A Little Man – Jana Surkova

Brady hadn’t expected her blood to look like that. It was too thick, more like mucus than the red liquid he had seen in movies. Still, it stained the walls just the same. Beautiful, he’d thought when he first looked at it. It seemed unreal. But the blood was all over the floor now, and it was all over him too. He couldn’t stop staring at his arms, covered in the little red droplets. He just sat there looking at them, mesmerized, unable to get up and do anything. He couldn’t even change out of his favorite t-shirt, now blood-stained and soaked through with sweat. He had worn it as a lucky charm, hoping it would help him do the deed. Go through with it. And, of course, it did. But now it was ruined, and he should have probably been worried, would have been worried had he not been so happy. Truly happy. Happy for the first time in a long time. He smiled to himself. His mother’s dead body lay twisted in the corner.

He hadn’t initially wanted it to go like that, but she really left him no other options. That bitch, he thought, she had forced him into the corner and — still, he was the one who did it. He was the one who actually dragged her by the hair and threw her into the glass wall, the shards flying everywhere. He was one who picked up a knife and stuck it in her neck. He was the one who did it. He had to give himself credit for that. It was his first act as a real man.

“My little man,” she had called him ever since he was little. It was humiliating. “Thank you, my little man,” she’d say when he cleaned up after himself or when he helped her unpack the grocery bags.

“Oh, my little man,” she’d whisper to him when he came home after school covered in bruises or when he woke up screaming at night.

Brady didn’t remember when she had first started calling him that. But if he had to guess, he’d say that it was probably the summer his dad left. He was eight or nine at the time, and it was a hot summer, almost unbearably hot. The fan in the living room was always on, and his mom walked around the house fanning herself with newspapers and pamphlets and whatever else arrived for them in the mail. His dad had enrolled him in little league baseball, and he always came home covered in sweat.

“Up, up to the shower -” his mom always yelled when he returned home after practice. She chased him up the stairs with newspapers and pamphlets and whatever else happened to be in her hand that day.

They always ate on the porch that summer, under the clear black sky, surrounded by trees and wildflowers. They ate pasta, salads, and sometimes watermelon. His mom was a vegetarian and refused to cook meat, which was probably the only unusual thing about her. She was a typical housewife. She baked pies and made cookies, cleaned the house, and loved daytime talk shows. Her aversion to meat was the only thing that made her stand out and for no reason at all. She never explained what it was that she didn’t like about meat. They didn’t have pets, and she didn’t seem to particularly like animals. Still, she refused to touch it. Later, Brady often wondered if he had come out so thin and frail because of it – lack of proteins and nutrients during the pregnancy and his early years. That sort of thing.

The night his father left, she had made rice and corn on the stick. The three of them sat there, nibbling the burned corn, when his father suddenly got up, threw the corn stick across the table, and said, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ and left.

He remarried soon after to a hefty blonde woman who looked a lot like his mother but worked as a cashier at the butcher shop – the only one in town. They had three kids together, triplets, all on their way to college.

Brady had wanted to go to college, too, but it was never really an option for him. His dad was a dentist and made enough, but only for his new family. After the divorce was finalized, his mother got a job as a waitress at the local Italian restaurant. The job was supposed to be temporary, but she stayed there for sixteen years. The uniform they made her wear had looked good on her once, but now it exposed her big, veiny breasts and the fat rolls on her stomach. It was embarrassing.

After he finished, high school Brady had worked there for a while, too, as a dishwasher. Now he worked at the local supermarket – stacking shelves, rearranging products.

Every day he came home after work and watched TV with his mom – reruns of old crime shows and occasionally a ‘classic’ like Forrest Gump. He didn’t like Forrest Gump that much, but it was better than being alone. When his mother went to bed at eight pm sharp every night, blaming her daily headaches, he would go upstairs to his room and scroll through 4chan and Reddit for hours.

He felt sorry for the guys on there, pitied them. They all seemed to lead miserable lives. They talked about how poor they were, how ugly, how women didn’t want them.

Brady wasn’t particularly rich either, but at least he wasn’t ugly, and women did want him. Older women. He’d catch them eyeing him in his blue vest and beige cargo pants as he put bottles of ketchup on the upper shelves – at 6’3, he did that with ease.

The problem was that he didn’t want them – with their sunburnt damaged skin and saggy breasts, they reminded him of his mother and triggered only revulsion and a gag reflex.

For a while, he thought he might be gay – he inspired the same lustful look in older men as he did in middle-aged women, so trying that out wasn’t hard.

When he was twenty-two, he went to the old dingy gay bar close to the clinic where his dad worked. He put on a white button-up shirt he hadn’t worn since graduation and sat at the bar drinking beer until a man – bold, short and muscular – offered to buy him something stronger.

After a couple of old fashions, he found himself at the man’s apartment – it was above an abandoned convenience store and stunk of garbage and cat piss. The man put on music and ordered Brady to take his clothes off. He obeyed. Then the man undressed himself and turned around – ordering Brady to fuck him. Brady couldn’t get it up. The man kicked him out.

