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Coming of Age Fantasy Gay

Forks clink against plates, the tedious sound chokes in the expanse of silence ever growing between us. Unspoken words foam at my lips, stinging, burning. They yearn to be said, more so to be heard. If I spoke… 

Father, would you hear me? Would you still love me? 

Mother’s glance flitters between us. She’s wearing her smile—the pretend one. Has she ever worn any others? I can’t recall. If she had, then I suppose they’re probably hanging up in her wardrobe now, gathering dust and mites. Withering, wilting. 

My fingers patter against the mahogany table; I just noticed. And I’m unable to calm them. My whole body—each twitch and every fidget—is agitated, flaring. Something raw and wild within me calls for action. Commands I rise and spew truths across this table that could rend us from this tapestry of vapidity we’ve swaddled ourselves in. Are suffocating in. And yet, all I want to do is flee. Retreat to anywhere that isn’t here. That isn’t now where my heart is a brand searing terror across my chest. Again and again. And I do not know what to do. And so do nothing. 

The illusion of stability is a slow boil. Don’t you see these bubbles all around us? Don’t you hear their shrieking howls as they burst like blisters each time we’re together? Can’t you feel that our relationship is no longer tepid? 

Adhere always to the governance of propriety. Your words burn through my mind, hot and scornful. We live by niceties. 

But there’s nothing nice about this. We don’t talk. We don’t say what we mean.

Would you accept me, father? If I were to share with you the real me? 

Foolish, likely as I am, I dare to hope so. 

You sit across from me now, eyeing what’s left of your pan-seared pancreas. Saying nothing. Typical. But you already know, don’t you? You have to… 

See, this is the problem with niceties that aren’t actually nice—no one ever lets on what they already suspect or know. It’s always a guessing game. Either you know and don’t wish to acknowledge it, or you don't know and, if that’s the case, would you acknowledge it after I’ve singed the wool from your eyes?  

I don’t know what I’m doing, father. I’m not versed in the art of niceties, not like you. You’ll never say the wrong thing, but that doesn’t mean you ever say the right thing either. Honestly, I don’t know which is worse.

Mom, though, she knows. And even she hasn’t a clue how best to handle you. She offered to talk to you herself. I almost relented to her offer, but no. No. This is something I have to do, to prove to myself—to you—that I’m strong enough. I. Am. Strong enough. All last week she and I went back and forth, rehearsing conversation after conversation, attempting to arm ourselves against all the weapon-worthy, pleasant, empty words of your arsenal. It’s surprising how painful nice words can feel. I think it’s the lack of emotion, the oversaturation of nuance, the absence of any definitive depth whatsoever. They’re unclear. So precise as to mean nothing. 

Hate, I can handle. Platitude is at a whole other altitude; it gets lost somewhere in the space of banality over my head. 

I want to live freely. I want you, father—the man who made me, who raised me, who has always been there for me, even if only ever in you own politeness-feigned, unobtrusive way—to know me completely and to say something, anything other than the steady stream of nothing I’ve only ever been permitted to know you by. There is an ache within me in not knowing your depth. Tales have been spun and sung of the deeds you’ve done, when once you were rash and brash, and yet I’ve only ever had them told to me by those who marvel in your presence. How could these legends possibly by true?

What ever happened to the man who I never knew? 

Do you even want to know me? The real me? Could you stomach the truth?

“It seems you haven’t touched your pancreas, son.”

Would you stop belittling me with your damn empty pleasantries! Say what you mean, father. Please.

Or I will. 

My hand tenses, clenches around my fork. A breath catches in my throat, and I feel a building of words into an inferno, flaring and billowing in my chest. To Purgatory with niceties; I’m of a different breed. 

“No, father. I haven’t touched my pancreas. Frankly, I find them gross and disgusting and there’s something I need to say—” I choke. Mom does, too. My whole body is shaking and I’m sweating from crevices I didn’t even know could sweat. The words stinging and burning on my lips have begun their escape. I couldn’t dare halt them now.

“Father,” I say. “I’m…”

— — —

You're vegetarian. I know it. My boy’s a damn vegetarian.

All through dinner you’ve just been shuffling that pancreas across your plate, never once tasting it, though it’s seared perfectly, its aroma fleshy and spicy. Juicy. 

