Daily Archives: November 11, 2022


Onedismus (on-e-dis’-mus): Reproaching someone for being impious or ungrateful.

As far back as I can remember—maybe I was five years old—my father referred to me as “You ungrateful little bastard.” I’m 22 now and he still calls me an “ungrateful little bastard.” I can’t think of anything he ever did that I should be grateful for. Growing up under his barbed wire wing was nothing to be grateful for. My mother supposedly disappeared when I was three, so it was just me and dad all the way. Maybe I should be grateful that he didn’t disappear like Ma did. Living with him, every day has pretty much been the same. At breakfast, I have milk and cereal and he shuffles into the kitchen in his cigarette-burned, food-flecked flannel bathrobe. He grabs the open bottle of “Old Grandad” from the kitchen counter and takes a long swig. “Ahhh, that’s the worst whiskey in the world. I bet Old Grandad pisses in every bottle.” Then, he’d pull a bottle of orange juice from the refrigerator, and take a big slug right out of the bottle, with juice dripping off his chin, he’d ask “What the hell is this? It tastes like shit.” Then he went upstairs to get ready for work. He was a movie theater usher, working alongside three teen-aged boys. He wears a uniform that makes him look like a general from some third-world country. It has epaulets that look like gold hairbrushes, a military hat with the theatre logo on the front, and black patent leather shoes. He always kept a supply of Sen-Sen in his pocket to camouflage the smell of Old Grandad on his breath while he was at work.

This week, he was assigned to matinees, so he didn’t have to be to work until 2:00 pm. I decided to finally ask him what I had to be “grateful” for. I thought he would probably punch me, or yell, or kick me out of the house. He did none of those things. Instead, he looked like he was wilting and on the verge of tears. “I’ve been meaning to explain the ‘ungrateful little bastard’ outbursts for years. Now is as good a time as I’ll ever find, so, get ready.” I wasn’t ready. I started to feel like maybe it was better that I didn’t know. He said: “Are you ready, you ungrateful little bastard?” I told him “No.” He didn’t care. “Your Ma was beautiful. She was kind and loving—too loving. She had an affair with Mel Turner, our unmarried neighbor who worked as a night watchman at the Chevy plant. He had his days to himself. So, when I was working the matinee shift at the theatre, Mel and Ma would meet at his place and have sexual relations.” I couldn’t believe it. My Ma banging our neighbor? My God! I felt sick. Dad continued: “I came home early one day and surprised her. She was writing a letter.” He left the room and came back quickly with the letter. “Dear Mel, I am going to have a baby. It isn’t my husband’s. His penis was injured during the war and it won’t get stiff any more. That leaves you Mel—you’re the baby’s father. Accordingly, you must pay for the abortion I’ve made an appointment for in Newark next week. My husband must never know what we did. After this is over, please wear a rubber.” “What has this got to do with me?” I asked. Dad looked at me like he wanted to kill me. “The ‘baby’ is you,” he yelled, pounding on the kitchen table. “It’s you!”

“I wouldn’t let your mother go to the abortion appointment. Even though you weren’t my kid, Ma’s pregnancy gave me an opening to be a father, even though it was fake—I planned to act like your father, like you were adopted and nobody knew it. I kept your Ma prisoner. I knew she would try to escape, so I made a comfortable chainlink cage for her with a Porta-Potty, a TV, a couch, and a TV table. It was in the basement, so nobody could hear her cries for help. Then, one day, Mel broke in and tried to free your Ma. I’ll never know why he didn’t just call the police. I clubbed him the on the head and killed him. Your Ma was nine months pregnant. She went into labor in her cage and I delivered you. She bled to death on the floor. After I dismantled her cage, I called the police. I told them that Mel broke into our home and had startled my wife so badly that she went into labor, and that I had taken the club away from him and hit him on the head. No charges were filed, and here we are today. So, now, when I call you an ‘ungrateful little bastard,’ you’ll understand.” I told him I understood the “little bastard” part, but how could I be ungrateful about something I didn’t know anything about? He yelled, “That’s the point!” and left for the theater.

I think my father had confessed to murdering Mel. He probably killed my Ma too. I didn’t know what to do, so, I decided to go to graduate school.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.ed).

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