The Watcher by David Macfie
From my lofty position I can see pretty much everything that goes on in the family room of the house. Everything but the programs on the TV, that is. That infernal machine has its back to me so I can only tell a little of the action from the expressions of the viewers. The mom and kids spend rather a lot of time, in the evenings, crouched in front of the beast. And I have already noticed the kids creeping in to watch the box at other times, when they’re not supposed to. During the day, the kids are at school or outside activities. Then mom does the housework, the shopping and the cooking. Mom’s taxi ferries the kids around to outings at the weekends, or they have friends over. At home she doesn’t relax much. I don’t see her watching TV or reading or busy with hobbies.
My vision is blocked from the rest of the house. But I do hear stuff going on there.
The eldest boy is twelve and a bit of a tear-away. He doesn’t do much homework. He’s arrogant and loud and he gives his mother a very hard time. He takes, quite a lot, after his father. He also bullies his youngest brother when he thinks he can get away with it. I think he needs a lot more discipline but mom is too soft and dad too disinterested. From time to time, he also tries to push his other brother around.
That kid is ten, quiet and solitary, but scared of nothing. He’s big for his age and quite strong. So even though there are a couple of years between them, he stands up to his big brother. And he has beaten him a couple of times when the older guy went too far.
The youngest is a real sweetie. He’s happy most of the time, except when his big brother hurts him. That doesn’t happen very often now. Brother number two has started sticking up for him. This youngest kid is five and the apple of his mother’s eye. She’s scared of the eldest, the middle one keeps very much to himself so the youngest gets most of her free time.
The mother is a good woman. She tries very hard to be right for her family; is always there for her children; helps with homework; takes them to extra-murals, the park and movies; works at her marriage. Dinner is always ready on time, the house is spick and span, the kids are clean and tidily dressed even though there isn’t much money coming in. She even waits, hand and foot on her husband. I never hear her complain but I do hear her, sometimes, crying in the night.
Her fondest wish is to have the happy family she always dreamed about when she was young.
As you can guess, the problem is the dad. He’s selfish, loud mouthed and arrogant. He comes and goes as he pleases, drinks too much, avoids the kids and, when he’s drunk, he rages and hurts the mom. He keeps most of the money he earns for himself so the mom has to scrimp and save and make a pittance go a long way. All her dreams of a happy marriage and an idyllic family life, have long ago faded into nothingness. But she endures. She hasn’t given up. She is still trying to make a go of it.
Right now, this Friday afternoon, she is preparing a surprise for her husband. She has saved and saved and is preparing a nice meal for his birthday. She has arranged for the kids to stay with friends for the night. The house is spotless and the dinner table is laid. The food is ready and a nice bottle of sparkling wine sits, patiently, in an ice bucket. Now she waits in anticipation of his homecoming. And she waits, and she waits some more.
I watch and my heart goes out to the mom. She really does try so hard.
Finally, she hears his car in the driveway. She stands, hands fluttering nervously. She licks her lips, checks herself in the hallway mirror and stares at the door with a mixture of fear and love on her face. The door slams open and he walks in, unsteadily.
“Happy birthday, darling,” she says.
He rudely pushes past her, sits at the table, pours wine for himself and slugs back half a glass. She rushes to fetch the food, carves the meat and serves him. Then she sits and serves herself.
I should have seen it coming but I didn’t.
The quarrel comes out of the blue, engineered by him. Once it starts it gets out of control like a brush fire. He rages to his feet, comes round the table and smacks her across the face, one way and then the other. Her head is flung about like a leaf in a windstorm and something breaks inside her. I see it happening clearly. Fumbling for a weapon to protect herself, she finds the carving knife, grabs it and stabs. The knife takes him just under the breastbone and angles upwards. He staggers and, in a frenzy, she stabs again and again. As his life drains away, he uses his remaining strength to pull his gun from his belt and fire one shot. Then he crumples to the floor. She stands for a moment, looking at him with no expression, then she also crumples. Blood covers her chest where the bullet hit. In moments both lie still on the carpet.
“Who are you?” I hear you cry. “What are you doing there? Why didn’t you do anything to stop it?”
Alas, If only I could. I am the ghost of the man whose picture sits in the frame on the mantelpiece. I have been watching over my daughter and her family, hoping for their happiness and thinking to protect her if I can. Instead, all I have achieved is to watch her die.