The Bastard by Adrian Kalil

An adolescent boy wakes up to find that his family will never be the same again in this thoughtful piece by Adrian Kalil.

I recall there was a violent and terrible winter storm and my brother and I had just had severe words. Our differences were momentarily quelled when our home unexpectedly lost power, forcing us to hunt for candles with our only flashlight.

That evening, we had comfortably passed the dark liquid hours reckoning a modest truce in front of the warm fireplace. The room's soft, quiet colors contrasted harshly with the conditions outside and I found our time strangely amicable. Indeed I wondered why we had ever had any disagreement at all; perhaps it was inevitable from our difference in age, I'll never know. Regardless, we were never able to discuss it at length and the more that time passed, the less of an issue it became.

Later that night, with the red embers of the fire reduced to simpler music, I fell asleep in his arms; something neither of us would admit during brighter days with any more than a brief acknowledgement of our eyes. He later confided that he half-carried me to bed, although I do not remember. Alliance and comfort were so rare then that it was much easier to expect something else.

That night, however, I do remember a deep, sound sleep and a heavy, calm womb-like sensation, not unlike passing over. With the bed-covers on my face and arms, and my adolescent body sinking into the deep abyss of winter warmth, I felt a strange sense of quiet invincibility. At the same time I also became more and more aware of a profound sense of unique and disquieting comfort. Although this sensation was new in both its introduction and definition, it was, nonetheless, welcomed.

The next day I awoke to an odd and perverse silence. I say perverse, as it was the quiet that had abruptly awakened my senses. The arousals of morning were customarily filled with the animated and often angry conversations between the household adults and usually included my brother. Though not quite a man, he imagined himself to be one. It was this manhood that, by its precocious and uncomfortable nature, was forced upon his fragile and rebellious persona.

If there were any disagreement Mother would always take the side of the brave youth that he aspired to be, regardless of how much he would ultimately disappoint her. His battles became hers and the image and ideal of the fight were quickly lost into the shape of it all. More often than not their arguments would defend him and ignore my passions and questions in the shadow of his growing uncertainty. Theirs was an unusual relationship in that her support for her first-born was unfailing. He cleverly found a way to manipulate his place into her saddened heart and, in doing so, garnered the attention I felt I so deserved.

Nevertheless, on this particular morning, I contemplated this peculiar silence in my womb-bed. I held onto the peace that was gradually, painfully becoming diluted by their absent words and the cold and menacing morning light.

I washed several times and with thoughtful pauses, even urinated intermittently hoping with dread, for some break in the funereal atmosphere. When I arrived downstairs I found my mother and brother alone at the kitchen table staring at their coffee. Although it was a Saturday and still snowing, my father was nowhere to be found. Wishing to not disturb their solemn, angry ceremony, I found something to drink and quietly slipped into my familiar place at the table. Interminable moments passed as my brother, with the eyes of Lucifer, forbade me to speak. I sipped in awkward silence, truly not expecting a tomorrow.

Mother finally broke the stillness by tentatively stating that "he" had left the house early and she suspected infidelity: a word I did not know before and into which I did not inquire, but clearly understood. This had caught her quite off guard. Mother was a good person in a bad situation: a decent and respectable collage in a confusing and difficult frame. Circumstance had left her weakened and she was dropped unprepared. Through her tears and quivering anger, her words were both fearless and sad.

That afternoon Father returned without a word and slept until dinner. I often wondered that if he was, in fact, directing his passions elsewhere, how he could so freely come home and expect life to resume unchanged. He remained oddly complacent after these apparent encounters and offered only silence to Mother's continuous lines of questions and tears. I knew by their increasingly strained marriage that he appeared unusually satisfied when he did not need to be. I wanted to shout, but found I had no voice against what was to me the worst moral indignation. He acted as if nothing had happened and I despised him for it.

Looking back, I now realize that I and perhaps all young men pass through a period of profound introspection and judgment, comparing ourselves, justifying our reflexes as if to prepare our souls for more worldly demands. With fewer expectations, there is left greater latitude for movement of thought in one's evolving awareness. Young men simply know more than is realized. Their emotional escape from the tedium and dullness of human eloquence is such that time allows for a more profound appreciation of the inarticulate obvious, unencumbered by future responsibilities.

It was with this burgeoning adolescent insight that I became aware of the disparity in their intimacies. I believe they had not touched each other for what was an eternity. Father slept on the couch more nights than not, and their overt attention to us was usually made manifest in punishment or unnecessary criticism. He led and, in her weakness, she followed.

One then falls into a pattern that expects so little and is satisfied with less. Brother received the brunt of the Bastard's wrath and, despite his attempts at strength and resistance; he exited his childhood a broken young man.

So it was when I awoke a few days later to begin my usual and cautious routine. With morning in my eyes, and having slept so well in my insular sanctum, I suppose I did not notice much at first. However, when I arrived downstairs, and in another world, I knew something was very different and very wrong.

"She's gone."

I felt it before my father had spoken. Then it hit me: her curtains were gone and with them the very thing she held most dear. There was no note; there was no need for one to justify the realization that it was final.

As Father stood alone, expecting the comfort that he did not deserve, my brother quietly cursed him to his face, "Damn you, damn you, God damn you."

I slowly and imperceptibly stole upstairs to my room and lay between the covers. With my face to the bed I sobbed uncontrollably until, weary and lost, I realized how very like this wretched helplessness was to a quieter death. Sensing the encroaching ice storm, I was aware of feeling no pain, only the profound gravity of the moment. The murmur of my wounded heart beat with my unending tears until I fell deep asleep.


  1. A not so unfamiliar family scenario, delivered here in some very good prose. Fanily pressures described in solid but descripttive language. Written to elicit maximum sympathy and empathy for many who have experienced similar disassters. A difficulty in writing in first person is to try to minimize use of personal pronouns by butchering grammer a bit sometimes. A good read from the heart and hopefully not totally auto-biographical.

  2. A not unfamiliar family scenario written with some beautiful prose. A family disintegration, straight from the heart, hopefully not fully autobiographical. Adrian stikes several nerves in a yarn well crafted to elicit empathy and sympathy alike.

  3. A not unfamiliar family scenario, hopefully not fully autobiographical. Adrian tells a touching, sad tale in beautiful prose well crafted to elicit both empathy and sympathy from the reader. A common problem in writing in first person is to try to minimize use of personal pronouns, "I", "we", etc. which sometimes requires butcher grammar somewhat.

  4. I felt the pain of a hopeless situation. It that is the writer's intention, he had succeeded.