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The Tempest

It is the family that takes care of us every day.

A short story by Pamela

Painting by Helen Chen

It is the family that takes care of us every day.

It is the family that silently supports us behind the scenes.

It is the family that always gives us understanding and respect.

It is the family that can withstand all misunderstandings and injuries.

Emerson said that the home is the kingdom of the father, the mother’s world, and the children’s paradise. But we all understand that much bad luck and misunderstanding often disturb the life of a happy family. When misunderstandings comes again, what will happen to the tempest between the father and the son?

Hoult walked slowly in the street light as if his legs were leaded. At dusk, he looked at the shadows of buildings on the cemented ground around him and felt a little cold and hungry. He wanted to sing some songs to delight himself, but he let out a feeble groan instead.

He didn’t want to go home. The thought of home made him feel disgusted. Perhaps the term ‘disgust’ should not be associated with home. Nonetheless in Hoult’s eyes, no other term seemed more suitable. We all know human beings have a big difference with other animals and, that is, complicated emotion. We smile happily but, the very next second we cry. We argue insanely, but the next minute we miss each other badly. Emotion is intangible and capricious. It leads us to acknowledge myriad of things and is capable of building the world we live in. Social animals as we are, controlling our emotion is quite hard work, for everything that happens around us is unpredictable. Hoult’s feelings are a good example.

At the same time the previous day, Hoult had seen a decadent man sitting at the end of a lane. The man was injecting something into his veins. The lane was so dark and deep that there seemed to be a beast lurking around with its bloody mouth open. When Houth approached nearer, the man looked calm and joyful, as if he was relieved to receive a good news. The man was undoubtedly a drugster, who was nearly squeezed by the crazy drug dealers, thought Hoult. He was absolutely the kind of person Hoult hated the most. Drugs made him disgustful. With these thoughts in mind, Hoult took a few steps forward and looked closely at the man only to find that he was his dearest father. He could not be more familiar.

Hoult’s life was calm and was devoid of any storm. Senior high school student as Hoult was, he used to have a normal but happy family. His father was an excellent architect, and his mother was a housewife who quit the translation work to take care of her dearest husband and child. This great architect was too busy to have enough time to be with his wife and child, but he could support this well-off family and gave them a smooth and steady life. Hoult was quiet outstanding and always scored well. He loved Chemistry and worked hard on it, hoping that he could be excellent in academe in the future. He studied hard and his parents gave him much love, understanding and support. Everything seemed nice and comfortable.

However, a storm may arise from a clear sky and something unexpected may happen any time. Half a year ago, Hoult’s mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Everything was too late. After battling with the disease for long, the elegant and gentle woman could not endure the suffering any longer and breathed her last a few months later.

Her death proved to be disastrous to the two men. Their life lost its backup and spiritual sustenance. Hoult always remembered his mother’s last words, “Take care of my man and my little boy for me, please. I beg you both be safe and sound. Your dad can go through my leave hard, so you should be braver than him.” But the reality was that his father seemed to be a different person. Go-slow, dead drunkenness, smoking addition, unexplained weight loss and severe anxiety and insomnia, all of these made his father grow older and weaker and his life began to be filled with chaos. Chaos mixed with endless grief nearly pulled the man to the ground.

Then Hoult witnessed the astonishing scene at dusk. It led to an unacceptable suspect in his mind.  In order to look for the truth and convince his conjecture, Hoult slid into his father’s bedroom silently in the middle of the night. His dear daddy was fast asleep, and he looked tired and disturbed. Hoult tried his best to make minimum noise so that he would not wake his father up. Hoult groped here and there in the dark and found a briefcase on the sofa. It was made of leather and was ice-cold and smooth to touch. As he hugged the briefcase close to his bosom, Hoult felt the cold of the briefcase pierce through his heart. He then took a deep breath and put his hand into it. All he could find were papers, a wallet, pens, a pocket watch with his mother’s photo on it and a notebook. The items were quite common for an architect to possess. Hoult kept searching and finally laid his hands on a cool glass bottle with some unknown liquid and a plastic pack with a cylindrical object in it. It seemed to be a syringe.

