JARRETT MAZZA - FAMILY RULES
Jarrett Mazza is a graduate of Goddard College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program in Plainfield, Vermont. Before completing his terminal degree, Jarrett studied writing at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, and completed the Novel Writing class at Sheridan College under award-winning writer, Melodie Campbell. He has received extensive training in fiction in all mediums, including screenwriting, comic book writing, poetry, academic writing, and craft. He has also taught in a Writer’s Craft classroom at his former high school, has had stories published online in the GNU Journal, Bewildering Stories, Trembling With Fear, Aphelion, and Silver Empire Publishing. He currently writes for the website Sequart that specializes in academic writings on comic books, fandom, and films. He is also working on a comic book pitch, writes over two-thousand words each day, reads one book each week, and constantly submits to publishers, contests, and other publications.
He lives outside of Toronto, Ontario.
You can follow him on Twitter @JarrettMazza
MY FATHER IS THE MOST powerful man I have ever known. Most children see their parents as the strongest people in the world. When you’re young, they protect you, give you the love that you need, and raise you to be better than they were raised, but in my family, my father is king, and we are all beneath him. My mother is his most prized possession. He loves more than he loves us. He has told us this many times. We don’t travel outside the family. We stay where we are, because in the eyes of my father, family is everything. You don’t break the bonds of family. You die with your family.
“Push! Keep pushing, honey! Push! Push!”
I am standing in the waiting room with my brothers and my sisters. There are nine of us now. I am the oldest.
“What’s Mommy doing in there?” asks Nella.
“She’s coming soon. Don’t worry.”
Suzie is the second oldest. She’s twenty and I’m twenty-one. We were the ones who were born first and the rest followed shortly after.
“Is she going to be all right?” Lisa is the next after Nella.
She is standing in the waiting room too, not running around like the others are, although she usually joins them when the younger kids decide to be rambunctious and disorderly. But, today, she is standing in her pink dress, my favourite one, and she’s standing in front of Suzie and waiting for one of us to answer.
“Yeah,” said Suzie. “Of course, Mommy is going to be all right.”
“Are you sure?”
I was standing when I heard Lisa ask the question again. Suzie was sitting, but she was looking at me too- waiting for me to answer, and yet, I didn’t want to. I didn’t because Lisa was starting to annoy me. I don’t like my younger brothers and sisters. Suzie is the only one I actually care for. She’s the most like my mother.
“Yes. Yes, she is.”
A few minutes later, my father stepped into the room, bringing with him a baby wrapped in a pink blanket and sleeping silently in his arms.
“Boys, girls,” he said, “say hello to your new baby sister, Gail.”
“What?” said Nella.
“Holy smokes,” said Timothy.
Everyone was so happy that they ran towards my father, so they could get a closer look at the newest member of our massive family. I didn’t move. I stayed near the vending machine and drank some water from a plastic up. There were too many children already.
“Get over here, Logan. Come over here and see the baby.”
I waited for everyone to look and then I strolled forward. It wasn’t because I was happy. I was getting tired of all these children and my mother and father thinking that we needed to expand our family any way we could. We lived in a farm house and there wasn’t enough room for five children let alone ten. Sometimes, I could hear my mother and father fucking in the next room. Sometimes I know they were trying subtle. They were trying to keep their voices down, but I knew what they were doing, and I was happy for my mother because getting fucked feels incredible, but I was also disappointed in my father. He has stuck his dick into so many vaginas that I was beginning to get protective and tired. I wanted what he had, and the only person I couldn’t be with was my mother. She was his, and his alone.
“Come on, Logan. Come on and give your new sister a looking over.”
