Tag Archives: son

Ablutophobic

copyright Al Forbes

copyright Al Forbes

Ablutophobic

“NOOOO!” my son screamed. He Houdini’ed out of my grasp, snaked between my legs and sought refuge under the table.

“Nathan,” my tone was firm but warning. “This is going to happen. Now hold still.”

He was like a cornered tiger, so I took it slow, making hushing noises as I moved in. Just when I thought I had him, he slipped under the far side and hopped out the kitchen window.

My walkie-talkie crackled. “Status?”

“He pulled a runner,” I said. “Target’s in the backyard, heading towards the woods.”

“Copy. I’m ready to go mobile.”

I ran to the roof, where my wife was in the cockpit of a small helicopter.

“He can’t have gotten far,” she said. As soon as I was in, she took off, heading towards the grassy space behind the house.

“Do you have the stuff?” I asked.

She pointed between the seats. “Right here.”

We spotted Nathan running hard. My wife maneuvered the chopper above him. “Now!” she shouted.

I grabbed the bucket and dumped the warm, soapy contents out the door. It hit Nathan square on the head, running down his hair like a judge’s wig.

“Does that count as a bath?” she asked.

“It’s as good as we’re getting.” Nathan was looking up furiously. I threw him a towel.

“How long will this have to go on?” she asked.

I shrugged. “Well, his high school graduation is this afternoon. I think he’s on his own after that.”


Note: although I used this title for comedic effect, I don’t wish to make light of the actual phobia, which can be a serious thing for those who suffer with it.


The Re-Genesis Hour – Sunday Photo Fiction

copyright Al Forbes

copyright Al Forbes

The Re-Genesis Hour

There was still half an hour before dawn when Gina, the serving maid, slipped open the door. The boy pulled himself down the steps, scuttling sideways on his misshapen stumps and keeping a hand on the railing for support. Once outside, he pulled himself through the dewy, cold-shock grass. The world was fresh and alive in its daily re-genesis.

A rabbit ducked out of a thicket to his left and he gave chase for the sheer fun of it. The rabbit won, escaping back to its hole just before the boy reached it. He laughed and stood there for a moment, palms flat on the ground, cold and wet.

He continued on, farther and farther until he reached a road he had never seen before, going down to a high iron gate. A car was coming down from the house, its powerful headlights sweeping over him as he ducked back into the bushes. Not fast enough. The car stopped and a man and woman got out.

“What in Heaven’s name is that? It’s hideous.”

“George, please. I—”

“What is it!”

“It’s your son, George.”

.

.

.

.

.

“I have a son?”


Doughnut Man – Friday Fictioneers

GWT Time Machine

As an update, my first Green-Walled Time Machine post is now up. Come take a look at the weird world of advertisements in teacher magazines in 1913.

copyright Claire Fuller

copyright Claire Fuller

Doughnut Man

We passed the Michelin garage and right on cue, Brad started to whine.

“I want a doughnut, Dad. I want a doughnut . . .”

I snapped at him. “Those are tires, not doughnuts.” No good, of course. I was too exhausted to argue. We went to Tim Horton’s and I watched him stick his finger through the doughnut hole, rolling it around and making car noises. From tires to doughnuts and back to tires.

“Dad . . . Can I get a toy car? I want a toy car. Please? Pleeeease?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“If I get you one, you’ll just want a doughnut again.”


Enlightening the Son – Friday Fictioneers

Merry Christmas from the Green-Walled Tower! I hope you all had a great day yesterday. By the way, if you’re interested, go read my post about the time I was a real-life ghost. It just got Freshly Pressed, which was a great Christmas present for me.

Enlightening the Son

Searchlights combed the sky like Zen rakes, cutting graceful swaths across the obsidian dome of night.

“Get my son back this instant!” the president said, emotions colliding in his trembling voice.

“We can find him, sir,” the chief of staff said, “but while he has the artifact, we’re helpless. He flies faster than our jets and is virtually invincible.”

*         *         *

“What’s the spin?” the PR director asked later. “Is this good or bad?”

“We’ll find out soon,” the chief of staff said. “If we can make him a superhero, the next election’s in the bag. If not, start updating your resume.”


The Jailer’s Dilemma, Part 2 of 2

(continued from Part 1)

Crowfeather was almost asleep when he heard a key turn in the lock of his cell. The door opened and an uncovered lantern shone light on the face of his father, the head jailer. The older man stepped aside from the door and motioned him out.

“Come on, son. I volunteered for the first watch tonight; no one else is around. You can leave and no one will stop you.”

