By Andy Betz and Jaysa Brown
Water is patient
It yields easily to gentle force
It recovers without fanfare; without notice
Water is patient
It persistently waits the proper time
To steadily erode the foundation of all who resist its presence
Water is patient
It may dissolve the most formidable of opponents
It will dilute the harshest of adversaries (whether caustic or acidic)
And it always wins
For water is everywhere
And water is forever patient
I could have used a doctor when I awoke. It would not have mattered. I found myself bound to my favorite chair and beaten. The adjacent mirror proved my initial suspicion of the extent of my recent injuries. I am missing teeth. I have a black, swollen eye in what remains of my left socket. I find the paper cuts on my tongue extensive and irritable. The first injuries are from my antagonist. The last are from my antagonist’s cruelty.
Not that he did not have a reason (or reasons) to be cruel. I am guilty of the reciprocity I deserve from him. In a matter of speaking, I taught him everything he knows. If I am correct on this one point, he will wait no more than one hour to allow my pain to introduce itself to my aging body. He will allow only an introduction, for I will never be permitted to make peace with my physical agony.
The clock reads exactly one hour of consciousness. As if on cue, he returns; not for an encore, but for a finale.
At this point, names are a trivial formality. I know him and of him. At first, I admired him. Then I tolerated him. Then, the more I knew, the less I liked. I crossed the spectrum through detesting, loathing, and despising. When I finally parked at abhorring, I found the physical acts of violence (violence that I perpetrated on him) easy. Such a simple word is easy. It is compact. It is elementary. It is justifiable. I did not require a rationale, I stood on pretext.
Then I embraced violence.
Not the type of violence that needs a firearm or a knife. Those tools are the tools of rash and impatient fools. I gravitated toward the slow, persistent violence required for my one man casus-belli. I chose installing tripwires on his porch. I favored punji sticks tipped in excrement strategically placed in his lawn in shallow pits, the day before he mowed his lawn. I learned about how electrical problems began. I read about how arsonists behaved. I allowed brake lines to bleed and cigars to explode. I poisoned his coffee and allowed him to digest the symptoms and treatment for dysentery and ringworm. He found a public explanation for chlamydia explained in a very public place.
And I was just beginning.
Nothing was off limits.
Through surrogates, I watched each of his children and second wife become estranged to him. I placed just enough “evidence” in just the right places, for law enforcement officials to draw just the right conclusions about his character and his guilt. I even switched a few x-rays and lab tests to make him believe he was paralyzed with a severed C5 spinal cord.
For these and many more, I am guilty.
But I am not yet finished.
With one last punch, I knocked the bastard out. I also shattered his eye socket. He has one functioning eye remaining. By tomorrow, even that won’t save him. Nothing will.
He is my father-in-law. Or at least, he once was. When Lucy died, part of me died that day. All that was good in him died that day. Today, the rest will.
I informed the police that he snapped. I filed restraining orders against him. I went from judge to judge trying to find a way to distance him from the kids. He is a lunatic that needs to be locked up. He is a danger to all that he encounters. He plots. He schemes. And he learns. With each passing day, he gets better at devising his nefarious plans for my suffering. For he does not want me dead. He wants to view distress. He desires to witness pain. He enthusiastically craves my demise. Today, he will get his wish. Today, so will I. For today, he dies. Not comfortably, nor quickly. But, death will visit him. That is assured.
I say this as I apply his signature move of using a new piece of copy machine paper to cut his tongue two dozen times while he “sleeps”. He knows me as well as I know him. He expects this and who am I to disappoint him?
I do not open my one good eye to know he has returned. Previously, he parried with logic. He explained the crash wasn’t his fault. He said his blood-alcohol level was only .04 grams per deciliter. The police found him guilty of impaired driving and not murder, not manslaughter, not even negligence. I found him guilty of all three. I pulled the plug on his ventilator at the hospital. From the smell of sulfur and potassium perchlorate burning, I know he has lit the torch.
When the situation was reversed, he lasted only thirty seconds before succumbing to the pain. I most likely will not.
How does one describe the smell of smoldering human flesh? Does all hair burn at the same rate? Or will arm hair burn faster than back hair? Or pubic hair? Just what percentage of the human body can a person survive with third degree burns? The nurses at the burn ward said mine totaled 5.8% of my entire skin surface area. Considering his age, I should stop at 3%. However, it is difficult to hold the torch correctly without a thumb. Thinking in retrospect, if he had not removed my left thumb with the cigar cutter, I might have been able to stop at 3%. However, a calculation is one thing. An execution of the calculation is another. I say an eye for an eye and stop at 6% (give or take a few tenths). If he does not awaken in another hour, a small shot of adrenaline will do the trick.
Considering his fondness for hypodermics, you would think he would have enough experience to find the vein on the first attempt. Since he previously collapsed the veins on both of my arms, today he chose the great saphenous vein of my left leg for my adrenaline injection. In reality, he had little choice. The right leg had not stopped bleeding from recent burn activity.
I knew the end game was near. If I were a betting man, I believe he would leave me here (wherever that was) to die of exposure, or hunger, or thirst, or be eaten alive by insects or vermin. If I was in his shoes, dissection would be next on my list. To each his own.
He decided on death by exposure and time. I raised my one good eyelid to see him pull up a chair and sit down. He sat the way so many police detectives sit (backwards leaning on the back of the chair) in old movies. He sat not as if he wanted to ask me a question. He sat not as if he wanted to watch me die. Not as if he wanted to be assured I did die. No, he sat as if he wanted to study me. In a way, it was only fitting. The drink of his choice, bourbon, made him make me what I am today. What I am today made me make him what he is. Today was both inevitable and a long time coming. It did not coincide with any special anniversary, today was its own day. No fanfare. No planning. Today was what today was; the end of all days.
He was a proponent of taking his time. He knew the adrenaline was temporary and the pain was permanent. For me, it was a losing battle. Eventually, he would tire and remove the hunting knife he always carried since Lucy’s passing. He stabbed me once before, in the chest, in the heart. He nicked my right atrium and left me for dead. How I survived, how I recovered is of no consequence. In doing so, I planned for another encounter with that knife. All I had to do was spring my trap.
The old man awoke and never said a word. I sat on a chair and could only watch him. Here was the reason I could not have a life. Here was the sole reason my kids, his grand kids, had to be adopted by people I do not even know. In a way, because of their young age, it was for the best. He is a monster. To kill him, the father in me has to die also. I can never see my kids again at the cost of them never having to see him again. While a high price for any parent to pay, it is a price I will pay. I take out my hunting knife to end this charade once and for all, for the ends justify the means.
Without fanfare, I braced for the inevitable. He gripped the hunting knife for a lateral thrust. Previously, he found success with this motion and his ego over-ruled his patience. The thrust was clean and effective. Bypassing my visible pacemaker, he plunged the knife into the bulk of my heart and twisted the blade for spite. I just smiled as I watched.
My pacemaker was not installed to monitor or regulate my heart. I had it installed to power the dead man switch on the subcutaneous explosive charge designed to detonate upon my death. Hidden by the visible pacemaker, it was just the right mass. Engineered just right, to allow me to see him die in the ensuing cone shaped explosion. His proximity made it effective. My patience made it possible. And I was forever patient.
Bio: Andy Betz has tutored and taught in excess of 30 years. He lives in 1974, and has been married for 29 years. His works are found everywhere a search engine operates.
Jaysa Brown is a student in high school, soon to be going to college. She is excited for her new turn in life, and is looking forward to new opportunities and new accomplishments.