It all started with the eye in the hand. I drew it a lot when I was a kid. Not like the hamsa or hamesh though, I’d draw around my own open hand then draw a picture of an eye in the middle. I don’t know why, I just liked the way it looked.
My parents, both deeply religious, were disturbed by my works of art so they burned them. Undeterred I continued to draw the symbol, usually unaware of what I was doing, you know, drawing them absentmindedly, so whichever parent caught me in the act took to slapping me on the hand with the hardest object they could find before sending me to my room in tears or beating me until I promised that I would never draw the thing again. Of course this was a promise that I could never keep, not because I didn’t want to (I mean who wants to be beaten constantly and called every name under the sun by their parents?) but because I had no control over myself as far as the image was concerned. I’d just look down and suddenly my hand was moving and before I knew it, the image had appeared. It happened on random pieces of paper; in the sand when we went on vacation; in mud on a school camping trip and, possibly the worst time, during a Sunday school class. We were supposed to be drawing the animals of Noah’s Ark but of course I produced the hand-eye thing. Mrs Patterson, also disturbed by the image but, much like my parents, had no idea why, showed it to mum and dad ‘out of concern’ (yeah right, everyone knew she was a nosey old bitch) and my parents freaked. They took me to see the priest suggesting to him that I may need a baptism of some kind. May I remind you that at no point did anyone ask me what the symbol represented or why I kept drawing it, nor did anyone research in to the sign, yet everyone involved decided that it was evil and that, since I was the kid drawing the offending image, I must have been the conduit of the devil.
Thankfully our priest was blessed with a little bit more sense. Sensing that my father’s anger and my mother’s tearful hysteria was just making the whole situation worse, he told my parents that he’d like to speak with me alone and ushered them out of the room. He asked me how I was doing, how things were at home, if anything was bothering me, you know, therapy type questions, then he moved on to ‘how long have you been drawing this symbol?’, ‘Where have you seen this symbol before?’ ‘What does it mean to you?’ Of course, being an eight year-old little boy at the time there was nothing I could really tell him as far as my drawings were concerned. I had no idea what the damn thing meant, I had never seen it before aside from when I drew it and it meant nothing to me beyond the fact that I liked the image, I thought it was cool – and who wouldn’t? It was a hand with a freakin’ eye in the centre!
Home on the other hand, well that was another story. I could talk about that all day, although common sense told me that I probably shouldn’t.
My father was a drunk, my mother a martyr and my older brother Louis was residing in Angola; not the country, the prison in Louisiana. I’d never met him because by the time I came along he was already locked up but I had heard that prior to his incarceration he was a golden child. A solid member of the church and a strict follower of its teachings he was a good boy who had grown in to a good man. He’d studied business at Harvard then came back home and married his high school sweetheart Diane. They had two children; Paul, named after our father, and Matthew, presumably from the bible, and despite his Harvard education, Louis worked alongside my father running the family business – a chain of hardware stores.
So imagine everyone’s surprise when my father turned up a Louis’s home like he did every morning so they could drive to work together, only to find Louis sitting in the living room, covered in blood, surrounded by the dead bodies of his wife and two sons who he had shot the night before.
What can I tell you? The guy obviously had some issues but in a small town like the one I grew up in, we didn’t acknowledge a man’s issues – even if it was glaringly obvious. We put our faith in God and the First and Second Amendments and hoped for the best.
The fact that in the months leading up to the murders my brother had become somewhat of a religious zealot obsessed with ‘casting out the devil’ was never publicly acknowledged. Neither was the fact that poor Diane hardly ever left the house, and on the rare occasions that she did, she was a nervous wreck. No-one questioned why the children had been ripped out of their school in favour of home schooling, which, in and of itself is fine but when you factor in Louis’s strange behaviour it really should have been a cause for concern. When Louis slapped my mother and called her a whore for what appeared to be no apparent reason, my father said nothing, although some may argue that my brother’s outburst was prophetic given the circumstances that were to occur.