Hoult lacked the experience to judge for himself whether the unknown liquid was heroin or not, but he couldn’t draw another conclusion. He held the pocket watch in his hands carefully for it deserved his cherishing throughout his life, Hoult thought. The old days of family reunion flashed brightly in his memories. His childhood flashed back in his mind – he was watching TV plays and a drug dealer was killed because of drug addiction. He remembered discussing about drug addiction with  the wisest man in his heart, his father.

“Daddy, what’s drug?” asked Hoult.

“Drugs are the evilest angel in this brave new world,” his father replied.

“Aren’t those people know how bad drugs are?” Hoult asked surprised.

“Certainly. They all know it deeply because they suffer the torture day and night,” his father retorted.

“Hold on. What pain will they undertake?” Hoult asked curious.

“They don’t want to eat, don’t want to talk, don’t want to work, become as thin as lath and easily lose their temper and become sad. They are sick and painful if they leave drugs, which can symbolize their life. Their family, relationship and work are messed up, even destroyed. Health is ruined, mind is destroyed and morality is lost. Their final choice is prison or death. Suicide, you know. Drugs drive them to wreck lives.”

“Jesus! How horrible!” Hoult couldn’t help and let out a shriek. “I swear I will push anything and anyone related to drugs away from me all through my life. I hate this, I swear,” Hoult wondered aloud.

His father patted his head and shoulder with a smile to express his satisfaction.

“Why they take the bull by the horns? Aren’t t they afraid?” Hoult asked still not convinced.

“No, I think. Drugs may mean fun and cure for them. They are too desperate to face the true colors of their suffering. Drugs bring them fantastic imagination. All they receive is fancy. It’s a way to escape. Actually, I admire the dreamland. This is also why so many people lose themselves in drugs.”

“Will you lose yourself in drugs one day, daddy?” Hoult asked innocently.

“Nah. Moreover, you mustn’t,” his father assured.

“Promise? Don’t be a liar,” Hoult insisted.

“Promise, dude. I will never ever lie to you,” his father smiled and replied.

Hoult stared at his father’s face for a long time and numerous thoughts began to rush through his mind. Until then, he looked gentle and kind. In spite of this, Hoult still could not ignore what happened in that lane. Hoult wanted to find some evidence to convince himself that his father was innocent. Of course, he failed. He found it ridiculous.

“Hey, dad, are you painful? Just like you told me when I was a naive kid?” Hoult wanted to jolt his father awake and ask. But instead, he tiptoed out of the room.

A few days later an incident happened that changed Hoult forever.

“Hello, is that Hoult’s father? Hoult has fought with his three classmates severely and hurt bad. Would you please come to school as soon as possible?” Hoult’s father received a call from the school.

“OK, I will. But why did they fight? Hoult can’t be so……,” Hoult’s father asked confused.

“They teased him and played jokes about his mother’s death and you,” the voice on the other side said apologetically.

“Ok, I will be there as soon as possible,” Hoult’s father said and rushed to the school. Hoult was in the Principal’s office when his father reached. They both sat in silence. There were some scars on Hoult’s face, neck and arms and they looked serious. His shirt was torn, just like a big mouth laughing ironically. That was the first time that Hoult argued and fought with others.

After a few moments of silence, Hoult’s father frowned, took Hoult’s hand on his and asked apprehensively,“Painful?”

Hoult just sat there without saying anything.

“I will take you to the hospital. You are bleeding. And we can talk about what happened little by little. Okay?” he told Hoult with a smile.

“Oh, wait, are you hungry? Aren’t you,” he winked and chuckled.

Then both bid goodbye to the Principal and were about to leave. But his father was taken aback when Hoult pushed him away with all his strength. The tall man staggered backwards and looked at Hoult in bewilderment. He followed Hoult with hurried steps.

