotten truths about his mother, so it's no wonder why he might go back-and-forth in his analysis of her. He calls her behaviors "slutty" when referring to how Carol and his father met. That's a pretty disgusting realization to have to make about one's own mother. It also made me wonder HOW he knew this particular detail about his mother - are we to assume that the narrator is omniscient? (Otherwise, how would he know such sordid details about his parent's first meeting?) Or, perhaps one of his parent's shared the details with him? Surely, neither would have described Carol as being "slutty." It leads me to believe that the narrator had to come up with that particular theory about his mother on his own. I wonder what behaviors lead him to that conclusion?

    As a writer myself, I can see where some editing would be beneficial. But overall, I think it's a fantastic read and it feels realistic.

  2. I am curious to know which parts are fictional and which parts are true? Wow...this was great, very riveting to read! Thank you for sharing :>)

  3. Jonsi- on another read through, you're absolutely right: the narrator jumps often from seething hatred of his mother, to victimizing her. I do believed that's a testament to his blurry vision of what his mother is and then he's placed all blame on the male counterpart.

    Also, I believe that narrator was longing for a father figure, which is why he's defending his absent father.

    Indeed, you have another good point when referring to the types of behaviors the narrator's mother engages in before she and his father were married. I wonder if a fix to this quirk would be to make this told from a third person POV.

    Realism was what I was going for when I wrote it - glad I conveyed it with some success.

    Judy- very very sad indeed. For both the author and the narrator...

    Alice- Well obviously the names were changed, but the main event -- the son finding the mother in an active affair -- is true. I've written about this in my previous posts. Thanks for reading!

  4. Real and from the heart...profoundly sad.

  5. Actually the story gives the impression that the son had probably had to hear the sordid details of how his parents met, by hearing (them? her?) proudly and gleefully describing them on many occasions over the years to various visitors and family members. --quartz