See, my mother had a fling with some man called – of all names – Guy. We’ll get in to that a little later but my point is that there were a lot of signs that my brother wasn’t right in the head but everyone just chose to ignore them.
I guess it was the same with Aunt Millie. Again, I never got the chance to meet her on account of the fact that she had hung herself in her home a few months before Louis’s drama, but I’m sure she must have exhibited signs that there were problems too, but once again, people probably just chose to ignore them.
The priest was a good guy. He said that he knew things had been rough for my family since “that business with your brother” and that if I ever needed anyone to talk to I should feel free to talk to him. He told me that I was a good kid and that I should pray regularly, then he sent me on my way. He told my parents that there was nothing to worry about and that the drawings would pass over time. He advised them not to worry so much, to pray regularly and to feel free to talk to him if they had any concerns.
He was right of course, I eventually stopped drawing the pictures.
I decided to stop going to church when I was 13, shortly after my mother passed. At this point my father didn’t really care what I did or didn’t do so long as I stayed out of his way. He told me that his obligation to me died along with my mother so as far as he was concerned the quicker I finished high school and got the Hell out of his house the better.
Poor guy. He loved my mother despite everything. He was an abusive drunk who put his hands on her far too many times, but deep down he loved her so her death was like a shot to the heart for him. I didn’t blame him for hating me. I wasn’t his flesh and blood, and worse, I was a constant reminder of my mother’s infidelity. Besides, I never liked him much anyway. I did feel sorry for him when mama died though. It was like he’d lost the better part of himself.
Technically an orphan, I decided to try and find my biological father. One evening when my father, Paul was out of the house I searched through my mother’s belongings (at Paul’s request everything belonging to my mother had been left just as it was, like a shrine). It took me a while but I eventually found some letters addressed to my mother from Guy, but nothing that would help me locate him. I kept the letters though.
At 15 I told grandma, my mother’s mother, that after I graduated from high school I was going to move to New York and become an artist. She laughed but not for the reasons you might think. It turns out Guy, my biological father was also an artist. Until this point I didn’t even know that my grandmother knew anything about Guy beyond the fact the he was the person my mother had cheated with, but I was wrong, my grandmother knew everything.
According to grandma, Guy was the antithesis of everything my mother stood for. Grandma didn’t know where Guy was originally from but she knew that he had travelled the world. He had galleries all over the place apparently; London, New York, Brazil, Mexico… in fact, rumour had it that he had a gallery in every single country in the world although I feel that’s probably an exaggeration. Anyway, God knows why he came to our shitty little town, I mean, it’s hardly known for its art scene, but, he came nevertheless, opened up a little store across town selling art supplies and taught still life at the local community college.
Grandma said Guy was a handsome man. Yes, she’d met him – on several occasions apparently. She said that the number of women who signed up to his art classes was so great that there was a waiting list a mile long, and then some. Lots of women fought for his attention but he only had eyes for my mother. Mother wasn’t in the slightest but interested at first but suddenly, at the drop of a hat that seemed to change.
When she fell pregnant with me my mother was horrified to say the least. She tried to have me aborted but abortion in those days wasn’t like how it is now. A woman couldn’t just walk in to a doctor’s surgery and declare that she wanted to do away with her unborn child – especially if she was unmarried or, if she was married but the baby’s father was not the husband. My mother got herself one of those ‘backstreet’ abortions but apparently it didn’t take. At this point I had to ask grandma why she didn’t just pretend that I was Paul’s kid, I mean surely that would have worked. ‘Yes it might well have’ replied grandma ‘if Paul hadn’t been infertile’.
‘Well that’s just ridiculous!’ was my response. ‘How in the Lord’s name can he be infertile when Louis is his son?’
