The Torments of a Father

I set the jug down on the table and clenched my fists; I’d barely sat on the chair and already started to get angry. The coffee was tasteless. The movements of my wife were getting quicker and more chaotic over the stove; her hands maneuvered the pan handle and the fork, then reached with harsh speeds toward the dish rack or the kitchen glove so that the moves seemed to crisscross one another, arguing and stopping short in mid–air – just until she just got enveloped by a dim aura of maimed gestures that seemed scribbled on an oil–soaked sheet of paper. My ass was tensed; my empty plate, with a fork leaning on it, was drawing a deep oval into the table cloth, sending back the vague reflexion of my head lowered between my shoulders. My wife blabbered with the same cadence. He hadn’t stopped ever since I entered the kitchen – her hands smote the pan onto the stove and her whole body shuddered under her nightgown. Her hair jerked on her back, gathered and secured with a pink, moronic, school bow. I was grinding my teeth, angrier still; I was late again, the clock on the wall made deafening booms while sticky oil drops were falling off the paper sheet – they were sizzling on the stove burners, then climbing in red flamelets over the brim of the pan.

Finally, my wife brushed her palm over her bottom and came toward the table, her legs slushing in the red slippers. She raised her hand, slammed the bacon and omelet onto my plate, then squeaked at length the fork on the bottom of the pan. „Eat it,” she said, „and hurry, I’d like you to see something before you leave. I’m at a loss here. Really am.”

I squeeze out my head from between my shoulders and look at her. Though her hair is gathered, uncombed and tousled, grey strands poke everywhere, glowing in the kitchen neon light. Her hands back to normal, she doesn’t move anymore, and the oil–smeared paper fell on the stove, quenching the flames of the only burner left on. I lean over my plate and take in the smell of the omelet, then grab the fork and take my first bite into my mouth.

I chew slowly, very slowly, barely unclenching my teeth because of my ire, wiping my lips on purpose after every move – I’m already late, so it can wait – the table cloth has a yellow squares–and–diamonds pattern, and my omelet–full fork moves stubbornly along the straight lines, ignoring me, faster and faster, complying with their accurate paths and filling my mouth like in some automaton process end phase.

 Kindness against Envy | Invidia-Humanitas Copyright © 2014, Cristina Schek

Kindness vs. Envy | Humanitas vs. Invidia
Copyright © 2014, Cristina Schek

I’m drawing squares and lines, I barely swallow before my mouth is filled again, swallow and gobble, – I’m sweated and my ass is almost up from the chair. My wife takes my plate even before I barely realize what’s going on, then she slams it into the sink; I freeze with my mouth full, her fingers dug in my shoulders through the thin fabric of my pajamas. I noticed her hair came loose on her neck, the bow sits hanging from a twisted loop, waggling over a frill. Before me, nothing; the plate’s gone, the fork perished from my hand.

I wanna slam my fist on the table, I wanna shout, fuck all of it, but my hand veers away half–gesture in and flies towards the door into the lobby, tightly grabbed and yanked away by one the sleeves of the nightgown. I wipe the oil off my lips with my tongue, stumble, then take a glimpse outside the window before I enter the bedroom; it’s barely day outside.

My wife lets go of me only after she closes the door behind us.

I swallow my omelet stuck in my neck; the room is bathed in the glow of the lamp above the bed, but she rushes to the switch and turns on the pendant, too; the furniture rots away gloomily and hunched on the parquet floor, devoid of details and color, simple amorphous weights that support the walls that caved under the overwhelming weight of the ceiling. My omelet floats through my esophagus, incredibly slow, rich and sticky; it rolls and falls piece by piece into my stomach, all into its right side; it smacks in a ball there and starts cooling right away, along with my whole lower part of the pelvis, sending afterwards ice needles through my leg, towards the knee. „You gotta see this,” my wife says, „I don’t know what to say, I don’t know,” she says again, and only now I realize that, in fact, she’s saying this over and over again, because she never stopped shitting this, mumbling all the way through the lobby, I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it, that is what she says right now, I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it, while she goes to the wardrobe between the two bedroom windows, fluttering her frills.

