Sep 282014

Here’s my entry to Flash Frenzy Round 37.

Lesson Learned?

The seventh step on the staircase to my father’s study had a squeak. I used to think he had made it himself so he knew when someone was coming. The staircase was carpeted in red that had worn to threads in the centre. On the wall above the stairs hung a painting of my grandfather, and a painting of his father, and another painting of his father. I swear their eyes used to follow me as I climbed.

‘Come,’ his voice would boom before I had raised my fist to knock. His study was dark, yellowed by a weak lamp. Gossamers of smoke hung in the air but the smell of damp and rot was stronger: our house, once great, crumbled while my father sat in his study smoking his pipe and drinking Irish whiskey from a cup.

‘What is it Charles?’ he’d say.

I’d take a deep breath, look him in his basset-hound eyes, and like a sinner in the confessional box, account for the day’s transgressions. Then he’d take down the hickory switch from the wall, flex it in his hands, and absolve me of my sins.

“Who do you think I am?” he’d say, as the switch wheezed through the air. “I am your father. I am not someone else.”

I know who you are. You are a small man living off the legends of bigger men. You are someone who thinks a beating makes up for being a poor father. I swear on the blood you now draw that I will never become you.

A knock at the door disturbs my thoughts. My pipe lies on my desk in shards. Blood is pooling from a gash on my hand: ten years in the grave and the old man can still make me bleed.

My son comes into my study. He stands in the doorway looking down at his shoes.

‘What is it Charles?’ I say.

‘Disrespecting my mother, sir.’

I take down the hickory switch from the wall. How long till the boy learns his lesson?


I was awarded runner up for this! The judge (Karl A. Russell) said:

The description of the rot at the heart of a once great lineage is masterful, sketching in details that somehow resolved into a picture perfect depiction of that hated study, and the realisation that the cycle of violence rolls on untrammelled makes this a chastening read.

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