Help, Momma, I’m Twisted
By Evan Mielke
The morning hefts a peculiar fragility, a tickle of wilt and time. In room, gone the waft of blue jeans, marijuana shake and life. It’s just null air, now.
He stirs in bed, and the way his orbitals loosen, you can tell he’s well. He’s a barely-adult with a baby-fat jaw and a fuzz of buttermilk hair.
His father had always liked the name Abraham, not because of the biblical connotations, but for its weight and syllabi. His mother chuckled when he brought it up, her stretched belly swaying.
“My boy will be a doctor, not a prophet.”
And like that, at umbilical-snip, he was Jonathan.
“Three syllables, dear. Like you said, a name with ‘mass.’”
His father told him of it a day before his eighteenth birthday, after the pink scorch of the Midwest Sun cauterized the front-lawn.
“You know your mom chose your name, right? I hated it, especially that cursive j, that abomination of a letter. She still uses it, swirls the damn tail and everything.”
He breathed the motes of cicada wings, pulling at his tepid underarms.
“Abraham was your real name, your truth.”
Jon couldn’t recall his response. But the look on his father’s face, cliffs of cheeks dejected in a grand undercurrent of loss, it latched to him.
Testing tendons, he is up only semi-haltingly. He inhales the neutral air, shoving the alienness of it aside.
Jon checks the time and he is on it, the knowledge of a leisurely rise letting his tensions like a shaky-knee calf at teat.
He wears his sweats and a shirt from high school, a lopsided cartoon lobo with a blunted-tooth grin; a rag fit only for sleep.
But Sarah liked the shirt, she told him to wear it, researched it and everything. Lucas Lupine was a Canadian public access kid’s show, canceled a decade earlier. In spitting VCR and chromatic foam, it combined backwoods safety and the dangers of meth labs. When she told him, he had laughed for what seemed like hours.
Still, he never went out with it, but now relied on it at home; pants shed after class, t-shirt flipped to it. His mother, loose bun and all, across from an edifice of Belgian waffles, poked fun at its stitches and fade.
“My, a wardrobe change! You look so fresh, so refined.”
He rolled his eyes and an O’Keeffe bloomed blueberry, two at her and one at the china, but retained a smirk. This was the constant, their relational stasis.
Jon rotates the knob, lacquered brass spray flaked in a thumb a pointer-print. It has always been that way, this handle.
Yet, when his pupils snap to prick-pins and the beams from the glass-filtered UV baste his nerves, all is off.
He thinks it’s his eyes, a faulty rod, a fizzling cone that tells him of the carpet, an inch longer and a mile whiter. Feet lain gingerly on its plush, he is at the mouth of the ninety-turn stairs.
There were eighteen steps at sleep, nineteen now. As his knuckles dust the banister, they find valleys, etched, twining maple leaves. The divot from his seventh birthday on the fifth support is puttied. It’s a quick-glance spackle, only one dollop of hardly-matching paint.
Jon levels his breathing, a bubble of homeostasis blossoming through his rolling boil. He’s in a roving daydream, this he repeats.
He’s somehow dropped the reigns, but the horse kept trotting. All he needs is a snap, a spike, and he’ll be back.
At the foot of the odd stairs, he receives it.
A girl, a puppy of a thing, whirls around the corner. Her violet scrunchie forces an oak- streaked ponytail, her mouth a glued grin.
Jon reels. She stops, and her ears prickle as she sees him, a strange joyousness on her snow-pea lips.
“Are you daddy’s friend?”
“No, no. No. Are you lost?”
“This is daddy’s house, I don’t get lost here, anymore.”
And she chuckles availingly and twirls up and behind him. She tosses an aura of linens and fruit-punch as she passes.
The carpet is still white. Jon stands on the stairs for some time. Creakingly, a cog clinks and he knows he’s awake.