After that, Brady gave up on being gay. He was somewhat relieved, but he also felt guilty because he knew his mom would have preferred it that way. She would have preferred having a gay son who’d never leave – one who’d always be there to watch TV with her in the living room. It was so pathetic. He hated thinking about it.

It took him a while to figure out what he was into. He’d scroll through Pornhub for hours looking for something that would excite him, but every single video had something wrong with it – it was either too long or too short, the plot didn’t make sense, the men were gross, and the women were always old and disgusting. It all made him feel hopeless.

On the weekends, Brady sometimes worked as a janitor at the local middle school. He liked it. There was never anyone there, and he could listen to music very loudly and walk around the large corridors for as long as he liked—no one to boss him around.

One day, however, he was asked to come in on a weekday – the guy who usually worked that shift got sick or quit or something like that. So, Brady finished up his day job, changed out of his work clothes, and walked over to the middle school. It was after six pm, and he had expected to be there alone. Yet as soon he entered the building, he heard loud female laughter.

Brady walked around for a bit before he realized that the laughter was coming from the school’s swimming pool. He looked in through the glass slit in the door – prepubescent girls all dressed in navy blue swimsuits, their hair wet and skin blue from the cold water, crowded around their coach. They were laughing, teasing each other. One girl stood out in particular. She was shorter than the others and appeared more delicate. She stood a little further away, pouting her lips, her little arms crossed over her small chest. Brady got hard instantly and had to run to the bathroom to jerk off.

If he had to be really honest with himself, he’d probably admit that he always knew about his inclinations, but that’s just not the sort of thing anyone wants to admit. After that evening, however, there was no going back.

He worked that shift a few more times, and every time he would stand by that door and look at the girls. The coach had them do breathing exercises, and so they stood in their little blue swimsuits, inhaling and exhaling for long stretches of time. Brady was entranced. The little delicate girl was always at a perfect distance – he could almost reach her. One time, he got so excited, he even started touching himself right there by the door – forgetting about the cameras that hung in the hallway and his own fear of getting caught. When a new janitor was hired and Brady returned to his weekend shift, he had to come up with a new plan.

Brady knew what happens to men like him if they are discovered, but the way he saw it, he really had no other options.

It took him a couple of weeks to get ahold of what he was looking for, but when he finally did – it was all worth it. He stopped watching TV with his mom in the living room. Instead, he came home every day and went straight to his room, locked the door, put on his headphones, and lost himself in what he saw on his tiny computer screen.

At first, his mom didn’t say anything, but eventually, she started complaining.
“You never spend time with me anymore, little man,” she’d say in her quiet, meek voice.
He hated it when she talked to him like that. He started avoiding her even more – leaving earlier for work and eating dinner in his room with the door locked. It went on like that for months.

Then one day, he came home early and found his mom in his room, looking through his computer. She looked up at him in the doorway, her face red and her cheeks streaked with black mascara.

“I can explain,” he said.

She looked at him in disgust and threw the computer on the floor. Then stepped on it.

Brady just stared at the pieces of his laptop on the floor.

Yet after that night, his mom never mentioned it. They ate their meals in silence, and in the evenings, when he joined her to watch TV in the living room, she didn’t as much as look at him. It was unbearable.

One night they were watching a movie when suddenly the local news came on. A little girl had gone missing in the town nearby; the search party was looking through the forest, so far there were no leads. They showed a picture of the girl. Her shiny brown hair was in a ponytail, and she smiled at the camera. Brady looked at the screen, but he could feel his mother’s gaze. It made the hair at the back of his neck prickle.

“You pervert,” she suddenly said. “I bet you had something to do with it, huh?”
He looked at her.
“How could I have raised such a pig?” She continued. “You were such a nice little man, oh, so bright and so beautiful with those blue eyes of yours.” At that, she started wailing loudly and wrapped her arms around herself.
“My little man,” she cried.
Brady couldn’t bear to look at her anymore, and that’s when he knew he had to kill her. She was too pathetic to live, and it made him feel sad and pathetic too. The way he saw it, it was his only option.

He spent the next couple of days thinking about the best way to do it. He thought about strangling her in bed, but the thought of having to get on top of her disgusted him. They didn’t own a gun, and plus, that would have been too easy. None of it seemed quite right. But eventually, he settled on a knife because he liked the way it felt in his hand. He sat in his leather armchair clutching the ribbed rubber handle in his hand – thinking about how it would feel like to feel free.

The morning of the murder, he got up and made his bed, then put on his favorite t-shirt – it was dark blue with a few white horizontal stripes in the middle. It was the first shirt he had bought for himself. His mom hated it.

It was a Wednesday.

His mom was in the kitchen making coffee. She looked at his shirt as he came in.

“Aren’t you going to be late for work?” she asked.
That’s when he grabbed her – the knife tucked away in his pocket. He grabbed a chunk of her hair and pulled at it. It felt soft and thin to the touch, just like a little girl’s.