Welcome back to Mean for the Holidays. It’s Day 5 + We’re starting the second half tomorrow. Let’s send it off with a bang today, huh?
I’ve been sitting on this story for a while, pondering if it will do well online. Just like Unwelcome Visitor. I, unfortunately, had to break this big boy into multiple parts as well, but if you’ve been to the website you’ll see it was planned. This story kicks off a much larger network of stories I’ll be publishing as time goes on. It’s a sort of prologue, I suppose. I way to get you invested in the Cult of Gaia.
Pretty rough around the edges guys, if you ask me.
For more Mean for the Holidays content, I’ve provided links to the latest below, and if you’re hungry for more you can check out the Salt + Iron website. (Link at the end of the story)
Until tomorrow, enjoy this Strange Fruit.
(No, there is no reference to the song Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday.)
I woke up once to find my father cutting off his fingertips. A night of restless sleep and vivid nightmares brought me out of my bed and to help calm my mind, I thought of taking a short walk around the neighborhood. I wanted to get out of the house for a moment, and as I plucked my keys and jacket from my dresser, our kitchen light reflected beneath the crack of my bedroom door. Stepping out and towards the staircase, my father brandishing a knife in the kitchen, a frantic joy in his eyes as he held it against the tip of his fingernail and dragged it slowly across and into his flesh. His palm writhing against the force of the knife and I could hear the faint pop of the blade hitting the counter.
I rushed downstairs, worried. When I got there, he looked up to me and spoke, only a few words but it chilled my bones.
“Nicholas, I think your mother is here. Will you get the door?”
What he said wouldn’t have shaken me as much if my mother was still alive, she passed away three years before that spring. After she died my dad found it difficult working through a world without her. She was assaulted downtown, and we weren’t told much else, with pops at work and me out of town on a vacation with my girlfriend Sienna when it happened. He called me and gave me the news and we caught the first flight back home. She passed before we got there. My dad explained everything and after that, he separated from real life. His boss was a rock for the rest of the family and managed to get him plenty of time off, with which he began working on various side projects mom always wanted him to take care of, planning an extension on the house and replacing our carpets. Other smaller jobs, new doorknobs, and a new bathroom sink. The big one was the garden out back. She always wanted to have a successful place to care for plants, but every year she tried, her crop wound up dead or wilted before we could harvest any of the fruit. Dad took over in her honor and with the help of my girl’s dad and our neighbor Mrs. Peabody, an avid gardener my mom was always fond of, pops managed to do it.
It’s been a long time since then, and enough time has passed now that I can speak freely about the events that followed. I’m not haunted by the nightmares anymore. I’m just, wondering.
That night, when my dad decided to remove his fingerprints, I took him to the hospital and checked him in. For all intents and purposes, the trip was simple enough. The doctors patched his hands up and sent him back home the following morning. After I picked him up we sat in the living room for a long while and talked about what happened. I was filled with questions and he didn’t do a good job of answering most of them. The whole situation confused and worried me. I knew he picked up drinking after the fact and was getting pretty good at it. I picked up drinking too.
Well, with the state my dad was in I chose to take over the many half-finished projects he tended to. He showed me his yearly plans for the house and the all-consuming list my mom made before she died. Scrawled on the back of a CVS receipt and filled out top to bottom all the things my dad took care of were marked off, doorknobs and floors, repainting our guest room after a cousin took her devastating six-year-old’s artistry to it.
That spring he focused on three things primarily, expanding the garden area and building a dog run for my boy Rocky. We adopted him in the winter. A German Shepard pup who was almost more than I could handle. Mom always wanted a dog, and after her death, I bought Rocky to help me cope with not having her around. A good dog, albeit a bit rowdy. Which is why pops requested I finish the dog run first. Secondly, the more important of the two, to maintain the garden. He gave me strict watering times and an even more strict list of pruning specifications, along with a handful of notes detailing proper procedure and care for the plants. With little gardening experience, I took all the information in, wanting to do whatever I could to help my dad get better.
My first day after repairing the dog run, I looked over the garden and really inspected it, hoping to go above and beyond what my dad requested of me. It featured a large angel statue in the center, offering not only decoration but function as a small man-made pond. With faulty wiring and a malfunctioning spout, I knew my spring schedule would fill quickly. The dog run tracked around the garden, my dad made it clear that he didn’t want Rocky to go anywhere near it, afraid our excitable boy would tear up the plants and ruin dad’s hard work. I obliged, but after I let him run through once he wouldn’t go anywhere near the garden side again. Choosing to stay on the other side of the lawn and far away from the small gates built to house it. I assumed he didn’t want to be trapped behind the back alley track and thought nothing of it.
The weird things started coming after the first few days. I began having these crazy dreams about this woman dancing in the garden, she looked identical to the angel and I woke up a few nights in a row covered in sweat. Those dreams didn’t frighten me mid-sleep, they were incredibly comforting. When I awoke, I would feel sweat pouring off my skin. Thinking back, maybe she wasn’t as beautiful or serene as I thought then, there was certainly nothing out of the ordinary to me. They were only dreams, after all.
My fourth or fifth day in the garden, Sienna and I were working on clearing out some of the vegetation. The previous day I had overwatered it because I was going out to dinner and when I got back home at night I found my dad sitting in the bay window of our dining room staring into the bushes. He didn’t turn his head as he spoke to me.
“You gave it too much water yesterday, Nick. I was reading the logs. I appreciate what you’re doing, but this is important to me.”
I didn’t know how to respond. I hadn’t written in any logs or recorded my watering schedule at all, which led to me overwatering in the first place. Evidently, my father wrote down the times I watered and kept tabs on the work I did. Expecting perfection from me I apologized to avoid a lecture and went out the next day to work on managing the tangle. In the process, Sienna found a patch of vines that crept into the statue. Those vines were clogging up the induction system for the fountain itself and it only took a few minutes to clear it out. After we got the mess of vines and leaves out of the suction chamber the water flowed from the pot again like a dream.
We skipped away with our work done and went about our business.
After a night out, I got home to find my dad in the same place, still staring out the window absentmindedly picking at his bandages.
“Son, I planted that for your mother and I hope you take your responsibility to it seriously.”
I only half heard him as he told me his expectations regarding the care of the garden because it looked like if only slightly, the statue rotated.
It turned to look up, towards my bedroom.
There was part one. I hope you enjoyed it. This week has been an absolute blast, and I’ve loved getting to release all of these stories and new stuff for you. I’ll have links to parts two + three when they release tomorrow and Monday. Until then, have you caught up? Is there any Mean for the Holidays content you’re missing out on?
So far we’ve had:
- Unwelcome Visitor
- Firesoul Ignition Announcement (Jan. 3rd)
- Life is not Meant to be Awful Compilation E-Book Announcement
- Jan. 9th
- The Grimoire of Finality
- How to Stay Happy When Your Godmother is Going Through Chemo
If you’re here to catch up on old blog posts, I’ve got you covered. My latest (and greatest) are linked below.
For more information regarding Salt + Iron Productions (and a full list of Mean for the Holidays content) Check out the website!
To keep up with the many hats I wear, check out my social media profiles.