I stood beside my father and looked down at Gail. She was pretty cute and not nearly as ugly as the other children bred before her. She one looked normal. Soon after she was born, we all returned home, and I sat up in my bed. I remembered having the “talk” about where babies come from and about what a man and a woman do in order to make such possible. However, living with as many siblings as I do, and staying in house where we’re all homeschooled, the only people I really get to see my brothers and sisters. I don’t like seeing just them, but then I know it really doesn’t matter. I look at my sisters in the same way that I look at all other girls I see. I don’t care that there’s a difference. In my family, we aren’t different. We’re all the same.
“Logan, what the hell are you doing?”
My father was standing in the hallway upstairs. It was late, in the middle of the night, actually. There was nothing happening except for the baby. Always the damn baby nowadays. My father was up late with it. Some of my younger sisters would stay with mom when she was breastfeeding. They liked to watch. My mother was asleep. I was pushing in the door to her bedroom but stopped when I heard my father creeping up behind me.
“I was…I was…”
“That’s our bedroom.”
“I know you know,” said my father.
He crept forward in his bathrobe and wearing his fluffy slippers. I was dressed in white underwear and a thin muscle shirt that barely covered my stomach.
“So…what are you doing?”
My hand was still caressing the door knob but removed it the second I saw my dad.
“I was just going to…I was just going to…”
My father inched himself closer and folded his arms.
“To, you know, to…see her.”
“You do know that she’s asleep right now, don’t you?”
My father gawked. He knew why I was visiting my mother’s bedroom. He always knew.
“You’re going to see her…now?”
I bowed my head and looked down at the floor. I didn’t like the way my father was looking at me after I responded.
“Everyone else is asleep.”
My father looked at the door and I continued to keep my head down.
“Does she know you’re coming?”
“I don’t know.”
My father gasped. I was lying, but everyone in our family lies. Sometimes my father visits other children. In fact, I know that he does. He breathed, and the sigh made his lips flutter like he was a braying mule.
“All right,” he said. “Just make sure it’s fast.”
I grinned, and he carried on.
“Thank you,” I said.
Our family is different. There is no doubt about that. On average, people have two to three children. Four to five being the most that people will have these days, but not our family. Our family has ten. My parents can’t stop being around his kids and his wife and, quite frankly, neither can I. I want to be around her the same as he does.
“What are you doing?” my mother asked in the middle of the night.
“Nothing,” I said to her.
She didn’t comment. She just walked away. My mother didn’t mind me visiting her. She said that everything my father does was out of love, everything was about affection. The outside world, as my mother said, would never understand the way we are, but, according to her, we weren’t part of the outside world. We were our own community and, therefore, we all have our own rules to follow.
I awakened the next morning and sat at the table to eat my breakfast. I had the same meal I always did: French Toast with banana slices and chocolate sauce. The chocolate sauce brought it all together. My father came to the table later. He had the newspaper in his hands and sat at the end of the table while my mother poured him his cup of coffee.
“Thank you, my dear.”
He grabbed her waist, pulled her in, and gave her a fat kiss on the cheek. My mother blushed with embarrassment and my younger brothers and sisters made a few comments, but I didn’t say a word.
“I’m going to go feed the baby.”
“All right then.”
My mother left the kitchen and I watched her as she went. My father was the king of the house. We knew this because he told us almost every day. He even walked around naked, with his penis flopping, and hitting our shoulders. In our house, people liked being naked. Sometimes, my sisters don’t wear any clothes. My parents didn’t encourage them to cover up the way that other families did. They were all about being open and free, and making sure that our family celebrated what made us apart, made us different. My mother was great, yet she wasn’t the best person to be with in this house. I knew this, and so did my family.
“Are you eating, Logan?”
I was looking down at my French toast. It was only half-eaten.
“Yes, I am.”
I didn’t like it when my father probed me, but every once in a while, he did. He wanted to let me see that he was the man of the house. When I couldn’t till the fields, when I made a mistake every now and again, he would bring me into his room, ask me to pull down my pants, and whip me with his belt. It hurt, sometimes, and then sometimes it felt good. Afterwards, I would limp back to my room and lay on my bed. Sometimes, Suzie would come and visit me. She would ask me if I was okay. I would tell her that I made a mistake and was being punished for it. She didn’t pity me, though, and sometimes, she would give me sex to cheer me up, and I would tell her I loved her.
