in the absence of the prodigal

Posted: April 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

“One of these days, he’ll need something.”  Dad stood behind Mom at the counter.  She was peeling potatoes, sniffling and angrily wiping at her cheeks with the backs of her hands.  He wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her against him, and she dropped her head, a yelp of half-choked misery escaping her.  “Don’t cry, Mother.”  He kissed her tenderly – her cheek, her ear, the corner of her eye where tears were sliding silently down.  “The boy will be back.  Just you wait and see.  One of these days, he’ll run out of cash, and he’ll be back.  You haven’t seen the last of him.” 

I was rooted to my spot there in the corner, just inside the door.  Was she still crying over him, then, even after all this time?  Was he still hoping for my brother’s return?  Even after the way he had left?  Even after the rumors we had heard about the way he had been living since then? My stomach twisted and I bit down hard on the inside of my lip.  Why waste the tears?  Why not just be grateful for the son who stayed?  Wordlessly I backed out the door.  I didn’t need this drama.

It had been like this ever since he left.  People in the stores shook their heads sadly as we passed by, murmuring together, tongues clucking in our wake about the scandal of it.  How was it that we got to be the objects of their pity, their scorn, their gossip?  It wasn’t us that left, it was him!  The bad seed.  I bristled at the pity and struggled not to take a swing at passers of snide remarks. 

I had seen how Mom sighed, laying her head on Dad’s shoulder after supper.  Their shared sadness, the unspoken longing.  And what was that I heard Dad say this time?  “One of these days he’ll need something.”  Damned right he would!  The drugs, the women, all those brushes with the law we had been hearing about – one of these days it would all catch up with him.  One of these days, he’d run through the last of his cash.  One of these days, he would need help.

And?

I mean, I didn’t get what Dad was saying.  I heard hope, of all things, in his voice.  What did my brother’s need have to do with hope?  He’d better not be showing up here with his hand out.  He’d just better not.  Not after everything he had put them – put US – through.  If I caught him coming, I’d give him the ass beating he should have had on his way out of town.  Mom and Dad might have let him leave peaceably, but if he showed up again, I’d see to it that he wouldn’t talk Dad out of any more cash than he’d already schemed and manipulated out of him so far. 

Oh yeah, you bet I’d see t to that. 

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