To Punish my Mother by Terveen Gill




These are the steps Charlie took, climbing ever so slowly, lingering, stalling, debating, but never turning back.

He wasn’t familiar with the paths of reason, understanding, compassion, kindness.

He only saw the steps. And he climbed them.

One by one.

Eager to complete the ascent and then gladly repeat it.

They were his dirty secret, and he kept them hidden from sight.

It was easy to hide what he felt when others believed what they were told and shown.

They called him quiet but cooperative, shy but friendly, an ordinary boy who was easily forgettable yet never ignored.

He was his sister’s companion, her playmate, a caring, elder brother. Always there, never inaccessible, drying her tears, exciting her giggles, lifting her higher and higher.

They were inseparable up until he killed her. She was his first.

Stabbed her with a knife…one, two, three, four…ten, eleven, twelve…sixteen, seventeen – he counted every strike and then called the police.

His confession a tangled mess of words and tears.

They asked him why he did it. He was clear in his answer.

‘To punish my mother. My sister’s dead and I’m going to jail forever. My mom’s lost both her children.’

But Charlie was only twelve and they tried him as a juvenile. He was sentenced to ten years with the possibility of parole.

The boy ignored the steps in prison, setting them aside, letting them collect dust. But they re-emerged when he was released eight years later, his good behavior a sign of remorse, a glimmer of hope.

But the steps would never release him.

He fancied them too. Each one an achievement, an excuse to be himself without the need for explanation.

Charlie’s mother hugged him and cried. She said a mother’s love was pure and unconditional.

Yet what the man heard was completely different.

Climb, Charlie, climb. Don’t stop until you punish her.

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