I watch her bend over a bit and push the lingerie drawer, then twitching one of the doors. „Come and see,” she says, „just take a look,” she says, then I’m dragging my frozen leg on the parquet floor; the needles hover around my kneecap like some little fish in shallow waters, and the taste of the eggs climbs like a paste up my neck while I’m getting slowly nearer.

Under the hangers holding thick garments, there is a little blond boy sitting on those several rows of winter sweaters – he’s dressed in short green little pants and a red little shirt with loose sleeves; he wields white wool socks on his feet, he’s probably no more than one or one and a half year old.

He raises his head, waggling insecurely and reaches his hand toward my wife while he clutches twitchingly the neck of a sweater with the other. I squat. „Well, what do you think?” my wife asks. „He’s here about half an hour, I don’t know where he showed up from”. I check him out head to toe. „Have you seen him before?” „I just wanted to get my clothes from the wardrobe and found him like this,” and she looks suspiciously at me.

The boy gets his hand inside the collar, fingers tangled into odd strands of the fabric, and his little head swings, straining to frame his severe expression, lips tight and puckered chin, peering the room view unraveling in front of him now after the door of the wardrobe was pushed aside. Suddenly, the crow of a rooster sounds from outside in the yard, then wings fluttering. My other leg froze too, the little fish migrate twitching their little fins, sneaking through veins and ligaments, carried by the crystallized stream of the blood.

My wife leaned over my shoulders to see better; her body exudes a vague odour of sour sweat and body lotion. „Have you checked the other compartment?” I ask her. „Where?” „The other door,” I say. Shaken by a sudden twinge, he reaches her arms over me and opens the other side of the wardrobe, fully packed with neatly stacked clothes on narrow shelves. „Nothing, nothing in here”, she says feebly after a while. „Nothing. In fact, I opened this one first, and then I opened the other one only by accident.”

„Alright,” I answer quickly, „I’m already late and I don’t feel too well. I wanna go to the bathroom. Take him out of here and put him on the bed. I’ll see to him later. Hurry up.”

Without a word more, I push her gently aside and get out of the bedroom, her body lotion smell still in my nostrils; in the lobby, I take my hands to the nose, they reek too that bitter–milky smell. The bathroom inside the house isn’t occupied, but I feel like I need some air



so I go over to the entrance door, put on my slippers and get outside in the yard, breathing fast, almost groaningly; the rooster crows again, then the fluttering of wings, again the crowing, then I take the narrow cement alley that goes to the toilet in the garden. It’s not full light yet outside – the darkness lingers into corners, sneaking like a ripple under the trees near the house and underneath the vine stems tunnel, as though carried by the whiffs of wind that sweeps the yard every now and then.

The toilet light is on – fine burrows of yellow light slink through the rain–curved boards, spreading glowing pale crowns on the narrow alley. The old sheet metal roof is bent backwards, like a hat ready to drop.

While I’m moving forward, I realize though that the garden toilet never had a bulb, never had electric wiring; the crowing sounds again somewhere to the left, but muted and far away like it would be surging up from a bottomless pit. „I’ll be damned,” I say and go the the toilet door; from inside a low sound breaks through, something like a gentle rustling, interspersed often with faint wheezings and smackings giving over to light gurgles that cover that rustling that really never stops, while the dense hashings of light through the straggled boards are being cut once in a while by long shadows. I rummaged after the closed lock while its cold metal tip pokes my palm.

„Mom, dad, what’re you doing in here?” I ask and leave the door half open; the light isn’t so strong and floats erratically over the wooden walls, but it’s still convincing enough to tell those two embracing figures sitting on the seat that’s smeared by dirt streaking its edges. My father has his pants down to under his knees and the feet gathered together as he sits on the enameled bowl; his belt over his slippers glows like a snake hide, and my mom sits nestling in his lap, her withered hands encircling his neck, her nose stuck under his chin. The omelet is out of my neck, trying to climb into my nostrils, pushed from behind by numerous burps with milk coffee stench; my mom slowly gets her mouth over a shriveled ear and whispers something, then the two hug, wizened and scraggy, mumbling and kissing awkwardly with pointed lips; I feel no smell, no smell except that scrambled eggs smell that comes up through my nostrils.