The person, however, I was most disappointed in was my mother. She would never comfort me. She knew she couldn’t override my father. He was the boss, not her. But what I wanted from her was something big, something that my father had and that I wanted too. In our family, it’s all about who you possess, and I was getting older, and tired from all the casual interactions with sisters.
I wanted more. I wanted to be the man. I wanted to be my father.
The sunset and the farm were quiet. Whenever this happened, we stayed in the living room, all ten of us, and each one doing something different. Sometimes, the younger kids like Nella, and Breanna, and Alex would sit and play cards while my brothers, Pete, Harrison, Josh, Bradley, and Thomas would sit around and watch television. I would so the same thing, but mostly I had homework to do. Suzie and I had exams and we were preparing for them. My father was strict about our performance in school. It wasn’t because he really cared about school, but if we did well in the classroom, then on the farm there was less teaching needed.
“Smart is smart,” he used to say. “You stay smart everything else falls into place.”
I didn’t know why he insisted on telling me this, but I did start to understand the reasons as I became older. He said he beat us because he loved us, just like I loved mom, and I would do anything to show her just how much I cared.
My dad holds the key to my mother’s heart, and the key to her is everything. My other brothers and sisters don’t know this, but that’s only because they’re too young to understand. They’re not supposed to know this stuff.
I want that to change.
One day, I think it was in the fall, my brother took me for a walk through the farm. We circled the fields and we stopped near the river. He told me to bring my fishing rods and to help him catch some bait if I can. We fished for a while, but I knew from my father’s clothing: dress pants and an unbuttoned collar. He wasn’t wearing these clothes.
We weren’t here to go fishing.
“Come on, Logan. Follow me.”
I placed my fishing rod on the ground and looked up at my father.
“You want me to leave it here?”
“Yeah, it’s fine. Just come with me.”
My father was half-way into the forest when he told me to follow him. I walked directly behind him the entire time and stepped over a heap of stones gathered near a brook. It didn’t take too much time for me to get to where he wanted me to be. He had brought to a site filled with stones- gravestones -all built in a broken circle in the middle of the forest. My father was standing directly between them, watching me as I walked.
“Do you know what this place is, Logan?”
The place we were standing in was a graveyard. I had been to it before. Suzie and a few my other brothers and sisters would play there when we were younger. Whenever we did, my mother and father would tell us to be careful in fear that we would damage one of the stones. We never did. We were always careful, but not careful enough. One stone did break. It belonged to my father’s father. It was still broken to this day.
“It’s the graveyard.”
“Yes,” said my father. “It is the place where we buried our ancestors.”
“Everyone in our family is buried here, and they are here for a single purpose. Do you know what that purpose is?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Preservation,” my father said. “Preservation and protection.”
Protection, not preservation, was something I could grasp, even from an early age. Our family didn’t mingle with other families. Only those that my father would permit and most of them were people who belonged to our church where my father was the pastor. He preached a lot of ideas, the most important of which was this idea that we were a family that believed in keeping everything inside the family. There were other families who believed in things similar. They too were like our own. They, of course, didn’t talk about it, not about legacy and preservation, which is what my father talked about most of the time. He brought me here to remember, but, at the time, I found myself feeling inspired. Now, whenever I see it, I don’t feel honoured, I feel frustrated.
These people are dead, but not me. I’m still here, still alive.
“We protect our spouses. We protect those who are the closest to us.”
When he said this to me, I found myself feeling surprised that this thought had entered my mind, but it did, and it had me thinking about everything differently. I looked up at my father and glared.
“I want to protect mom,” I said. “I’m the protector.”
