(Author’s Notes:

  1. This is a rough that I will update continually until I get it down in a readable format. Please, forgive the haphazard execution. This IS a work in progress. Thank you for your patience.
  2. Parsing into yearly chronology to better order this thing. I will never publish this anywhere else – I am averse to exploiting my childhood for monetary gain.  Hubby objects to this.  Tough shit.  My party.
  3. Changing tags because I’ve decided not to add any fiction into it.  I’ll admit things here that I literally can not anywhere else.  Sugar won’t make it easier to swallow and won’t hide the bitter almond flavor.
  4. Redid the spacing between years and events for an (hopefully!) easier read.
  5. First version 1.0.  2nd Update completed to version 1.1.  3rd Update completed 8/15/16 to version 1.2.  4th Update completed 09/19/16 to version 1.3.  5th Update completed 10/06/16 to version 1.4  6th Update completed 01/15/17 to version 1.5.  7th Update completed 03/05/17 to version 1.6.

End Notes.)

 

Darkness and Hell’s Own Light

By S.L. Minton

    These are my memories.  They have evolved over time as I evolved with or mutated from them.

    Sometimes, they’re laughable; other times, crushing and sad.  They’re snapshots of building blocks, the ingredients added to my raw, warped DNA to produce whatever the fuck is “me”.

    Some of these things are unbelievable.  You will question my conclusions but they were what I saw, combined with what I knew to produce the redneck sitcom that was my life.  There’s not a lot of beauty here but there’s enough murder, madness, and mayhem to satisfy the heart of any telenovela author.  Did this really happen?  I actually sit back and wonder this myself.  These are how I remember these things.  Not how my mother or father or siblings saw it.  I don’t know how they saw it; I can only speak from the uninformed and malformed me that was present.  So, I say these things because I do honestly remember them in this fashion.

    Were they fever dreams, the burgeoning of my psychotic tendencies, were they the products of imagination or were they ghosts or even real?  I do not know.  I can not answer that, even now.  I can only relate what I remember and how I recall it all.   Tell yourself whatever you must but please, keep reading.  These things shaped me and the memories are important because they are part of who I am and, someday, someone might want to know them or even need to know the foundations of my insanity so for those invisible, future others, I will relate the memories as best I can.  Know that my family call me liars but know it is more because I show them for what they are than it is for any dishonesty upon my part.  They are monsters; so am I because monsters can not create anything else.  I have fought my entire life against the demons in my head and the monsters in my DNA.  I can not change that I am a monster but I can choose to not be monstrous.  But after decades of heartbreak and the demons rampaging in my brain, I feel that I am losing the fight.  So listen while I still hold some shreds of my sanity because once that is gone, I know I will die.

    Listen!  It’s important.

1970:

Date of Birth: March 15, 1970 11:32 P.M. Eastern Standard Time. [Note: 1977 entry references back to this point]

 

1971:

 

1972:

I was two years old and it was 1972 and it comes back to me like it was this morning.

The car was old, the front seat stretched the length of the car, and the clunky gear shift on its bent stick divided it.  My older brother, Sean, to my left and Grandpa Henry “Spot” Buckner to his left; my Mammaw, Mae Bell Swafford Buckner to my right.  Mammaw was arguing with Grandpa but I don’t recall the details of it.  She had scattered wrapped, hard candies on the seat and I was attempting to figure out how they worked so I could get to the sweetness inside.  My brother had a chocolate candy bar.  Mammaw said something to Grandpa, something about me, I don’t remember her words.  I do recall his response of, “Little girls are worthless!” and I looked up at him to see hatred in his cold, dead eyes.  Then he got out of the car and took Sean with him and as they walked away, I saw Grandpa stroking his back with gnarled fingers, almost as if he were a possession and not a person, some sort of golden chalice that made his eyes warm and his wrinkled lips stretch into a smile.

I did not realize at the time that he was grooming Sean for the time when he was old enough to claim.  I don’t know what age that Grandpa aimed for because he died the next year, 1973, when I was three years old.

 

1973:

He died on the couch in the living room in a condemned house that my parents rented “under the table” for $25 a month from the farmer across the way on old Blue Springs Road in Cleveland, Tennessee.  The day that he died, I went outside and I sat down behind the rocking chair on the back porch that Grandpa liked to sit in.  And I saw that old man sitting there, right there, while the ambulance drivers wrapped his dead body and placed it on a gurney and put it in the ambulance, while my father ran in circles in the driveway and clutched his head and screamed at the heavens, while my brother cried and my mother remained in the kitchen to hide whatever emotion she felt.  I sat behind his ghost and I felt his cold satisfaction at the havoc he had wrought with his passage and then came his icy anger when he looked upon Sean and realized that he would never taste him in the way that he wanted.  At that time, I did not understand the anger I felt from him but it was strong enough that it was both palpable and memorable.

Sometimes, that old man would come back and he would stand at the foot of my bed and he would glare his hatred and disdain and despair at me while I cowered beneath the covers and waited for him to kill me.  He wanted me dead and he wanted me to know it but I did not realize he was powerless to do more than allow me to feel it.  His hatred surpassed even death and it burned more brightly because I was the only one that could see him there.

 

1974:

Sean was 7 years old, a scrawny string bean of a child with a thatch of wild dark hair and more arms and legs than torso; he was also meaner than a starving pit bull.  He’d come to the point where he found it was fun to beat on someone smaller, the lesson he’d learned at his daddy’s knee.  I’d already come to the point where I hated him with every last ounce of me, not to say that amounted to a lot.  I was a small, straight stick with a rough cut tangle of steadily darkening blonde moppet hair.  Sara, my younger sister, was 2 years old and already her head stopped just short of my chin.  She was still chubby with baby fat and coddling and her raven black ringlets bounced about on her little round shoulders.

Sean was in trouble again.  I don’t recall why.  It was usually pretty bad when any of us got into trouble but this time, it was worse.

Sara and I had come into the house when we heard the shouting and swearing in my mother’s rough alto.  We followed the sounds and stopped at the threshold between dining and living room.  Sean’s bed, a metal framed single that had a thick coat of white paint on it, sat against the far wall.  There was a couch on the near side and the console television bulked on the right hand wall.

Sean was lying on the bed wearing a dirty pair of shorts and his wrists stretched up past his head to the headboard, held in place by a pair of police regulation handcuffs that shone dull silver in the faded afternoon light.  Mom perched at the side of the bed and sitting on top of his chest.  She was using her knees so as not to rest her full 150 pound frame on him, her wild cerulean eyes burning on his face as it turned steadily redder and redder and then went closer to purple.  He hit full purple and she levered herself upright, turned, and screamed into his face and slapped him until he opened his eyes and screamed.

