The Forgotten Son
by Steve Toase
“Ye doe ye to the market place,
And there ye buy a loaf o wax.
Ye shape it bairn and bairnly like,
And in twa glassen een ye pit;”
The Child Ballads, 6A-Willie’s Lady
My father, my real father, was a scavenge of broken candles. My mother a dusty cauldron, a fire of hazel sticks underneath. My eyes melted down gin bottles, irises preserved by the lisping kiss of flame.
My world was a cupboard, light chinking between latched doors.
They cut my mouth in with a blunt razor. A flaked slit through which the word Mama was never spoken.
I watched my brother-by-name, conceived before me, born months after I was forgotten. His limbs elongated like strands of sugar syrup. I was frozen in a moment by my skin father’s pathetic artistic ability. My brother’s mouth moved. Any words were unheard by me. No one thought to carve ears into the re-melted wax of my skin.
No Hebrew words tattooed my forehead. No piece of parchment choked my throat to bring me to a parody of life. I was a trick. A French Drop. A legerdemain. Forgotten when the shoe leather was unfastened and spider silk cut. Not even thought of once the witch knots were sheared from my mother’s hair.
Now he wears the swaddling cloth, first mine when I was displayed to Grandmother. His Grandmother. The spell caster with a hidden skin of thorns. In the warmth of the lamb’s wool my skin melted to the nervous press of my skin mother’s hands. Strands feathered me, catching dust. My lanugo soaked in lanolin.
I was nothing. A forgotten memory of deceit and lies, shoved on a shelf with cotton reels and Bakelite buttons. I watched their amnesia with chipped glass eyes, and the only tears I shed were tears as wax cracked.
* * *
She arrived one afternoon, that woman with hidden brambles behind her eyes. I tasted dark red ochre on the air as Grandmother breathed out. They were elsewhere with their belly born son. Sitting in meadows of buttercups maybe, or flying kites on the spring breeze.
When she opened the cupboard door I saw pots and pans all over the stone flags. Every drawer and sideboard emptied in her search for me. From her tattered apron she produced a copper awl, carving ear lobes into the side of my head. Stroking my face, as if to calm a fever, she told me we were the Lethe kin. We were the abandoned, not remembered and we only had each other. Her words stung like the death of honey bees. Taking out an ivory lace antimacassar she wrapped me tight hiding my wax skin from prying eyes.
* * *
Once in her home Grandmother grew me with church candles, rubbed lamp oil into my skin. I soon became too long for the drawer where she lay me in mildewed patchwork blankets, last used when her son, my skin father, suckled from her. With no spare bed for me to sleep in she brought a coffin from the chapel for my rest, in the dark whispering how she ground up the previous occupant for the pigs.
* * *
Now there is just me and her. She fingerpresses fibres into my flesh of wax. An ivory coloured swatch of her daughter in law’s wedding dress. Scraps of her son’s babygros. When she is drunk she sticks dressmaking pins in me, hoping they will feel the sting.
I do not know if this works. Even if I had a voice I would not tell her. Soon her skin will turn to dust, leaving only her heart pressed with dry rose petals. In silence I watch with chipped glass eyes and wait to be alone again.
◊ ◊ ◊
Steve lives in North Yorkshire, England and occasionally Munich, Germany. His stories tend towards the unsettling and unreal. Steve’s work has appeared in Cabinet de Fees’ Scheherezade’s Bequest, Innsmouth Magazine, Not One Of Us and Cafe Irreal amongst others. In 2014 his story “Call Out” was published in The Best Horror Of The Year Anthology 6. He is currently working with Becky Cherriman and Imove on a commissioned project called Haunt, about the haunting presence of Harrogate in the lives of people experiencing homelessness or vulnerable housing in the town. To read more of Steve’s work please visit www.stevetoase.wordpress.com www.facebook.com/stevetoase1
4 thoughts on “The Forgotten Son”
An impressive mood piece. I particularly enjoyed the suggestive power of the language.
This is stunning and spooky and sad. It’ll haunt me for a long time. Gorgeous!
Weird. The theme seems to be one of chaos and abandonment. Meant, I assume, to unsettle and disturb. AGB
His stories tend towards the unsettling and unreal. Nailed it!