Crowfeather stood up but did not approach the door. “Why are you doing this?” he asked. “They will kill you.”

“It is my guilt to bear, son,” the jailer said. “Your crimes are because of me and although I tried to evade them with the name O’Keefe, I will always be Henry Robins: your father and a thief.”

“I have not seen you in many years,” Crowfeather persisted. “You are not to blame for everything I have done since then. You were right when you said that you did not teach me to counterfeit. I am a man now, father. I can stand on my feet, as you see.”

“If you will not go for justice, then go as a last gift to your father,” the jailer said. “Go and reform your ways. It took a ruined knee to teach me honesty, but it will not for you, I hope.” He tossed a small pouch to Crowfeather, which clinked as he caught it.

“Come with me then,” Crowfeather said, moving towards the door at last. “There is no reason why you should stay here to undergo punishment. Let us go together.”

The jailer was already shaking his head, a sad smile on his face. “I would just slow you down, and in any case, the guilt must be paid. Go and sin no more. I will stay.”

dungeon

*         *         *

Crandell, the deputy jailer came in to take the second watch of the night and found the head jailer not at his post. He walked the corridors and saw that the last cell door was slightly ajar. Inside he found the head jailer, sitting alone on the stone bench.

“Where is the prisoner?” Crandell asked in alarm.

“He is gone. I let him go. He was my son.”

“You are mad, sir! This is treason. You will be put to death.”

“Even if they transfer his punishment to me, I will take it calmly,” O’Keefe said.

“Do not even say such things,” Crandell said. “I would glad kill you here with my sword before I let you go through something that terrible.”

“Do not do that,” O’Keefe said. “Then the guilt would pass to you, since it would be seen as the murder of an innocent man. No, let me do this: the guilt must be paid.”

*         *         *

A month later, in a city fifty miles away, a man walked into an inn looking for work.

“What your name?” the innkeeper asked, sizing the man up with a critical look.

“Gabriel Robins,” the man said. “I just came in from the hill country. I can do anything you need me to do. I’m just looking for some good, honest work.”

“Well, there’s plenty of that around here. You can get to work mucking out the stables, if you wish. Hey, if you’ve just come from the hills, you must not have heard the news about the king’s head jailer. They beheaded him a week or so ago after he released one of his prisoners. They say his face shone with joy right before the axe came down. Do you know what his last words were?”

“What?”

“He said, ‘May God bless him.’ Now what do you think of that?”

 


The Jailer’s Dilemma, Part 1 of 2

“Sir, we just received a new prisoner. He’s under penalty of death.”

The head jailer Joseph O’Keefe nodded. “What’s his name?”

“They couldn’t find out his real name, but he calls himself Crowfeather. He—sir, are you okay?” The guard stepped forward, seeing the jailer sway suddenly, but O’Keefe waved him off.

“It’s just my knee.” He sat down, massaging his knee and not daring to look up in case his face betrayed anything. “Get out of here, would you. I’ll go check on the prisoner.”

The guard left and a moment later O’Keefe stood up and limped slowly down the dank stone corridor, all the way down to the Cells of the Condemned. He had never known it to take so long and his heart was pounding so painfully it felt as if his arteries were filled with acid.

Peering through iron bars, he saw the prisoner sitting in a pile of moldy straw. He did not see the baby that he had bounced on his knee or the little boy he had taken to market that first time. There was only a prisoner.

“Crowfeather?”

The prisoner looked up. “Yeah?”

“I like Gabriel Robins better.”

The prisoner was on his feet in an instant, his fists clenched. “How do you know that name?” O’Keefe looked at him steadily and watched as recognition grew on his face and the anger drained away from his expression. “Father. So this is where you ended up.”

“And this is where you ended up,” O’Keefe said. “What did they catch you doing?”

“Counterfeiting.”

A thrill of horror went down O’Keefe’s spine. “Counterfeiting!” he hissed. “Are you mad, boy? Do you know what the punishment is for that?”

The prisoner shrugged. “Death is death in the end, no matter how you get there.”

“I have witnessed many executions and not all deaths are created equal. Men would give all they had to choose their death; to avoid the one coming to you.”

The prisoner sat down again, shrugging in defiance. “So, did you come here to gloat? To say I was stupid? You taught me to do this, after all.”

“I never taught you to counterfeit!”

“No, you only taught me to steal, to pickpocket, to hold a crossbow to a man’s throat while our friends took his horse and everything he owned in the world. How is that much better?”

O’Keefe put his forehead against the wood of the door. His knee was throbbing.

