As I work through the words I’ve created during NaNoWriMo 2016, I have found a few moments of brilliance. Or so I think.
Excerpt from Family Dysfunction. First draft!!
The largest house in the neighborhood held more than antiques. It was a house built on lies and full of secrets. But no more.
Aleksandra Kimkniai Kosenka Kosar rose from her bed and pulled the handmade quit, running her hand over the fabric to smooth the wrinkles. She paused over a square depicting a golden sunset and grassy hill. Two trees framed the square. Her mother had called this a vision quilt. Under the rising sun were squares of a happy family, a single home, and grassy pastures. This had been what her mother longed to see once more, her home.
“I’m sorry mother,” she said to her empty room. Her mother had not returned to her home. She’d been unable to leave her children behind and she was forbidden to take them with her.
Aleksandra understood her mother’s sacrifice but wished she could have taken her mother home. It was her home too, and she missed it every day. She held the faded memories of her earliest years deep in her heart and sometimes when she dreamed, she returned to the sacred lands of her people.
She padded across the large room, pausing to look through the window out over the landscaped courtyard. She looked to the back of the property where a wall now separated the home she lived into the area where the Indian dwellings had stood in her childhood. Back then, her step-father called them slave huts.
The grand home on the other side of the wall stood as the reminder of change. When the property got too big to manage after the Indians had died or run off, her step-father had sold off pieces of it to developers who designed a neighborhood around the mansion. By the time the streets were paved, her step-father had suffered a debilitating stroke. Aleksandra never took him around to see the progress.
Instead, she let him sit in his room, day in and day out. She’d only hire big, black or Indian men to help care for him, something she knew angered him. She could see it in his blood shot eyes. But he could not fight back, his body unable to hear the messages of his mind and his mind no long able to speak them.
Aleksandra would stand at the doorway and watch as the male attendants would undress, bath and redress her step-father. She knew this angered him too, her witnessing not only his nakedness but his helplessness.
When the caregivers were finished she would see them to the door and thank them for their help. And she would always tip them generously.
Then she would climb the stairs and sit with her step-father and tell him how she’d given those men more of his cash while she fed him mashed peas, or carrots or beef. She had no desire to feed him anything else and she knew he would eat it, or he would starve. And she knew he didn’t want to starve. He knew what kind of horror such a death entailed.
She smiled at the memory of him realizing she was his only remaining family and he had no other choice but to appointed her as his caregiver. His attorney had managed to get his paperwork in order and just before his stroke he’d begrudgingly left most of his estate to her, his only remaining family.
He would not split it up and leave anything to his grandchildren who had disappointed him in their decisions. There were no charities close to his heart and he didn’t even like his attorney enough to leave any to him.
But in leaving it to her, he’d not missed the opportunity to state his disappointment in her, and to take a final swipe at her emotional well-being.
The attorney had hesitated to read this part of her step-father’s will to her. Instead, he folded up the papers and slid them into an envelope, explaining, ‘I’ll leave this for you to read at a later date.”
When Aleksandra read it later, she knew it was his way of trying to hurt her one last time. She wondered if he’d not had the stroke if he would have been able to contain his secret until his death.
But since he was still alive, there was a string attached to her inheriting everything. She had to care for him until he died.
At first, she thought about pushing him down the stairs or accidentally mixing up his medications. But then she realized that would be too easy, to allow the man to die quickly. She decided she would keep him alive as long as possible, so he could experience much of what he’d inflicted upon others during his lifetime.
She would not be cruel, his sickness did not infect her blood. She was unable to treat him as horribly as he’d treated the people who had lived in the shacks behind their home, the people who found themselves in the unfortunate position of owing the man anything.
What pushed her near the edge so many times were her memories of how he made her mother suffer. How he made her suffer for the choices she made before he came into her life.
Aleksandra’s first order of business was to fund a scholarship, created in her step-father’s name, for the African American TKScoloarship for the local high school. His money would go towards funding after school programs in predominantly minority neighborhoods.
