Chapter 23 – The Good Son
Ethel woke up, there was a noise that awoke her, she looked at the time ’02:14’. She slowly got out of bed, thinking about Michael. Since he had returned home, she hasn’t been able to sleep that well. Waking up constantly, going into her son’s room to see whether he is sleeping or gone down into the cellar. Sometimes she would even peer into Rebecca’s room, hoping for some kind of miracle and find her tucked up in her bed, sleeping peacefully. Ethel had waited for a miracle all her life, belief in God gives you that hope that someday your faith will be rewarded by some divine gift. It doesn’t happen in reality but believing that it will, that’s what they call ‘faith’.
Ethel walks across to Mike’s room, slowly opening the door, his bed was empty. She turns around and walks down the stairs, there was a faint light coming from somewhere, it was coming from the kitchen. Ethel reached the bottom of the stairs, she could hear sounds of crying, small whimpers like someone trapped in a room. It was Michael sitting in the kitchen, ‘Michael, are you okay’? She used to often find him crying like this when he was young, after his father died. He would wet his bed sheets and would come down and hide.
‘Michael’, as she approached him, he turned around. She saw blood, lots of it on his clothes, smeared across his face and he was holding a gun. ‘What happened’? Ethel sat down in front of Michael, ‘Are you okay’? Michael stopped crying, but he looked scared, ‘He gave me this Ma, to take care of it, I don’t ……. know, how I got it’.
‘Who, who gave you it, are you okay’?
‘Yes, I’m ….. not hurt. Ma’ I didn’t do this’. Ethel looked at Mike’s shirt, there were patches of blood on his shirt and jeans, he was holding the gun in his right hand, there was blood on the gun and all over his hand, it had been smeared onto the kitchen table. Ethel’s kitchen, which was the place her small family would sit down to eat, now looked like a crime scene. Mike was breathing heavily, ‘Ma, he asked me to take care of this’, Mike showed the gun to his Ma. ‘Have you hurt someone, where did you get this gun from’? Mike, what have you done’? Mike looks at Ethel, his eyes didn’t lie, they were innocent, confused but innocent. ‘I done nothing. He gave me this to hide’. ‘WHO’? Ethel shouted, even surprising herself.
‘Gabriel, your son……. my brother’.
‘Look Michael, get cleaned up and I will take this from you’. Ethel slowly touched Michael’s hand, in order to take the gun from it, ‘I……… I can’t give you this. He’ll kill me, Ma. He ain’t like before, he’s dangerous’. ‘Mike, just give it to me, get out of these clothes’. Mike slowly loosened his grip on the gun, as Ethel took it. ‘Ma, you do believe me, they’re gonna say it was me. I don’t know what happened, I don’t know how I got this blood on my clothes’.
Ethel took the clothes, which Michael had thrown outside the bathroom and she put them in a large bin bag. She had cleaned the gun thoroughly, she no longer felt scared but she knew something terrible had happened. Could Michael have done something terrible? Is Gabriel really alive? These questions were swirling around in Ethel’s mind as she sat on Michael’s bed, they had to get rid of the clothes and the gun. It was her husband’s gun, she knew it well but didn’t understand how Michael got it. She thought that Jake had taken all of his brother’s guns after his death. The bathroom door opened, Ethel was scared of who would come into the room. Ethel didn’t know Michael the way she used to, not anymore. But tonight his eyes told the truth, he was innocent and was as scared as she was. She knew her son that much at least, he wasn’t a killer. Michael entered the room, wearing a white shirt and jeans, his long hair was wet, dripping onto the floor and his beard still soaking. Ethel looked at him, he looked like one of those biblical images of Jesus. Ethel grew up on a farm, her parents were loving and church going folk who brought the religion into everything. They were Catholics, and rejected all the innovations of later versions of the bible. As a child she would always look at the image of Jesus, knowing it was a man-made depiction of the ‘Messiah’ so it could be nothing like he really was. It still fascinated her, the elegance of a divine figure who was persecuted and punished for his nobility in a cruel world. Michael entering the room reminded her of this noble image of a good man being persecuted in a merciless world. Mike sat down on the floor, next to his Ma. He said nothing but he looked composed and calm. ‘Mike, I can’t take you to the police, not in this town. So in the morning we will talk to Kay Winters, okay’. Mike looked up, ‘Ma, they’re gonna lock me up. No-one believes that Gabriel is out there. So they’re never gonna find him’.
‘Can I meet him’?
Mike looked down, ‘I don’t know where he is’?
‘So, how do you meet him’?
‘He just comes, when the time is right. He comes’. Ethel cradled Mike’s head in her lap, ‘I need to see him, Michael. I have to see Gabriel’. Mike looks up, ‘It’s not up to me. I don’t tell him what to do, he would kill me too’. Ethel knew that Gabriel had killed someone, maybe more than once and Michael knew more than what he was saying. Even if he was alive, Ethel only cared for Michael now, she only felt for him even though Gabriel was her son too. She had cried for him so much, after he had disappeared in the forest. She cried for hours and hours until her tears dried up. She felt somehow what happened to him was her fault. Mike looked at his Ma, the fear he felt was being reflected through his Ma, looking at her made him realize how scared he was.
’Ma, when we were kids, you would read this story, a biblical story and I would lie awake at night thinking about it. The story of the sons of Adam, ‘Cain and Abel’. Mike looked up at his Ma, like she was a ray of light shining down on him. ‘Yes, they were the first brothers of mankind, the children of Adam. Cain was born first then came Abel’. ‘Tell me that story …… again’.
‘Cain was the eldest, he worked with the soil, growing crops. Abel was the younger one, who took care of the flock. God said to Adam to bring an offering, so Cain brought fruit and Abel also brought an offering, portions from the firstborn of his flock’. Mike looked away from his Ma, ‘Then what’? ‘God looked favourably at Abel’s offering but not at Cain’s’. Mike looked up again, ‘Did God not accept what Cain brought’? ‘He wasn’t sincere, but Abel was the righteous one who brought the best for Our Lord’. ‘What did Cain do’? ‘He was downcast and sad, angry as he asked his Lord why his offering was not favourable. The Lord said that if he is righteous than he will be accepted, but if he chooses to rebel then sin will cease him’. Mike’s eyes were wide open, he listened to every word from his mother as though they were new revelations, coming down for him.
‘Cain took revenge’?
‘Yes, he did. He asked Abel to come to the field with him, and there he attacked his younger brother and killed him. This was the first murder ever committed and look in the world since then how much blood has been shed’. Mike looked into an abyss, an imaginary abyss where he counted every single person who had been killed from then till now. Ethel put her hand on Mike’s face, ‘It’s never too late Michael. I don’t believe sin has ceased you yet. We need to get rid of these things and go to speak to Kay, maybe Mr Mansell too’. ‘Am I Abel, and Gabe is Cain’?
‘No Michael, you are safe’.
‘Or maybe I am the evil one, but I don’t believe I am. It feels like I’m in that field where he took me, I’m there right now and aint coming home’.
Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.