THE CHILDREN OF OTHER MEN - RICHARD GODWIN
Love is the most dangerous force on the planet, not hate. More atrocious acts are perpetrated in its name than in the name of all the other gods that govern human behaviour.
Envy eats away at a man’s soul.
Hate makes men violent.
But love corrupts outwards from a wound. It may do so entirely.
The erosion is both silent and inevitable.
It is the stealth flower with seductive scent that kills.
For in its hallway of mirrors lie the thousand images of yourself you burned and burn to be and those who know how to caress those silent places steal in there and lie drinking the fresh blood from your soul.
For in all the songs that ooze from your radio, and all the depictions of love in all its forms, there is no common ground.
You enter the quicksand.
And so it was that Eduardo Silvestrone entered the newly adorned kitchen of his $5 million house and shot his wife and her sister through the head at point blank.
His hand did not tremble as he held the Glock, nor did he shake when he inspected them for a pulse.
He had spent everything on adorning his immaculate home which was admired by everyone. But no one knew him.
He had been shaking for a week before the incident, a fact observed by his employees at the car plant he owned and had started working at years ago before he acquired it to support a wife thought by many to be a mercenary whore.
He had been shaking that morning when he got up, opened a bottle of Tequila, poured it down the sink, and cursed everyone he could name in the short breath that held the oxygen in his lungs before he vomited bile at the cheap hotel where he had been hiding before he carried out what he later referred as Apocalypse One.
Apocalypse Two could wait.
Eduardo had waited long enough.
Waited wanting death.
Waited while his wife lied.
While she shopped and taunted him.
While he worked.
And learned that love was a bruise that became infected.
And if the infection was a lie, then the lie needed to be eliminated.
But what if the lie was embedded in his heart with silk knots?
Eduardo decided the name of love was not worth the parchment it was first written on and that humanity was a whore with a tattooed conscience that sold its soul for narcissism and flowers.
For the first time in years, he considered himself.
He weighed himself up in all his propensities as he had been weighed up.
He had small brown eyes that lit up when he felt hope. He had scars on his back from where his mother used to beat him.
Sometimes she would burn her cigarettes into his skin while her lovers watched and they would fuck in front of him as a child.
That was before they broke his bones so badly in different places that he was taken to the home.
His mother would entertain different men at weekends after his father left them.
He didn’t remember him, just a face and a voice that he had no connection to. He wanted a father and would imagine him, drawing clear lines that etched a face into the darkness. But they faded again and again until he gave up his childish doodling, knowing it was the indulgence of hopelessness. He was orphaned by men and was lost within the silent perplexity of his own gender and had no one to lean on. Eduardo hated Sundays.
They were worse at the home where he was treated with the dumb indifference reserved for animals by carers with not even the satisfaction of a decent salary.
He would often get a taste in his mouth that he thought was the memory of some exotic fruit he had eaten as a boy.
And he would try to identify the tang of it, but all he could remember were his mother’s beatings and hiding in the dark with a face so sticky with tears he wondered if his body had lost all its salt.
There was no fruit served at the table of the home, and he longed for the exotic taste to return and connect him to who he was. Even at the weekends, the food was always tinned and cold. And so it was he gave up on the thought of nourishment. And hated Sundays.
Until he met Mariella.
It was, he said, an epiphany.
He was walking in the park where the summer flowers were dying and he saw her in a lavender jacket.
And in that colour there seemed more life and vibrancy than any petal.
But it was her perfume that caught him.
Exotic and full of promise.
She seemed to reside in its smell, as if it was the signature of her being.
He did not even feel the small and slender hook pierce his skin.
She turned to look at him and, in that instant that stretched to some infinity of knowledge and the sum of all he was, he felt trust for the first time.
And he could not name it, nor his profound need for solace, and so he fell into her trap.
She asked him for directions to a place he knew and in that knowledge he felt important and assured and he suggested a drink.
They sipped cool absinthe while the sun died and he held her in his shaking heart, like a bird he had caught by the sea.