“Father,” the prisoner said. “What happened that day at Hind’s Crossing, when the ambush went bad? You disappeared and we thought you were dead.”

There was a moment of silence before O’Keefe spoke. “After they counterattacked, I knocked one of the soldiers down with my staff. I thought he was out, but he crushed my knee with his mace. I killed him after that, but then fell into unconsciousness. After the fighting, when you and the lads had fled, I woke to find myself bandaged and lying on a stretcher. There were two groups of pilgrims in the party we ambushed and both thought I was part of the other one. They carried me with them, all the way to this city where I slowly healed, at least as much as possible. I changed my name and got a job as a jailer.”

“Why didn’t you try to find me?” the prisoner asked.

“It was too far for me to travel like this, and even if I had, I would have been a burden on you. I have found a better way, through my suffering.”

“When is the execution scheduled?” the prisoner asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Will you come to it, to see me?” For a moment, O’Keefe heard a touch of the boy he had known in the prisoner’s voice, the child looking up to his father for assurance and advice.

The jailer stifled a groan and punched his fist into the door. The physical pain seemed like a blessing compared the torture filling his mind. “How could I go? How could I watch them do that to my only son?”

“What will you do then?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know.” O’Keefe turned and shuffled back down the long hall to the guard room. His knee was screaming at him by now, the pain shouting accusations.

dungeon

The deputy jailer William Crandell was in the guard room when O’Keefe entered. They nodded at each other in professional acknowledgement.

“William, the new prisoner—do you know when the execution will be?”

“The counterfeiter? Yes, I just received the news. It will be in two days. They need time to fill and ready the cauldron.”

O’Keefe gave a quick nod and turned to hide his long, shuddering breath. He had only seen one execution that had involved that squat, black cauldron. The images were burned into his memory, and now his mind unwillingly combined the iron monstrosity with the tiny tin basin he had used to wash little Gabriel in front of the fireplace. The little boy had splashed and laughed, spilling water on the dirt floor. In O’Keefe’s mind, he could see the water thickening into oil around the small boy, the surface swelling and bursting in sickening pops as the oil began to boil.

(to be concluded in Part 2)


The Sundering Fog – Visual Fiction #22

This visual fiction is the second picture I’ve used of this bridge. I like the fog on it, since it gives a much different feel. Plus, the first Visual Fiction I did, The Bridge, didn’t have a story with it. This story is the beginning of a longer one I might write sometime.

Taken in Wanju, South Korea

Taken in Wanju, South Korea

The last time I saw my son Seth was when I sent him over the bridge to go to school. The first day of Grade 4. I should have gone with him all the way to school, but that’s easy to say now. He wouldn’t have wanted me to anyway; he was so independent and on that day what he really wanted to do was cross the bridge by himself. I waved good-bye and watched as he disappeared into the fog.

I started my shift at the garage. From where I worked I could see across the river to the island where half the town was located, including the school. The fog usually burned off by about ten but that day it remaining like a blanket on the river.

About 11:00, there was a sudden crash; not an explosion, but a rending, tearing sound, as loud as a jet engine. Everyone ran outside, looking here and there and trying to figure out what had happened, until Randall Haskins tried to drive over to the pharmacy, across the bridge. I heard the sound of screeching tires and then Randall’s hysterical voice shouting, “The bridge! The bridge is gone.”

It wasn’t gone, but there was a large hole ripped from the center span of it, at least fifty feet wide. No one could see any reason for it, nor was there any concrete or rubble in the water below. The police chief took a couple of men and motored across in a boat to check on things on the other side.

They never came back. They didn’t even radio in after they went onshore. Another boat went over and the same thing happened. In total, seven boats went to the island that day and none of them were ever seen again. The police cordoned off the shore on both sides of the river all around the island and prevented anyone else from trying to go over there.

The fog cleared up the next day and we all saw the island sitting there in the river. Not a single person was visible all that day. The next day, the national guard sent four boats of armed soldiers across. We watched them with binoculars as they searched the streets. They reported back that no one was there, but we noticed as we watched that as they went in and out of the buildings, their number slowly decreased. Sometimes men would go into a building and not come out again. The men on shore tried to warn them, but they couldn’t get through and eventually the soldiers all went into buildings and disappeared.

Now the island just sits there, off limits to everyone. I stare obsessively at it whenever I can, trying to catch any glimpse of movement, trying to see my Seth. I can’t help it. I almost welcome the foggy days, when the misty white curtain obscures my view and numbs my pain and nagging worry, at least for a little while.


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