The light flickers, staggers, shook by the whiffs that swarm up my shoulders – hundreds of iridescent bugs that scramble hanging in crawling lumps of pale twinklings, caught in the spider webs gathered at the corners of the ceiling, buzzing faintly while their unstable glintings falls in gluey drops of light over the heads and shoulders of my entangled parents snuggling into each other while smacking and slightly opening their lips.

The naked feet of my father fidget and quiver while his skinny ass sinks into the foul bowl, my mother kisses him, then sniffs him, running her face over his cheeks. „Mom, dad,” I attempt, but can’t finish as my wife gets near me with eyes bulged and out of breath; she came running barefoot out of the house, and she’s panting.

Her nightgown gathered ridiculously between her thighs and she needs to lean on me to catch her breath, swinging her head and bulging her chest as if she forgot how to breathe, while her body tries to adapt on the fly to this situation she never encountered before. „You must get inside right away,” she finally groans, „I don’t know what to do anymore, I’ve had it” and she does no gesture, trying just to push up her eyes to show me how much, but there’s no use for me getting angry again, though I never got to piss; I know I could, because the bathroom inside the house is unoccupied.

I close the toilet door and push the lock slowly – the smackings and the mumblings inside are getting clearer, then I turn toward my wife and grab her hand stuck like a claw into my shoulder.

„Let’s get in,” I tell her softly, „and see what scared you so bad again.”

It’s full daylight now; tattered clouds walks the sky, grey with white puffy core, then we both get back into the house – my wife with unkempt hair and shoulders thrust forward, her ass forming squarely through the shirt fabric caught between her buttocks and set free with every rushing step she does, trying to move faster than her stubby calves allow, rubbing against each other – she still talks and talks, like earlier before, opening the kitchen door, then the lobby door, then the bedroom door which she carefully pushes back behind me as if she wants to underline the severity and magnitude of the moment; then she flees toward the wardrobe, her fallen strands of hair fluttering like wires behind her. „After you left, I just wanted to close the door,” she says, „just to close it.”

I get closer and look over her stretched arm; into the darkness below the clothes on the hangers, something moves – a blond little head caught between pudgy little hands, then another coming out from under the tails of my black coat, then another one, propping its forehead on the first one, struggling to extricate from the hug of two thick snow jackets.

I dart my eyes to the bed, to the little boy snuggled into the sheets, pulling intently at the corner of the kilt, too big to stuff it in his mouth on first attempt, nibbling it between his lips and twisting it in his palms, but just for a moment, as my eyes slip back quickly to the blond curls into the wardrobe; my wife lies heavily onto the squeaking door; she is silent now, she doesn’t utter a word; I grab her from under her breasts and push her in the middle of the bedroom, watching her aging lustrous face under the layers of cream when a warm shadow spreads throughout my neck, forcing me to push my eyelids together for a few seconds; I fully open the wardrobe door again and step aside, signaling her.

„Get them out,” I say, „all of them and put them with the other one, get them out and put them on the bed,” I say, „on the bed, on the bed, all of them,” I say.

My wife steps forward and back, raising and lowering her arms on the same length of a few tens of inches, trying to quench her sobs while her hair floats into the ever so dimmer light of the living room, incapable of holding the rhythm that steals her gestures and seizes her completely – she becomes a part of some silent machinery that throws her around – she moves almost unconsciously, her flesh sluggish, her hands soft, her breasts limp and heavy under the frills of her nightgown. After a few minutes, it’s all over.

I back toward the door; I feel like I need space, plenty of space, pushed by the necessity to take in with a single look the whole room, without making too much effort.

The glow of the pendant, still on, gathered into a small pale fleck on the ceiling, between two long cracks that run toward the window. I think I hear the rooster again, but I’m not sure, so I lean onto the wall – I ignore the fat figure of my wife trembling under the attacks of a phlegmous hoary breath, I ignore the coolness of the wall that cuts through my shoulders and my pajamas shirt, then I just get my hand over the wet skin of my neck.