Then she did it again.

I don’t know how long that went on but for me, there, it seemed to stretch out like taffy and I felt older when she turned and saw Sara and I in the doorway.  Her face was wild, her lips spittle flecked, her eyes whirling with a primitive, all-consuming rage.

The memory stops there for me.  I don’t know what happened afterward.  There’s nothing but black there now, an emptiness that whistles with something forlorn and bleak.

 

1975:

I remember March 15, 1975, my fifth birthday, and Pop asleep on the couch, my brother at school, my sister, Sara, and I playing in the living room.  I had found a pair of scissors and easily talked my sister into letting me cut her hair.  The dark curls fell like rain and I know why I did it, knew that they loved her in ways they could never love me and it was my small, petty form of retribution.  I could not hurt her but I could shorn her of the hair my mother loved.  My mother returned with my brother and a birthday cake in a pristine, white box which she set on the kitchen table before she saw what I had done.  She beat me to the floor, showed me the cake that she had bought with her own money, screamed at me about how ugly, how worthless, how useless, how stupid I was and then she beat me until she had expended most of her rage.  I crawled to the bedroom and hid under the bed while she lit into Pop for failing to watch us properly.  My brother followed me into the bedroom and he leaned down and he grinned at me and he spoke to me about how he would tell her where I was and how he would finally be rid of me because she would kill me when she found me.  He was certain of it.

 

1976:

In 1976 my father’s brother, Uncle Grady found out that he had some form of cancer.  I do not know which kind because, as a child, I was never told.  The only recollection I have of him is one night, in that kitchen in the condemned house we lived in, he sat at the kitchen table, drinking a beer, talking to my father and Mammaw and Mom.  My sister and I were up past our bedtime because we got into Mom’s makeup and lost track of the time.   We went into the kitchen with carmined, Joker-like mouths, blue eyeshadow up to the eyebrows, and mascara smeared all over the place, as if we’d been too close to a make-up counter as a tornado whipped past.  The only one that paid any attention to us when we walked in was Uncle Grady and smiled, gushed about how pretty we both were, and asked my father to let him dandle my sister and I on his knee.   We scrambled into his lap and everything was fine for about 30 seconds and then he put his hands where they were not supposed to go, mom appeared seemingly out of thin air, grabbed us up and told us to go to bed and ran us out of the kitchen with spanking threats.  At the time, I did not know that she was not protecting me but only my sister; that didn’t become clear until later.

I went into the first grade in ’76 without benefit of the kindergarten that my brother and, later, my sister would enjoy.  I knew how to read and form most of the letters of the alphabet before I arrived but I have no memory of how I knew this, no recollection of whom taught these things to me.  I only knew that when I was five years old, the beatings intensified and I did not realize until later that what kept me from kindergarten were the too obvious bruises and welts and not-yet-faded scars that I bore from the abuse visited upon me by my mother, my father, my brother.  My sister had not yet joined them, she was two years younger than I and I did not realize then that she would become part of it, eventually.

On my first day of the first grade, I was given to an old woman, a teacher in her late fifties or early sixties, a mean woman whom I only knew as Mrs. Carson.  I remember that first roll call when she got to my name and she looked up, beady black eyes fastening upon me, and she asked me if I was Sean’s sister.  I knew that Sean got in a lot of trouble in school, that he received a paddle to his backside at least once a week for some infraction or other.  I did not know that Mrs. Carson had been the start of that for him.  Naively, I answered in the affirmative and I saw the hellfire leap into her eyes.  She would try her damnedest to punish me for the sin of being Sean’s sibling with an automatic assumption that I was like him or worse.  She taunted me, called me garbage and white-trash, tried her best to provoke a response that would allow her to take me out into the hallway and use her brand new, fiberglass paddle with the holes drilled through it for an aerodynamic swing unimpeded by the very air that kept her from hitting with every ounce of her shriveled frame.

Then came October and a fifth-grade teacher named Mrs. Cafego that had just gotten married and wanted to spend her last year teaching younger children so she could get an idea of how our minds worked.  She came to our classroom with a note from the principle that allowed her to take as many students as she thought she could handle for the rest of the year.  Mrs. Carson stood beside me, gnarled fingers dug into my left shoulder to hold me in place, and she tried to at least seem gracious as Mrs. Cafego picked out the chosen few.  I sat, silent, with those old fingers digging into my flesh through my thin shirt but I could not keep the tears out of my eyes.  Salvation was there, it was right there, and it would be denied to me as it always had been and my heart broke for how close it was while still so far away.

That I could see it made it bitter as the copper pennies I would eat and I could taste the metal and the fire of it while I burned silently and screamed inside my head.  I remember her lavender button-down shirt, her eggplant pencil skirt, her smart black heels, her styled brown hair, and eyes bluer than violets.  Mrs. Cafego took her chosen few and walked toward the door after thanking Mrs. Carson but, when she did so, she looked at me and when her blue eyes met mine, I called out to her inside my head and I begged her from my silence to save me.  Did she see it in my eyes?  Did she hear me?  I do not know.  I only know that she stopped and she pointed at me and said that she wanted me, too.  My heart leapt and then the tears fell and then Mrs. Carson waddled to the front of the room and told her that no, she could not have me.  Mrs. Cafego left but she returned moments later with the principle in tow and they held a fierce, whispered conference that ended when Mrs. Cafego called me to the front and asked me, point-blank, did I wish to go to her classroom.  Mrs. Carson glared her hatred and the hellfire danced inside her beady dark eyes and it took everything in me to do it, but I said yes and Mrs. Cafego whisked me away and every day after that, for the rest of that year, school became a refuge, a place of safety and love, and I did everything that Mrs. Cafego asked of me and anything that I could imagine to make her love me.

 

1977:

At the end of the year, I begged her to let me stay in the first grade with her and she tried, as gently as she could, to explain that she would not be teaching any longer after that year, that she was off to raise her own family and have her own children.  So I begged her to let me come live with her, offered to sleep in her garage or in a spare closet, I bargained and I swore that I would be no trouble at all and no one would mind because my family did not want me at all.  She cried then, those beautiful blue eyes full of anguish as she told me no and I could not grasp anything beyond the loss of her.  She was the first person to ever hug me and the first one to absolutely shatter me.  Even someone as good and kind and wonderful as she could not bring herself to love me and my heart lay in pieces at her feet.

