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Sloppy Sutures 
Jennifer Gonzales 

Andrew was roused from his slumber by a dull throbbing sensation. As he groggily grasped at the source of the pain, he locked eyes with his son. Bright bulbs of confusion blinked furiously at him. Greg’s trembling hands revealed a glistening pair of bloodstained scissors. Andrew soberly regarded Greg’s furrowed eyebrows and vacant expression.

“What’s wrong, Dad?” Greg murmured.

Andrew hastily replied “Nothing, son. Don’t worry. I’m OK. I’m going to be OK.”

Although Andrew gingerly attempted to wrench the weapon from Greg’s hands, his actions only worsened the situation. Greg gripped the scissors so tightly that his hands began dripping blood. Andrew noticed his son’s sliced palms and jerked the scissors loose. The sound of the blades clashing against the floor echoed throughout the bedroom. Andrew grimaced as the scarlet droplets splattered across the hardwood. He peered down at his white cotton t-shirt, which was drenched in blood, and spread his hand over the gash. He hastily grabbed a hand towel from the nearby bathroom and held it against his chest.

Andrew’s gaping wound prompted him to call their elderly next door neighbor, Greg’s caretaker, for assistance. Mrs. Donnelly fortunately answered the phone after a few rings.

“Hello. This is Franny Donnelly. Who is calling at this late hour?” she muttered uneasily.

Andrew breathed a sigh of relief and answered “Franny. It’s Andrew Kavanagh.”

“Andrew! Do you realize what time it is? It’s after midnight!” she exclaimed.

“I’m sorry to bother you but it’s an emergency” he replied nervously.

She paused before asking “…Did something happen with Greg? Are you both okay?”

He reluctantly revealed that “there’s been an accident” and impatiently asked

“Can you watch Greg?”.

She warily agreed to watch Greg while Andrew drove to Good Samaritan Hospital in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. He decided that it was worth driving forty-five minutes to a hospital that was further away in order to ensure that he didn’t encounter anyone from his community. Although Andrew had refrained from providing Franny with the gory details of the incident, he feared that he hadn’t removed all of the bloodstained items before enlisting her help. She rang the doorbell within minutes of hanging up and grimly assured him that she’d care for Greg until he returned. As Andrew frantically drove to Good Samaritan Hospital’s ER wing, Greg’s confused expression receded in the rearview mirror.

The blinding overhead lights cast a harsh glow as Andrew anxiously surveyed the hospital room. Andrew automatically reached for the nurse call button before remembering the events that had occurred earlier that evening. As Andrew released the button from his grasp, he was reminded of Greg and desperately hoped that he was being cared for. Andrew was acutely aware that their living situation was unsustainable.

Although Greg had a relatively normal childhood, he began demonstrating signs of mental disturbance at an early age. His destructive and rambunctious behavior had initially been attributed to puberty. An incident approximately four years ago had revealed that he was deeply troubled. Andrew had discovered Greg inside his younger sister’s bedroom with his pants pooled around his ankles. He responded by tackling his eighteen-year-old son to the ground and pummeling his face until his nose was gushing blood. His daughter was fourteen when Andrew discovered that she had been sexually assaulted by her older brother. Although Iris had revealed that she had grown accustomed to Greg’s nocturnal displays of virility, Andrew was unable to accept the truth. He’d attempted to erase the horrific scene from his memory by drowning his sorrows in single malt whiskey. His contradictory emotions and incoherent thoughts would cause his head to throb and he’d self-medicate. Andrew grew accustomed to treating his pounding headaches with countless bottles from his seemingly endless collection of Irish whiskey.

As Andrew continued contemplating his current predicament, he heard his phone vibrate. Andrew had received a notification that The Daily Northwestern, Iris’s college newspaper, had published a piece of hers that was going viral on social media. The article entitled “A Decade of Fraternal Terrorization: Living with My Rapist” caused him to cringe. He felt both relieved and distressed by Iris’s gut-wrenching revelation as he continued to scroll through the article. Although he couldn’t help feeling proud of his daughter for rewriting her narrative, he feared her portrayal of his role. Andrew couldn’t ignore his feelings of guilt over the incident he had witnessed the evening before Greg left for college. He had failed to protect his daughter from the hallucinogenic-driven horrors of sexual violence and Schizophrenia. Although he hadn’t been aware of Greg’s condition at the time, his paternal pride for his son had prevented him from protecting Iris from experiencing future harm. Greg was the spitting image of his father and Andrew had always had high hopes for his firstborn. Iris had surprisingly shared her traumatic experience with her family and friends in great detail; however, she had refrained from implicating her father. His eyes swelled with tears as he read the piece published by her college’s periodical.