The children stammer between sheets, their blond little heads toppled back and hands raised, grabbing twitchingly the air and pushing it with their pinkish palms; they have small, round and yellow countenances, but they are not alike, though they share something, a common feature that migrates on their surly faces keeping with the angle of the looker, never the same place twice but still urging the thought to keep identical memories of it, even if it was either caught as being a part of the chin, or of an ear, and the crowing is heard again, also the breath of my wife, a bit calmer now.

The children open their mouths and tap soundlessly their palms on the kilt; their bent or straight legs move like small grubs.

My wife takes a few steps toward the bed, her hands clenched together.

„Maybe they are hungry,” she whispers, „look at that one how it yawns, maybe the little ones are hungry.  Why don’t you make a dash for the store to get some bread, we’re short of food in the house, I was going to get it myself later. You’ll find small bills on the fridge,”. „Shit,” I say, and I’m out in one minute, don’t know how, dressed with shoes on, I only hear the door clunking behind me and the plastic shutters hitting the pane.

Empty bag in my hand, I storm toward the gate; my feet hitch on their own, I slap ridiculously my soles on the cement while my feet rise and fall with an aching unconcern. I want to grab the handle, but I find myself stepping over the fence, a single exhausting leap, and I barely have time to dodge the wall of the store that rushes obliquely toward me; between the fence and the wall are only twenty inches and I squeeze into the narrow gap with my shirt pulled up to my neck and my pants buttocks pushed up into my gibble.

The saleswoman waits for me a few inches away, stuck between the pane pocked with posters and the house gate, the handle poking her belly and her hand frozen high, holding a full blue bag. „I was waiting for the lady,” she says with her lips pouted, „I thought she would come by later.” „She doesn’t feel well,” I answer throwing my empty bag, „she wanted to lie down this morning. But I’m sure she’ll come by later, I think she wanted to talk to you, or so I remember.” I take the full bag and slink the money into the pocket of her ruby robe. „Oh,” she strains, then smile from the only movable corner of her mouth while I step back, a thing quite possible, and the store fades away, along with the saleswoman, onto the top of the hill, and my elbow gets into the gate keyhole. My freed t-shirt slides down my back, over my butt; it’s a loose t–shirt I’ve often slept in, and it has the scorched stain of a beer bottle etched into the chest.

I turn back, enter the yard, fully in control on my feet, and walk up the alley.

Dressed in his robe, my dad comes swinging from the garden toilet; he get into the shed where I hear him working the cellar locks; after a little while he shows up with a bottle of wine in hands; he closes the shed, then heads back to the toilet, swaying with a heavy step, face ponderous. I rush after him, don’t manage to catch up, so I start bashing the toilet boards.

„Mom, dad,” I whisper, „let me in, let me in, just a bit, let me in, I wanna get in, let me in”, and my hand goes down into the blue bag and takes out something, I take a bite or two from a loaf of bread – the bag is full of them, crammed with brown crispy loaves of bread, fresh golden crust, I eat three or four, I eat until I’m sated, until I feel my belly ache, and even then I still eat one more, and another one.

„Mom, dad, let me in, let me in just a bit,” I bash again the boards of the toilet; the only answer are the long smackings and noisy gurgles.

I give up standing glued to the door; I head back for the house; get in, banging the bag on the walls; I get in sated, belly full; my wife waits in the bedroom, smiling; she changed into a pink blouse with buttons and some tight knickers on her ass that makes my stomach turn; she just sits there and smiles at me, I grab my belly and hand her the bag. Smackings, gurglings, cooings, tappings, a sneeze breaking like a balloon and oozing like oil over the brim of the bed. My wife takes out a piece of bread and bend over.