‘To assume is to make an ass out of you and me’ grandma replied. ‘Your mother and Paul had been trying for children for a long time after they were married but to no avail. As usual, Paul thought your mother was the problem but it turns out Paul was the one running on empty sort of speak. Paul was a proud man and would rather have died than have the whole town know that he couldn’t produce, so he and your mama went to “visit your aunt Millie in New Orleans” for just over a year and came back with a baby’.
‘Grandma, you’re crazy! Daddy did have a sister in New Orleans, she committed suicide, remember?’
‘I never said Paul never had a sister in New Orleans’.
‘Then what are you saying? If Louis was adopted there would have been some kind of paper trail or something. Beside, Louis looks everything like Paul, everyone says so’.
‘I never said Louis was adopted’.
‘So what then grandma? They visited some Voodoo priest who magically gave them a baby? Is that what you’re saying?’
‘Stranger things have happened’.
‘As I said grandma, you’re crazy’.
Turns out she wasn’t though.
I know that I seem rather blasé in the way I’m telling this story. You might be thinking ‘Gosh, this guy – Lucas by the way, my name is Lucas. My apologies for not formally introducing myself before now. You may be thinking, ‘That Lucas sure is cold’. Well, what would you like me to do? Cry? Throw myself under a bus? As they say, ‘shit happens’ right? None of this was my fault. If anything Paul is to blame for his pride and Angela – my mother, did I mention that her name was Angela? Angela is also to blame for being so damn weak and allowing herself to be pushed around. I’m afraid I have neither love nor sympathy for my parents. Now you may think me cruel but just you wait until we get to the end of this story then we’ll see if you feel the same.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that I found grandma’s revelations quite shocking. I kept in regular contact with grandma because, well, she’d always been so honest with me. Growing up, I didn’t see too much of her as my father hated the old lady (possibly because he knew that she knew so much) so it was nice to catch up with her from time to time and learn about the family history.
I must say, people loved my art. I was as popular as a puppy in a pool in my early days when I first moved to New York. I had exhibitions in London, Amsterdam, Switzerland and of course, New York by the time I was 30, and had more money than I knew what to do with. When my work was finally enthusiastically received in France and Italy I decided to retire. I was 40 by this point and had enough money and connections to be an influential member of society. I wrote a few books, backed a couple of presidential candidates, financed domestic companies and a few private security companies abroad and even invested in a few major oil and financial companies.
Now, as one would expect from a man as successful as myself, I’ve had my fair share of haters. People trying to sully my good name. I’ve been called a racist, a war-monger, a greedy capitalist and even a mass murderer. What you need to understand is that the people making these accusations are nothing more that limp, wet, pampered little Liberals who expect everything and everyone to go their way all the time. These people live in a fantasy world where ‘if you’re good and nice everything will be just fine’. I, on the other hand am a realist and I know this to be absolute nonsense. If you want to get ahead in this world sometimes you have to make some very unpopular decisions.
Take the prison issue for example. The loopy Liberals are mad at me because I invested in a very successful business that relies on the employment of prisoners. Now call me crazy but I figured that since there’s nothing but time in prison, some prisoners may be grateful to be able to have a little job to keep their minds occupied and their skills relevant. Well, apparently, I was wrong. Instead of providing opportunities for those prisoners who are so inclined to work for a wage and feel like they’re contributing to society in some way, I and my fellow investors are, according to the masses – minus the ‘m’, greedy racists. Greedy because we only pay 25 cents an hour to our incarcerated employees and racist because, apparently, since the majority of prisoners in the USA are mostly Black and Hispanic we “gain” from the unfair incarceration of these groups. Do you know they even had the balls to suggest that what we do is akin to slavery? Now granted, 25 cents isn’t much but considering our employees don’t have to pay bills, buy food, worry about bus fare or car maintenance then what in the Hell are they complaining about?
