• Fraser du Toit

Maudwin Maunders


Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS from Pexels


Father died in the spring of my twentieth year. He finally succumbed to the smoke and squalor of his years spent working steel, he was forty-six when he passed.

Mother, who had long suffered his mercurial moods, was neither morose nor relieved. She shed the customary tears at his funeral, but being the practical woman that she was, she went no further than was proper.

I myself felt nothing but passing respect for the man who had slaved away his life in the workshop below the loft that we shared with my grandfather, for who I was named. The elder Maurice Maudwin had once been a successful landowner and bore himself with that same air of disdain for menial labor. He never missed an opportunity to chastise my father for the subservient nature of his chosen profession, to which father would invariably remind him of his failings as a businessman.

Truth be told, it was gambling that had done the elder Maurice in. He could not resist the allure of the dog-track, despite his terrible luck. I would be surprised to hear that he had won a bet, even once. Whatever his reasoning, the man’s vice drove his wife to an early grave. Grandmother had gone to the great beyond before I was born.

Father had his own vice, by which he sought to kill those that he loved. His one and only passion in life was the bottle, and he would turn to it daily. Slowly, at first, the spirits took over his mind and turned him surly and volatile. He would grow agitated and sometimes violent if he wasn’t supplied with a fresh bottle as soon as one was emptied.

Mother was happy to oblige, hoping that the drink would kill him before he killed her. I would often take the bottles down two at a time to feed father’s monstrous thirst. He would sit on his stool like some terrible ogre, surrounded by the half-worked steel that was his demesne.

My childhood was spent mostly in the loft, listening to grandfather’s legends of an aristocratic life or helping mother cook dinner on the gas stove nestled in the corner of the loft. During those rare moments that I had to myself, I would sneak off to the library to read.

Our poverty never inspired mother to seek employment of her own. She had been raised to expect that her husband would be the sole provider, and she did not regard suffrage highly. After father’s death, she sold his workshop and moved out to the countryside to attempt to live off of what little money came from the sale. Soon she would run out, and I would regularly wire funds to her.

Grandfather left shortly after father’s death, he said not a word before disappearing one morning. I can only assume that he opted for the ancient death of the elderly, walking into the wilderness to ensure the survival of the tribe during a harsh winter. He left a sum of money to me before he left, and he took no belongings with him.

I soon found myself alone in the city that had suffocated my family. The grandson of a failed businessman and the son of an alcoholic. Mother swore never to set foot in the cursed city again, and I could not fault her for it. She had grown up in the country and felt most at home there. I however, knew only the city and could not fathom ever leaving its oily embrace.

I apprenticed myself to a book-binder and made enough money to afford an education. They say the world bends to a hard-working man, but this I know is not the case. I charmed and lied my way to success, all the while watching my hard-working peers remain in place. None of my childhood friends ever excelled, most taking over the menial trades of their parents.

After many years of toil in the fields of deceit, I had built enough business acumen to afford a holiday. I had many hard-workers in my service, and one can always count on hard-workers to maintain your business in your absence. Never would ambition cloud their minds.

This first journey took me to visit my mother in the country where she lived with her sister, an aunt I had never met before. Father had long banned the notion of visiting mother’s family, or of them visiting us. I found them to be agreeable and proper, hard-working folk. Soon I had them ready to open a branch of my business in their village, and so it was that my fortunes grew.

Like all of the Maudwin men, I had my vice, but it wasn’t gambling or spirits that gripped my heart. Instead, I was enslaved to the carnalities of the flesh. My spiritual affliction would catch up to me in the form of some disease of sin. I had never much-trusted doctors, and I let my disease slowly eat away at me in the same way that my forebears had done.

Now, at the end of my life, I look back at a history that would have been better for not being. The world had only suffered for having any of my line in it, like some dark streak through history, we have stained this world.

I can only hope that the children I have sired will do better, although I doubt that they will. They were raised by me, after all, and have my cursed blood in their veins.