I remember my first friend, a mutt I named Brownie, that someone put into a bag and threw out of the back of their truck as they sped down Blue Springs Road and laughed when it landed in the ditch outside my house.  I went to the ditch and opened the sack and there he was, the ugliest little dog I had ever seen.  He had a head like a German Shepherd on the body of a dachshund and was the color of rusted steel wool.  He came to me and licked my hand and from that moment until the day he died, he followed me everywhere but school and I could talk to him and he did not hate me even when I cried into his fur and asked him why he was the only one that could love me.

Uncle Grady lost all of his hair and his stick-like frame acquired a pot belly.  Mom had an old, paper-mache Buddha statue that she’d turned into a vase for dried flowers.  Mammaw accused Mom of being a witch, of cursing Uncle Grady to look like that Buddha and on a day when Mom was out at work, Mammaw took that Buddha and threw him into a pond.  When Mom returned, they fought and screamed at one another and I watched from the kitchen doorway and heard them curse one another until Pop broke them apart and joined the fray.  Then, later that year, Uncle Grady died in a hospital and they took my brother in to say good-bye to him and when my brother returned to the waiting room where I had been left alone, he attacked me, punched me until I hit the wall and then the ground, and kicked me while crying and screaming because I “wasn’t sad that Grady was gone”.  No one stopped him until a pair of nurses came walking down the hallway.  I did not know that Uncle Grady had been grooming him, too.  That night, Uncle Grady and Grandpa appeared at the foot of my bed and their cold hatred was palpable from their dark, dead eyes and they glowed with the fires of Hell at their backs but, by that time I had learned that they held no real power and I laughed at them for being dead and unable to get to me and they burned brighter at it.

I had no friends at school and the teachers treated me like a leper and, after Mrs. Cafego, it was colder than a gulag for my brother could get to me at lunch time and taunt me while surrounded by all of his little cronies.  When he could not find me, he would beat up smaller children and bully them in every shadowed corner of the school but for me, he took special delight in hitting me when his little band of merry mercenaries could watch.  It made him feel strong, it made him feel powerful, it gave him a feeling of control that I delighted in taking away with words of scorn and ridicule and malice.  I was small, he was big; instinctively, I knew that I could not win a physical confrontation with him.  But I could reach into his mind and I could smash the buttons I found there and I could make him lose what shreds of sanity and reason he had then I could win even though he would beat me while I laughed through a bloody mouth and black eyes and launched curses into his face.  He could beat my body but he could not break ME, I refused to allow it.  I do not know why I did this.  I only know that I won something back from him, something he could not contain or control and something he could never, ever own and it enraged him more than anything else.  Thus, I learned the power of a well placed laugh, or crafted sarcasm, and he would rip into my body but I would shred his soul for it and make him think I enjoyed it more than breath or life itself.  He never knew how I cried in my room at night while the ghosts glowed in their hatred at the foot of my bed or how badly I wanted the pain to end, how I would lash out with those words at those ghosts and taunt them to try to kill me.  Death would have been relief and I knew this at seven years old.

I remember when Elvis died because Mom had the console television on with the volume maxed and she knelt on the floor in front of it with a bottle of some clear liquor and she wailed and clawed at the air like she had lost her last friend while I watched in silence and knew she would never feel like that for me.

Somewhere around this time, she began to tell me stories about myself while the fire burned inside her eyes. About how she did not know she was pregnant with me, how she did nothing but puke the entire time, about how she thought she was dying but refused to see a doctor, and that she weighed only 95 pounds when she walked into the Volusia County Hospital in Deland, Florida mere moments before I appeared.  About how I had jaundice and was born breech and how they had to pull the jaundiced milk from her swollen breasts with syringes because the jaundice infected her, too, and they could not retrieve the milk any other way.  About how my father wasn’t present when I was born, about how he had gone gallivanting with hookers and disappeared the night before I was born and how she did not find him until three days later, out of the hospital with me on her hip, to find him passed out drunk in a cheap hotel bathtub with two prostitutes, all of them as naked as the day they were born.

She spoke of how, when I was a month old, she picked up my crib with me in it and threw it into a wall and shattered it to get some sleep because my father was too busy chasing ass to actually get a job and she worked three jobs to support us.  With a manic grin on her face, she talked about how I was a perfect child that slept all night and played all day and never cried but she was so very tired, and so, enraged, she chose to silence me forever.  I do not know how I survived that and she never said.  At the same time, and I do not know if they coördinated it, Mammaw began to call me a demon spawn, and Satan, and how I should never have been born while the hellfire danced behind her dark, dark eyes.

 

1978:

More ghosts haunted that place.  Every time I mentioned them, I got a beating.  Mammaw would cry when I told her about Grandpa but I did not know why and then she would slap me and tell me to shut up with my wild stories.  There was a man I did not know in the attic and he wore an old coat, shiny dark shoes, a dark hat, and square black glasses that hid his eyes and he was older than the others and he could do things that they could not.  He proved this once by pushing me down the stairs and his hand felt large and heavy on the back of my neck and I went down, head first, and landed with my feet pointing back up the stairs, head against the wall, and I saw the slash of his cold smile before he disappeared.  When I reported this, they told me that I had been alone upstairs and then I got beaten for lying but the ghost of whomever he once was had proven its point to the others and if he appeared, none of the others would.

I was the runt of the bunch, born in the middle, and they delighted in telling me why they wished I had been born dead, how the world would have been a better, brighter place if I had never taken even one breath while hellfire demons capered in their eyes and laughed through their mouths.

Later that year, Mom was in the kitchen with out-of-town relatives from California.  Pop’s sister, Stella, had moved out there as soon as she was able to just to get away from the family but she would bring her brood to Tennessee every so often and visit all the relatives that she usually pretended not to know.  Stella and her husband (I don’t recall the husband’s name) sat at the table with various photo albums spread out in front of them.  The other kids were running around outside and playing.  I didn’t like Stella’s children because it was easy for my brother, Sean, to get them to follow his lead and beat me up so I was still in the house.  I went downstairs once I’d heard all the kids leave the house and I was walking toward the kitchen when I saw Stella’s husband walk out the back door.  I assumed he was off to check on the various brats running around out there but I don’t know.  I stayed in the dining room for a little while until I heard the raised voices coming from the kitchen.  I knew where to step so that my feet caused no noise but it was a crazy pattern around the wooden floor so it took me a moment or two to navigate it but, eventually, I got to the doorway that lead into the kitchen.  Once I got there, all I could do was stare in disbelief.