As for me being a mass murderer, well I feel like I shouldn’t even dignify that with a response but I will just for clarity. I would like to state for the record that I have never started a war. I have never encouraged anyone to go to war and I sure as Hell never voted for the psychopaths that start the wars. Under-developed countries are called under-developed for a reason. They have not yet developed to acceptable standards. They still eat with their hands and mistreat their women, I’m sorry but it’s true. When some ego-maniac dictator decides to kill his own people, that’s not my fault. My company provides a service. Farmers provide food, the water board provides water and one of my companies provide arms. Just as it’s not the place of the farmer to ask questions about who will be eating his food and why, so it is not my place to ask about who will be using these weapons and why. That is none of my God damn business! Why should I be held accountable for the war that some African or Arab decides to start in his own country? You don’t see the Liberals going after those nut jobs, no, they’d rather waste their time coming after honest businessmen like me. I tell you, it boils my blood.
I appreciate that you may feel I have gone slightly off track. Let me assure you, I haven’t, it’s all relevant because love me or hate me, I am what I am thanks to my father, Guy, and I finally got the chance to tell him so a few years ago. Yep, I found him. I wasn’t even looking for him either. He showed up at my grandma’s funeral which was odd to say the least but it all made sense once he explained it to me.
Grandma had been ill for a while. It was a long, slow illness but she fought it for as long as she could. She was 82 years-old when she passed. I called her every week since I moved to New York and after a few years she started to sound weaker and weaker until one day I called and her nurse Ada answered and told me that my grandma had died the previous night. I don’t ever cry, but I’m not ashamed to tell you, I cried that night.
On the day of her funeral back home in the miserable town I grew up in, Guy approached me although, at the time I had no idea who he was. The man didn’t look a day over 30 and was dressed to kill. A suit like that would have set him back at least eleven thousand dollars. He was clean cut and had the eye of every woman in the place. ‘I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother’ he said looking me square in the eyes as he spoke. ‘She was a lovely woman. Strong too’. Not sure how a man so young would even know my grandma I replied ‘thank you. How did you know my grandmother’ to which he replied ‘oh, I first met her before you were born’.
‘That can’t be right’ I said ‘you’re at least 20 years younger than me’.
‘To assume is to make an ass out of you and me’ the man said.
‘My grandma used to say that’ I said, trying to hold back the tears at the memory.
‘I know, she got it from me. I’m sure she told you about me. I’m Guy.’ Let me tell you, if it were physically possible, my jaw would have hit the floor at that moment. ‘That’s impossible’ I finally managed to say. Guy smiled and I swear if I were a woman I may have kissed him right there and then. I know how that sounds but the man is as handsome as it gets.
‘Is there somewhere we can go and speak privately, I have a lot to tell you but very little time’. We agreed to meet that evening at my childhood home. Paul had since passed away and the house had been left to me. I rented it out occasionally but to be honest, I had no real time for it so it spent many years unoccupied.
‘I’ve waited a long time to meet you in person Lucas’ Guy said as we sat down in the dining room. I offered him a drink but he declined so we just sat there, staring at each other for a while. ’I’m proud of you’, he said eventually. ‘You’ve achieved so much and with less advantages than your siblings. No college, no family wealth, no influential figures to open doors for you, yet here you are, a self-made man, a man who has the power to move mountains if he so wishes’.
‘Forgive me but I’m just a little…’ I tried to find the word but it wouldn’t come. No word seemed to encapsulate what I was feeling in that moment. ‘What happened? Where have you been?’
I’m going to pause here because I feel I should warn you. What I’m about to relay to you will sound like the ramblings of a man who has had one too many whiskey’s but I swear to you, it’s all true, every last word. Believe me, I couldn’t make this up. What’s more, I’m glad it’s true because otherwise I would have been just another ordinary schmuck busting his hump for nothing.
‘Your mother and father were unable to conceive when they were first married’ Guy began.