He walks through the living room, ignoring the absences, the additions: the baby Grand, shag-ish rug and knotted walking stick, the blue-jade lions (“Ming!” an appraiser had blurted) -- gone -- no portraits now, not one.
Foregoing the kitchen, now stainless cold, he throws open the porch-door and stumbles out onto the Sun-drunk lawn.
And when his eyes adjust, they reflect a blend of familiar, of swells of grass and posts of fences that he knows he’s seen. But it’s all wrung, now, like someone bled the whites and blacks, forgot bleach and dryer-sheets. Flipped a bucket full of lawn ornaments on it all, suburban antiseptic.
Jon is on his knees and the grass is grass, and the grass is cool but the way he retches you can tell that he can’t quite put his finger on what’s happening.
And in his mind there is a screeching tumult that builds to crescendo, balances, and plummets him to sleep.
A man is prodding Jon, Lucas in the canine.
“Who are you, guy?”
He sees a garden-gnome, overhead an inverted swatch of beard and thick-rimmed glasses, a kind nose.
Jon sits up rodent-quick.
“This, this is my house. What are you doing? What, where are my parents?”
The man’s brow furrows, asterisks at the peak of his bridge.
“What’d you take? This your first time toking? Moli? Ex? Acid? It was probably acid. Man, that shit it’ll launch you for a loop, aileron style. Can you stand?”
His palms tremor.
“What’s the address, here?”
“Yeah, you’ll probably need to get your parents to pick you up. What are you, nineteen? Can you call them?”
“Oh, right. 1416 Cloudy Creek.”
Jon is twenty-two and that’s his address. He is sure of it. He stands, backing away from the man.
“I’m going to go use m – your phone – to call them.”
And he silkily shoulders his way into his home, bastardized as it is. At the caress of the poly-plastic receiver, he considers three digits, disregards the notion with a tongue gnaw, and dials a hardwired seven.
Writhing through cochlea, a leagues-away ring, twice, a metallic plunk. A slipstream of a voice.
“Brackins and Blight, extension?”
Jazz burbles from the micro-speaker. Sarah showed him, with freckled thighs, that it was the best to move to. She liked the arrhythmic groans of sax, the irregular squeals, his pelvis keeping time. She had gasped at the pillowcase that night, Ayler! Ayler! at her throat.
A maple-rough voice at the other end.
“This is Brackins.”
“Dad, it’s Jon. What’s with the house? The little girl, the man with the beard?”
There is a withered hiss from the firm, a spitting ventilator on hospice legs.
“You’re a fuck. You’re filth. It’s not enough, is it?”
Jon cannot even splutter. The voice is blunt with rage and an aching spectrum of sorrow.
“During the day, I don’t think of my son, my, my Abe. Twenty years! My respite is here and you are cold, you are cruel to burden an old man, remind him of the things he has lost. In my twisted dreams, that’s when I see him. Who are you, Mammon, too timid to cackle at my chest?”
From the phone’s circuited sickle, a laugh, a spiraling emission of level-by-level, decade-mortared grief.
“Dad. Dad. It’s okay, I’m here.”
“Oh yes, yes. Do continue. Has Beelzebub joined us? You know, I was waiting for this call. I knew, I knew you’d gloat. You fuck. You fucks.”
“I’m coming over.”
“Delightful, I’ll buzz you up. Shall I arrange the conference room for all seven of you? I do hope Leviathan can make it.”
“Just don’t go anywhere, I’ll be there in a second.”
“Exaggeration, my dear Lucifer? How unlike you.”
The receiver is cradled and Jon is three steps to a Volvo in the driveway. The bearded man is in the doorway he had painted a burnt crimson, years before. Jon remembers it as off silver.
Inexplicably, the Volvo yields, musters to life, and reverses.
Sarah had told him, with brunette waves smelted red, that for the first time (admittedly hyperbole), she was genuinely happy. Jon remembered it felt like his brain was smiling, folds and gray matter crevasses quivering in a bottomed-out frequency. He could not concretely recall the first month they had dated. All he retrieved were snippets: Teak lightning irises, fast-forward hours, a laugh turned giggle and snort.
