Oswald learned from a young age not to ask about his father. Each time he would look up at his mother, his eyes expectant. Was he part of an elite underground criminal organization? Or perhaps a spy away on a secret mission?
His gaze was always met with the same response. His mother would turn, hunching and pulling her clothes around herself, making herself seem smaller. She muttered words he could barely make out about “grassy knolls” and “black helicopters”. She would repeat the name “Gwen”, shaking and rocking violently until he could calm her down. Thank god for mother’s little helpers.
As he got older, her eccentricities gave way to boredom in him and he dropped the subject. He had other father figures to look towards. They weren’t the best but they were something more than the ramblings of his mother about a ghost of a man he wasn’t sure even existed. They started with small outings, like most fathers. Some vandalism here, some extortion here, a little bit of B&E if he was a good boy and got all his collections in on time. It was a miracle that those fathers weren’t the ones who brought his real father to his door.
The knock was soft at first and then grew steadily heavier and more impatient. His mother was in one of her spells, in no fit condition to be answering the door so he reluctantly made his way to it. The man didn’t even acknowledge him as he opened the door, looking over his head and calling out.
Startled at first, he took the man in. Dark sunglasses hid his eyes and while he was probably of average height, he seemed larger than life to Oswald. But then to most of us, our parents seem larger than life, despite their age. The man’s jacket moved swiftly to the side, revealing the badge on his hip.
“I’m looking for a woman named Gwen, Gwen Munch.”
Oswald found his voice, shaking and broken, perhaps from puberty and perhaps from fear. “You have the wrong address. And…and you can’t come in here without a warrant.”
“I know the law, kid.” He replied, not even looking to Oswald.
“It’s just my mother and I here. And her name is not Gwen. It’s Gertrud. And her last name is Kapelput.” Oswald said with more confidence than he actually was feeling.
At last the cop looked at him. It was hard to tell what was going on behind those eyes since they were hidden by the dark sunglasses. It seemed like forever as the seconds in silence ticked by. “How old are you?”
“Fourteen. And I know my rights. You can’t just barge in here.” It was one last desperate push, the flight or fight response that told him to stand his ground against this man.
“You don’t say.” The man paused, looking him over. He couldn’t tell for sure but it seemed a shadow of a smile crossed his face. “Tell your mom that John stopped by. And tell her I hope she’s taking her meds.”
And just as quickly and brusquely as the man had come into their apartment, he left as well. Oswald stood there for a moment, looking into the empty hall way through the open door. He wasn’t sure how many minutes at passed before he heard the voice of his mother.
“Who was that?”
Oswald reached, closing the door, sliding the deadbolt and then chain into place. “No one, mama. No one.”