‘I know, my grandma told me but what does that have to do with –‘
‘Just listen Lucas and it will all make sense. They were both desperate for a child and your mother wanted to adopt but Paul refused because he said he could never love a child that wasn’t his own. They were stuck and on the brink of divorce when your aunt Millie called from New Orleans and said she had a friend who might be able to help. This ‘friend’ was a healer who was known for things like curing terminal illnesses and helping women to conceive. Your parents headed out there and after just a few minutes with them, the healer explained that she was unable to help’.
‘No, see, what the healer knew was that Paul’s inability to conceive was the result of some kind of curse placed upon the male members of his family. Paul’s father was a sick man. He had a predilection for children and acted upon his impulses. While he was able to evade criminal justice, spiritual justice was another matter. The mother of one of victims fixed it so that not only would Paul’s father die a terrible death, which he did, but that his male lineage would never be able to reproduce. The healer saw all of this and, yes, she could have reversed the curse but rightly chose not to.
‘Your parents visited a number of other healers but the answer was always the same: there was nothing they could do to help. That was until they met a man known as ‘Thorn’. He said he could ensure that Angela had a baby but there were conditions. First, the child could not, under any circumstances be raised in the church. Secondly, the child should be free to express his or herself in any way she or he saw fit without ridicule or discouragement from his or her parents, thirdly, the child should attend an ivy-league college when they came of age; fourthly after college, the child should not return home to the parents. Paul and Angela agreed and within a few weeks Angela was pregnant’.
‘So grandma was right’.
‘Your grandma was a very sensitive and wise woman’.
‘Well, given everything I know about Louis, I guess my parents reneged on the deal?’
‘That’s right. They christened him and raised him in the church. When they caught him talking to himself they convinced him that he was ill and forced him to stop. Your mother tried to discourage him from going to college in the hope that she wouldn’t lose him but, all power to him, he decided to go anyway’.
‘But then he came home and married Diane’
‘Yes, at Angela and Paul’s request. Paul used the old “I’m getting old, “I need someone to help me run the business, it is after all your legacy…” line, while your mother made sure to tell Louis that Paul’s drinking was getting worse and that at times she feared for her life – which was true but –‘
‘But she’d made a promise’.
‘What does this have to do with you being my father?’
‘Technically, Louis was my son. I had gifted him to your parents based on the arrangement they had made with Thorn’.
‘All I asked in return was for them to uphold their end of the deal but they didn’t which ruined my plans for the boy’.
‘Wait, this makes no sense, you can’t…How can you gift-‘
‘They ruined the boy so I had to start all over again. I moved to this – literally – God forsaken town and paid your mother a visit. I confronted her about her and Paul’s betrayal. She had the nerve to dismiss me and act as if the whole thing had never happened so I made it clear that because of what she and Paul had done, Louis was no good to me anymore and therefore she owed me a child. I told her that things would start to get very messy for them if she denied me, but she didn’t listen. So I took Millie’ to show her and Paul that I wasn’t kidding’.
‘Aunt Millie? But I was told she hung herself’
‘Yes she did. With a little help from me. Even after that your mother and Paul still refused to give me what I had asked for so I took Louis. The boy was no good to me anyway’.
‘Louis isn’t dead, he’s still in Angola as far as I know’.
‘Yes he is. Killing him wouldn’t have been enough to get your parents to see things from my perspective. They loved Louis, they loved Diane, they loved their grandchildren so I took them all but left Louis – albeit a little broken – as a constant reminder to your parents of their betrayal you see? But not before I messed with him a little first. I paid him a visit and told him all about the deal. That’s why he was running around town screaming about casting out the devil and such. I put the fear of the man upstairs in him!’ He laughed, I did not. ‘I spoke to him every day right up to the day he took out his family. It was then that Paul and Angela saw that I meant business so they finally agreed to give me what I had been asking for. Angela and I did it the old fashioned way this time – for no other reason than for my personal pleasure, your mother was a fine woman – but then that stupid bitch thought she could get one over on me by trying to have you aborted. It would never have worked, you have strong genes running through your blood’.
