Afflicted 18: Chapter 17

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The morning didn’t even cause Bevan to stir; it was more the fact that his dad came in to wake him up at about midday. Knocking gently on the door, Bevan’s dad got no response. So he knocked harder. And then harder. Then he banged. He was never one to just march into his kids’ rooms, especially his boy’s room; he didn’t want to barge in if there was a slight chance that his kid might simply be really, really asleep. But getting no answer, he gingerly pushed the door open a wedge, and was literally pushed back into the hallway by the stink in the room. The room was an olfactory mess of stale cigarettes, stale incense of various kinds; the odours of stale coffee, old feet, and the Great Unwashed.

As he peered into the gloom, he noticed that every available space was covered with charcoal artwork of one type or another. Many of them were dark, murderous subjects; but even more were portraits of friends and family; of various naked women; landscapes, seascapes, and interesting pictures of fungi and flowers. There were pictures both violent and serene. And Bevan’s dad thought that all of them, even the ones that were disturbing to his senses, were remarkably good.

He stepped gingerly into the room and started to go through the pictures, until he noticed how the charcoal dust was falling into the carpet and wearing a definite smudge through it. He grimaced: the wife would be unhappy about this! He stacked the sketches as gently as he could, and made a mental note to get his son some decent fixative.

Bevan was sprawled across the bed, snoring deeply, and as blackened as the carpet was becoming. Despite this, his dad smiled when he noticed that the boy’s colour had returned; a result, no doubt of mental exhaustion and the resulting excellent sleep. He was going to leave him there to sleep peacefully on his own, but there was the slightest nudge of deep youth in him that couldn’t let him go. He pounced on Bevan, shaking him violently and yelling like a maniac.

Bevan leaped up, scouted about wildly and started clawing back towards the bedhead, exclaiming simultaneously, ‘you fucken bastard, scaring me like that!’

His dad stood up, a grin a mile wide adorning his unremarkable face, mirth shaking his frame. ‘Morning Bevan. Like your work.’

Bevan looked at him caustically. ‘It’s love your work, dad.’ He rubbed his face and cast his bleary eyes around the room, frowning. He didn’t realise he’d done so much overnight. His dad, being a man of few words, was a man of few compliments. Something like this really meant a lot to him.

‘Thanks dad.’ He stretched. ‘What’s for brekky?’

‘Lunch, you mean. Spaghetti, actually.’

Bevan smiled. ‘Yours or mum’s?’

His dad scoffed on his way to the door. ‘Mine, of course. Wouldn’t poison you with her food on a Sunday. It’ll be on the table in ten minutes.’ He left the room still grinning, and closed the door gently behind him.

Bevan stood up and shook himself. He had a crick in the neck that was giving him hell, a taste in his mouth that would kill an Israeli soldier, and he was blackened by charcoal dust. He idly picked through a few of the pictures, stacked some that he liked in one pile, and put the rest in another pile for his dad to choose from before he threw them away.

Not once did Bevan notice that being ravenous had become unusual for him; and nor did he notice that he could breathe without being weighed down by an awful stink.

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