Mom and Stella were on the floor, underneath the kitchen table.  Stella had one of those huge butcher’s knives that could saw through bone in her hand.  Mom had a butter knife.  I saw Stella lunge toward Mom and Mom slid up against the wall, slashed with the butter knife across Stella’s face and then disarmed Stella by cutting into her hand.  Pop came through the back door at about that moment and he pulled them both out from under the table and the shock of the noise he made was like thunder because the fight under the table had been so astonishingly quiet.  I don’t know what inspired them to try to murder each other and I never heard why.  After the incident, everyone in the family seemed to clam up on the subject and even eavesdropping at windows and doors – a habit I acquired out of a sense of self-preservation – did not shed any light on it.

I only recall it because in the shadows under the table, their eyes had brimmed with a sort of cold hellfire…

 

1979:

 

1980:

I remember the first time that I heard the song “Imagine” was on the day that John Lennon died and I cried when I realized that his beautiful vision was nothing more than a fantasy but it was so much more than I had ever dreamed and he was lost to me the moment I found him and it made my chest ache.  That someone, anyone could craft something as wonderful as a sunrise inside a song as flimsy and brief as a bubble in the fingers of the wind took my breath and brought me to my knees.

 

1981:

Less than a month later, the condemned house on Blue Springs Road would burn to the ground.  The night before, for unknown reasons, Mom made us all sleep in her room.  The house caught fire in the dining room just before dawn and the heavy smoke caused us to cough so violently that it woke us.  Mom took the old turntable that sat on the table beside her bed and threw it through the window behind it.  I was closest, so she threw me out to the snowy porch first, followed by my sister, brother and then herself.  We sat inside the rusted old truck that did not run, it sat parked down the hill from the house, and we shivered because we were in our night-clothes still and barefoot.  My brother punched me and blamed me for it, as he did for everything, so I left the truck and walked up to the house and watched the hellfire consume it and melt the snow for ten feet in every direction.  The firemen had their hands full but a police officer I did not know gathered me up, put his jacket around me, put me in the front seat of his car and he started the engine and turned the heater on high, told me to stay put, and closed the door and I sat there, alone, and watched the ghosts scream soundless rage from every window while the fire scoured the rickety structure and cleansed it from the earth.

I remember turning eleven years old in another condemned house that they found on Black Fox Road that had no running water and an outhouse ten to fifteen feet from the back door and tarantulas and scorpions that a previous occupant – a cousin of mine, actually, and Uncle Grady’s son – had brought from Florida in buckets of sand and then unleashed under the house before we ever moved in.  We had to go down the hill and across a wooded expanse, over an ancient wooden bridge with rotted boards, to a fresh water spring in the woods and we carried empty plastic jugs, filled them, and toted them back to the house.  When it was cold, my father would chop wood and we would grab the chunks and the logs and carry them up the stairs to the old front porch and stack them against the wall.  I remember watching a cowboy and indian movie that was black and white on the old console television and then, the next day, retrieving the huge old yard darts and my sister and I threw them at each other’s feet and commanded the other to dance until one of my missiles stuck in her calf and Mom came running at the scream and beat me until I could not see.

I remember one day making the beds and laughing at how the air grabbed the sheets and billowed them taut, and I wasn’t wearing a shirt because I was a tomboy but puberty had already hit and the Boob Fairy had visited and I heard my father’s voice asking my mother how old I was, and I looked up and met his gaze, and saw the hellfire dancing there for the first time.  I remember how he would grab me from behind and grind himself against my back while holding me in place by my breasts.  I remember how filthy, how awful, how confused I felt and how I would ask God at night to tell me what I had done to deserve this and how I never received an answer from anyone other than the unknown ghosts that would laugh at me with the hellfire burning darkling bright behind them.

I remember my brother, sister, and I alighting from the school bus and, somehow, Sean had a fishing pole and had added a hook and sinker to the line and how he laughed with his friends about how good he was with it and how I scornfully informed all of them that he couldn’t handle a pole if it were growing out of his body and his rage was sudden and he whipped the pole at me, but he did not secure the line, and I ducked the pole and watched, detached and fascinated, as the line sailed out, wrapped around my sister’s neck and the hook sunk into the flesh and he yanked backward and the line went taut and Sara’s feet flew into the air as she fell backward.  My father came running and cut the line with the knife he carried on his belt and then he beat me for taunting Sean and hurting Sara in the process and my siblings watched, delighted, while the demons cavorted inside their eyes.

[Author’s Notation: I’m uncertain if this is the right year for this next memory.  I recall being 12 when this took place but there’s something foggy about that number so I’ll put this next memory here and hope I can recall it in more detail in the telling. –SLM]

We moved into a house far out in the wilds of Bradley County.  You turned off an old two-lane black top onto a gravel road and it was a good mile before you got to the dirt turn-off at a small Baptist church.  Turn onto the dirt, another mile into the tall pine trees, another turn onto the decayed remains of black pine needles and a good hundred yards to the front porch.  It was a small house, two bedrooms with a kitchen between and a living room that led to a covered front porch.  The pine trees stretched upwards like reaching hands and when the wind ran through them at night, they whispered to each other high above the house where they pierced the sky.  The ground was cold when we got there and enough snow fell to get past even the woody sentinels to cover the dark soil.  My sister and I shared the room on the western side of the house where they wedged a wooden bunk bed set.  I got the bottom bunk and promptly built a quilt fort around it so I’d have at least some measure of privacy.  My brother had a bunk in what was little better than a closet and Mom and Pop had all their junk in the eastern room.

Mom would take us to the church on Sundays while Pop stayed at home and watched wrestling on the console television attached to a tall antenna strapped to the side of the little wooden house.  I sat still though the first visit to the little church but I started to get antsy during the second visit.  Christmas was coming and Mom wanted an excuse to get us out of the house so the third visit was for the Christmas sermon.  Mom forced us into nice clothing and dropped us off in the snowy church parking lot.  We watched her drive away into the night.  Then my brother, sister and I looked at one another and turned to trudge into the church.  At least it would be warm in there.

The theme of the Christmas sermon was the word ‘Holy’.  I sat still through at least 15 minutes of it.  Ok… maybe it was more like 10 minutes.  I wasn’t paying much attention at the beginning, honestly.  I scanned the crowd and looked at the faces.  There was an older man with a crumpled baseball cap in his hands.  He got my attention for some reason that I couldn’t name.  He wore faded plaid button-down over a ragged t-shirt and his jeans were well-worn but clean.  The mud and slush had been carefully scraped off of his boots before he’d entered so I knew he wasn’t part of the reason the welcome mat was a morass of muck.  I liked those words and smirked when they entered my mental dialogue.  I was really getting tired of re-reading the dictionary and I wasn’t returning to the bible until I could come to terms with the whole selling the kids thing.  I frowned when I thought about it.  There had to be something decent to read.  My mind blanked on what that could be, though.

