Paradise Lost

Submitted into Contest #248 in response to: Write a story titled 'Paradise Lost'.... view prompt


Fiction Sad

This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

With eyes full of tears and a heart filled with agony I embraced my baby brother for the last time. After being in the orphanage for only a month, a family decided to adopt him. As the social workers separated us, I looked at his cherry red face and told him for the first time that I loved him. We had lost everything in our lives over the course of a few months, but through it all we had each other. Letting go was like giving up a part of myself before I even knew who I was. Things will feel strange for Jerry at first, but he will be surrounded by people who will love and care for him again. I hope they give him everything his heart desires; his own room, lots of toys, the comic books he’s always having me read to him, and maybe even a puppy. We never had a puppy. We had everything else at one point though. It’s hard to wrap your head around how fast things can change. I have heard the saying, ‘You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.’ It’s a truth hard learned, one that cuts like a knife, straight down to the bone.


Monday through Friday, dad worked at the auto plant. Mom stayed home with us kids, keeping everything clean, cooking all the meals, and making sure everyone got everywhere on time. Saturdays were family days. We would rise early to get our chores done so we could head off to some place to do something. No matter what we did, we always had fun once we pulled dad away from mom. Those two were inseparable, always hugging and kissing, holding hands and talking, laughing. We couldn’t even watch TV without those two leaning on each other. It was like they always had to be touching. Dad had a way of making mom laugh. Mom would look at dad with a dopey expression which made dad look all dopey. Jerry and I called them the dopes when they started with their googly eyed banter. Sundays were church days followed by a big meal at Grandma Gretta’s, or GG as she liked to be called.


The fair came to town one week during the summer of 1976. Jerry and I had waited all week for Saturday to come. We hopped out of bed and ran into the kitchen where mom and dad were wrapped in each other’s arms doing that dopey thing.


“Dad, please, please, please, can we go to the fair today,” I asked.


“Yeah, dad, please,” Jerry joined in.


Mom shifted in dad’s arms so that she was in front of him, still wrapped in his arms. Dad looked at us and asked, “Is your homework done and your room cleaned?”


“We did our homework last night and we’ve been really good about keeping our room clean all week,” I told him.


 Mom looked over her shoulder at dad and said, “They have been really good this week, Steven.”


Dad gave mom a quizzical look as if to ask her if she was trustworthy. Then he broke into a big toothy grin and said, “Go get dressed.”


Like we had just devoured fifty pixie sticks each, Jerry and I changed our clothes and were in the car honking the horn for the dopes to hurry up. On the way there, Jerry and I discussed what we were going to do and in what order. In the front seat, the

dopes were being dopes. They had that whole front seat to themselves, yet mom sat

as close to dad as she could. If Jerry came on my side of the car, I’d hit him. I asked mom once, why her and dad were like that. She said they were in love, telling me they were high school sweethearts, just kids when they met. They were best friends and couldn’t imagine life without each other. I thought that sounded weird. I couldn’t picture mom and dad as kids. Nor could I see boys and girls being best friends. Whatever the reason, they were always happy when they were together.


The first thing Jerry and I did at the fair was ride the roller coaster. It was the first year Jerry was tall enough to ride. We sat in the front and put our arms in the air. Jerry screamed like he was going to die, but he loved it. We rode it three times.

Then it was off to the scrambler, which spun us around so fast we couldn’t walk

straight after we got off. We saw mom and dad walk by holding hands, sharing a

soda. Seeing that soda made our thirst buds holler.


“Dad, can we get sodas too,” I asked, sliding to a stop in front of him, almost running into him.


Dad reached for his wallet and pulled out some money. “Get some hot dogs and popcorn while you’re there. Then meet us at the Ferris Wheel.”


We ate our snacks on the Ferris Wheel where we got stuck at the top. From that height we could see the whole town, including our house, which was really cool. We tried to get mom and dad to look, but they wouldn’t separate their faces long enough to enjoy the experience. Later on, dad won mom a teddy bear at the ring toss stand.

Jerry and I nearly emptied dad’s pockets on various games, never winning a thing. After that, we all went through the fun house. Then dad called it a day. He had spent all the money he had with him, so there was no point in staying.


We didn’t even get out of the parking lot before Jerry sprawled out across the back seat and went to sleep. I got to sit up front in the middle. Mom and dad asked me questions about the day, wanting to know what I liked most. I don’t remember what I said, but it made them laugh. They looked at each other endearingly and a truck

smashed into the passenger side killing my mom instantly.


None of us took mom’s death well, but dad took it particularly hard. He hardly got out of bed until the funeral. When he did, it was to drink. And when he drank, he got angry. GG took care of all the funeral arrangements. She said to give dad some time and he would be back to his old self before we would know it. More than a month

went by, and nothing changed. We had missed the first week of school. Dad finally told us that we had to go back.


“Dad, are you going to take us to school, or do we need to walk?”


Dad sat up, putting the leg down on the recliner, and grabbing his head at the sound of it catching. He reached for a bottle of vodka and tipped it back. A single drop hit his tongue. “I don’t know, Tim, you should probably get used to walking,” he said as he

grabbed a fresh bottle and twisted off the top.


“Are you going to write notes for Jerry and I telling our teachers why we missed so much school?”


Dad took a drink of vodka and said, “If they ask, have them call me.”


“You’re not going to work?”


“I don’t see how that’s any business of yours. Just get your brother and get off to school.”


“Jerry let’s go! Hurry up!”


Jerry hurried out of our room carrying his shoes. Throwing the newspapers off the couch, he sat down and put them on. The little booger was starting to smell. Nobody reminded him to take baths. I thought about reminding him to brush his teeth, but didn’t want to be late for school, so I let it go. Once he got his shoes on, he retrieved his homework from beneath the pizza box and we headed off to our first day at school.


Our teachers tried calling dad that day. He didn’t go to work. He passed out drunk. Our teachers gave us detention and said they would continue to give us detention until they heard from a parent, per school policy – whatever that meant. I explained the situation to dad. He went on a tirade about what kind of kid would lie about their mom dying and the school should have believed us. Nonetheless, he sat down and

wrote letters. His hand was shaky, and his eyes were filling with tears. His writing was as sloppy as Jerry’s. I wasn’t sure if the teacher was going to accept it, but I didn’t say anything.


“There. Make yourselves dinner. I’m going to the bar.”


“We don’t know how to cook,” I said, tired of living off of what we could scrounge up.


“Can you make a bologna sandwich,” dad asked.


“Yeah,” I told him, disappointed, but not wanting to argue.


“I don’t want bologna. I had bologna for lunch,” Jerry whined.


“Then make peanut butter and jelly. I don’t care. Eat whatever you find. I’m leaving,” dad said harshly.


“I want mommy,” Jerry said, nearly in tears.


“Your mother is dead! She’s never coming back,” dad screams into Jerry’s face. Then he left, leaving Jerry sitting there looking small, crying, not sure of what he did wrong.


That was the first time Jerry and I had ever been left home alone. Every little sound scared us, so we camped out in front of the TV. Dad came stumbling in about the time the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ started playing on TV.


“Hi dad,” I said as he bounced off the arm of the sofa on his way to the bedroom. He didn’t reply, so I assumed he didn’t hear me. I got up to go to the bathroom and I could make out the shape of him sitting on the edge of the bed, motionless. “Dad, are you okay?” He didn’t reply, but I saw him move. There was a simultaneous flash and

bang before my dad slumped over.


Fear. Surprise. Sadness. Too many emotions at once. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I was silent. I stood there staring. I could hear Jerry screaming for me, but he

sounded so far away. Cold. I felt cold and empty. Hollow. Jerry slammed into me, started pulling on me. I walked into the other room and called 911. Even my own voice sounded far away. “My dad just shot himself in the head,” I said flatly.


I walked outside and sat on the front step, not knowing what else to do. My brain wasn’t working. Jerry followed me and kept asking questions. I could hear him, but his words weren’t making sense. I just sat there until red and blue lights came flashing

around the corner with the coroner and a social worker behind them. The social worker tried talking to me, but I couldn’t respond. I heard Jerry say something about GG. She showed up later and helped the social worker gather some of our things. Jerry spent the night at GG’s. I spent the night in the hospital. What I was told the next day was that the social worker called our relatives to see if any of them were willing to take us in. They all said no, they couldn’t afford it. I asked about GG. The social worker said she had some sort of cancer and that she wouldn’t be able to take care of herself much longer, much less two boys so young.


The first night in the orphanage I cried. I’m sure Jerry did too. It was a strange place with strange people, most of them not very nice. Some of the kids there never knew their parents. Some of the kids there did know their parents and preferred being away from them. It wasn’t the same for me and Jerry. We loved our parents and missed them dearly.


Recently I have been thinking about a passage in the bible that I heard in church. I can’t recite it word for word, but it had to do with the father being the head, the mother the body, and the children the limbs. So much emphasis was always put on the head, but if you take away the body, what is there to keep the person together? Who holds up the head? Who guides the limbs? Who keeps the head and limbs working together? Without moms, families just fall apart. At least it did in my case.

She held us all together, she showered us with love, she took care of us. None of us were ready for her to go like that. Things spiraled out of control from there. Dad loved her so much he couldn’t bear life without her. In his sorrow he forgot how much Jerry and I still needed him. As for Jerry, I’m happy for my brother, but I’ve never felt so alone.


I want my mom. 

April 27, 2024 03:20

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Carol Stewart
01:36 May 09, 2024

Tragedy upon tragedy. So sad. I actually gasped over GG. Excellent depiction of the almost to good to be true family at the start and the horrors that followed. On the great see-saw of life, the balance does shift very dramatically sometimes. Fairground imagery felt very apt.


Show 0 replies
Trevor Woods
11:46 May 04, 2024

Great job. I connected with the abruptness of the parents deaths. Thats life and theres nothing we can do to change it.


Show 0 replies
11:17 May 02, 2024

So so sad. Good characterisation of the kid.


Show 0 replies
Trudy Jas
23:18 Apr 27, 2024

Heart wrenching. You stayed true to the child's voice. Describing the paradise, the dopey parents, the floundrering when the dad checked out. the loneliness when he and his brother were separated. A winner, TY!


Show 0 replies
Mary Bendickson
21:00 Apr 27, 2024

Yeah, that was paradise for those two kids that a lot of kids don't get anymore. So it was indeed a huge loss. So true how described a family. Hope Tim can find a new home soon and be able to visit Jerry.


Show 0 replies
Myranda Marie
15:04 Apr 27, 2024

All the feels with this one. I had to call my Mom just now. Well done as always.


Show 0 replies
Alexis Araneta
12:48 Apr 27, 2024

Ty, this was, yet again, stunning work. What a touching tale. I felt so much for both brothers. The flow was very well-written. Great use of description too. Splendid job !


Show 0 replies
Kristi Gott
04:42 Apr 27, 2024

This story and the writing style drew me in right away. The distinctive author's voice comes through and flows in a natural way. The characters are well developed as individuals. Events are described with vividness so the reader is engaged and empathy is aroused. The story has a lot of emotion making it come alive. Very well written. Good job!


Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.