Lina: Written By Stephen Fahey – Part 19

The next morning McIntosh woke to the smell of bacon. He hadn’t smelled bacon in years. His diet consisted solely of the gruel Fay gave him. The salty sweet aroma way delectable, as if the gods had send down some form of magic just for him. Not yet fully awake, he sat up and startled to see the box wall slid open and a plate piled with slices of steaming bacon and buttered toast. He dove on in, face first. Wolfing down ever crisp and succulent morsel with a desperate and pathetic need that he simply couldn’t control. Rubbing his face in the food and holding the plate with his left forearm, his mouth snapped licked up the first proper breakfast he had had since he could remember. Before he knew it he had swallowed it all. Laying there on the floor beside the empty plate, McIntosh breathed deeply in a haze of pleasure. The grease from the meal seeped into his blood and his stomach swelled. The smell of bacon and butter possessed his senses and delirium took him. He had not felt any physical pleasure since before he went to prison and that had been thirty years before. So fine and heady was his enjoyment that he lay there, splayed on the floor his box for hours. Joseph Fay didn’t come down to him and neither did he make a sound. All day and into the night McIntosh was left to savour the simple pleasure of a good meal and then he fell asleep in a greasy ecstasy.

The following morning he awoke to another plate of bacon, and beside it lay folded clothes. He hadn’t seen new clothes since he was brought to Park Castle. After just having had an undisturbed day of pleasure the concept of a second gift made McIntosh suspicious. He pawed the clothes and looked outside of his box to see if Fay was there but he wasn’t. It was too good to be true, so McIntosh left the clothes and ate the food and then crawled back to a corner of his mattress and stared at the soft material bundles at the entrance to his box. He knew that Fay was exacting his revenge and he knew that he deserved it. but the thought that Fay could be kind to him, truly kind, was too much to hope for. His mind couldn’t handle such a shift. He was the object of punishment and though his need overcame him the day before, the sight of the clothes raised all the humanity he was willingly giving to Fay. He wanted to be punished. He wanted to pay his eternal debt, but there, in his box, he wanted the new clothes. He wanted to feel them on his skin. He wanted. And that want made him feel even more guilty.

Again the passed without Fay coming down to the basement and again McIntosh slept, but without dressing in the new clothes. Dawn rose again and as opened his eyes McIntosh saw the clothes folded again, another plate of bacon and toast beside. His eyes fixed on the clothes. Unable to draw his stare from their softness, McIntosh lay again on the floor and pulled the plate to him with his left forearm. Slowly, he ate the food and watched the clothes. His own clothes, rags really, were abhorrent, as he had thought they should be. They had never been washed and the grime encrusted on they stank during the warmer months. The fresh, untorn clothes would cover the metal imbedded in his flesh and make him feel almost normal. It would smell clean and lend him the illusion of normalcy. But he couldn’t. He wanted to but he couldn’t. it wouldn’t be right. Not after what he did. A father has the duty do perform merciless vengeance on his child’s killer. And any such gestures of pity would only sully little Lina’s memory. And then it hit him. Fay wanted him to wear the new clothes. And as he had resigned himself to doing whatever Fay wanted he justified wearing the clothes.

Struggling to remove his rags from the decrepit body, McIntosh squirmed and shuddered and hooked his wooden paws and feet into the tattered strands of material. Then, with the untold satisfaction of a broken body and mind, McIntosh slid into his new pants and cardigan. They were soft. So soft. And clean. It was so fine that his skin crawled. Such elegant and colossal enjoyment scorned even the plated of real food. McIntosh stepped out his box and stood up to look at himself. He felt like a millionaire. Even though they were most basic of clothes, the humanity he regained by wearing them was priceless. Such luxury. Such cleanliness. It was a form of heaven.

Then, wanting to thank Joseph Fay, McIntosh took his walking staff and hobbled upstairs. The house felt smaller somehow, as if he had been away for some time and had only just returned. But he was undeterred. Fay had been incalculably kind to him and he had to thank him. His conscience wouldn’t allow him to not thank him. Then he found him, on the sofa, pale and his breathing shallow and his skin bathed in sweat.

Panic entered what remained of McIntosh’s body and shot through his mind. He didn’t even have hands to help Fay. He pawed at him and shook him, trying to wake him, but he just groaned and lay there. Next McIntosh shouted at him, but still nothing. Then he started walking around the house looking for something that might help. But there was nothing. Over and over, McIntosh wandered from room to room, his mind scattered and his limbs floundering around, bumping into doorways and tables and furniture. He mumbled to himself and shouted across the house to Fay who didn’t budge from where McIntosh had left him. Then, as McIntosh walked back to the lounge Joseph Fay coughed and chocked splutter and called to his guest.

“JOE! JOE! What happened, Joe! Are you ok?!”

“Get off me… ”

“Joe, what can I do?”

“You can step back, Eli. Give me some air.”

“Sorry, Joe. You scared me, I thought you were… eh… ”

“Dead? No… I’m ill, Eli… too much drink, I think.”

“What can I do? Tell me, Joe. I’ll do anything!”

“There’s nothing you can do, Eli. Nothing anyone can do… ”

“I… I want to thank you, Joe. Eh… for the clothes… ”

“My pleasure, Eli. Enjoy them. You look well in them.”

“Really. Thank you, Joe!”

“Why don’t you go for a walk? It’s been a rough morning. And I have things to do.”

“Whatever you say, Joe. No problem, Joe.”

To be continued…

© Stephen Fahey

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