Return to Permafrost Issue 37.2: Choose Your Own Adventure

Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Dad

by Nicholas A. White

The ceiling light turned on without anyone touching the switch, and the fan spun faster and faster until it seemed like it would spin through the roof. Then the fan stopped, the light went out, and the glow from the TV (a basketball game) filled the room. Ian touched the mole on his left shoulder. He couldn’t explain how he knew, but he simply knew. The mole was precancerous. Also, the Wizards would win the game, 96-89.
The following day, Ian went to the doctor to prove to his wife and daughter that God had granted him omniscience. He navigated through the twenty-minute drive without hitting a single red light–which, he thought, was further proof of his omniscience, having known when each light would turn red. After he parked, he watched a young woman step from her SUV. And then he knew. The woman intended to steal drugs from the doctor’s office. So after she went inside, wanting to teach her a lesson, Ian smashed her car window using the tennis racket he’d bought for his wife’s forty-fourth birthday. Then he skipped his appointment and drove home.
Later that night, before falling asleep in the guest bedroom (because he left dinner early after his wife said the tennis racket was exactly what she wanted for her birthday–and it had not been exactly what she wanted) he said a special prayer for the woman at the doctor’s office. And he also prayed for his wife, who had not only lied to him during dinner about the tennis racket, but–even worse–had blasphemed against God while scolding the dog: “Off, off, off! You’re the devil, Baxter!’ And even though Ian had reminded her that Baxter wasn’t really the devil (he was a dog), and that it was blasphemous to accuse an animal of being God’s enemy (unless it was a snake), she ignored him, and continued shouting at Baxter. She became Teresa the Blasphemer.

Φ

Ian’s wife and daughter still believed they could lie to him without him knowing: casual statements about Alana needing money for school; a trip to the “grocery store’ at eight o’clock at night; how the red marks on Alana’s neck were from scratching a mosquito bite and not from some boyfriend sucking her neck like a vampire. Oh, Teresa the Blasphemer and Alana the Liar. What a mother-daughter pair. After the ceiling-fan incident, Ian realized his daughter was a habitual liar. For example, Alana had said the forty pounds he’d gained wasn’t noticeable. But now he recognized the obvious truth. Who couldn’t notice forty pounds?
One night after Alana went to her friend’s house to watch a movie, and after Teresa went to bed early because of migraines, Ian crafted the ultimate plan to teach his family a lesson. The next day, he would wait for his daughter to come home from school, and as soon as the garage door moaned to life–and the dog, Baxter, relayed this signal through its barking–Ian would rush upstairs, hang himself with a noose attached to the ceiling fan in Alana’s bedroom, and hold his breath just long enough to gasp in desperation upon her entrance. It would be enough of a shock, he hoped, to show Alana and Teresa they didn’t know everything about life. He, however, did know everything about life, and it was time they accepted his omniscience. How could they expect God to save them from eternal damnation if they didn’t believe in miracles? And what if they continued to refuse? They would surely find themselves one day in a dark cave–an inescapable place of fire.

