by Megan Russo
Geoff tugged at the collar of his shirt as he eyed the photo of his father. Hung in a heavy, gilded rectangle, his father watched over the family room. Hugging his gift for father to his chest, Geoff walked into the kitchen. His mother stood at the stove, drinking her coffee as she watched the clock.
“Did you wrap your gift?”
Geoff nodded and held it out for her to see.
“The bus will be here in a few minutes.”
Geoff rushed out the kitchen side door and hurried around the side of their small cottage house to see all of the other children chasing each other across adjoining lawns while their mothers kept watch. Gabby’s mom began collecting everyone as the bus grew closer in the distance.
“Everyone! Line up! Do you want to be late?”
As Geoff took his seat he could see that his mother had gathered with the other mothers on the sidewalk. The children around him waved against the glass as they pulled away, but Geoff just stared at his mother’s frown and wished for Father’s Day to be over.
After being herded through the sterilization unit, Geoff and his siblings followed a nurse down the hallway. Each set of glass double doors they passed was protected by two armed guards as other children visited their fathers.
“Group 748, your father will see you now.”
Their father’s visitation room was decorated to mimic the standard family room allowed in each of their cottage homes. Geoff stayed in the back as the twenty other children rushed in, presenting their gifts to father with outstretched hands. As the children settled, Geoff pushed his way through the sea of his sisters. Around Gina, between Gemma and Grace, slipping by Genevieve. His father’s smile softened as Geoff thrust his wrapped box to the older male.
“Thank you, Geoff.” He was the only male of his brood, and it seemed like father always made a point to acknowledge him by name. Geoff. He liked the way his name sounded when father said it.
They sat in a semicircle as their father began unwrapping each gift. By the end, he had twenty-one identical government issue plastic frames, each containing the school picture of the child who gifted it. Geoff felt as if his father lingered, if only for an extra second, on his photo.
When their visit ended, they filed out of the room, no one attempting to hug father as one poor girl had tried last year. Geoff stared at his father as he began to retreat with his sisters. The older male scowled deeply at him. Geoff could hardly hear the screams of his sisters over the buzz in his ears as his father lunged for him, dragging Geoff close. His father’s eyes were wild and Geoff gaped into the dark brown.
“Get out or kill yourself. Don’t let them take you.”
Geoff was ripped away from his father and carried into the hall as the doors were sealed.