In the silence that followed, the young preacher at the pulpit spoke.  I don’t recall his exact words but I know I looked up toward the stage and my eyes got a little wide because I felt them get tight.  He spoke about how we had lost our way, how we had forgotten the meaning of the day and the season.  Then he said, in a triumphant kind of tone, that it should no longer be a ‘holiday’ but a ‘Holy Day’ and the crowd broke into a small smattering of applause.

“That’s not right,” I spoke too softly, at first, and the only ones that heard me were the ones immediately around me.

My brother, Sean, punched me in the arm and glared at me.  “Shut up!”

I was sitting in the aisle seat, last pew at the back, closest to the door, so I stood up and moved into the aisle.  “That’s not right!”  Louder this time.  More people turned to look back at me.

The preacher’s head turned and his eyes met mine.  I zeroed in on them.  “If you look in the dictionary, it clearly states that the origin of the word ‘holiday’ is the phrase ‘Holy Day’.  They are one and the same.  All you have to do is read the dictionary.”

He smiled at me, something belittling in his eyes, and his voice was like a pat on the head, “That’s nice, little girl.”  He focused on the crowd as a whole.  “Shall we continue?”  He picked the bible from the pulpit and moved to the center of the stage.

“How can you not know that?”  I looked at the crowd in disbelief.

The preacher ignored me and moved back into his sermon.  The crowd turned back toward him.

I couldn’t stay there.  That was just entirely too much.  My little mind was addled with it.  I turned away, pushed both the double doors open and exited to the parking lot.  Snow was falling again when I looked up but it was light.  I looked down at my little patent leather shoes with the spiffy buckles and the white hose on my legs then I looked up at the road into the trees.  This wasn’t going to be fun.

I set off down the road.  I was half-frozen by the time I got home but I stomped onto the porch, walked through the front door, stopped in the kitchen and eyeballed Mom.  “I am never going back to that church and you can’t make me go.”  I stomped into my room, tore off the snow soaked clothes and shoes and climbed under the comforter on my bed.  Every time it came up after that, I flat-out refused to take part.  For some reason, Mom didn’t push it but she wouldn’t let Sean or Sara out of it so every Sunday after that, they would disappear for a few hours to church.

 

1982:

One weekend in February, I begged Mom to take me to a library.  I had to have some new reading material and I was desperate.  So, Mom gave me a small wooden crate filled with romance novels.  36 of them, to be precise, and they ranged from Harlequin to Silhouette to a couple of Johanna Lindsey’s larger romantic forays.  And, yeah, I was so thirsty for something different that I sat down and devoured them all.  Then I would think about them.

I hadn’t seen the Disney Snow White or Cinderella but I knew the stories from somewhere.  Mammaw had probably relayed them verbally.  She loved to tell stories but there was just something wrong with them all.  In one story, a hero winds up smacking the heroine, a good whack right on the cheekbone.  She gets weepy and he apologizes and she ends up falling in love with the guy and they live happily ever after until he needs to smack a bitch again.  Why in hell didn’t she hit him back?  In an earlier scene a kitchen is described in detail and I know she’s got access to weaponry.  Why wasn’t he at least walking funny?  A lot of those stories made me angry.  The Johanna Lindsey one was about a heroine that dressed up like a boy during the Victorian era in England.  That one I found interesting and I know I read it more than once.

It was here when Pop started grabbing me and hugging me sometimes and he’d put his hands on my ass or my breasts or he’d crush me against him and rub his body against mine.  He did it in front of Mom, in front of Sean and Sara.  So far, nobody had said anything and I spent the nights in my fort crying and wondering what I’d done wrong, why did it keep happening, how could I stop it…?

I was plowing through the romantic dreck one Sunday in March.  March is a great month.  Every day’s an adventure that might end in a storm.  I love my birth month.  It’s unpredictable and wild.

Mom left to drop Sean and Sara off at church and then go to the store.  Pop was in the living room threatening to kick the tv if the reception didn’t improve.  What little could be seen of the sky was dark until the lightning lit it and the thunder stalked through the treetops.  I sat in my bed with the quilt fort up, a lantern balanced on one knee, a book on the other.  I could hear the trees whipping back and forth because they creaked with it and the occasional crack wasn’t thunder but a tree breaking under the strain somewhere nearby.

Pop’s tirade against the reception increased into outright profanity about 10 minutes after Mom and the siblings left.  Then he yelled my name.

I climbed out of my haven, put out the lantern and placed it on the small dresser at the end of my bed, and went into the living room.  “What?”  I eyeballed him and carefully kept my distance from him.

He sat on the recliner positioned in front of the tv and he didn’t even look back at me.  “Go outside and fix the antenna.”

I looked at the front door, open while the glass storm door rattled in the frame.  The wind was so strong through the trees that rain drops were hurtling sideways along the porch.  Lightning bloomed like an explosion outside and thunder shook the floor boards.  I looked at the back of his head.  “You’re kidding, right?”

“Go outside and fix the antenna,” he snarled, turning partway towards me while he levered up off of the recliner, “or I’ll beat your ass!”

Great.  The storm or the psychopath?

“Fine,” I snarled back.  I wore a pair of shorts and a thin t-shirt, barefoot.  The storm door squealed as I pushed it open.  I turned to the right, stomped across the boards, and pushed on the wooden screen door.  The wind pulled it out of my hands and slammed it against the corner porch beam.  I took the two steps down concrete block to the dark mud below.  Three steps to the corner of the house, turn right, and the antenna was about 12 steps ahead, strapped to the side of the house with metal brackets.  I looked up.  The tines bent away from the wind and wobbled back in the brief respite while the pines whipped madly against the low, dark clouds.  I looked down.  The antenna apparently sat in a dip of the ground; at the base was a puddle at least ten feet wide and the water was blacker than night.

“You’d better be fixing that antenna!” came muffled from inside the house.

The sky lit with fire and the ground trembled against the thunder.  The wind tore my hair and rain smacked me in the ear.  I felt the creak of my teeth as I ground them into one another and stepped into the puddle.  There was a slight mound just beneath the antenna so the water just covered my feet.  I looked up at the tines and grabbed the metal rod with both hands.  The metal was slippery but so were my hands.  I struggled with it but I finally got it to start turning.

“Keep going!” came, muffled, from inside the house.

One turn, two turns and then I felt the ground tremble beneath my feet.  There hadn’t been any thunder.  I turned to look over my shoulder.

