FICTION: ‘Homeless’ by Bart Van Goethem

Bart Van Goethem is a proud father, a dedicated husband, a freelance copywriter and an aspiring drummer.

He lives in Brussels, Belgium, with his wife and two kids.

 

Homeless

For the first time in his life Jerry bought a shovel.

He needed it for the garden of his new house. He had never lived in a house before, never had a garden. His parents always rented an apartment. Later, when he was an adult, he asked them why they never bought a place, but all they said is they never got round to it. He found that a strange explanation. But he found a lot of things strange about his parents.

Jerry walked out of the Home Depot holding his new prized possession. He opened the boot of his car and placed the shovel in a bit squint because it was almost too big for the trunk. Whistling, Jerry got behind the wheel. He was about to turn the key when a man startled him. He had a straggly grey beard, black eyes and ragged clothes. He reminded Jerry of the people trying to sell merchandise during red lights on intersections.

The man came closer and stopped right next to Jerry’s door. He held up a paper for the homeless in front of the car window. Jerry dismissed him, mechanically shaking his head no. He focused his attention back on the car key. But the man outside didn’t leave. There was no green light urging the cars to continue their route, forcing the man to the side of the street, and he was standing too close for Jerry to back out of the parking space.

Jerry looked at the man again. He was still displaying the newspaper, would’ve shoved it through the window if he could. This time, Jerry shook his head and articulated a clear “no” through the glass. Then the man opened his mouth wide, showing a black, toothless hole. The man pointed at it. He was hungry.

Jerry gazed at the black hole, transfixed. The man’s chin, his nose, his eyes and the rest of his face started to fade away. His body disappeared and all that was left of him was the black hole, floating in front of Jerry. It sucked him in and transported him to a place where he didn’t want to be, a place that simultaneously felt natural to him: the apartment where he grew up. His parents and him, they were two worlds apart, living under the same roof. They were blue-collar, he was more of an intellectual. They were addicted to TV soaps, he was into art-house movies. They weren’t very sociable, he wanted to go out and see the world.

At home, Jerry always felt he was some sort of permanent guest. A stranger in an all too familiar land. Not that he was rebelling against his parents. He always got what he wanted. There was nothing to rebel against. But there was nothing to bond with either. It confused Jerry deeply. After all, his parents had created him. They had raised him. All he wanted was to belong with them. But somehow, and in many ways, it worked out differently.

And now he owned a house. Jerry was officially and gloriously in a different league, making the canyon between him and his parents even wider. Maybe even unbridgeable. Did this mean he had  betrayed them? Had he finally given up on piecing the puzzle of his upbringing together? But then again, wasn’t he entitled to a home? Even if he had to buy one himself?

Jerry sat petrified behind the wheel. The homeless man outside realized he wasn’t going to sell his newspaper, so he went on his way. After a few meters he heard a car door open behind him. He stopped. Maybe he could make that sale after all.

He turned around and Jerry hit him in the face with the shovel. The man smacked on the tarmac. Jerry continued pounding the man’s head.

‘Stop!’

He hit him again.

‘Making!’

And again.

‘Me!’

And again.

‘Feel!’

And again.

‘Guilty!’

With a guttural scream Jerry threw the shovel on the mush of what used to be a human head. He panted, looked at what he’d done. Then he sat next to the man’s body, cross-legged, and waited. Jerry wondered if his parents would still love him now.

*

All work is the property of the author and is reproduced with their permission. 

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