He had never tried to quell it; he was a goner from day one.
“Your father works here?”
Jon’s fingers were misty and cool, Sarah’s dry and winding.
“It’s his firm.”
She has these star-flecks of pigment on hillock cheekbones, at her chin and eyelids, her lobes.
“This place is enormous, five stories? And your ho-”
“He likes it that way. Keeps us “grounded,” or something like that. Won’t tell me how much he makes.”
“Have you worked for him?”
Jon thumbed his nose.
“I won’t. He wouldn’t let me.”
They traipsed up the onyx marble, a wine-glass tinkling, bronzed slabs sliding, past secretary and religiously-Pledged desk to a monolith of a door.
In its loom, Sarah kissed him and she tasted like violets.
Jon is at the same door, now. In its oak, a great tree, carved, Yggdrasil, pagan as all else. Odin with grimy mane is eviscerated on its girth. He could never help but notice his smirk, like he was privy to a secret, some grand, cosmic mirth: his fingers tearing at his coils, dipshit lip-tilt the whole way through.
Odin was a silly man, a silly thought.
The handles at broad trunk, an aqua-green sterling, are pebbly to his fingertips. His father polished it himself, tri-weekly.
Yet the door is burnished with dust, rabbit-fluffs of skin and earth. Odin’s mouth is spider-wired with the stuff.
Jon splits the slab and the hinges protest. A subdued light squirms into the hallway. He steps inside.
It is unpleasantly cold, domes of condensation amassing at the fringes of the vaulted windows. Outside, the sky is slated, tabletops of cirrus grasping at the wane of moon.
The gray hurls shadows on the over-so-concave bookshelves, embossed Vs and Xs, too many Is filling its space. There are no titles, just numbers.
A mural over the desk mounts the roughly rhombus office. It is shrouded, thick, violent lines visible, clouded detail.
Jon’s father is at the desk, head sunk.
“Don’t be shy, now.”
His pitch is crushed.
“We’re old friends, the best of, even.”
Jon starts forward, Lucas’s bobble eyes folding to the lunar glow.
“Wha, what are you saying?”
And his father looks up. He is flaky, knuckle-dusted sockets, ghost roots and ice-blue capillary shoots at his temples.
Trenches dug in his cornea, kindle and gout. A light buds at optic nerve and expands.
“Like the day they took you.”
In a finger-snap, the luminesce chokes. There is only ink, now. And his lips peel and Jon can see his retreated gums, teeth strangled and thimble-narrow. He claws at his breast.
“Take it! Fill your belly! I have no use for it, shade, not since the day I shook your claw. Let it broil, snake-tongue, we’ll see if I howl!”
“It’s me, Dad, it’s me. Yesterday, I saw you yesterday.”
He extends his fungal-cap knees, his frame masticated, a chondruled husk.
“No, no. He writhes with you, you! I will see him, in righteous form. I will see them all.”
There is a .45 in his palm, a desk-drawer hideout, gone from passive to aggressor. It is under jaw and thumb cocked.
Jon has too much gravity on his shoulder blades.
“Where’s Mom? Sarah? What, what’s happened? Wh-“
His uvula crackles.
“I missed it all, under covers and asleep for how, how many years?”
And his father, Isaac Brackins, grins with so much readiness that it spills from his ducts in tortured rivulets.
“Twenty too many. An Aesop deal.”
The moon is out and Jon can see the mural. Viscous, swirling oils: Abraham of Torah, Isaac of Scripture on rock-top altar. There is love in their eyes. Background flitting, a lamb, brush stamps of cotton, grazing. Overhead, a nebula of bronze and honey, at its bottom border, a wolfish maw, pining upward.
There is a blood-smoke plume and a gourd-like detonation.
Lucas’s glands dribble in ecstasy, soul-lust overtaken.