Word Count 469
Pound of Flesh
Flesh of my flesh, fruit of my loins. How have you come to this? They tell me you are a murderer. Label you cold-blooded killer.
That the babe I suckled at my breast has taken a life is unfathomable. You who cried when the cat died, swooned at the sight of blood, returned fallen fledglings to the nest…
How? What drove you to this? And what am I to do?
You were not building bombs in the basement, or lurking in alleys where no descent person belongs. Yet here you are, side by side with the worst of the worst, your orange jumpsuit usurping your individuality, identifying you as one of them. Erasing any vestige of my child. Replacing you with the outer trappings of a hardened criminal.
You are not a common criminal. You are my child. Innocent until proven guilty, however, seems to have no place here. More like “guilty, as we shall prove.”
It is late August and the geese are assembling, teaching their young to fly strong. I tried to teach you to fly strong, be independent. But we are all like the geese who flock together and value interdependence—so perhaps in the end, I did not prepare you, only sheltered you. I wish I could, still.
One error in judgment, one thoughtless gesture. Now, one life is gone and yours is forfeit. This afternoon, I discovered my footsteps in the morning’s unexpected frost had blackened the vegetation; as this word, ‘murderer’, has walked across my heart, leaving dead, blackened tracks, where once sprang joy. I cannot reconcile the sweet face of your childhood with this picture being painted of you as ‘cold-blooded killer’. When I close my eyes, images flash: your impish smile behind a fistful of wildflowers; a snowman sporting my best scarf; fingers and face smeared with tell-tale chocolate; the innocence of sleep. All blurred by the realization that this new day holds no good news, no reprieve, no “I’m sorry, we made a mistake.”
The ice-cold hollow in my gut grows, consuming me from the inside out. I cannot eat. My only hunger is for you to rip off the orange shroud and proclaim, “I did not do this horrible thing!” Your rueful half-smile, wrenchingly, tells me all I need to know. And no apologies can take back a thing once it is done.
Responsibility for your lapse of judgment lies only with you. But oh, flesh of my flesh, I can’t stop lacerating myself with the thought that somehow it was me—something I did or did not do in raising you that led to your destruction. If I had foreseen these events, would I have done something differently? Will I ever again be able to look upon you—or myself—the way I did when you were young?