They conducted an old fashioned courtship during which he would often enjoy Mariella’s smiles.
He later learned these were the glances of contempt.
He asked her to marry him.
And so began the only happiness he had ever known.
And it existed only by virtue of the fact that she was deluding him. For she had learned her ways at the hand of such a deep addiction to betrayal that she spun lies from a hand held loom.
She would often lick her lips, running a perfect tongue along their spotless contours, a gesture thought by Eduardo to be seductive.
In time, he understood it was nothing more than the anticipation of the pain she would inflict.
And Eduardo loved her deeply and Mariella used him and sank her hungry teeth into his soul.
They bought a house and soon Eduardo’s hard work benefited them enough for his avaricious wife to be fulfilled. They upgraded while he took on extra hours and she abused a series of lovers, who she enjoyed humiliating at destinations from which she could never be traced.
Eduardo brought up two children who he loved dearly.
Everyone commented on what a loving father he was.
He seemed equipped with a deep ability to love them. Not for what he wanted from them but for who they were, as if he had intact within him a reservoir of giving he had never received.
Their real fathers never knew of their existence.
The morning she died so unceremoniously, Mariella told her sister, ‘Men do what I want. I always exploit a situation to its maximum.’
Her sister hated her but used her for her own means, listening to Mariella’s endless ostentation of her vices.
She was Mariella’s only confidante and never saw the gun coming.
Eduardo found out his wife’s poison by returning home early one day with a bunch of roses and hearing her talk to her lover on the phone.
He looked at the petals in his hand and he felt small and obvious and he realised there was nothing exotic in the flowers he bought and that he would only ever be an ordinary victim who was of no interest or use to anyone.
He hired a detective, who found out the sordid details and handed him pictures of his wife in various compromising poses that showed Eduardo a side to her he had never seen and he vowed to kill her there and then.
DNA tests proved he had been fathering the children of other men and that is what hurt him most deeply.
On the way home from work one day, he bought the Glock from a store.
He walked in through the back door, startled his wife and blew her brains two metres out of her open skull onto the new wallpaper.
Her sister’s open mouth reminded him of a cunt and he opened her head like a rotten piece of meat.
Then he poured himself a beer.
He did not consider crying.
He did not even look at her prone body as she lay there. He stepped over her lifeless corpse and drove away into a deep blue skyline.
He thought about love, about its strange machinations.
He thought that it was a lie invented to manipulate and enslave and he decided to implement the second stage.
His children had to die.
They were staying with friends, a fact he had arranged as he planned this out.
He collected them without looking at them and drove them to the hotel where he had booked a room. He ignored their questions about what was wrong with him.
But when he got to the hotel, he looked at them and he felt love and knew he could not do it.
That was when he despised himself the most.
He thought of his father.
He tried to remember the distant smell he had once associated with him but it was like a faded dream.
As he sipped some beer, the tang from his childhood filled his mouth and he knew what it was he used to taste. It was not exotic, it was the seepage of his childhood wounds dying in his throat.
He had been haunted by the familiar memory of pain all these years. And he had mistaken it for nourishment.
And Eduardo held his children in his arms knowing that they were not his and that ownership was the scorpion in a man’s soul and he walked into the bathroom where he shot himself in the head.
The last thing he heard as he lay there tasting blood was a love song on the radio.
One of his children had put it on and he tried to follow the words, but they were distant and he listened to his dying heart fade, knowing it had already died.
BIO: Richard Godwin lives and writes in London, where his dark satire ‘The Cure-All’, about a group of confidence tricksters, has been produced on the stage. He has just finished writing a crime novel. His writing appears regularly at Disenthralled and Gloom Cupboard, among many other magazines. He has a Twitter account and can be found there under the User Name Stanzazone. You can check out his portfolio here. His first crime novel will be published later this year.
His blog, RICHARD GODWIN, is the home of the Chin Wag At The Slaughterhouse Interviews (which, in this editor’s opinion, deserve as many awards as can be heaped upon them).
The Irish Times’ Crime Fiction ‘Best Of’ 2018
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