Hothouse Resurrection

Hothouse Resurrection


“I understand you prefer not to show emotion, Chris.  But certainly you must feel emotion?”

Chris sat silently, not wanting to answer, but mildly compelled to offer some sort of reply. 

“I dunno, Barbara.  I s'pose…...sometimes.”

Pushing her scarlet red horn-rimmed glasses down the bridge of her nose with her right forefinger, Barbara peered over her spectacles.  She leaned forward in her imported black leather chair, positioned directly across from the antique Victorian era couch upon which Chris fidgeted with mounting agitation.  “What are those times?" she asked.  "Tell me about when you feel emotion, Chris.”

Chris stared downward at his scuffed and tattered Reeboks, a shock of stringy brown hair shielding sunken eyes.  “I felt really sad when my mom died back when I was twelve.” 

Barbara smiled in sympathetic acknowledgement.  “I know you loved your mom very much.  However, it seems that you don't ever want to discuss her.  Why is that, Chris?  Is it that you feel she abandoned you?”

No.  My mom didn't abandon me."

It was the first time Chris had raised his voice during a session. 

Several moments of silence followed.  Finally, in scarcely more than a whisper, he muttered, "I don’t want to talk about her with you.  All right?”

Barbara's words were gentle.  “All right, Chris.  But if you change your mind, I think it would be enormously helpful to explore your relationship with your mother.”

Chris glanced up at Barbara, offering a quick, barely perceptible nod.  Then he fixated back on his tennis shoes.

Barbara leaned closer, purposefully adding weight to her next question. 

“Chris, I have wanted to ask you this for quite a while.  Clearly you are uncomfortable with our conversations, such as they are.  In fact, you can hardly wait to leave as soon as you get here.  Why do you keep coming to see me?”

“My grandma’s payin' you, ain't she?”, he blurted.

Chris’s maternal grandmother had long been funding his ongoing, though sporadic, counseling.  Her dearest wish was that he rediscover, at least in part, a child's infectious smile.  As Barbara came highly recommended, she thought that the seasoned psychiatrist could help put an end to years darkened by depression. 

"Yes.  She is, Chris.”, Barbara responded quietly.

“That’s why then.”

Barbara settled back in her chair.  With a familiar air of resignation, she announced, “Well, that’s the end of our time for today, Chris.  See you on the second Tuesday of next month at four o'clock.  I'll email a reminder." 

Springing from his seat, Chris made a beeline for Barbara’s solid oak office door-in his haste ignoring the therapist’s hand, left extended in an unnegotiated attempt at a farewell shake.


Chris hated this house.  And not only because he despised its lone resident.  The cesspit reeked of cigarettes, mold and cheap liquor.  And with the descent of a punishing winter, Chris fully expected it to be colder than a witches tit.  The sorry son-of-a-bitch never closed the windows, claiming the gas heater had leaky pipes and the dump needed the ventilation.  Chris knew the truth is that he's too damn cheap to pay to fix anything.

“What is it you want, boy?", the old man sneered.  "Money, I reckon."

He was anchored, as always, to the dilapidated lounge chair, from which he removed himself almost exclusively for the purpose of fetching a fresh bottle or pack.  “Well I ain’t got any.  Same as forever." 

Chris was certain of two things.

His father wasn’t broke.  For stashed away somewhere was a huge chunk of the $150,000 State Lottery jackpot he’d won nearly five years ago.  He would never consider revealing where he'd hidden the money, nor sharing a single cent of it with anyone.  That included his family, the entirety of whom he held in bitter derision.  Like practically everything else in his miserable life.

As it was crowding noon, the other thing Chris was sure of is that the old cuss would be stinking drunk, having already guzzled the day’s first half-pint of rotgut. 

Chris addressed him as usual-with a minimum of emotion and syllables.  “No, I ain't here for money.  Did you find them pictures of mom?  You said you'd hunt for 'em last time.”

“Hell, no.”, he growled.  “Don't see no need.  She’s dead and buried for fifteen years this month.  Best left in the past, I say."

Chris said nothing.  The haunting images of arriving home after school that autumn day flashed in his mind.  The eerie quiet of the house.  Calling for his mom.  No customarily cheerful reply.  Checking the kitchen, the sewing room, the back patio.  Then the master bedroom.  And finally the empty bottle of sleeping tablets spilled out on the bed next to her. 

There would be ambulances.  And police.  And grief-stricken neighbors.  And a blur of lights and sirens and shouting and screaming.  Chris did not process any of this nightmarish chaos-aware only of the relentless contempt and abuse responsible for it.

Chris spent the next half hour scouring the closets in the hallway and spare bedroom, but couldn't find a single image of him together with his mom.  Dejected, he returned to the living room to find his father passed out.  Chris headed to the door to leave.  Stirred into semi-consciousness, the old man shook his head in an effort to come to.  Then he delivered the crushing blow. 

Hey, Chrishy!", he slurred.  "I lied to ya.  I did come acrosh a pile uh...hic...pishers uh yew 'n yer mom.”

Chris stared his father down.  “Where are they?"

“I burned ‘em, Chrishy.  Burned ev'ry lash damn one.". 

He paused, allowing the devastating words to penetrate. 

"Who needsh ‘em anyway?  Themz baaaad memoriesh.”, the old man cackled.  Within seconds he had drifted back into a stupor.

It was as if Chris had been set on fire.  His began to shake uncontrollably, struggling to dam the tears fighting like hell to bust out in waves.

Though they fell on deaf ears, Chris choked out the words. “They might be bad memories for you, ya wretched animal.  But them memories are the one thing keeping me alive.”

Chris had contemplated doing it for so long.  Now was the time. 

The inspection was thorough.  All windows and doors were shut.  Air tight.  Chris went to the heater.  Gripping the power knob, he twisted it all the way to the right. 

Outside it was beginning to snow.  Flakes swirled about him in the bitter breeze.  Chris  slammed the front door.  He ran his hands around the frame, insuring that it was sealed completely.  Then he turned and walked away.   

After a few steps he stopped, startled.     

It was so god damn long since he had smiled.


John Smistad

John Smistad

"The Quick Flick Critic"

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