My father was standing in front of one of the gravestones. In fact, I think it was his mother’s when I inquired about this. He turned and gave me a subtle glower that gave me chills, made me feel afraid.
“What did you say to me?”
He glanced back at me, and at the stone.
“Mother,” I said.
I was now almost partially certain that he was standing in front the stone that belonged to his mother.
“Mother,” I said again. “I love her, and I want to be the one that protects her.”
It was then that my father’s face turned white. He didn’t expect this, and he didn’t have an answer, and because he didn’t he knew how he was supposed to respond.
“I protect,” said my father. “I’m the one that protects her.”
“I know that,” I replied, “but I would like to too. She is my mother, after all.”
My father stepped in and made his way over to where I was standing and, when he came toe-to-toe, he raised his hand and slapped me in the side of the face.
"Don’t you ever say that again. No one protects her but me. No one, do you understand?”
My father slapped me and then he returned to our house and left me to stand in front of the gravestone. I ate dinner later and kept my head down as I did. I was hoping that my father would speak to me, or that Suzie would, but she didn’t. No one did, no one except my mother.
“Logan,” she said, “are you all right? You seem sick.”
My fork was resting underneath a mound of mashed potatoes.
“Are you sure?”
I stopped and glowered.
“Yes,” I replied, gritting my teeth. “I am.”
My mother dropped the subject and later, she collected our dishes and left us to continue with our day. My father watched me the entire day. He didn’t like that was rude to my mother, his wife, and the one that he said protected our bloodline. I also noticed that he was pissed because he knew what I wanted now. I possessed everyone in this house; all my sisters, and my mother was the only one left. If I grabbed her when she was asleep, tried to take my father’s place, then our bloodline would be mine, and I would be the last. The last was the best place to be, because that’s where the Lord stands. He stands above everyone else.
When my parents were sleeping, I crept into their bedroom and stood next to my mother wearing nothing except my sock. My mother was naked too. She always slept naked and she didn’t know that I was standing over her, staring and waiting for her to wake.
“Logan,” she said, “what are you doing in here?”
I breathed and waited for her to sit up in the bed.
“I want you.”
I leaned in and tried to kiss her, but she moved away, pulling the sheets with her.
“Logan, no,” she said. “You have to go back to sleep.”
“No,” I said. “I need to…”
I looked up and saw that my father was sitting up in the bed too.
“Logan, what the hell are you doing in here?”
I was frozen, and my mother’s head was turned to look back at my dad. I couldn’t see her face, though I anticipated that was alarmed and knew what my father would do if he saw me trying to make my mother entirely mine.
My body trembled, and I closed my eyes and waited.
My parents didn’t see what I was holding. The knife was turned against my leg and, when I rotated my wrist, and revealed the broad side of the blade. It glistened and caught my father’s cold, furious gaze.
“What the hell are you doing?”
My father vehemently stepped forward, attempting to move across the bed, and grab my hand. Before he could, I jumped, and gouged the knife into the base of his neck and watched him as he bled.
“Ahhh!” my mother screamed.
My father’s eyes popped, his blood vessels flexing before his face turned red, the same color as his blood. I grasped the blade, squeezed the handle, and pushed in deeper.
“Logan! Logan! Stop!”
I didn’t. I pushed the blade and watched as my father stopped moving. When he did, I yanked it out and his body bounced off the mattress and fell onto the floor.
My mother continued to scream, and my brothers and sisters cried and stomped towards the bedroom. Of all the voices I could hear, Suzie’s was the loudest. She was calling my name. My mom didn’t move from the mattress. She was limp and trembling and yet, she didn’t fight or resist me in anyway. This wasn’t the first time someone had killed to get to her. She was, after all, the only person who was not blood in our family. She was old. There was a gravestone already made for her and she didn’t need my father anymore.
My mom wiped the blood from her face and I lowered the knife. I turned, headed to the bedroom door, and closed it gently behind me. I waved at Suze and smiled. Our time was done. I was father now.
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