Illustration by Helen Chen

Hoult walked into the school garden and sat on a bench, tears flowing down his cheeks. His father occupied the space next to Hoult. After a long silence, Hoult finally decided to speak. Wiping his tears he began, “I used to trust deeply that you work so hard because you want to earn more money for my mom to cure her disease. But now? What are you doing? You always say that you are too busy to stay with me and take good care of me. Though I miss you and I sincerely think I need you deeply, I understand you and I bear it. Alright, now the whole truth has come out. Be a man, please. Tell me! What the hell have you done?”

His father’s smile soon transformed to a wince. The “irresponsible junkie” opened his mouth to say something but failed.

“You are taking drugs! There is no doubt since you have become slimmer and slimmer. Heroin? Crystal meth? The drug dealer is so kind, hum? What a great helper! Your life has such a good spiritual sustenance that you can go through the pain! You know, I fight with them for their teasing. It is useless to fight with them because they are right. You big liar! You lied to me! You used to say what? ‘Nah. Moreover, you mustn’t.’ How ridiculous, hum? How dare you do this nowadays?”

Hoult glared at his father as if he were a nasty stranger. His eyes welled up with tears. His father, the confused teacher’s eyes turned hazy too. Hoult tried to calm himself down and went on. “Dad, daddy, you used to be my hero. But now no more. I don’t have a dad, and I don’t want to accept you as my dad. You killed my mom. It is all your fault! Come on, throw away your hypocrisy. You should admit; it is now useless, and you are the damn killer who is not worthy of forgiveness.”

Hoult’s father, the well-dressed and haggard man, wanted to say something, but finally, he closed his eyes and began to tremble. His lips paled and turned the color temple.

Hoult shouted hoarsely, snatched the briefcase from his father and unstuck it. He then poured out all things in the briefcase on the bench. A little glass bottle rolled down and broke. The liquid spread quickly and wetted a case history book laying open on the floor. Hoult picked up the broken bottle and examined it carefully. It was labeled “Pain Killer”. The case history book was titled “Malignant Intramedullary Spinal Cord Tumor” and the date of the physical examination mentioned on it dated back to three months prior to his mother’s death. Upon seeing these, Hoult felt silent.

After a moment of silence, his father spoke, “Sorry. I don’t know why you … Sorry. You are right, all my fault. But please … I am not a liar. I never intended to hurt you and your mom … Sorry, my little buddy. Sorry, I’m late.,” Hoult’s father apologized and burst into sobs. Hoult too burst into tears. He was very confident that his inference was perfectly right, but it was just a baseless doubt. He shook his head madly while he saw his father, the man who loved him with all his heart and soul, fall to the floor slowly. He wanted to hold his father’s hand just like a child who was close to him. But it was too late. The coat in his father’s hands fell on the floor. The dust spiralled up slowly and then landed on the coat, dyeing it white.

About the Story

The above story teaches us how we suspect our near and dear ones everyday without trying to get to the bottom of reality. We are afraid of confronting our loved ones because we fear losing them. So, we end up in an endless loop of new situations, guessing, suspecting and fearing. We believe without a shadow of doubt that we are smart enough to see through the affairs of human life.

The truth is Schrodinger’s cat. Before opening the box, we can’t know whether the cat is dead or not. Before opening the box, the answer is always unknown. However, there is one answer, that is, the universal truth is that we all need faith and hope to move on. Otherwise, our pursuit of it will consume us entirely.

Suffering is longer than life. Regret is more painful than suffering. All we are able to know is that there is no sound after this tempest. This is the outcome of grief and suspect.

About the Author

Pamela is from China. She is a student of Beijing Normal University and her major is Chinese Language and Literature.

Transition, acrylic paint on canvas 24×18” by Helen Chen

About the Artist

Hello, my name is Helen Chen. I’m an artist from China. I’ve done a bunch of acrylic paintings and have also made many miniature clay figures. Miniature food sets, desserts, earrings and charms.

My idea of transition, how the term is being used in the submission outline, is different for everyone. Everyone has their own path, and their own clock. We’re at different periods of our lives, thus the clock, and physically at different points in relation to other people. I got some influence from physics. Relativity. We see how the lives of others move in relation to our own. 

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