“A Decade of Fraternal Terrorization: Living with My Rapist” By Iris Kavanagh

I was five years old when my older brother Greg began sexually assaulting me. I have endured a decade of fraternal terrorization and sexual abuse at the hands of my sibling. As an eighteen-year-old student at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, I’ve accepted that I’ll never have any childhood or adolescent memories that aren’t tainted by my traumatic experience.

He would enter my room while I was sleeping and would cover my eyes as he sexually abused me on a weekly basis. I felt that I couldn’t say no as a child because I was too young to understand his actions. As I grew older and my body developed, I realized that my brother was taking advantage of me but was too ashamed to report him. He was an exceedingly charismatic, handsome, and popular person in our community. His perfectly quaffed auburn hair, piercing pale blue eyes, slender frame, and sculpted physique further contributed to his irresistible physical appeal. I knew that no one, including my family, would believe me. Therefore, I refrained from telling the truth until recently. I’d never had a boyfriend because he was extremely protective and prevented my male classmates from courting me. Although he attracted many members of the opposite sex, he’d never seriously dated anyone either. My sexual assaulter and fiercest protector were paradoxically the same person- my brother.

Throughout my adolescence he’d visit my bedroom multiple times every week. He’d comment on my physical changes and gratify himself while I braced myself for the inevitable. I was forced to carefully cover the bald patches on my scalp, missing tufts of strawberry blonde hair, and conceal the bluish-purple bruises marking my porcelain skin. I dreaded returning home every evening after ballet practice. I’d find excuses to sleepover at my best friend’s house but he always found me. My friends knew him as the doting and dashing older brother who wouldn’t allow his little sister to drive anywhere alone.

I eventually convinced my parents to allow me to switch schools after he moved out for college. I enrolled in a new high school in Chicago, Illinois and entered into a new chapter of my life which wouldn’t be overshadowed by Greg. Although I was extremely depressed and suicidal, I’ve decided after four years of intensive therapy that I’m ready to share my story with the world. I’ve learned that I’m not a victim but a survivor of sexual abuse.

I wouldn’t wish anyone to experience what I have but I also want the world to know I’ve forgiven my brother Greg. He was recently diagnosed with Schizophrenia and is seeking psychiatric treatment. I’ve learned that he was driven to sexually abuse me due to the toxic combination of hallucinations, paranoia, and hypermasculinity. I’ve written this article to not only close this chapter of my life but encourage other survivors of sexual abuse to share their story. Please don’t listen to anyone who discourages you from telling your truth. Don’t wait as long as I did. I can say with one hundred percent certainty it’s not worth it.

Andrew was shaken to his core by his daughter’s article. Her parting words would continue to haunt him until his dying day. He had repeatedly discouraged her from sharing her story with anyone other than her therapist. Andrew felt obliged to respond to Iris’s revelation in order to protect his public image as a devoted father. He decided to leave a comment indicating that he wholeheartedly supported Iris’s article and commended her for her bravery.

“A beautifully told horror story. I’m appalled that I was unable to protect you from the horrors of psychopathic drives, especially under my roof. I cannot process what happened to you without feeling sick to my stomach. I’m extremely proud of you for sharing your story with the world. I hope your writing is able to help other people struggling with similar issues in their lives. I love you unconditionally and promise to fight for you for the remainder of my life.”- Andrew Kavanagh

As Andrew refreshed the page, he was astonished by the multitude of encouraging messages of support that were posted in response to his comment. His best friend’s wife, Chelsea Gibson, wrote:

“Andrew, sexual abuse occurs in the secrecy of thousands of family households. You should hold your head high in our community as the father of someone who can and has made a difference. Iris is a beacon of hope for countless other survivors who are struggling with recovery. You can be proud that you are now giving her all the love and support she needs to continue healing. I believe that Iris would want you to forgive yourself for the sake of your own recovery. Blessings to your whole family.”

