Payback – Ruby Speechley

Some days Otto leaves me sitting in my own urine for hours. I guess I can’t grumble. I picture myself sunbathing in the garden below. Back then it was Otto confined to his bedroom. Screaming until he made himself choke. Rattling the whole cot like it was a goddamn cage.

That day I couldn’t take any more. I pressed my eyes shut, felt for the teeth of the radio dial and clicked it up a few notches, so the newsreader was shouting at me. When the banging from the bedroom grew louder, I threw down my sunglasses and marched up the stairs.

Otto’s mouth widened into a red gash, his screams splitting my soul. He stood there naked, a brown rainbow smeared on the wall, the stench enough to rouse the dead. And then he went quiet and urinated from his shrivel of flesh, holding my stare as he did it.

He smirks as he comes in. I plead with him to lift the blind. I need to see the jury of crows lined up on the quivering telephone wire, watching me. He shoves a tray on my lap, ties a tea towel around my neck, pulls it a little too tight. He feeds me hot grey soup. The shape of the spoon is branded into my tongue. I cough and splutter over the bed sheets, over him. I wince, waiting for a thud of his fist on my crown. Instead he takes a corner of the tea towel and dabs my lips.

After, he sits next to me in silence. It’s almost dark. The crows have long flown home. He tips his head so the side of his face lands gently on my shoulder. My body stiffens. I have to remind myself that he is my son.


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Photo by Bastien Jaillot on Unsplash

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