His money also created a scholarship for young women of any race or religion to go to law school. Then she found a small woman-owned law firm in town and partnered with them to grow their business and expand their services to women who came to them seeking help from predatory assailants. Stalkers, abusers, and attackers.
She would report back to him during meal time. As she spooned mashed peas or beets into his toothless mouth, she’d tell him about the people his money was helping. “A beautiful African American woman with three wonderful children under the age of 5 in tow, came in today. Her husband had been thrown in jail for a petty crime but was being kept in jail on trumped up charges. We were able to post bail and his attorney, paid for by you, was able to get the charges dropped.” She held the spoon up to his lips. “And, we had over $500 of groceries delivered to their home this afternoon. I know they’re having a lovely steak dinner tonight.”
Aleksandra held the spoonful of peas up, “but nothing like smashed peas, huh?”
She waited until she saw the anger rise in his eyes. Then she waited a little longer for him to connect the dots.
“You remember,” she saw what she was looking for. “I remember too.”
She set the spoon down, next to the jar of baby food on the roll away table next to the bed. But she didn’t roll it away. Instead, she left it where it was, just out of her step-fathers reach.
She’d been able to tell him many stories, similar to this during the nearly five years he remained alive. She was surprised at how long he lasted as she watched his body deteriorate because he didn’t have anyone to help him keep his muscles from atrophying.
The caregivers would scold her for not getting him to move around more, but she would keep their concerns checked by having them come in more often and be his physical therapists too. She’d made it clear to her step-father that she would do no more than to hire people to care for him and feed him. Because when she fed him, she could torture him with the stories of how she was spending her inheritance.
The last story she told him was the best. When he learned his money would go to build a shelter the law firm was working to have built. It would be a beautiful building, she told him, but only available to those who would otherwise be turned away from such a place.
“You know the place,” she said as she pushed a spoonful of orange mush into his mouth. “At the corner of what is it? You know, where that club you belonged to was. The one you didn’t want anyone to know about.”
She waited a moment, watching his eyes for signs of recognition. The location as far as he was concerned was sacred. She’d heard him say so many times.
“Oh, don’t worry, I had it ‘smudged,’” she waved off his silent protest. “I had the Indian doctor work on the bad energy surrounding the place. My oh my, you should have seen it! The blackness around the place.” She looked him in the eye, ‘but I guess you already knew that.”
She tapped the spoon against the glass bowl in her hand, the ping it made was sharp, causing her step-father to jump a little in his chair. “It took awhile, but eventually, the darkness left. And now!” She held her hand to her chest and flutter her eyes as if the excitement was too much, “now it’s just the most peaceful and loving place you could ever hope to visit. I believe we’ll have you buried there.”
How she wished he could speak at that moment. She saw the hate burning out of control in his eyes, the only place emotion of any kind could find release from his captive body. She wished she could hear the words he was screaming in his head if only to give her the reason she needed to pick up what was left of the man and throw him out of the second story window.
“No, you’re right, burying you there would be too much of an honor, considering the life you lived. No, I’ve already picked out the place. After you’re cremated of course.”
Aleksandra thought it odd he’d not spelled out these provisions in his will. She knew he was opposed to cremation. But she also knew he wasn’t opposed to burning a body.
“Nope, the burn pile is all set up and ready to go, whenever you’re ready. Or, whenever I think you’re ready.” She put the bowl down on the table next to his wheelchair. She saw him eye it, “are you still hungry? Hm,” she did not reach for the food. “Too bad, isn’t it?” She pulled the lace curtain back and pointed at the pit she’d had dug in the yard. “There it is, father. Your eternal resting place.”
She knew she would not bury him there. She didn’t want his rotting body so close to the house. Even though he’d called the house his for so long, she remembered the time when it had belonged to her mother and her father.
His body would be taken to the county morgue and he would be buried in an unmarked grave.
Just like he’d buried so many others over the decades.
When the caregivers arrived at four, they found him still sitting in his chair, his breakfast now brown, in the bowl on the table next to him. Aleksandra had watched him die, listening to his breath as it became more shallow and finally stopped. She would never know, nor think of it again if he heard her last words as he left this world.
“You will rot in hell.”
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