untitled writing project
Once upon a time, there was a little boy who had no father. He had a mother, a little brother, uncles, aunts, cousins, a grandmother, and a grandfather, but no father. Other children had fathers. He knew this from an early age, gleaned in church and off the TV set in the living room. He understood in small ways that he was different from everybody else.
He felt alone in this condition, his lot in life as a bastard, but he did not fully understand his aloneness or the secret fact that he was not alone at all. All over the world, there are people who don’t know one or either of their parents. But that is not so crucial to our story here.
At family gatherings, people would talk about Little Bastard’s mother behind her back. They thought they were well intentioned, Christian people, but Little Bastard saw the truth in their hearts spilling out of their gossiping mouths. They judged his mother harshly, and could never get over their judgements of her. Some of them would try to step in from time to time, acting as father figures, but Little Bastard resisted their attempts quite completely.
Then, one day when he was in the first grade, Little Bastard found out that his mother was going to get married. His little brother didn’t care about this so much; that boy knew who his father was, and had a whole separate family that had little to nothing to do with Little Bastard’s family. Little Bastard, however, was excited to finally get a father of his own.
The wedding came and went. Little Bastard and his mother moved in with Step-Father; Little Bastard’s little brother went to live with his own father and wicked step-mother, and that couple’s two little girls. Little Bastard didn’t worry about that family at all, because he had a more complete family to call his own, and he thought it would be fantastic. It was not.
Step-Father’s house was stuffed with piles upon piles of boxes, filled with mysterious things that Little Bastard didn’t understand or simply never saw. One of Step-Father’s many sisters — they came from a Catholic family, and it was Little Bastard’s understanding that Catholic families liked to have lots of children in them — helped Mother Sad remove much of this debris of Step-Father’s old life from the house, but it was never truly clutter free.
They lived in that house about two years. In that time, Little Bastard paid more attention to his recess activities with the friends he’d made in Step-Father’s little city than what happened in his home. Step-Father wasn’t very nice. When Little Bastard couldn’t ignore his home life completely, he saw that Mother Sad was always sad about something or other. Step-Father was always angry about something or other. Little Bastard tried to run away once, but his heart wasn’t in it at all. He turned around only a few blocks away, came home, and found that he hadn’t been missed at all. He didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
He didn’t know a lot of things, and he had no one he could trust to give him answers.
The only good thing to come out of those two years was a newborn little sister, a girl that Little Bastard loved and then almost immediately hated, simply because she had been produced by the union of Little Bastard’s Mother Sad with that abominable man, Step-Father.
Step-Father stank of sweat and bad coffee. Step-Father was a hoarder and a pervert. Little Bastard didn’t know he was doomed to imitate much of that behavior later in his life, but that doesn’t really matter to our story here.
Eventually, after they had moved and it became clear to Little Bastard that nothing would change on its own, he helped Mother Sad to realize she had to file for something called a divorce, which Little Bastard had fears his mother would never consider.
Divorce was supposed to be a horrible sin. Little Bastard had learned that in his mother’s church, but what the church didn’t seem to understand was that divorce was the only form of protection Little Bastard could see to erect against the dangers that Step-Father presented to Mother Sad, Little Bastard himself, and his toddling little sister.
With Step-Father pushed out of the picture, Little Bastard tried his best to resume the life he was supposed to be living. Mother Sad did her best to provide for her children, including her Other Son who still lived with his father and wicked step-mother, but visited on weekends and other special occasions. Other Son never got over his jealousy of Little Bastard and Smart Little Sister, even though his Other Family provided much more than Mother Sad was able to provide on her own for any of her kids. Little Bastard tried to keep the peace, because that was the role he thought was his and his alone. There was no father to do it.
Little Bastard did the best he could in school. He went to church, got a mentor, and planned to become a preacher someday. He would marry and have children.
His life had a plan, a shape to it that he could rely on, and that made Little Bastard feel content in his complacency.
Then, in his eleventh year of public schooling, he got a job at a grocery store. He made some friends, but one in particular became a major influence on the Bastard, who by that time would no longer allow anyone but his mother and a few select girls at school to call him Little. Bastard’s Best Friend was studying pagan traditions and practices, and Bastard was inspired to investigate similar paths. He was intrigued by all that his traditional Christian upbringing had hidden from him about the world, and the vast diversity of belief systems in the world.
Bastard quit going to church, but he did something even more important than that around the same time. You see, Bastard had had a best friend before he met Best Friend, but the former best friend had really only become that initially out of convenience; his complicated family situation had lived just up the street around the time Step-Father was being pushed out of the picture. Bastard and his former best friend had grown accustomed to sharing a bed at either of their homes for frequent sleep-overs, and over time, this friend had begun to get Bastard to experiment with him sexually. Secretly, Bastard blamed this friend for the behavior he had been raised to see as deviant. He told himself he would put a stop to it, someday, repent for his so-called sins, go on to marry a woman as he was supposed to do, have children, and be all right.
All of that changed when Best Friend came into his life. Best Friend was a straight boy, but his non-Christian thinking opened Bastard’s eyes to the possibilities for his life that he had for so long not seen. He played with the idea of it in online chat rooms first, but eventually, he came out as gay to Best Friend, and even Mother Sad discovered the truth, though she had to do it through snooping; Bastard could never really say later if he would have told her any other way that he was gay.