‘Not exactly son’.
‘But I went to church, and I never went to an Ivy-League college’
‘Yes, but you never really took to church like your brother did. You even stopped going altogether when you were 13 right?’
‘Yes, after mother died’
‘Well, I had to get you away from the church somehow’
‘You killed my mother?’
‘I hastened her death, she would have died about ten years later anyway. Why delay the inevitable? You tried to communicate with me when you were a child, remember?’
‘No’. Guy removed his jacket, unbuttoned his left shirt-sleeve and rolled it up to reveal a tattoo. It was a hand with an eye in the middle. ‘FUCK!’ I screamed.
‘You were trying to make a connection but between the church, your parents and your grandmother, the connection was weak. Louis’s was stronger believe it or not. We used to talk to each other when he was about four or five, but Paul and Angela put an end to that’. My head was spinning at this point then something occurred to me. ‘Did you kill my grandmother?’
‘Oh no, that woman was untouchable! There was no getting to that woman, not that I really needed to, she was smart enough to understand that Paul and Angela had to lie in the bed they had made for themselves’.
‘She knew who you were – are – didn’t she?’
‘She sure did, from the moment we first met. She was a stubborn old mule! Do you know, she practically had her own hotline to the man upstairs? That woman prayed so hard and so sincerely that it took longer for me to get to you than it did any of my other kids! It was like she had created an impenetrable religious force-field around you. That’s why you didn’t really start coming in to yourself until your forties Lucas. The weaker and closer to death she got, the weaker the force-field. Think about it, she started getting really sick over the past ten or so years right? Well that’s about the time you retired from the world of art and really started to step up your talents. Look at everything you’ve accomplished. Sure you were rich when you were an artist but your wealthy now. What are you worth now? 18 or 19 billion dollars? Son, that kind of money makes you a master of the universe. You and your brothers and sisters have dominion over all of this. That is my legacy to you’.
‘My grandmother, is…is she…? Do you have her now?’ I asked, terrified of the answer.
‘Me? No. That woman did nothing in this life to warrant us meeting in the next’. I breathed a sigh of relief. That was something at least. ‘So what’s the catch?’ I asked.
‘You give me and my “siblings” the world – literally – so what do you want in return?’
‘Son, all I ask is that you continue to be true to yourself. You’ve had a lot of shit from people over the years about your investments and such, but you haven’t backed down. You believe in what you do. As long as you keep doing that, I’ll be happy. I have further plans of course but we’ll discuss those when the time is right. For now, just keep doing what you’re doing’.
‘And what happens if I refuse, you know, have a complete change of heart?’ Guy laughed.
‘I assume you’re asking out of pure interest as opposed to an actual consideration? Well, life – if you can call it that, for you should you choose to be someone you’re not, will be…uncomfortable, let’s just leave it at that’.
So there you have it. I finally met my father, a man who literally gave me the world, and all he wants in return is for me to live up to my full potential. Sure, I love and miss my grandma and I know that she fought hard for me not to trod this path but honestly, this is the best thing that has ever happened to me. My whole life is set, I have nothing to worry about and sure, it’s hard work but when I get tired I have literally billions of people willing to do the work for me.
Take over-population for example. I probably shouldn’t tell you this but we’re working our asses off to rid the world of its dead weight. The poor, the disabled, the unattractive… these people offer nothing of value to the world so my siblings and I are doing our bit to solve the problem; deadly vaccines guised as medicine, the vilification of groups of people via the mass media, enforced poverty, the criminalisation of the poor… but we occasionally get help. Why, just the other day boat loads of migrants trying to flee their war-torn shit holes were left to die in the Atlantic while subsequent governments played “Not us” with their lives. That’s a couple hundred people gone and we didn’t have to lift a finger.
That’s my story. I am my father’s son and while some say ‘God is Good’, I say, the alternative is better.