The Thunderstorm and His Son

“Oh, don’t act like you’re all hurt,” he said, walking over to the refrigerator and opening it up.  “This isn’t about you, it’s about how disgusting you are.  You get on a diet right now or you’re gone.  And you can take the loser kid with you.”

Noyes turned around to look at Edward, but his son was gone.

“You know, I didn’t marry you for your brains.  It was the looks you used to have.”

Loretta’s nose was still bleeding.  She kept a paper towel pressed against it, walking away from him as he ranted, her head bowed, Noyes following her, gesturing at her, pointing in anger, Loretta every so often tearing off another paper towel and pressing it to her nose.

“…You think I’m going to stay with a woman whose own father thinks she’s an idiot?  And by the way, I happen to agree….”

Edward appeared around the corner.  His eyes were smeared with tears.   His arm was straight at his side, his hand holding his father’s pistol.  For a long moment, nobody moved.  There was mask of pain drawn across Edward’s face like a goat-skin shroud that Loretta had never seen before.  Loretta had dropped her hand, and as a result, her nose was openly bleeding off her top lip, onto her chin, and onto the kitchen floor.

“Edward Andrew, you come here right now,” Loretta said in a firm voice.

Edward did not move.  He was struggling with something within him and his hands were trembling.  He looked up at his father.  Noyes refused to meet his gaze, but instead, walked to the pantry and took out a bottle of tequila.  He took out a shot glass and poured a drink.

“I should have realized,” Noyes said, holding out the drink and taking a step towards him.  “You’ve finally become a man.  Come here, son.”

The gunshot surprised everyone.  Noyes jumped back, then looked around, seeing Edward’s arm now raised and a look of horror splashed across his face.  Loretta had let out something like an abbreviated scream, raising her hand to her mouth.  Blood was still dripping off her chin.  Within a few moments, Noyes realized with astonishment that he hadn’t been hit.

“I think we’re going to need more than just one glass,” Noyes said, grabbing the tequila bottle around the neck.

Noyes walked towards Edward slowly, step by step, a charming smile playing on his lips, all the while saying, “Son…son…son…son…son…son…son….”

When Noyes had nearly reached his son, the boy suddenly raised his arm and jammed the gun against his father’s chest.  The solid thump of it registered like a jolt on his face.  It reminded Noyes of something that had happened to him in Kosovo, but he couldn’t remember exactly what.  For one long moment, their eyes locked: Edward sniveling through his tears, but beneath that, something within him also surging with rage; the father’s face was in calm, taut control, but peeking out from beneath it, the son could every so often detect a flash of what he figured out years later was disgust and disdain.  It was a moment that Edward would think about virtually every day through the years, sometimes during long, insomniac nights throughout his teens, later in his twenties during harrowing moments of frenzied criminality, a gun in his hand, trying to figure out what the expression of a frightened gas station attendant or surprised homeowner meant, and finally at age 32, in tears for the first time in decades, this time on his knees, head buried in the lap of his nearly naked mistress, confessing how that moment so long ago had forever haunted him because, no matter how he turned the details back and forth in his mind, reframing them, casting them in different contexts—sociopath, misogynist, man of action—he had never been able to make sense of it, and “why didn’t it make sense, why can’t I figure out what it means?” and his mistress peering down at his head, brushing her fingers through his thinning hair, answering simply through a drug-induced haze—“Because he loved you so much”—and then passing out.

For those who were interested in my post, “The Thunderstorm That Lived Next Door,” the excerpt above is how I turned the incidents from my childhood into fiction in my recent novel, What Happens to Us (  In fact, the whole novel is a profile of dysfunction as it expresses itself in many forms, from the personal to the political.  Try it out.


5 thoughts on “The Thunderstorm and His Son

  1. My goodness,
    I don’t often encounter scenes like this one, but even for that brief time I was reading, I had my hands gripped to both sides of my chair!

    thank you for these short heart-stopping moments!

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