Carl had started thinking about the old house unwillingly. Flashes of
memory kept flooding his brain. He was already preoccupied about that
house. Its faded colors that never got a second coat of fresh paint, the stale
air that hung around the kitchen and living room; the house behaved like the
summer was over the minute someone stepped through the door. It was as if
the indoors could withstand nothing but cold temperatures and half lights. It
had all started to inhabit his thoughts after John Whitaker, his senile father,
Not given to mourning, the only child of John and Catherine had been
proven wrong by his own unacknowledged memories. His denial of his grief
lost strength the further into the black week he went. The days seemed to
have gotten longer, the nights heavier. His once thought-to-be-resolved
childhood issues suddenly came afloat, leaving their stale after-taste lingering
in Carl's tongue and throat.
On Sunday morning, as the orphan got up, one thought occupied his
reasoning: to seek inner peace. Caught up in a state of numbness, Carl slowly
got into the shower and then dressed himself. Though a non-believer, the
extreme intensity of his guilt led him to ponder an old cliché. Carl needed
God. Or at least, he needed to speak to God. Ashamed of the idea of failing
his beliefs, he embraced the sinister drive to walk out the door and into a
church. But even more sinister was what followed after he grabbed the keys
from the pocket of his coat. Casting a defiant challenge towards the almighty
God he had scorned his entire life, he trembled inside when the conditions
proposed to his mind were met with an answer.
While his ear was pressed against the telephone, Carl's pride cursed
the old man for what must have surely been, according to Carl, unmistakable
wit, a shrewd and neatly structured revenge plan to be put in action in a post-
mortem scenario by his father's trustworthy lawyer. With the memorized
instructions, Carl marched out of his apartment and into the lawyer's office to
hear the last will and testament.
Carl had forcedly started to think about the old house a week ago.
Now, undeniably disturbed, he stood in the front door, keys in hand and with
his breath suspended. After nervously turning the key and opening the door,
Carl's spine froze with the creaking of wooden floorboards as he stepped
inside that mausoleum, one foot after the other. The senile skeleton of the old
house still possessed all the faulty qualities engraved upon Carl's memories
by the traumas experienced in there.
The further into the house he walked, the weaker his steps became until
they brought him to the living room. And he collapsed, helplessly, in front of
John Whitaker's mighty portrait. There the image of his father remained, stoic
and immortal, above the fireplace, looking down on his weak excuse for a
son. A resurrecting burst of anger put Carl on his feet, hands on the frame
and fingernails to the painting. Pulling the portrait down from its altar, inch by
inch the stoic look was disrupted by the no longer weak offspring.
When he came to, Carl awoke amidst pieces of wood, shreds of
painted canvas and shards of broken glass from the empty and dusty vases
sitting quietly by the fireplace. He wept. Not only had his father taken his
childhood and failed to repair the damage, but he had also depressed
Catherine to death. So, to leave Carl the house where his innocence was
stolen and where his mother passed away, was John's last laugh, the shrewd
winning maneuver in the chess game.
Outraged, Carl convulsed into a desperate monologue of confessions,
swearing and cursing, venting his bottled up pain and grief against the walls
and into the dusty corners of the old house. Not for the old fart that had
gotten a lot less than he deserved, but for himself, a motherless child who no
more suffocated under the oppressive care, abuse and menacing manners of
Feeling blessed and no longer seeking god, Carl bathed the old house
in gasoline and delivered the sinful mausoleum to a fiery cleansing. As the
flames engulfed the place, Carl, with eyes fixed on the red mountain he'd
created, he put the tip of his fingers to his forehead first, then lowered them
down to his bellybutton to finally raise them and have them go from his right
to his left shoulder. His father existed no more. And Carl would begin, at last,
to be. 'Amen!' he said as he turned his back to the burning edifice and its
corrosive memories and walked away.