Andrew winced as he imagined how Iris would react to Mrs. Gibson’s comment. He had prevented her from telling the truth because he was ashamed of himself for concealing Greg’s behavior. He knew that he had no reason to feel proud of himself but couldn’t help feeling gratified by Mrs. Gibson’s comment. Members of their community were aware that Greg had left college but didn’t know the circumstances surrounding his disappearance. Greg had taken an indefinite leave of absence from the University of South Carolina the summer after his freshman year due to an incident with several members of a sorority. He’d been accused of the attempted sexual assault of three women during a party hosted by his fraternity. Andrew had paid thousands of dollars to settle the dispute with the families of the victims and prevent Greg from facing further public scrutiny. Andrew had additionally agreed to send Greg to a psychiatric residential treatment center in South Carolina.

Greg’s lawsuit had exacerbated his parents’ marital strife. Although they’d been far from happily married for twenty years, they didn’t realize the extent of their incompatibility until Greg’s incident. Their eldest child’s behavioral health issues proved to be an insurmountable obstacle. They filed for divorce shortly after Greg was institutionalized. Andrew should’ve anticipated his ex-wife’s response to the article in hindsight.  The text he’d received from Rhonda read:


Andrew couldn’t help shaking as he read Rhonda’s emphatic message. He should have known that he wouldn’t be able to hide the truth from his ex-wife. Rhonda was a self-righteous bitch who was more concerned with her social life and physical appearance than with her children. She failed to acknowledge that she hadn’t been aware of the situation with Iris and Greg because she had been too busy fucking her ex-boyfriend for the past decade. As the daughter of a prominent politician and former supermodel, Rhonda had been courted by dozens of eligible suitors. She had decided to marry Andrew because of his good looks and southern charm. Although Rhonda didn’t need his money, she had still been enticed by his sizeable inheritance. Andrew Kavanagh, born and bred in Louisville, Kentucky, had inherited the family’s whiskey business. As the largest family-owned and operated Irish whiskey distillery in the region, Kavanagh Irish Whiskey grossed millions of dollars annually. They’d married in their early twenties and moved to an affluent neighborhood in Indian Hill, Ohio. The newlywed couple lived blissfully ignorant of each other’s defaults for a few short months. Rhonda had always cared for her children but grew increasingly less fond of her husband as time passed. She learned that his volatile temperament was easily ignited and lost all respect for him when she discovered that he’d been cheating on her for years. Rhonda had turned to her former beau for comfort when she tired of Andrew’s extramarital affairs and alcohol-fueled temper tantrums. Andrew seethed as he recalled his tumultuous relationship with Rhonda and threw his phone across the room in a fit of rage.

He knew that Iris had initially refrained from sharing her tragic tale of woe because she’d been ashamed of the incestuous nature of her relationship with Greg. Andrew should have anticipated that her psychologist would convince her to tell the truth. Although no one had known the reason for Greg’s sabbatical prior to Iris’s revelation, close family and friends knew that Greg was taking a medical leave of absence. Although Greg had been diagnosed with Schizophrenia and was being treated in South Carolina, he was granted permission to visit Andrew for the weekend. Andrew had hoped that the intensive therapy and a myriad of medications were enough to prevent future incidents, but he had been woefully wrong.

“Andrew, did you hear me?” the physician repeated.

Andrew mumbled “Hmm?”

“Are you alright?” the doctor asked.

The physician’s booming voice reverberated throughout the hospital room, awakening Andrew from his trance. He’d been informed that the wound was superficial and would only require a few stitches.

“You’re extremely lucky. A few centimeters to the left and you would have been punctured in the heart” Dr. Johnson mused.

“I…I was attacked by a rabid dog” Andrew muttered. “As I was leaving my parked car, a mangy mutt chased me to my front door. He growled furiously as he pawed at my chest until I managed to escape.”

“In that case, allow me to examine your scratches. You may have contracted

Rabies” Dr. Johnson replied.

“NO!” Andrew cried. “I mean… I’d prefer not to. My disabled son needs me and his caretaker cannot stay the entire night. I need to go home.”

Dr. Johnson countered “I understand your concerns Mr. Kavanagh. However, you’ll be useless to your son until you’ve been examined. You’re unfit to care for anyone at the moment.”

“I’m sorry but I can’t stay. Greg needs me. I cannot abandon my firstborn” Andrew exclaimed.

“I’m afraid we cannot release you unless you sign an AMA acknowledging that you’re being released from the hospital against medical advice. I’d also urge you to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician, assuming you’ve contracted the disease, you’ll have to be treated for Rabies immediately” Dr. Johnson grimly responded.

“I understand. Thank you Dr. Johnson” Andrew murmured.

Dr. Johnson cautiously asked “Are you sure you feel safe in your home? As your physician, I’m bound by doctor-patient confidentiality. You can tell me if you’ve been attacked by someone in your neighborhood.”

