"The Devil and the Disobedient Child"
From Malarky, published by Biblioasis in 2012. Anakana Schofield is an Irish-Canadian writer of fiction, essays and literary criticism. Malarky is her first novel.
There’s no way round it, I’m finding it very hard to be a widow, I told Grief, the counsellor woman, that Tuesday morning.
—Are you missing your husband a great deal?
—Not especially. I miss the routine of his demands it’s true, but am plagued day and night with thoughts I’d rather be without.
—Are you afraid to be in the house alone?
—Indeed I am.
—Are you afraid someone’s going to come in and attack you?
—Indeed I am not.
—And these thoughts, do they come when you are having problems falling asleep?
—No, I said, they are with me from the first sup of tea I take to this very minute, since three days after my husband was taken.
—Tell me about these thoughts?
—You’re sure you want to know?
—I’ve heard it all, she insisted, there is nothing you can say that will surprise me.
I disbelieving, asked again. You’re sure now?
—Men, I said. Naked men. At each other all the time, all day long. I can’t get it out of my head.
—Well now, she said and fell silent.
She had to have been asking the Almighty for help, until finally she admitted she could think of no explanation and her recommendation was to scrub the kitchen floor very vigorously and see would a bit of distraction help.
—Pay attention to the floor and mebbe they’ll stop.
I recognized the potential a widow has to frighten people. I had frightened the poor woman something rotten.
The next week I returned.
—I have scrubbed the floor every day and I am still plagued by them.
Grief was silent another good while.
She had to be honest, she’d never come across a woman who’d experienced this. Usually a woman simply missed her husband without this interference.
—Are you turning to your faith?
—Oh God I am.
The two of us would now pray for some guidance because she was at a loss.
—Were they still the same images?
—Worse, I said. Even more of them and at filthy stuff together and now they all seem to be bald regardless of their ages. Did she think the devil might target widows?
—He might, Grief said. He very well might.
—Would it be worth looking into them Nigerian preachers, the black fellas I seen on the telly who can exorcise them from the place?
—It might, she said, it very well might.
Do ya think if you see your child at something you don’t want to see you can ever be shut of it? I ask Grief the counsellor.
—Well it depends what they were at and how you felt about what they were doing?
—Let’s say you didn’t feel good.
—Well now if we don’t feel good it’s best if we go through it all over again and try to understand why we don’t feel good. In fact I’ll tell you something, to be free of something you’ve to get closer to it than you might imagine.
Jesus Janey Jesus Janey.
—But when I was seeing the naked fellas you told me to scrub the floor?
—That’s right. I did. And did it work?
—Are you still seeing naked fellas?
—I am now seeing half clothed ones.
—The half clothed ones may need a new approach, she admits. They’re a different formation. It would be like trying to move a square to a pyramid.
I’ve had a change I told Grief in the last session before she turned me over to them.
—That’s great. What kind of a change?
—They’re not naked anymore the fellas I am seeing.
—OK. Great. This is good.
—No, they’ve clothes on them.
—Hats and coats is it?
—No, little red underpants.
—And I am wrestling with them.
—You know wrestling.
—Yes one at a time.
—And do you like it?
—I do, I assured her, I like it very much indeed. I can’t get enough of it. It’s keeping me awake all night thinking about it.
She grew quiet and then issued some terminal words.
—I am beginning to worry about you, she said.