He’s dead. Frozen in time. Etched forever in charcoal, posing with his arm on a chair back. But every time I sit down to watch TV, I feel his gaze. Somehow, I sense he’s letting me know
She sits on the sofa, all smug, acting like this is her house.
this is his house. Okay, it was. But that was,
It’s been thirty-five years since my parents abandoned the house, leaving
twenty years before my family moved in and found,
me facing the wall unable to breathe.
his awful picture in the attic. It was on the day my parents were sweeping the floor that
They stirred up all the dust. (My asthma. The doctors attributed it to stress. They were right, just didn’t know the cause. My father, his fist, and occasionally his…I can’t name it, the shame. Dads aren’t supposed to put that in their sons’ mouths.) That’s when
my mom saw the picture facing the wall. “Look at that gold frame. And the boy. I wonder who he is?” she said when my dad turned it around. “I bet this is worth some money. It looks like an antique.” Everything old was an antique, and every antique was valuable to my mother. She insisted,
they took me downstairs into the house. MY house. But it was so different. Their furniture. Their smells.
“Let’s hang it above the fireplace.” After some research, my mother, who considers herself an amateur historian, told us, “He tripped and fell down the stairs. Cracked his head on the marble-tiled floor.” (We still have the marble floor. I dramatized a fall down the steps one day to project where he might have landed. I never step there.) “According to the paper,” my mother added, “his parents were wealthy. High society.”
I died one day when my father was…well, you know, and my mother had returned from her afternoon social earlier than expected. She had come upstairs so quietly. My dad was on the top stair, I was one step down. Eyes to the ceiling, he stroked my head, moaning how good it felt. She found us like this, my father’s pants at his ankles. My mother was screaming, “How could you do this to our son?” Arms flailing, she knocked my father off balance. He fell forward, causing me to fall backwards.
“He died,” she continued, “from a brain hemorrhage.
I never woke up after my head slammed into the floor.
“How sad,” my mother said. “The paper claimed they were unable to live with the loss of their son and moved out of town.”
After my death, they stopped talking to each other and hid my portrait in the attic.
How odd they left his picture behind.
Ashamed, they fled town.
He watches the house all day long like he knows something I don’t.
I see things she can’t.
Constance Malloy’s flash has been anthologized, nominated for Best Microfiction, and shortlisted for Fractured Lit’s Micro contest. She is published in Bending Genres, New Flash Fiction Review and The Daily Drunk, and is forthcoming in Sledgehammer, talking about strawberries all of the time, and Rejection Letters. She is currently a fiction editor at New Flash Fiction Review. Follow her at constancemalloy.com and @ConstanceMall13