The world went white.

There was dirt in my mouth and a twig.  I tried to reach up and grab it.  My arm twitched at the shoulder.  I lifted my head, shook it.  I blinked and lost track of time.  I shook my head again, grunted and spat until my mouth was clearer, and made my arms move, pushed myself up.  Where were my legs?

I looked back.  They stretched out behind me but I couldn’t feel them.  I turned my head back toward the corner of the house and dragged myself in that direction.  I don’t know how long that took.  When I got to the corner, I pulled myself around it, over to the concrete blocks, and back up onto the porch.  When I got to the storm door, I lay down against the boards to rest for a moment.  I felt unbelievably tired.

The floor boards shook me awake and I lifted my head just as Mom opened the storm door and walked over me into the living room.

Pop was jumping up and down in his recliner, cheering on some wrestler.  Mom got his attention the easy way: she yelled, “Hey! What’s she doing out there on the porch?”

“She fixed the antenna.” Pop pointed at the tv.  “Look at this guy! He’s great!”

Mom shook her head and walked into the kitchen.

I kept the storm door from closing completely by putting my shoulder into its path.  The corner edge was ragged from abuse and it sliced into my skin.  I pulled my elbow in and used it to push the door aside, then put it down and pulled myself into the living room.  It took me a bit, maybe 10 minutes, but I finally made it into my room.  I crawled back into the quilt fort and went to sleep.

April came with windy nights that made the tall pines wave against the star light and I started sleeping with my pillow on the end of the bed so I could look at the sky while I listened to the noises of the night.  Sometimes, those noises were the arguments coming from Mom and Pop’s bedroom.  Other times, all was quiet and I heard the owl cries and the wind whisper.

It was one of those nights when the arguing had gotten heated and doors slammed, cars started, and gravel spat against the side of the porch when someone drove off.  I found out the next morning that it must have been Mom because Pop was a sullen and silent figure that brooded on the recliner in front of the television and Mom was nowhere to be found.  Then, a few days later, Mom was home and Pop was gone.  I tried to ask questions and find out what was going on but nobody tells a twelve-year-old anything so I was left frustrated and anxious.  Something about these arguments gave me a tension in the back of my neck and the sound of their voices would cause the hair to stir on the nape of my neck as my skin prickled.

I took on the aspects of a deer and walked in the shadowy spots, side against the wall and I’d slide into and out of rooms without making a sound when Mom or Pop was in the vicinity.

Sometime around mid-month, I got off the school bus at the end of the dirt road and found Mom’s car waiting for me.  Sara held shotgun position so I climbed into the back.  I don’t recall any conversation taking place but I know where Mom drove us – a little horse farm on the outskirts of Cleveland.  We got there as the sun set and it was a pretty place with large oaks, green pastures, and a strong manure smell.  The owner regularly employed illegal Mexicans to tend the animals and do the upkeep on the pastures and fencing and such.  Mom pulled the car into a dirt road that led into the back of the property and ended at a large, red barn.  I looked around but didn’t get out immediately.

Sara looked back at me, over the seat, and smiled, “Come on, this place is fun!  Mom comes here all the time!”  She opened her door, got out and walked off toward the barn without bothering to close it behind her.  Mom had already disappeared into the barn and her door stood open, too.

I got out and gazed over what I could see in the fading light.  Pasture land rolled away from the dirt round where the car was parked.  Someone had started a compost pile and I must have been downwind from it because the smell was almost visible.  Opposite the compost heap was a small fenced area with a single, dark horse standing inside it.  I could see the glint of his eyes as he looked at me.

A tiny bubble of happiness grew in my chest.  I walked slowly to the fenced area, watching my feet as I walked so I wouldn’t step in anything I’d regret.  When I saw the bottom of the fence, I studied the ground, stepped a little to the right, and then looked up.  The horse was already at the fence.  For long moments, I stood and scratched his cheek and his neck and I cooed about his beauty in a soft, sing-song tone.  He buried his nose in my sternum and I scratched his ears and felt quietly happy.

Sara’s voice interrupted my reverie, “Whatcha’ doin’?”

“He’s gorgeous!” I threw her a grin and kept scratching the horse’s neck.  “Look at him!  He just walked right up to me!”

Sara obligingly reached out and patted the horse’s cheek for a few seconds.  “Come in the barn. Mom wants you to meet her boyfriend!”  She sneered on the last word and drew it out like a first grader, afraid of cooties and other dread diseases.

“Liar.”  I punched her in the shoulder and glared at her.

She laughed.  “Nu-uh!  Come see!”  She turned and ran back to the barn and disappeared inside a moment later.

I preferred to stay with the horse but her words had snared me just as they were meant to do.  I gave the horse one last scratchy and told him that I wished I could ride him out into the darkness and never return.  His eye shined and he took the ends of a hank of my hair into his teeth and started chewing on it.  I pulled away and made my slow way to the barn.

When I opened the small, human-sized door that was set into the larger barn doors, I found a hay covered aisle with empty horse stalls on either side.  In the center of the barn, the aisle crossed with another and formed a small intersection.  Someone had placed one of those large, wooden spools on the floor there and surrounded it with battered folding chairs.  The light was soft and yellow from lanterns that ringed the intersection.  Mom, Sara, and a short, dark man sat in the chairs around the spool; Mom and the dark man sat close together, Sara a little to herself on the other side of him.  I walked up and took a seat that was equally far from all of them, crossed my arms over my chest, and narrowed my eyes while I waited for someone to say something.

Mom introduced me to the little man and called him “Modesto”.

On cue, Modesto turned up the best hundred-watt smile he had and he tried to talk to me by asking for my name.

I ignored him and looked at Sara.  She grinned back at me and I could tell that the little man had already won her over somehow or another.  He’d probably given her candy.  That always worked.

I turned my head and glared at Mom.  Mom responded by standing up, patting Modesto on the shoulder, and saying, “I’ll leave you to get acquainted.  I left something in the car.  I’ll be right back.”  She moved away from the wooden spindle and walked out of the barn back toward the car.

Modesto tried to re-engage with me.  “Name?”  His English seemed to be limited but the glint in his eyes and the set of his shoulders told me he was a liar so I didn’t buy it.  Life with my family had at least taught me how to spot a fake when I saw one.

I narrowed my eyes to slits and said my first name to him.  Then I asked him, “Who are you?”

