Good Bye Father, I love you
There is a story which I may never write; these are notes about this unwritten story.
This, then, is not a story.
The final line of the story is: “Goodbye father. I love you.”
The speaker is one George Carter, a hospital attendant. The man he is speaking to is Bernard Levine. Bernard has had a stroke and is lying there in a coma. George has just administered a lethal dose and Bernard very shortly will be dead.
Why “Goodbye father”? Because Bernard is George’s biological father, something that George knew and Bernard did not.
The murder of Bernard Levine is the climax of the story and is, we hope, moderately shocking. However it is only the ending. The story is about George Carter. Somewhere in the story is the line: “He !always was a peculiar boy.”
An important part of this story is that George Carter stalks Bernard Levine. He sends him anonymous notes signed, “Your Son”. He keeps newspaper clippings of Levine. He follows him and generally does those things that stalkers do. Bernard Levine is aware that he is being stalked but does not know who the stalker is.
The story begins with George’s conception.
It happens on a college campus. George’s mother, Linda, is a member of the campus “in” crowd, popular, and active in student affairs. Bernard Levine is an engineering student, another face in the crowd. He is a member of a fraternity popularly known as nerd house. Linda’s fiance, William Hodding Carter, is from a family of old wealth and is a big man on campus.
Linda and William have had a quarrel. The details are unimportant and we may as well move the quarrel off stage. What is important is that the two of them are angry with each other and are temporarily separated. What also is important is that Nerd House is having a party. Ordinarily Linda wouldn’t attend a Nerd House party but she is angry with William. She gets drunk. Bernard is, to her, a nonentity, a nobody, that usually would beneath her notice. Tonight however, it is just that that makes him attractive to her. She wants a revenge fuck and Bernard is just the man. He’s nebbish enough for revenge and not gross or disgusting. Linda is too fastidious to sleep with a slob.
An accident of conception happens and she becomes pregnant.
The time is the early 60’s. Both the school and Linda are socially conservative; abortion is out of the question. She doesn’t for a moment consider Bernard as a possible husband or even of letting him know that he is a prospective father. What she does is simple enough; she makes up with William (whom she does plan to marry), sleeps with him, and informs him that they have to get married quickly.
The night of the conception is a prolog of sorts for the story, an opening scene. The reconciliation of Linda and William, their marriage, and the birth of George are a short second scene. There is some important background here. Linda and William are great party goers and great party givers. This foreshadows their both becoming alcoholics later on. It also leaves open the question of whether George was a fetal alcohol syndrome baby.
Bernard pretty much drops out of the story after opening night. He goes on to become a co-founder of a high-tech firm and becomes very rich. We don’t see him directly but his name appears in the papers and in the news. We may assume that he gets married and has children but they are of no moment unless we want to work in a scene where he discusses his worries about being stalked with his wife. Probably he doesn’t – he discusses it with a good friend or with his lawyer instead. Bernard, the person, isn’t a part of this story; Bernard, the father of George, is.
There are two pivotal events in George’s boyhood, one being his learning about his biological father and the other in which he incorporates the thought of mercy killing.
William and Linda both become alcoholics. William’s connections give him a good start but his beginnings come to nothing because he drinks too much. His financial failures are part of the screaming arguments that become the norm in their marriage. One evening, when George is about ten, she throws George’s parentage and Bernard’s success into William’s face. Unbeknownst to them George is awake and listening.
The other event is tricky. As a small boy George is an animal killer and torturer – one of the evidences that the boy is not quite right. He gets cured of that by a massive overdose of parental guilt laying. The pivotal event happens when the family pet dog gets sick and they put it away. Linda explains to him that the dog is suffering and that “putting it to sleep” is a real kindness.
Here we have to do some psychological dippety-do wherein we poke around in George’s head. The upshot is that George internalizes the notion that killing the terminally ill is a good thing to do.
George’s boyhood is a major chunk of the story. His teens and early twenties are an interlude. Big things happen: Linda and William get divorced; William disappears from George and Linda’s life; and Linda dies in George’s early twenties. These events are important but they are lightly sketched in.
The second main chunk of the story covers George’s mid to late twenties. He becomes a hospital attendant and, surreptitiously, a dark angel of mercy.
He also obsesses over Benard Levine, his true biological parent. Bernard is the father he should have had. His learning about his parentage in the first part of the story is a throwaway; it happens but nothing is made of it. In this section he broods about it.
The question that must be answered is: Why doesn’t he directly approach Bernard and tell him that he is his son? The answer is sort of warped; it’s a secret. He knows it but he’s not supposed to know it; he learned it as forbidden knowledge. Keeping his mouth shut is second nature to him, beaten into him during his youth. We need another event in the first section in which he is severly punished for speaking out of turn and revealing unfortunate knowledge. With that marriage any number of occasions will do.
There is another aspect. George constructs increasingly elaborate fantasies about Bernard. This is his true father, the father that he should have had, and the father that he can love. Actually confronting Bernard would break the spell of fantasy.
Comes the denoument. Bernard has a stroke and is brought to the hospital where George works. George sees this as an opportunity to show his love for his true father in the only way that he knows how.
“Goodbye father. I love you.”
This page was last updated July 1, 2001.