by Matt Cahill
A father, left to raise his troubled young son alone in their secluded country home, must work through his own deep-seated fears and resentments when the boy's ongoing night terrors lead to a confrontation with the inescapable.
“A great piece of writing.”
— Christen Thomas, Executive Director of the Literary Press Group
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As implicitly embedded as his voice is in my awareness of things — police sirens, women's screams, Daniel's voice in the night — I can't tell if I've fallen asleep.
For the longest time, I used to wait for Mina to stir beside me, hear what I was hearing, and tend to Daniel begrudgingly while I pretended to sleep. But these last two years have been just kiddo and me. Sometimes I'll wait, hoping he'll become convinced I won't go to his room to hear his ramblings — that I’m not going to listen to him tell me about the things in his room that scare him, sounds he thinks he heard, or did hear but which are in reality not things to be scared of. I don’t always get up.
But tonight there's something in his voice: a pleading tone I can’t recall hearing before. It worries me.
The wind picks up outside. Here, in the middle of the sticks, winter nights are quiet. Always quiet. That’s one of the reasons we moved out here, to keep Mina from going nuts in the city. In the end, the lack of anyone but me and Daniel did it anyways.
I wish she hadn't left us — that I'd found a way to bend time and circumstance to please her, to convince her that moving out here from the city was a good idea. Convince her with more than just made-up stuff to keep her here.
I lie there some more and wonder how much sleep I'll get tonight. Even if I do The Good Dad Thing and go to Daniel, I am probably looking at only four hours until I have to get up and chase him around like a Rhode Island Red to get dressed, fed, and on the bus to school. Then I, the zombie, will go to the office and pretend I have the power and competency to work within logistically impossible project schedules. The only thing in my favour is that I don't make the schedules, so it’s only a matter of senseless due diligence until it becomes clear to the powers-that-be that whatever I’m being asked to do bears no resemblance to anything achievable in reality.
Every time I find myself thinking about this, I recall one of the promises I made to Mina: that I would get a raise, that I would get promoted out of the slacker-slave veal pen I'd been toiling in for years.
Daniel's voice in the dark, pleading. That shy kid. Never gets in trouble. I wish he did. He doesn't have a lot of friends, it seems. It takes every bit of my patience to get him to tell me what goes on in his life. When I ask whether he has friends he'll turn away and look at something else. One time, when I asked Mina if we should be concerned, she did the same thing.
I love him. Don't understand him.
about the author
MATT CAHILL is a Toronto writer. He writes novels, short fiction, and essays. He's contributed work to Ryeberg, BlogTO, and Torontoist. His short story, Snowshoe, appeared in September 2014 with Found Press. His debut novel, The Society of Experience was released in 2015 with Buckrider Books, a new imprint of Wolsak & Wynn. Matt worked for 20 years in the film and television industry before coming to his senses and training to become a psychotherapist. He now has a private practice and is a member of the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. Matt reads high-falutin’ books of all sorts, plays intermediate soccer, and occasionally drums. His website is mattcahill.ca
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Portraits of people marooned within themselves, trapped by their past experiences, by uncertainty and anxiety — individuals for whom each new situation is a grueling journey towards the present, a place where action and choice are possible. In Second World, Matt Cahill illustrates, with honesty and empathy, how the most important breakthroughs are not the life-altering revelations, but rather the minor miracles that get us through each day.
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