I take a bite of mine. Warm fluids gush forward, dribbling through my beard, pouring down my throat and tasting better than the golden liquid light of my banisher. Sublime. 

My eyes never leave you. You wear your tension like a cloak of flames, a beacon bright and heavy on your shoulders. This is likely the night when you confess your abnormality. I can see it now. The guilt, the shame, the self-loathing all writhing within your heart. Being the Devil, one might think me vile, cruel. Some have even sunk so low as to call me unfair. I’m not. I am fairness incarnate. Your struggle, though, is anything but fair. 

Do you struggle because of me? Was I not kind enough? Loving enough? 

Do you not know me well enough?

You will be the beast of me one day. You will. And the best of me. I show you only the best of me so that you might come to know the best in you, son. This is a challenging profession. If never you learned kindness from me, you’d likely never learn it at all. We are a monstrous breed, you and me.

That does not make us monsters. 

So, eat your salads, son. Define yourself on your own terms; others will define you by theirs regardless. Terror is not stoked by who you are, but by what you do. If ever I’ve misguided you, somehow taught you to fear me… I hope one day you come to know I never meant for that.  

I love you, son. I love you. There’s not a damn thing in these nine realms—nor above—that ever could change that.

Your fork clinks against your plate and your fingers patter on the table. I think this is it. You’re making his move. 

Let me help you. 

“It seems you haven’t touched your pancreas, son.”

Perfect! I lobbed you a soft opening. Take the bite. I know we can bridge this divide. 

Crinkles on your forehead, you’re thinking, mulling it over. 

Take the bite, son. Take it. 

“No, father. I haven’t touched my pancreas. Frankly, I find them gross and disgusting and there’s something I need to say—” 

You’re so nervous your choking. I turn to my wife at the sound of her sharp intake of breath. Her wide eyes are a rallying call. I know just what to do. 

If you haven’t the strength yet to carry this son, I’ll carry it for you. 

“Father, I’m…”

“It’s okay, son. I know.” 

“Wait. What?” you stammer. “You know?” 

“I do. I’ve known for a while, and I want you to know that it’s alright. It’s nothing for you to be ashamed of. You are as you are” 

Though, I really hope you don’t ask me to be one, too…

You deflate. That tension like a cloak of flames smolders out on your shoulders, and you slump back in your chair. Relieved. Though posture is important, I’ll let it slide for tonight. 

It’s done. 

“How about tomorrow morning you and I make our way down to the Field of the Buried? I spotted a few sprouting hands reaching toward the sky. We could pluck some fingernails and make that salad dressing you like.” I pause for a moment and think. “You still eat the fingernails, right? Just not the organs and the flesh?”

The best parts really. More for me, I suppose.

“What—what are you talking about?”

I scrunch my brow. 

“The whole vegetarian thing you’re doing, which I accept wholeheartedly.”

“I—I’m not a vegetarian. What makes you think I’m a vegetarian?”

Have I misread the situation…?

“You haven’t touched your pancreas all night. You haven’t really eaten them since we got that shipment from the Department of Disembodiment last month.” 

You slap your hands against the table. When did you learn rage?

“Yeah, because you’ve served us pancreases for every meal for weeks. I’m tired of them. And that’s not even—” 

You choke again. 

“That’s not even what I was going to say.” You rise, start to leave. 

“Son, wait. I thought—” 

“You thought wrong, father. You think you know what’s going on, but you don’t. And you try so hard to keep the flames smooth and round, but sometimes they need to be sharp. Sometimes they need to burn.” 

“Burn what, son?”

“It doesn’t matter. Nothing ever seems to matter to you. You’ll just find a way to smooth everything over like you always do. Drown it all in your empty pleasantries…”

I rise from my chair, start towards you. 

“Don’t dad. Just… Just don’t.” 

You stalk off, plumes of smoke billowing from your horn sprouts. 

Each step you take feels like ten leagues carving between us and each league burns more than the last. I slipped up. I don’t even know what went wrong. 

My wife—lips pursed and hands on her temples, she won’t look at me. She won’t even look at me…

I was only trying to do what I thought was right. Be nice.

What did I miss?

December 15, 2023 12:30

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