Andrew was afraid of the doctor’s probing questions. He wasn’t sure how to respond to physician’s final inquiry. Andrew may have survived but he could admit to himself that he didn’t feel safe returning home alone. The police hadn’t been contacted because Andrew claimed that he had been attacked by a rabid dog; however, the doctor had his suspicions. He assured Dr. Johnson that he was feeling better and was ready to be released. Andrew waited impatiently as the medical staff began stitching his wound. As soon as they finished, he raced to his sleek black 2019 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ.

Andrew feared what horrors awaited him at home as he sped along I-71 North. Had Greg talked to Franny? Would he be able to defend himself against Greg if he was attacked again? How would he explain the incident to the police if they were contacted? Andrew hurriedly entered the driveway of his cavernous mansion in Indian Hill. He released the breath he’d been holding when he ran through the front door and found Greg heavily sedated and lying asleep on the couch. He thanked Franny for her help, paid her a hefty sum for her troubles, and relieved her of her duties.

Andrew felt an immediate sense of relief that competed with overwhelming feelings of guilt as he began pouring several glasses of Irish whiskey. Although Andrew had been physically hurt, he was relieved that Greg hadn’t been harmed. Andrew felt guilty because he had been responsible for Greg, and he had failed to protect both himself and his son from harm. It was obvious that the incident had traumatized Greg. He’d reacted violently and retreated into himself after realizing the extent of the damage he’d caused.

As Andrew nursed his drink, he watched Greg’s body tremble while he slept. He suddenly realized that there was a simple solution to all of his problems. The voices in his head that he had trained himself to ignore whispered that Greg was an abomination. He had raped his youngest sibling repeatedly throughout her childhood and adolescence. He had sexually assaulted three sorority sisters and was ultimately responsible for his divorce. His filthy habits had forced Andrew to retreat from the public eye and shun former family friends. The whispers grew to shouts and screamed that HE HAS DESTROYED THE KAVANAGH FAMILY AND WILL BE HELD RESPONSIBLE. Andrew desperately downed the remainder of the bottle of whiskey and smashed the glass against the hardwood floor. As he mustered the courage to complete the task, he screamed “GREG IS A SICK BASTARD AND DISGRACE TO THE KAVANAGH FAMILY. HE’LL PAY FOR EVERY SIN HE’S COMMITTED THAT HAS TARNISHED THE REPUTATION OF OUR VENERABLE FAMILY NAME! He silenced the voices by grabbing Greg’s throat and squeezing until the blood vessels in Greg’s eyes hemorrhaged and his jugular veins bulged while he struggled to breathe. Several minutes passed before Andrew alarmingly realized that Greg had stopped resisting and he was dripping blood. The stitches in his chest had unraveled while Greg was suffocating. Tears streamed down his face as Andrew attempted to sloppily rip out the remaining sutures. He sobbed hysterically while frantically searching for ensanguined evidence and staging the scene.

Several years later the community would continue to discuss the order of events which had led to Greg’s untimely death. Although the police had been called shortly after the accident, they had concluded that it was impossible to determine with one hundred percent certainty whether Mr. Kavanagh was telling the truth. He claimed to have been attacked by Gregory Kavanagh and had reacted in self-defense. The police were skeptical, due to the appearance of the crime scene, until they contacted Andrew’s alibis. The psychiatrist at the center in South Carolina confirmed that Greg was being treated for Schizophrenia, Mrs. Donnelly claimed that she had sedated Greg due to his aggressive behavior, and Dr. Johnson verified that Andrew had been attacked earlier that evening. He voiced his suspicions that he hadn’t believed Andrew’s original claim that he had been allegedly attacked by a dog because the laceration appeared to be a stab wound. The Cincinnati Police Department and Indian Hill County Court eventually determined that Greg’s death was a justifiable homicide.

In the aftermath of Greg’s cremation ceremony, the Kavanagh family dispersed throughout the country. Rhonda remarried and spent the remainder of her life traveling the world with her second husband. Although she eventually made amends with her daughter and they remained in contact, she was never entirely forgiven for her negligence. Iris paid her respects to her brother and never returned to Cincinnati. She became a social worker and advocate for sexual abuse survivors in the greater Chicago area. Andrew returned to Louisville to run the family business from the company’s headquarters. He passed the remainder of his days swilling bottles of Irish whiskey while contemplating the dark specter which had torn the Kavanagh family’s lives asunder.

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