I seem to have gotten ahead of myself. If you can forgive me, I must turn the pages back to a much earlier point in Bastard’s life than this.
Before Step-Father was even a shadow on the horizon of Little Bastard’s cozy, comfy little world, there were other people in Mother Sad’s life that mattered and influenced Little Bastard’s developing mind. Two women in particular, for very different reasons.
The first woman wasn’t around as much, and fell very much out of Little Bastard’s life very early on, but she and her daughter never left his thoughts completely. It would take decades for Bastard to find out why that was. He thought of her as Mrs. Has It All Worked Out.
The second woman came into their lives as a baby-sitter for Little Bastard and Other Son. She lived a few blocks away at that time, on a street cater-corner to their own. She became a close friend to Mother Sad, though she was not a part of their church world.
This woman had five or six children, the eldest of which were frequently not around so Little Bastard could never really keep track of their names or personalities. Only one of them mattered to him, the youngest daughter, a girl a little older than him who had diabetes. She was very self-sufficient, was Diabetic. She knew how to check on her own blood sugar levels, when to eat snacks, and when to inject herself with insulin. Little Bastard and his brother competed for the affections of Diabetic, but Little Bastard believed she was his and his alone.
The boy and girl planned to get married when they turned twenty.
Diabetic’s mother liked to drink. She liked to drink a lot, and had horrible, abusive boyfriends. She also liked to eat sandwiches upside down, which Little Bastard found both odd and terribly endearing. He pitied Other Mother Sad, and felt bad for Diabetic that her mother had an even sadder existence than his own.
Over the years, through Mother Sad’s marriage to Step-Father, and for a time even after that, the two sad little families tried to keep in touch, but eventually they were torn asunder by circumstance, time, and distance. Their lives simply did not fit together anymore.
Bastard grew up, embraced his middle name as the deeper truth of himself, and did what he could to bury his past. This included cutting the whole of his mother’s extended family out of his life, for he felt he could never forgive them the judgements they had made of Mother Sad over the course of his upbringing around them.
I will note here that his middle name was chosen by Mrs. Has It All Worked Out.
Best Friend introduced Bastard to the pleasures of weed and drinking. When he’d been small, Little Bastard had promised before Mother Sad and Other Mother Sad together — much to their amusement — that he would never smoke or drink or do anything “bad” like that. So of course, he took up smoking and drinking both, following in Best Friend’s footsteps.
Best Friend, I must say, never expected Bastard to do any of that. He merely offered the opportunity to try these things out, and whatever ways Bastard abused these substances are entirely on him. Any and all consequences, he always understood, were his and his alone.
Bastard lost himself to various addictive tendencies for years. He forgot and remembered his old desire to know who his father was, and battled a deep, once-hidden hatred of his mother over it. He tormented himself for years over it. Why had she never told him his father’s name? Why had she never brought that man’s family into his life? What had he done to deserve to never know? What had his father done? Was his father a monster? Was his father even alive? Did his mother even know who the man had been, and if not… how could she not know? Why would she not know? What had happened to her to make her never want to tell her son anything about his father, or the man’s family? They were Bastard’s family, too, and he didn’t know one thing about them, not even their medical history.
In his early thirties, very close to where we are about to meet Bastard in his present day life, this absence of one full half of his family medical history would almost kill him. You see, he knew what diabetes was from a very young age, and understood well enough that it could be very dangerous, but he had no reason to suspect that he, himself, could be diabetic.
He lost ten pounds inside a month, without trying. His hands were perpetually dry-skinned, which he blamed on doing lots of dishes at his work, or on winter weather, or both. He was constantly thirsty, and constantly needing to go to the bathroom to empty his bladder. He was permanently fatigued, and growing weaker by the day. Eventually, he went to the hospital, where what he had been in denial about for so long — his co-workers saw it long before he would; he even got new glasses, believing his worsening vision had nothing to do with anything but his lousy eyes themselves — was confirmed at last. Bastard was a diabetic, too.
Briefly, he wanted to be angry with his mother over that. He had long since buried the hatchet on that matter, though not through anything so direct as conversation on the matter. Instead, he had allowed his small family unit — himself, Mother Sad, and Smart Little Sister, who still lives with Mother Sad to this day — to be brought closer together after years of silent avoidance. And who did that? Why, it wasn’t Bastard himself, but his life partner.
That’s right, Bastard found love! And while that is a defining moment of his life, it is not the key element to the story I am telling you now, so I will not dwell so much upon it.
Instead of being angry with his mother over something she could never have predicted or known was coming herself — he didn’t imagine she had secretly known his unnamed father’s entire family or studied their medical histories — he simply swallowed his rage, burned it away because it was simply not going to work for him, and resolved to live his new, diabetic life as best he could. He followed all the instructions he could remember, and moved on.
Life went on.
Then, one Christmas came that would change everything, though at the time it didn’t feel like as large of an event as it perhaps should have done.
Are you wondering how I know any of this? Why, because I am Bastard. I’m the Bastard, all right.
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Note: this project takes a single river that has flowed across the landscape of my life, follows it along a bend I haven’t yet chosen to turn down, and explores — through dark twists and using some fairy tale methods, such as archetypical titles instead of names — how things might have gone. This story is an exercise in divesting personal demons and fears, exposing raw nerves to the world, and pretending to debate something when I probably already know what I will or will not be doing. I’m still working on the plans for this project; this is merely the beginning, which I could not help but blurt out into a Word file last weekend.