by Andrea Brown
Daniel Jackson is having trouble overcoming his mother's death.
| Engulfed in the pitch blackness of the early morning hours, Daniel Jackson lay silently sleeping in the center of his attic bedroom. A strong wind blew the curtains away from the open portion of the window and sent Daniel’s bedcovers swiftly to the floor, leaving his stiff body exposed to the bitter coldness that came from outside. He did not stir, but rather slept as though he were dead. If only he were dead. If that had been the case, then she would not be. Daniel had considered this scenario several times in the past two and a half years. It was his fault, he thought constantly. It should have been him in the first place, and he had yet to get over the fact that she would still be alive if only he had gone instead of her, as he had been asked to.
Well rested, Daniel bounded down the two flights of stairs and sat down at the kitchen table. His father turned his head away from the eggs he was frying so that he was looking over his shoulder at Daniel. Mr. Jackson was smiling, but the sadness had never left his eyes, not once in more than two years. Daniel hated for his father to look him in the eyes. It only reminded him of his mother, who Daniel was convinced would still be there if it had not been for him.
“Sleep well? ,” asked Mr. Jackson, who had now gone back to fixing breakfast.
“Yeah, I think I’m getting better at it.” Daniel had been having trouble sleeping through the night ever since the accident. He had only been able to accomplish this recently, and even so, only on occasion. Mr. Jackson brought two plates of fried eggs and toast to the table and sat down beside Daniel.
Later that afternoon, Daniel returned home from school with a bruised eye and blood dripping onto his chest from a gash in his neck. He had hoped to clean himself up before his father came home and saw what had happened. To Daniel’s dismay, his father was parking his car in the driveway just as Daniel was coming up the street. Mr. Jackson was home early from work yet again, as he was allowed to do so once every week if he felt he needed to. He was still grieving for his wife, and although he was a hard worker, it sometimes clouded his thinking and caused him to perform poorly on matters that required his full concentration. His boss had been very sympathetic toward Mr. Jackson and considerate in letting him take afternoons off with pay. It seemed as though any other bank president would, at the very least, dock pay in such a situation. As Daniel bolted through the front door, Mr. Jackson followed at his heels.
“Danny? Danny! What happened? Not again!” He called out frantically, but Daniel had already locked himself in the bathroom and was crying even harder than he had been at school. Every so often, the memory of that dreaded phone call hit him while he was in class. Some of the other guys had thought him to be a sissy as he tended to get upset suddenly and without any evident cause, and they found pleasure in beating the tears out of him as he walked home from school. After what seemed to Daniel to be an hour, although it had only been a few minutes, he ran wet hands over his face and went out to join his father, who was still calling to him through the closed door.
The metallic blade glistened as it caught the light given off by Daniel’s bedside lamp. Daniel had it clenched within a closed fist as he examined it closely. With each breath he took, he drew it nearer to him, and then closer still. Suddenly, his fist relaxed and the knife dropped upon the floor, as if the thought had never crossed his mind. He did not intend to drop it, and did not know how his muscles had loosened and his hand came unclenched. He dismissed it as simply being nerves, although he was certain he was feeling more desire than nerves at that point. Bending over to retrieve it, he felt a jerk on his shoulder, sending the knife flying through the air in front of him. Startled, Daniel turned around only to gaze into the soft brown eyes of his mother. He rubbed his eyes vigorously to ensure that what he was seeing was real. Left speechless, Daniel stared anxiously at her as she opened her mouth to speak.
“No,” she whispered, barely audible, but enough so that Daniel could hear her. “You’ll only kill him with you! NO! This isn't the way!” Daniel, at last able to express a sound, let out a blood curdling scream, and his mother vanished within seconds.
Daniel looked up to see his father standing over him. Mr. Jackson fretfully asked about the purpose of the knife, which had been flung onto Daniel’s bed, but all Daniel could do was talk about his mother. He let out a cry that was half filled with fright and half with excitement. “I saw her! I really did! She came and spoke to me! I saw her! Honest, I did!” Mr. Jackson gave him a look of disbelief, and then began weeping.
“She said you were in danger,” Mr. Jackson told his son. “She came to me, too. She said you thought it was your fault, that you blame yourself for her death. Well, it’s NOT your fault, Daniel. It was an accident. She said she would rather it had been her that got hit by the car when she was coming back from the store that day than you.” They embraced and for the first time since the accident, Daniel did not feel guilty about staying for baseball practice, leaving his mother to run to the store in place of him. Daniel confided in his father his intentions of slitting his throat. He had wanted to get away from it all; the harassment he faced for expressing his emotions, the guilt he lived with daily thinking that he could have saved his mother’s life if only he had skipped practice. Mr. Jackson now began to cry even more. He lifted himself from the floor, took Daniel by the hand, and led him into the master bedroom he had once shared with his beloved wife and now occupied alone. Daniel immediately took notice of the noose hanging from the light fixture in the center of the room and the dresser that had been pushed directly under it. “I found some old rope in the garage,” Mr. Jackson began to explain. “At first I tried simply to strangle myself with it, but found that I lacked the strength to do so. I thought this would be an alternative way of getting the job done. I wanted it to end, too. I didn’t think I could deal with the pain of losing her anymore. But Daniel, you too? I had no idea that you were headed the same direction . . . I couldn’t stand to lose both of you. I would have died of a broken heart for sure if I'd lost you, too. ” Mr. Jackson stopped to look at Daniel, who had been crying hysterically since he saw what his father had constructed. “I guess,” Mr. Jackson continued, “I didn't really think about how you would feel by losing ME. But I see now.” Daniel knew exactly where his father was coming from. “I guess I never thought about it either. I mean, you took it really hard when Mom died. I never stopped to consider what it would do to you if I died too. I guess I was only thinking of myself, and how I could get rid of my pain.” Slightly smiling and realizing now what his mother had told him, Daniel ran back up to his room. Returning to his father, he produced the knife that had laid on his bed and with it, destroyed the fate which his father had attempted to fashion for himself. “We’ll never forget her,” Daniel said solemnly, “but we can survive together.”