Φ

The garage door opened. The dog barked. Ian went upstairs and locked himself in his daughter’s room. But then he had a vision. In order to save his family, he realized he first needed to understand them. Maybe, he thought, he could earn their trust by behaving like them. Even lying like them. But where to start?
When Alana knocked and asked who the fuck had locked her bedroom door, Ian hid the rope under the bed. He was relieved about having not hanged himself from the ceiling fan, understanding now that it had never been part of the ultimate plan in the first place. But he needed to give Alana an explanation.
“It’s me.’
“Dad? What the fuck are you doing in my room?’
“Uh–nothing.’
“Why’d you lock the door?’
“Me and Baxter are–uh–playing hide-and-seek.’
“What?’
The doorbell rang, and Ian rushed to answer, ignoring Alana as she yelled for him to come back and offer a better explanation. The neighbor’s twin girls stood on the porch, both of them wearing their Girl Scouts uniforms.
“How many boxes of cookies do you want to buy, Mister? You bought fifteen boxes last year, remember? An all-time record.’
“Did I? That sounds gluttonous, don’t you think? Are you–uh–are you sure you’re thinking of the right house?’ Ian looked to the sky hoping God wasn’t listening. God didn’t need to know about his little spurts of gluttony last year–assuming, of course, He didn’t already know.
“You sure ate a lot of cookies in one sitting, Mister. You didn’t even bother shutting the door–you just kept stuffing your face, box after box. Don’t you remember?’
“Well that doesn’t sound like me. And I really can’t afford any cookies this year. I–uh–I don’t have any money. I’m dead broke.’
Ian shut the door, pleased with his performance. With a little practice, he believed he could lie to anyone. It was all part of a bigger plan to understand and eventually help the sinners of the world, especially his wife and daughter. And that was a thought he hoped would ascend to The Right Listener.

Φ

A few days later, while Alana the Liar eyed him skeptically over dinner, and as Teresa the Blasphemer guzzled the red wine in her glass and avoided his eye contact, Ian mentioned how proud he was to have such a loving family–and immediately he pursed his lips to contain his laughter. There were no bounds on what he could say. The world had opened, and he was overcome with a feeling of immense freedom. He began to understand why people lied so often. It was fun.
“And you, Alana. You’re the best daughter a dad could ask for!’
“It’s not funny anymore, okay, Dad? It was never funny. You’ve turned into a freak. And then you hide in my room? Just what the fuck were you doing in there, anyway? Even Mom’s noticed it. There’s something wrong with you.’
“I’m fucking omniscient, Alana. That’s what’s wrong with me.’
Ian pretended to hit a winning serve over the table with his wife’s tennis racket, and Teresa and Alana left the dining room, shaking their heads, leaving him alone with a plate of untouched turkey and mashed potatoes. Ian smiled larger in that moment than he had at any point during the last month. Hell, maybe even the last year. Then the garage door opened, his wife and daughter left the driveway, and while sitting in silence, Ian quickly frowned, having no idea how someone could eat dinner by himself. The silence was simply too distracting.
Baxter the Dog trotted into the dining room, wrongfully assuming dinner was over and in search of crumbs. Ian waved a turkey leg and tossed it to the middle of the table, and Baxter jumped after it.
“Off, off, off! You’re the devil, Baxter! No. Jumping. On. Furniture. You’re terrible company. The worst. All you care about it food. Maybe I should’ve hanged you from the ceiling, you lousy mutt.’
Suddenly a tremor shook the ground, and a crater formed in the center of the room, swallowing the table and chairs. Mashed potatoes splattered against the walls. Turkey flew in the air and disappeared down the widening abyss. Baxter maneuvered to safe ground, eventually jumping to a corner of the room where the floor remained undamaged. But Ian wasn’t as lucky. He reached for something steady and called for Baxter, who had busied himself licking mashed potatoes from the walls.
“God dammit, Baxter! Come give me a hand!’
The dog turned its head, paused, then transformed into a glowing beast with red skin. It grew as tall as the ceiling, standing on two legs, muscles materializing, red veins bulging. Two horns sprouted behind its ears like unsheathed swords. Its eyes were as yellow as mustard, its teeth as sharp as spikes. Smiling with a pitchfork, it prodded Ian toward the hole in the earth.
“Not me!’ Ian said. “My wife. My daughter. You want them. Not me!’
But the transformed Baxter continued to push. Ian fought the edge until another tremor rattled the room and he lost his footing. Air rushed over his ears and he battled consciousness. And then he closed his eyes, waiting for God to send a great rope to his rescue–waiting, falling, waiting, falling, never losing faith.

Φ

Which piece of advice would you give to a sibling?

It is a cardinal sin to disregard a meteor shower.
Don’t probe your ears with it.