I sit in the armchair near the stove, watching those four little children, gathered together and stuck into a loose wool sweater, their heads clustered, tightly glued, poking through the loose collar; their hands flail under the spiky fabric, outlining curves and lines melting in billowing angles and braces. „I feed them better this way, all together,” says my wife, grinding the bread in her palm turning it into bits, crumbs, chips, plink–plink, „and, you know, I thought if we put another blanket and pillow to the wall, we can sleep together, there’s plenty of room here,” cooing, plink-plink, while the air in the bedroom becomes hard to breath and I bite it, I’m a hell of Paco who swallows slabs of pork meat. „And they’re so docile – you see that one with a small scar over the eyebrows, he fidgeted his legs when I put him in the sweater, but he settled down now, look at him playing with the others, he’s so cute”; the light from the pendant goes off with a stifled clamp; the door of the wardrobe is still ajar.

I get up from the armchair, my wife holding out her palms with the bread crumbs, I lean over her, grabbing her waist (ooo) and kissing her (oooo) on her bare neck. „Forgive me, I’m sorry, I was a jerk,” I whisper to her, „I shouldn’t have made such a fuss. I’m going to the bathroom and be right back. You feed them good.” I kiss her again and her shoulders draw together under my touching; I get out from the bedroom, sluggish feet, and into the kitchen, turning on the neon, though it’s broad daylight outside. I still haven’t managed to use the toilet, but that’s ok, I say to myself. So I take a look around, near the dish rack, over the stove, I twirl my eyes over the cupboard, riveting them finally on the table. The teapot is there, on a folded hand towel – it still has on its bottom a coffee stain, a streak of dregs frozen into fine rivulets on the inside up to the brim. I take a clean cup from the cupboard.

The entrance door moves steadily as if blown by the wind, and my parents show up, smiling, arm in arm; their heads propped onto one another, stepping in rhythm, passing through the lobby without unlocking eyes, then turning into their room. I pour the coffee slowly into the cup, fill it, lean over and sip straight from the table, then pour the whole coffee left, yes, there is some left, I fill it again to the brim.

Dad comes out waltzing from the room, enters the bathroom and, barely two seconds after, he gets out with a bottle of wine in hand, he comes out dropping his head so he wouldn’t hit it into the frame, lowering his shoulders a bit, then sneaking with flexible steps back into the room, where you can here right away the cooings and smackings. „plink-plink,” I think, plink-plink, and, coffee cup in my hand, I’m turning off the light, yes, I’m turning it off, and get back to the bedroom.

My eyes are misty and heavy, two clumps of glass painted in blue – all is blue: the room is blue, the armchair is blue, the blond kids are blue, my wife is blue, her tormented ass is blue. I sit randomly, where the hell – then I turn on the TV and wonder what time it is. Anyway, the remote is faulty, only one button is working, and it only changes the shades of blue inside the room, combining them with tiresome lightnings in orange and white; I keep pressing the button until it comes to an acceptable green, then I snug into the armchair. The children squirm into the sweater, fidgeting with their mouths full of gluey bread crumbs at the corners of their lips. „Don’t worry,” my wife soothes me, fidgeting too, fidgeting, „it’s just eight o’clock, there’re still ten minutes left, honey, ten minutes,” then she smiles widely, grins widely, he straightens from her waist, comes to me and take slowly my cup with now cold coffee out of my hand, replacing it with a hot one; afterwards, she kisses me and moves off plink-plink. I’m settling down; after all, there’s no point in getting angry; I sit in the armchair though and the kids are on the bed; indeed, one more blanket and pillow would solve the problem; my wife bustles about the room; at some point, she goes out, but gets back in quickly, then starts to feed the crumbs to the kids again; the bag is now half-empty; I raise my cup of coffee, sip the boiling liquid, close my eyes, lean back and it’s only eight o’clock, there’re still ten minutes left, ten minutes she said loosely, and I wonder what that plink-plink means.


Translated into English by Dan BUTUZA

Despre Robert NUŢU

Robert NUŢU a scris 4 articole în Revista de suspans.

Robert Nuţu s-a născut în 24 martie 1978, la Tecuci. După absolvirea liceului în oraşul natal, a studiat filologia la Galaţi. A debutat în 2011 cu microromanul "Îmblânzitorul de cărnuri". În 2013 a publicat romanul "Moartea din colţul ochiului" - Editura A.T.U. În prezent lucrează la un volum de povestiri şi la o seamă de alte proiecte.

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