e-Femoral: the severed head and other stories


Marc Garrett


My father lays stony cold and wrinkled by time's uncaring scars. I could smell his raw shit wallowing around the shuttered room, even though pride was an asset that pushed his chauvinistic attitude to the limits. His eyes penetrated through me and his mouth released an angelic smile conveniently forgetting all the torment that he had created. It was as if he felt forgiven. I suppose he was. He can now claim his honour and of course death forgives. Now I can feel guilty for wishing him dead. A wife beater and a child hater, has turned me into a father hater and a man hater.

I left the hospital room and sat outside not able to deal with the confusion. My mother stayed in the room. I pulled out my small personal radio set from my coat pocket and then inserted the single earphone into my ear. I listened to the music blaring its independence. It felt warm, as if it wanted to be a part of me, putting my mind some place else. It seemed as if the music was deliberately whisking me away out of the battlefield of dysfunction and placing me into an environment of virtual love.

It had escaped me what the day was today, the music suddenly ended. A solemn voice announces the time and the date. 11 o'clock. 11/11/77. A silence followed....

I thought of my father and his relentless one-dimensional onslaught on all our family. Perhaps you've had a father like that too. As the silence reigned its power over me, offering a sense of timelessness. The sensation to cry began to take hold but I couldn't. I had to be strong. For today is a special day. Today I will be strong. I will see all that has to be seen. Eyes are wide open. At this moment in time a window is open and it is waiting for the inevitable change. A feeling dominates giving me the sense that life is going to be different from now on.

I turned the volume up and the silence was loud. The crackle of the radio's white noise cut deep into my cranium.

Two minutes silence...

As I received the signal of that silence it expounded a loudness so penetrating that I began to imagine the ghosts of Slaughterhouse 5, Nagasaki, Hiroshima and all the other killing fields where many men took it upon themselves to make the decision to kill. My witness to all these deaths were via the television screen, my eyes had caught the visual torment of all the extricated souls. People that I have never met and never will. It felt as if I had an affinity with these dead people in my own small way. I also new what it was like to be tortured, exploited by an insecure male. I knew that if my father had a gun and a deluded cause, he would be happy to exterminate others at whim. He would carry any flag for the chance to wield his wrath upon the unfortunate.

Dinner had to be placed on the table at the same time every day at the hour of six o'clock after he had finished a day's work without fail. If my father's demand were not delivered he would stuff my mothers head in the oven. "You're nothing but a fucking, selfish bitch." My brother and I would watch helplessly as this ugly man physically abused our mother.

"You miserable slut!" Like animals we were beaten down into a position of submission. If we tried to stop the violence his fists would hammer into my brother's and mine stomachs until we were sick. Often after the event of being punched in the gut we would huddle together, clinging to each other inside our frightened world of tears. His dad used to beat him to a pathetic whimpering pulp so he thought it natural that he should do the same to us.

Sometimes when hiding in the bedroom. With my crayons I would inscribe the image of my father. He would be held captive in a cage surrounded by strong iron bars. This image was always on my best paper. His face contorted, snarling his vicious anger. The colour was always red mixed with a deathly black. I would slowly scratch him out with a blunt pencil while he was snarling at me. Soon he would be completely gone. It would signify the end of the drawing and the end of him.

Once dad got carried away with hitting me and my face was battered, covered with cuts and bruises. Mother took me to the hospital. I was told not to mention how the marks had come about. Mother told the doctor that I was always getting into scuffles and fighting at school. A male Doctor patched my wounds. Instant fear arrived as I associated the Doctor's authority with my fathers. When mother left me alone my screams filled the ward.

The Doctor asked if my dad loved my mother and me? Love was a word that at the time could not be comprehended. All that I could relate to was that love could mean need. I was certainly needy. So the answer was yes he did love us.

Life turned into a dream as soon as I returned and the family was laughing together again. Country walks became a regular event and mother and father kissed in front of us. This made my brother Steven and I feel happy. It felt as if the pain put upon me was of some significance and influence to this positive outcome. Mother said that Dad was very sorry about how horrible he had been to us all.

However time soon ate away the glorious joys and smiles that we had suddenly grown accustomed to. Pain re-entered killing off the hopefulness that had flourished and turned into just a memory. A past-dream. I soon woke up.

As soon as the marks on my face had faded, my father possessed an urgency to renew them. Arguments filled the air between my parents; mother seemed to be getting stronger against the ogre. Yet he sustained dominance using his predictable unimaginative bullying tactics.

Here my father lies on the hospital bed unable to move. While he was at work Scaffolding collapsed onto him, breaking his spinal cord. Clamps were inserted into his forehead suspended by weights. We were told that a bone at the back of his neck was no longer working. The nerves that usually transmit signals to the arms and legs are now incapable of functioning due to this mishap. Never again will he be able to walk or move his arms and legs. My mother asked the nurses to leave us for a while. They left the room
leaving my mother and I alone with my father.

We sat in silence staring at the once strong monster now helpless at the mercy of fate's deciding conclusion. Pretend tears urged out of my eyes, my crying was mostly caused by uncertainty. Not knowing how one should act I decided to cry because that's what people do.

"Blow your nose Sammy." Mother handed me a handkerchief. I grabbed the piece of pink cotton and placed it over my nose. Muffled, sniffles passively filled the room.

"Is he dead mum?" "No." A shudder leapt into my bones, I cried again. Mother clasped my hand and guided me out of the room into the corridor, shutting the door behind me. Nurses and doctors were rushing by and tending to various broken people in the building. My feet decidedly wandered the length of the corridor, shuffling meekly. So many people in pain. A smell aroused me. A smell that now can only be associated with a hospital. And now my mother also...

I turned round; my mother was standing in the middle of the hallway. Two nurses ran swiftly into my father's hospital room. Mum knelt down onto the sparse, spotless, corridor floor with her arms open. I ran into my mother's arms as she wrapped them around me.

"He's gone son, he's gone."


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