Fiction: The Henpecked Son
By Daniel Adler
It all started when he was a baby and his daddy watched his mommy love the baby instead of him, and he grew jealous and decided to take revenge so he went out one night to a bar and found a younger woman and went home with her and didn’t tell the mommy but the mommy knew and this was eventually the reason for them to divorce and the son who was no longer a baby to resent his father silently for giving up on his mother and so as he aged and became more distant from his father and his mother there reached a point in his puberty where he started fucking girls and he jettisoned his mother and the mother knew this and soon thereafter he began to move closer to his father and his mother began to peck at him. And this continued after the father eventually died, and the mother used to talk shit about the father and when the son did things she didn’t like she’d say you’re acting just like your father, what a piece of shit he was, a weak man, and look at you now, look at the way you let your girlfriend boss you around, that bitch, I don’t know why you put up with it, no actually I do know why, because you’re weak, you’re a pussy, the mother would say to her son, and the son, baring his teeth would look away and stomach these insults and tell his mother he was leaving her, and so even when the girlfriend became his wife and moved in with the son and the mother, who lived together by the way, the son and mother had bought a house together so they could save money, it wasn’t long before the son’s wife had a baby of her own and of course the mother was deeply jealous that the wife, who knew that the mother, who was now a grandmother, didn’t like her, and so wouldn’t let her close to the baby, or when she did, saw how the mother, the grandmother, held and talked to and loved the baby, because in the baby she saw her own son, and it was in her motherhood that she felt most purposeful in her entire life, so that when the son’s wife took that away from her, out of jealousy it should be emphasized, because she’d see how good the grandmother was with the grandson and didn’t want to imagine that her own love could possibly be substituted or replaced, she took the child back and prevented the grandmother from seeing the grandson, even if for an hour or so, and this only further drove the two women apart until the wife said to the son, we have to leave, I don’t want to live with that old bitch any more, you should see what she does with your son when you’re not around, what does she do, replied the son, you’d have to see, said the wife ambiguously, though of course what the grandmother did was jeopardize the wife’s own mothering of her child with her grandmotherly love, and though the son knew this on an unconscious level and chose not to acknowledge it, knowing rather that if he didn’t listen to his wife, she’d turn on him as she had already started to after the birth of their child, and he didn’t like that, he didn’t like that at all, he knew what was possible because he too had a vague awareness of what had happened to his own father when he was a child, and he knew that he either had to listen to his wife or his mother, he couldn’t possibly satisfy both, and so he chose his wife as any good husband would, and in doing so isolated his mother forever. She, the mother, never forgave him, and she’d often lash out at the grandchild as he aged, and it should go without saying that she had no relationship with the wife, that is until the son eventually divorced her, having had enough of her vengeful jealousy, which began to rear its ugly head when she made increasingly materialistic claims on him, comparing them to other families in town, putting him down in ways similar to how his mother used to, but worse, until finally he said, listen here you fucking cunt, I’m done with your shit, and I’m done with your telling our son lies when I’ve done everything for you, loved you and him, and you’ve never once acknowledged my hard work or the depth of my love, instead it’s always been comparing me to someone else and I’m tired of it, I’m sick of your shit, I’ve always been faithful to you and you’ve only jeered at me and told me how worthless I am, I want a divorce and I don’t want anything else to do with you, and this continued until the papers were served and the divorce finalized and the grandmother, the son’s mother came back into the picture, congratulating him on leaving his wife, but as soon as he started dating again, a single man returned from a midlife crisis, it was back to the old ways, the mother as a liaison between her son and the woman in his life, and no one being quite good enough until he married someone much younger who his mother mocked, who he knew would not satisfy her, though at this point he was in late middle age and his mother was old, she would die soon and he told himself in a few more years she will die and after that you’ll never hear her voice again, and so within a few years she did die, but the son was wrong because he often heard his mother’s voice even after she was dead, and when it was least expected.
Daniel Adler was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Portland, Oregon. They've studied at NYU, Edinburgh University and University of South Carolina. Their work is forthcoming or has appeared in J Journal, BULL, Broadkill Review, and elsewhere.