Modesto made some sort of garbled noise in his throat and went into a pantomime meant to convey that he had trouble with my moniker.  I added heat to the glare and said my name again, followed it with the same question, gritted my teeth as I did so and pantomimed some anger in his direction.  A grin flashed, lightning quick, across his face, through his eyes, and was gone again.  That grin understood exactly what was going on and I’d bet the piggy bank I didn’t have that this guy thought charm could work on me.

He repeated the noise, the gestures, and then his eyes lit up, he extended a finger into the air, and the expression on his face was one of ‘Eureka!’.  He grinned at me.  “Patricia,” he stated, proudly.

I felt the demon stir inside me and I suddenly, violently loathed this man.  “Stephanie,” I spat out, quietly.

He tapped himself on the chest and proclaimed, “Modesto!” and then he reached out and put his hand on my head.  “Patricia!” he crowed.

I pushed away from the wooden spindle and stood up.  “Estupida! Loco la cabeza? It’s Stephanie, you halfwit!”  I wasn’t sure when it turned into a scream but I know it was one by the end.

He kept the grin, walked over and patted my shoulder.  “Patricia!” he asserted.

Mom chose that moment to return.  She had a bag in her hand.  “Isn’t he great?” she gushed.

I turned on her.  “He’s more idiot than Sean is and that is a lot of idiot, Ma.”  My voice was cold and I know I was radiating hatred.

She frowned and told me to go wait in the car.  Gladly, I complied.  Sara came out a few moments later and we sat there, together in the silent darkness, and about an hour later, Mom returned and drove us home.

 

I went to a different school that Fall because the bruises would not fade and the welts would not heal and they did not know that every night, I tore them open and laced them with my spit so they would fester and become infected and scar me in ways that they could not hide because my father hated illness almost as much as he hated me and he would not touch me if I were sick so I tore holes in my skin with my teeth and I tasted my blood and I understood that hell was not an elsewhere place, hell was breathing and being unable to die and I, trapped inside, and I could not find the exit.

When school let out, we moved again to a little house in the suburbs where no one knew they were monsters.  And there, my father’s advances became more insistent.  He would come home at night after we went to bed and he would go to his room, strip down to his underwear, and wait for Mom to go to sleep.  Then he would creep into my room and lie down in the bed beside me and pick me up and use me like a bench press, his member pressing into the front of my nightdress and I would cry and hold myself with legs crossed, body as stiff as a board, while he pushed me up and down until he came and he would put me back to bed and go to the bathroom. I could not make it past the bathroom to get out of the house, so I would open the window and I would climb outside and wearing nothing more than my soiled nightgown, I would try to sleep in the ditch outside or, sometimes, in the bus shelter that a neighbor built for his children to stand in when it rained or I would wander down to the Mister Zip convenience store down the road and I would watch the prostitutes and the pimps and the drug dealers from the shadows at the rear of the store.  They saw me, they would nod to me or smile a little, but none would talk to me and I would watch for hours until dawn tickled the sky and then I would go home and sneak through the back door and try to get a little sleep before the bus came.

My brother, Sean, my sister, Sara, and I all received bikes for Christmas that year.  Sean’s was a lightweight ten-speed, my sister and I got stuck with brown bikes with banana seats and some sort of rope logo on the frame.

There was a family that lived a few houses away from us and they had a white Samoyed dog that only had three legs.  His name, unimaginatively, was Whitey and he only had three legs because the three kids that lived in the house would tie the dog up in the back yard and kick it, beat it, abuse it, and one day, they broke his right front leg so badly that a vet had to amputate it all the way up to the shoulder.  I never knew the dog pre-amputation but I did know him afterward because he’d learned how to get out of his fence so he could wander around the neighborhood by the time we had arrived.  Whitey was King Dog of his particular fiefdom and he had an ongoing war with a Doberman Pincher named Roosevelt that belonged to a little old lady that lived a few streets over.  He would hop over the little old lady’s fence and tussle with Roosevelt every chance he got and he got a lot of chances.  Whitey never lost a fight that I knew about and he’d become so hostile to his owners that they never came to look for him when he was outside their fence.  The first time I saw the dog, I was pulling myself out of a ditch where I’d fallen after I lost control of the bike.

In the snow, he was easy to miss but he was on the street, hopping toward me.  He stopped when he saw me and I went still and watched him.  Both of us wary and his eyes were as blue as my own.  Nonchalantly, I got up onto the street and looked at my shoes instead of him.  I already knew his name because I’d heard the kids that owned him talking about how much they loved trying to kill Whitey on the bus in the mornings.  I sat down on the side of the road, crossed my legs, and bent at the waist so that when I did look back at him, my eyes were on a lower level than his own.  Then I stuck my hand out and I waited.

He kept me waiting for a good five minutes before he finally hopped close enough to let me touch him.  Carefully, I ran my hand over his cheek and the bottom of his neck, then I scratched him behind the ears and asked him if he was hungry.  The tail wagging indicated a high positive in response.  So, I let him follow me home and I stole a can of dog food from the ones we kept on hand for Mom’s critters and I fed him, petted him, and talked softly to him.  This turned into a daily ritual for Whitey and I and even though he was not mine, I loved him as fiercely as I would any animal.  At least the hellfire was never dancing in their eyes.

 

1983:

We had packed up everything in the house and were moving again.  The last of our things was in the car while Pop hauled the large furniture with a truck that he’d rented.  He’d already taken off in the truck and Mom and I were about to get into the car when I looked around and realized something was missing.

Where was Whitey?  I didn’t realize that I’d started feeling possessive toward the dog because I had started hiding him from his owners when I heard yelling coming from their house.  I didn’t realize that the dog shouldn’t be there, because how would he know that we were moving?  I just reacted and I whistled in a high-pitch and called his name.

Whitey came around the car and looked at me.  Mom yelled, told me to get into the car so we could go.

That’s where the tears started and I looked back at Whitey and I felt a little helpless.  Who would hide him now?  And from the perspective of blurry tears, there were three Whiteys in front of me so I dashed them from my eyes with the palm of my hand, kicked the front seat forward to show the mound of junk in the backseat, looked at Whitey and asked him if he was coming.

Whitey hopped into the back seat and perched on top of the junk pile, I put the seat back down, slid in, and closed the door.

Yes, I stole that dog.  It was the only way I could save him.

This time we were in a little ranch style house on a corner of suburbia that was closer to town.  There was a fenced back yard, nice little front yard, a few trees.  A kid my age named Blue lived on the opposite corner and a girl my age that shared my first name lived a few streets over.  Warily, I made nice with them and they were supposedly my friends.  It was obvious that their reality was a far different one than mine so I wouldn’t talk much until after I’d watched them for a while and then, I only engaged in trivial discussion and nothing more.  They felt alien to me and strange.  Pop stopped visiting at night because he’d gotten a job as a long haul truck driver so I only had to worry about him when he was home, which wasn’t very often.  Mom had various jobs while we lived there so it was never certain when she’d be home and when she wouldn’t.  On the nights when she wasn’t home, she’d charge me with dinner duty.  Nothing fancy, certainly, because no one had ever really instructed me in the art of cooking but I could whip up mac n’ cheese and such.

