The Landlady’s Son

I rented out a room in the last house at the end of the street.  A tired older woman with deep lines on her face lived there with her only son, a chubby little boy who was about six years old.  His brown hair was always slick and smoothed to the side as though his mother was constantly combing it.  He would often stare up at me as I climbed the creaky stairs to my room.  Whenever I was late with the rent, whenever I had rowdy friends over making too much noise, whenever I came stumbling in at two in the morning and woke this woman up, she would take her anger out on her son.  She would hit him and beat him for anything that I did.

Once, she burst in on a poker game that I was having with my friends and found us all puffing away on cigars, which she had strictly forbidden.  She marched the boy into the room in front us and made him hold out his right hand.  She made us watch as she took his fingers and broke them one by one.  We could see the boy trembling as she started with the thumb.  There was a loud snap and he cried out in pain and fidgeted all about, but he didn’t even try to run off.  She held him firmly by the wrist and moved on to the index finger.  She took each finger systematically in turn.  The boy’s lip quivered as she took his pinky and scowled at us.  We sat there still.  Even the cigar smoke didn’t seem to stir.

It went on like this for weeks.  She hurt the boy in nearly every possible way.  Finally, I came down the stairs one day and she brought him in from the dining room in a wheelchair.  She had crippled him for life for the things that I’d done.  The boy sat crumpled and broken in the chair.  I looked up at the mother through my tears.  “How can you do this?  He never did anything.  I did all of it.  Why does he have to pay for it?”  Her face went red.  She didn’t say a word.  She just slapped the boy as hard as she could across his cheek.  His head rolled from the blow but he didn’t even seem to hardly feel it.  He slumped in the chair and stared off blankly at the wall.

I knew then that I had to leave.  I went to my room and got my things.  I made up the bed and put everything just as it was when I had moved in.  I straightened the table and chairs and fastened the window latch.  I wanted to leave this woman no cause to complain.  On the walk out front, I took a long deep breath of fresh air.  The woman had wheeled the boy to the front window and I could see him there, watching the rain drip from the tree in the yard, watching me as I went.

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11 thoughts on “The Landlady’s Son

  1. I'm too dumbstruck to comment. Sorry. This is whipping around in my head like leaves in a wind storm. Until it all calms down all I can say is !Damn Bryan!

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  2. It's still windy, but I'm able now to ask you at least one question. I know you are an empath (boy are you ever), but sometimes when you're writing do feel someone unseen enter the room that has something they want you to say? I'm trying to piece together in my head where this came from. Was it a dream?
    Cindy

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  3. That song you like by Blackhawk… well the writer (Jeff Black) has a song called 'Howdy Do', I've been playing a lot this weekend and it's just so strange how perfectly it fits with this post.

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  4. Thanks Cindy.

    I'll have to check out that song. I listened to some of his other stuff on Youtube and I checked out the original version of that “Just About Right” song. Some of the differences in the lyrics and the way he sings it take some getting used to, since I'm so familiar with the Blackhawk version. But he's definitely a good and interesting songwriter.

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  5. I know what mean, but something about charismatic performers and how they get all the credit for art they didn't create, pisses me off. The majority of them can't write, but publishers assign them writing sessions with professional songwriters to make it appear like they can. They may only contribute a word or two, but it gives them credit as co-writer and the legal right to half of the songwriter's royalities. But anyway, just saying that those 'Howdy Do' lyrics are painful in the same sense as your 'Landlady's Son'. There's always that one kid that suffers the punishment for every broken lamp or crumb on the floor.
    And even though your post may be an exaggeration of that, it still feels like being killed to the kid and cripples for life.. like you said.

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  6. I totally agree. It was interesting to learn that that song was a cover, because I always had the feeling that the song and it's lyrics were far above and beyond what that band Blackhawk seemed capable of coming up with it. Finding out that it was a cover made a huge amount of sense.

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  7. very disturbing of course and a reminder that these are real dreams and not just stories from a fertile imagination.

    This one seems to beg for the interpretation of a Freudian shrink, though of course the material for a dream can come from the events of the previous day, or song lyrics which have wormed their way into the unconscious mind & touched sensitive parts.

    I believe there's a theory which says that the characters in a dream are all aspects of oneself. In which case it might seem that the devil-may-care Bryan is upsetting the innocent child within to the extent that the pain and humiliation needs to be hyped up to an extraordinary degree, to ensure the point is not overlooked.

    I guess you awoke rather shaken by it?

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  8. Yeah, I believe that's the Jungian archetypes you're thinking of (I forget the particular details.) I've had that thought myself, certain characters and types that show up now and then in my dreams.

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