Grandfather (Long Poem - 821 Words)
As a child he was supposed to have been my protector, ‘Pops’ I called him.
To the world outside he was a smiling, kindly man; always the first to offer a helping hand.
But I knew better…
Late at night, when mother was at work, he would come to my room.
Tell me how much he loved me.
Explain how I could show that I loved him.
I was just a kid, what could I do?
After too many of these nights, I went to my mother, stood there trembling...
Finally, I managed to spit it out, the filth that I’d endured, the horror visited upon me in the dark.
And she refused to believe.
With dead eyes, eyes that could not meet mine, and with lying lips, she said that I must be mistaken. That Pops was a good man, and he loved us both.
Years later, I realised that mother knew; that she too had endured visits in the dead of night.
But that could not excuse her.
She knew, and she could have stopped it, but fear, or shame, stopped her.
And so the visits continued.
When I was old enough, big enough to wield a knife, I dreamed of cutting off Pops’ head; like that of an ogre in one of my storybooks.
But, deep down, I knew that the death of my grandfather would not take away the pain, would not end the nightmares.
I was broken, my soul could not be mended, and so I devised a plan.
Despised at school, ridiculed for always having my head in a book, I kept my head down.
I studied and I escaped the town that had been my prison.
Years passed by; years in which I rarely saw mother, hardly ever saw Pops.
As colleagues went home for the holidays, there was no smiling family at the fireside for me.
I stayed in the lab, working, and the pieces came together.
Until, one day, the test rig disappeared!
Years of suppressing my tears, of not talking, came to my aid.
The test rig disappeared, and I didn’t move, didn’t shout in triumph.
I just smiled to myself, sure that my plan was near to fruition.
Pops was long dead, mother was in a home, my fallen arches were a testament to a youth long flown.
But Pops still haunted my dreams, still caused me to wake up crying.
And he always would.
A long weekend, the laboratory empty as I assembled the components, parts of a machine that I had conceived decades before.
The other researchers had no idea what they had been working on, all those years.
No time for tests, no need for goodbyes, I set the dials, engaged the flywheel, and blinked out of existence.
The machine brought me here, to a familiar street.
I stand outside that house, a building that, to me, has always been full of darkness, and I’m surprised by how bright, how new, how clean it looks.
The comforting feel of the knife, smooth and cool against my flesh, reassures me as I walk up the path.
Theory talks about the Grandfather Paradox, but I don’t believe it, what can the universe do?
Strike me down with lightning?
Propel me back to the lab?
I have travelled through time, and no theoretical restriction is going to stop me.
I walk up the path and past the apple tree, strangely small, newly planted by Pops, then I slip down by the side of the house and into the always open back door.
As I enter the kitchen Pops jumps to his feet.
I pull out the knife and he stops.
Unusually for him, he has no words, no slick excuses.
Words fail me too: not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought about what I would say, how I would accuse my abuser; but now, here, there is nothing to say.
Before he has a chance to move, I strike.
The blade sinks deep and his face goes slack, the way mother’s face went slack, that day so long ago (ago?)
When I told her (tell her?)
What Pops had done.
The young-faced, smooth-faced, two-faced, abuser, slips silently to the floor; blood pooling around him.
As his heart flutters and slows, I feel my own heart fading, like the propellers of a plane struggling to bite on air too thin.
I wonder if, in that far off old people’s home, mother’s heart is also fighting, straining to beat just one last time.
My blood drenched hand seems to phase out of existence, flesh becoming transparent, while, on the floor, Pops gurgles once more.
And, as three hearts beat their last, I know that he will not touch my unborn mother, that he will never come to my bed, to break the child that I was.
And, in that last instant, before all is remade, I... smile.
Podcast on StarShipSofa Episode 229 (March 2012)
First printed publication “The Poring Dark” (September 2012)
Audio Version: http://dennislanebooks.com/#/grandfather-audio/4564366356