Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Emperor

I lay on my grandfather’s couch, where he had preferred to sleep during the days, stretched out in front of the television set. The seat cushions were a dark, almost black chocolate color and the back supporting cushions were a gray the color of clay. All of it was soft to the touch and delicately furry. It held the person that lay on it like a gentle beast with silky fur.
The smell of my grandparent’s house was always of wood and vanilla scented candles and black licorice and coffee and the smell of the desert mingled with water and trees and stone. At the table behind me my grandmother was sitting, my father sometimes stood, sometimes sat, beside her, pleading, and my uncle sat at the kitchen bar across from the table. My uncle had a black beard and a booming voice.
The carpet was a rich red orange shag, also soft to the touch. The lace curtains and vinyl shutters filtered the bright sunlight that made its way past the giant elm trees my grandfather had grown all around the house.
My father was asking my grandmother to come and live with us, my mother and my sisters and I could care for her. My grandmother and Uncle rejected his offer. They were mean to him. I felt an intense shock. These people who had seemed to be family were bitterly cruel, they were stabbing my father in the heart. The sounds of their voices were full of a dismissive disdain. They said that my father was a complete fool who could care for no one, that nobody needed him, or even wanted him. I thought that my father would cry. I was filled with rage, my father was here offering help, asking his mother to come with him, and they would not even acknowledge his good intentions. They did not care.
I realized suddenly that they did not like him. That my grandmother and her first bastard son were a special pair, pleased to inflict pain on my father, the other son, the son of the father. They were venting their rage towards the father on his son, because he was not there to receive it.
These were people who had cradled me when I was small, my grandmother particularly. Her skin was always soft, her hair short and white, her body big and round like one of those headless goddess statues. She wore brightly colored housedresses. Now she could no longer walk and could barely speak except to groan a bit and shake her head and sometimes communicate in a slow growling voice like a creature from a swamp.
As a child I had known her only as a benevolent figure who loved me. She did not even love me as much now as she did then. I had been like a pet, a thing which is loveable when it is small and then it is a terrible surprise when it grows too large for the house and drools and barks and wants to run and dig under the fence.
I had already known that my uncle was a wretched cruel heart. When I was a baby my Aunt Peggy shot herself in the head because he ran off with a blonde nurse named Terry and said that he didn’t love her anymore. I was very young at the time and hadn’t been told what had happened, but from the time that my Aunt Peggy became sad and disappeared I disliked and distrusted him. My dislike for him grew when I had to spend time with my new Aunt Terry, because I disliked everything about her. I had loved my Aunt Peggy naturally.
To see my uncle this way was not a surprise, but to see that he had learned such cruelty from my grandmother was terrible. My Father had gray hair. He was tall. He usually seemed rough and uncaring. Now that he was being tender, his new tender feelings were being squashed by a gruesome pair.
I hated them both from then on. I did not want to see my grandmother again. I called once and my Uncle, who was now in charge of caring for her, did all the talking, mostly judging me for my move to a far away city, asking me if I had gone chasing a man, asking what a descent man would want with a woman with little kids (a strange question considering that Terry had a pair of youngsters when he married her).
After that, I would never call again. When my grandmother died, I made little observance of the occurrence. She was a stranger.
Laying on the couch that day, I had noticed that the beautiful tile coffee table constructed by my grandfather had been removed and replaced by the table he had made for my uncle. This one had broken tiles at the corners that left terrible vacancies upon its surface. It made me feel sick to see it there, looking like that.
When my grandfather had been alive the table had stood whole and without fracture. The lawn and trees in the back yard had been green and he had kept a thriving garden of herbs. Now that he was gone, my uncle was here, and with him he had brought a broken table and the death of the lawn and trees and garden. My Grandfather’s land was dead, having been invaded by the desert that in life he had held at bay. His house had become a nightmarish mockery of what it had once been, broken or ill fit odds and ends having usurped the finer objects which had been of his making and had once held sway. And his real heirs wept and were broken hearted by the revolution of death that had turned the father’s kingdom into dust where mites took up residence and ruled over his waste.

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