Woe to the man who doesn’t see the thorns on the stalk of roses. Anita tapped her husband lightly, and with a slight head movement nudged him to quit the table, their daughter clinging tightly to her sleeve, stretching the neck of her gown and exposing her shoulder. Malcolm had had a couple of bottles…
Woe to the man who doesn’t see the thorns on the stalk of roses.
Anita tapped her husband lightly, and with a slight head movement nudged him to quit the table, their daughter clinging tightly to her sleeve, stretching the neck of her gown and exposing her shoulder. Malcolm had had a couple of bottles and could not interpret his wife’s gesture.
‘Your daughter wants to go home’, she said in half-a-whisper. This was only partly true. She was, for the first time in twelve years of their relationship, seeing her husband gamble, and he was pretty reckless at it.
The night had aged and was no longer fun. It didn’t stop being fun when Malcolm lost all of his playing chips; it was when he staked a bet using his gold watch. In that moment, Anita saw a red creature with black horns perch on her husband’s shoulder and whisper in his ear. It was time to leave, but he was having none of it. Her heart yearned to be in a cuddle with the two people she cherished most – her husband and daughter.
‘All in’, Malcolm called out, pushing all his chips center-wards. The light fell from Anita’s eyes. Their daughter tugged at her gown, and in a squeaky voice announced, ‘Mummy let us go home’.
‘I raise’, a voice announced from the other end of the table. It belonged to beardless chubby chap. Anita looked over and saw a pig. The pig pushed larger stacks of chips in.
Malcolm smiled and then tossed in the key of his three-month old Mercedes for the third time that night. He looked from pig to his wife and smiled in his boyish manner. Her head swung from left to right and back.
‘Babe, we can afford another one’, his lips motioned without sound, and they really could.
The cards dropped. They were walking home.
Two pairs of footsteps echoed through the dimly lit street, the little one asleep on her father’s shoulder.
‘I’m sorry. I got carried away’, Malcolm broke the silence as they arrived at the corner of the street on which they lived. They were moving to another part of town in a few days. Anita made a grunt, and they walked on. There was a third pair of steps, a quicker one.
‘Give me money’, the bum ordered. There were silver flashes from the dagger he wielded.
‘Give me!’ he shouted, in a more aggressive tone. Anita motioned to hand him her purse, he snatched it halfway, bumped past the company and raced down the street.
The kid dropped over her father’s shoulder, her head making contact with the asphalt.
A doctor walked into the waiting lounge in casual strides. The child died.
A week from now, Malcolm would wake up in a disturbingly quiet mansion. He would stare at his image in the mirror. He would see the shell of a man. He would acknowledge the failure that is this image. He would fail to reconcile the image with himself. He would walk past his wife laying on the bed. She would stare blankly up at him. His lips would part to speak and then close without a sound uttered.
Malcolm’s greatest revelation would be upon him, that sometimes, words are not the right words to say.
In the silence, he heard her scream.