Suffused with Light ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Phillip Call awoke at the usual time, washed the sleep from his eyes, brushed his teeth and dressed himself. He went into the kitchen, expecting to see his mother sitting at the table drinking coffee, but she wasn’t there. Neither was she on the couch in the living room, in her bedroom, or anyplace else in the house. She hadn’t told him she was going to be gone. He wondered where she was but he wasn’t worried.
He was twelve years old and in the seventh grade. He didn’t like school very much but he tried to make the best of it. He was a fair student, better in English and reading than in math and science. In a few years when he was finished with school, he wanted to go into the navy and have a different kind of life where he would see places like Italy and South America.
He never knew his father. His mother had been married, but not to Phillip’s father, and then the man she was married to left and was seen no more. He knew she wasn’t a very good mother. She took pills, chain-smoked cigarettes, and drank whiskey and wine. Some days she didn’t even get out of bed or she laid on the couch all day in front of the TV. She had moods where she cried and yelled at him for no reason, only because he was there, and at those times he tried to stay away from her.
He had a piece of toast with jelly and set out to school. He was going to write his mother a note for her to see when she came home, but she would know that he got himself up and off to school and would be home at the usual time.
The day at school was uneventful. In his usual quiet way, he didn’t speak to anybody and nobody spoke to him. He had a spelling test, on which he scored a hundred percent, and a math quiz. Two eighth grade boys got into a fistfight in the cafeteria and had to be pulled apart. He spent the hour in study hall reading out-of-town newspapers on sticks. All in all, a very routine day. Nothing to write home about.
When he got home, his mother still wasn’t there. He looked for a note that she might have written, but there wasn’t any. He dug up something to eat for supper, did his homework and watched TV until bedtime. He expected her to come home all evening but she didn’t.
The next morning when he got up, she was sitting on the couch in her bathrobe. She was crying, smoking her Camels and drinking shots of whiskey. When he walked into the room, she didn’t look at him.
“Where were you, mother?” he asked. “I was worried.”
“I couldn’t take care of a kid,” she said, sobbing. “I hated to do it but I couldn’t go on any longer.”
He stood right in front of her and still she didn’t look at him.
“I’ll have to tell them it was an accident. That I found him that way.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
“I didn’t really poison him. He took those pills by mistake. He had a toothache and he thought it was something for the toothache.”
“Who are you talking about?” he asked.
He spoke in a very loud voice and she didn’t hear him. He waved his arms and she didn’t see him.
“Then he turned over and his face was smashed into the pillow,” she sobbed. “He couldn’t breathe. Poor little thing!”
“Mother!” he said. “Why won’t you answer me?”
“Now I can get away somewhere and start over. I’ll just have myself to take care of and I’ll get along fine. I’ll get myself cleaned up and forget all this happened.”
Somebody came quietly up behind him and touched him on the shoulder. When he turned to look, he saw a man whose face was a bright spot of light. He could only see the outline of the head, ears and a neat brown haircut.
“Who are you?” Phillip asked. “How did you get in?”
“It doesn’t matter,” the man said.
“Are you my grandpa?”
“Why can’t I see your face?”
“You’re to come with me now.”
“Away from here.”
As the man began to lead him away with a gentle pressure on the shoulder, Phillip turned for a last look at his mother, who saw and heard nothing.
“What about her?” Phillip asked.
“She’s already said her goodbyes,” the man said.
Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp