TB II Excerpt #2

This is chapter five – one of the Santascoy flashbacks while he is unconscious. A pivotal moment in his young life, shaping his entire future.

Seventeen-year-old Noman Santascoy sat in the uncomfortable visitor’s chair in the hospital room, watching his mother’s labored breathing. As the machines that surrounded her beeped and blinked, he kept vacillating between despair and rage.

The hospital room door slowly opened, and a woman dressed in scrubs padded inside. “Hi Noman,” she said softly, concern evident on her face. “I’m Marguerite, one of your mom’s nurses. How are you doin’?”

Steeling his expression, Santascoy replied evenly, “Fine.”

Nurse Marguerite nodded. “I know. Stupid question. Have you been here all this time?”

He nodded. “Someone has to be.”

The hospital room door opened again, and a man in a suit walked inside. Striding up to Leslie Santascoy, he checked her chart and then the machine before looking down at Leslie. He then turned, casting his sympathetic gaze at Noman.

“Hi. I’m Doctor Grupke. I take it you’re Mrs. Santascoy’s son?” When Noman nodded, he continued. “Where is your father?”

His gaze hardening, Noman replied, “If I had to guess, I’d say at a bar somewhere.”

Showing no reaction, the doctor said, “I need to talk to him about your mother.”

Noman stood, taking a step closer. “Talk to me.”

“Now son, I –”

“Talk. To. Me.” Santascoy’s eyes blazed with anger.

At that moment, the hospital room door burst open. Fraser Santascoy marched in, glared at the doctor and then the nurse before moving his gaze to his comatose wife. He pointedly avoided looking at Noman.

With no emotion, Noman uttered, “Speak of the devil,” accentuating the last word. 

“How is she?” Fraser said loudly, a slight slur to his voice.

“Mr. Santascoy, I’m Doctor Grup –”

Cutting him off, Fraser said loudly, “How is my wife?”

Grupke glanced over at Noman before returning his attention to Fraser. “We shouldn’t talk in front of –”

Fraser’s voice grew even louder. “I don’t care about him. What’s going on with Leslie?”

Doctor Grupke paused for only a moment before saying, “She suffered severe brain damage in the fall, Mr. Santascoy. She has lost nearly all of her autonomic functions. This machine is essentially keeping her alive.”

Fraser walked over to his wife, resting a hand gently on her cheek, then patted it twice with a less-than-gentle motion. After a moment, he turned to look at the doctor. “How long until you pull the plug? Do you need my permission or something?”

With a quick intake of air, Noman yelled, “You son of a bitch!” He took a step closer to his father, hands balled into fists.

“Get him out of here,” yelled Fraser with a sneer, “so the adults can talk.”

Stepping between them, Nurse Marguerite said to Noman, “Come on sweetie, let’s get you some food.”

Noman, with one final glare at his father, pivoted and stormed out of the room. Sprinting to the end of the hall, he stopped in front of a picture of a gentle, flowing landscape, and punched it with a short, quick shot. The picture frame shattered, showering the ground with shards of glass. The young Santascoy shook his hand as the nurse finally caught up to him. “Oh Noman!” Taking his bleeding hand his hers, Marguerite said, “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”

Marguerite led him into a neighboring room. Sitting him down on a vacant bed, she grabbed some supplies and started wiping the blood away. “Look,” she said softly, “I know this is tough. And I know your dad didn’t handle that well. But dear, your mom is in a bad way. She’s not improving. It’s getting to the point where her quality of life will degrade. You don’t want her to linger like this. It’s no life, Noman.”

She finished bandaging him as he pulled his hand away. “It’s not fair! It’s his fault. He did this to her. He shouldn’t be allowed to pull the plug.”

Marguerite’s brow tightened. “What do you mean it’s his fault?”

In a monotone voice, he replied, “He pushed her down the stairs.”

She paused for a moment before speaking again. “He told us she fell.”

“Yeah,” Santascoy said with an unhappy chuckle, “he would say that. He always says that.”

Standing, she whispered, “You’re saying he’s done this before?”

“Many times. He’s a monster.”

Marguerite stared at him for another long tick of the clock, her mouth agape. “Have you told anybody?”

Laughing humorlessly, Santascoy responded, “Oh yeah. Everyone always believes the upstanding citizen over the malcontent child.” He added finger quotes over both upstanding and malcontent.

Staring straight into his eyes, the nurse said, “I don’t.

“Oh there you are,” said Fraser as he stood ominously in the doorway. “C’mon, we gotta go, Santascoy.”

Marguerite gave Noman a puzzled look. “He calls you by your last name?”

By way of an answer, Fraser said, “Noman is a stupid name.”

The young Santascoy glared at his father. “You gave it to me.”

“Shut up!”

“You couldn’t spell Norman!”

His face reddening, Fraser shouted, “I said shut up!”

“What sort of man can’t spell Norman?” Santascoy said with a dry laugh. “It’s six frickin’ letters, Dad!”

“Why you little…” Taking several steps into the room, Fraser’s eyes burned with seething rage as he approached.

Marguerite stepped in front of the teenager, staring directly at Fraser. “Don’t you hurt him!”

This stopped the elder Santascoy in his tracks. “Hurt him?” He forced a wide smile. “Never! We’re just playing around, aren’t we, boy?” Eyes narrowing, he added, “Aren’t we just playing around, dear son of mine?”

Noman stared at his father for a long moment, before curling his own lips upward. “Sure dear father, we’re just playing. Like we always do.”

“All right then,” Fraser said, then spitting out, “Noman.” He held his hand out, past the nurse, beckoning. “Come along then. We have things to discuss.”

Walking past Nurse Marguerite, Noman gave her an intent stare, hoping his eyes told her to do something with the information he had given her.

“Bye, Noman,” she said as the two Santascoy men walked down the hallway and out the door.

As they reached the parking garage, Noman in the lead, Fraser balled his hand into a fist and hit the teenage Santascoy solidly in the back of the head. Falling, Noman’s head bounced off the concrete wall before careening against their car. Fraser straddled him, punching him several times in the solar plexus. Directly into his face, Fraser yelled, “Don’t you ever try to embarrass me again like that, you little piece of crap. I’ll kill you like I just did your mother.”

His head ringing and throbbing, Santascoy squinted up at his father, not comprehending. “What?”

“I had the doctor pull the plug. After she tripped and fell down those pesky stairs, she injured that worthless brain of hers. It will never recover, so instead of allowing her to bleed me dry on life support, I had them end her. Your mother is dead. It’s just you and me now, dear son of mine.”

Noman attempted to regain his footing, but he staggered, falling back to the parking lot. “No! Not Mom!”

“Yup,” he proclaimed with a sickening smile. “She’s gone. Her last breath was probably 10 minutes ago. Sorry you weren’t there.”

Anger welling inside of him, Santascoy again tried to climb to his feet, only to have his father shove him back to the parking lot. “Stay there a while, wallowing in your grief.” Fraser turned, walked over to the driver’s side, and opened it. “I’m going home. Why don’t you stop by later. I’ll be throwing a party. I mean a wake.”

Before Santascoy could get to his feet, his father backed out of the parking garage. He drove off, his tires pelting Noman with gravel and dirt.

Noman watched the car disappear around the corner. Unsure of his next move, he sat back down on the cold concrete. As the hopelessness overwhelmed him, he buried his face in his hands and wept.

When no more tears would come, Noman rose. Leaning against the concrete wall, he ran his hand across his chest, feeling the sting of his father’s punches. Slowly, he walked out of the garage and headed for home.

As Santascoy approached his house, the fading sun tossed long shadows across the yard. Several cars filled the driveway and the road in front. “Damn him,” said Noman as loud music penetrated the walls.

Creeping up to a side window, Noman peered inside. The sight of several people he didn’t recognize enraged him. Then he caught sight of his father, a can of Budweiser in his hand and a look of despondence that, to Santascoy, appeared fake.

Fraser’s head turned and he looked directly at Noman. His father’s expression morphed into a sadistic grin as he stared at his son through the glass. Then Fraser reengaged one of his guests, reaffirming his somber demeanor.

Noman pulled away from the window. Instead of going inside, he went into the back yard and sat down on the ground behind the shed, the full moon his only companion.

Even after the last of his father’s guests left several hours later, Santascoy remained outside. Not until the house had been dark for an hour did he finally enter. Leaving the lights off, Noman used the play of moonlight and the streetlights to guide his way.

Beer cans and empty glasses filled the kitchen table and counter. He picked up a can and shook it, feeling the remaining liquid swish around. Bringing it to his lips, he drained the can. He tossed the empty can across the room before walking down the hallway.

Noman could hear Fraser’s snoring long before entering the master bedroom.

Standing over his father, Noman stared at him through the streak of moonlight highlighting portions of his face.

The young man reached over Fraser and picked up his mother’s pillow. Hugging it, her scent filled his nose. A tear slipped from him, soaking into the fabric.

Releasing the embrace, he stared down at his sleeping father for an extended moment before forcing the pillow over his face. As Fraser woke, Noman jumped onto him and pushed down with all his might. The pillow muffled his father’s screams.

Noman held firm until Fraser’s thrashing ceased.