One day, I’d come home from school and Mom wasn’t home.  I didn’t know where she was but that didn’t matter.  If she wasn’t home by dinnertime, then I’d have to cook it.  Dinnertime came and no Mom.  I broke out a box of mac n’ cheese, got fish sticks and tater tots out of the freezer and put them on the table.  Sara and Sean were out and about but they knew when dinner time was so I knew they’d show up soon.  It was just me in the kitchen, mixing and humming and having a grand time dancing between the stove and the refrigerator with stops at the sink and utensil drawer as needed.  I loved it in the kitchen alone.  I have no clue about why but I was happy there.

When I finished cooking, I evenly divided it between three plates.  Every plate had the same number of fish sticks and tots and I’d carefully measured out the cheesy noodles so that none got more than any other.  In my meticulous fashion, I’d made what I considered a “fair” dinner.  That was important.

I lined up the plates, placed a fork on each one, and yelled out that dinner was ready.

Sara wanted to eat in the living room, on the long black coffee table, so she could watch the television on the far wall.  So, she grabbed her plate and took it to the television, flipped it on, and sat down on the couch.  Sean and I followed and we watched tv while we ate.  We concentrated on our food and soon there was nothing left except a lone fish stick on my plate.  I offered it to Sara.  She declined and went back to watching tv.  I offered it to Sean and he turned it down, too.  Well I was full so I didn’t want it either.

Mom’s chocolate wire-haired teacup terrier, Cocoa-Puff, had been wandering around the house for most of the day.   I offered it to her and she snatched it out of my hand and ran back to Mom’s room with it.

Sean’s dark azure eyes lit with hellfire, his face turned red, and he screamed, “That’s human food NOT DOG FOOD!”

Startled, I turned toward him and he grabbed me by the front of my shirt and dragged me across the coffee table.  This particular coffee table was teak with very sharp corners on it.  I’d gotten scarred from that thing when I’d walked too closely to it.  That’s an important thing to know.

He held me in the air and shook me, screaming something incoherent into my face, until the fire in his eyes suddenly flared brighter.  He jerked me out and away, moved his left hand to my right shoulder, and slammed me into the corner of the coffee table.  Everything went blurry and my bones turned to water.  He picked me up and slammed my head into the corner again.  My legs jerked out straight and my chin hit the carpet.  The smell there reminded me that Cocoa-Puff liked to tinkle in the house.  I saw Sean’s knee as he knelt on the carpet in front of my face, grabbed my head, and started slamming it repeatedly into the corner of the coffee table.  Then he disappeared, I don’t know where.  I tried to move and I couldn’t figure out where my arms and legs were.

Sara sat on the couch, still watching tv.  She never looked at me that I saw but my vision was nothing but blur.

I had figured out where my legs were and levered up into a crawl when Sean burst through the back door in the kitchen.  He had his boys with him, a crew of four or five guys that were all my age or younger, and they all thought the sun rose and fell in Sean’s asscrack.  His own little gang of sycophants.  He strutted into the living room with them at his back.  They stopped at the doorway into the living room and none of them said a word.  You couldn’t see the blood on the shaggy dark brown carpet but you could see it running down the right side of my face.  The front of my shirt had already soaked up a large patch of it.

Sean stood over me.  He lifted a hand, pointed one finger at me, and he issued the fakest sounding belly laugh I’d ever heard.  Then he glared at his crew until they started laughing, too.  I was still trying to figure out how to crawl but the sound of their scorn sliced into me anyway so I looked up at Sean and I curled my lip and I sneered as best I could, “Yeah, it’s so manly to beat up a little girl.  Feel like a big bad man, Sean, because only a big bag man could hurt a tiny little girl.”

He curled up a fist and I think he would have hit me again but he spat on me instead, gathered up his merry band of asskissers, and they left to find other sport.

Sara ignored me while I figured out locomotion and crawled my way toward the bathroom in the hallway.  When I got there, it took me a little while to do it, but I got past the door and clawed my way up the sink until I could stand in front of the mirrored medicine cabinet.  I couldn’t run water because I needed both hands to hold me upright.  Instead, I looked at my face and the side of my head.  The hair on the right side stuck in place, full of dried blood and fresh, and it ran down my neck into my shirt.

I didn’t realize Mom was home.  She walked into the bathroom and asked what happened.  I told her.  She slapped me in the back of the head and told me that was what I deserved for upsetting my brother.  Then she went into a rant about how stupid I was while she got cotton balls, soaked them in alcohol, and then slapped them into the side of my head.  I counted the holes as they came into focus and stopped at eight.  Some were larger than others but I didn’t realize that it was because I’d caught more than one hit in that place.  I only knew my head hurt.  Mom had me clean the rest of it off and told me to go to bed.  Grateful for it, I went to bed and passed out.

 

1984:

 

1985:

This continued through five or six more moves into different houses until 1985 when I was 15 years old.  All those years of being quiet, of keeping silent, and they could not kill me.  I had given them more chances than I could count and I decided that they were inept monsters and I felt contempt for the first time in my life and I knew that I was stronger than they were and I resolved to push all of their buttons until one of them finally got it fucking right and ended me.  I yearned for it to end, to greet death, because in death, they could never hurt me again and I knew they would never see me the way I saw others.  One day, I told Mom how Pop put his hands on me and what he did to me at night and how long it had gone on.  She responded by throwing me into the car and driving to her mother’s house, and she marched me inside and told her mother, Dora, to watch me, and then she stormed out.  Dora had me sit in a kitchen chair in the middle of the dining room as if she were afraid I would burn the house down and there I waited for death and I laughed because I knew it was coming.  Then my mom’s sister, Jan, appeared and she questioned me so I told her what I had told Mom.  Jan left and Mom’s other sister, Robin, showed up and repeat grilling and then she vanished.  Dora appeared and asked me if I was lying and I looked her straight in the eye even though I knew hellfire burned there, too, and I told her that I was being truthful.  Her roommate, Irene, came out and watched me after that because Dora left.  And then Mom reappeared and dragged me out to the swing on the front porch and she said to me, “If you ever tell your lies to another soul, I will kill you.” and the demons were there and the hellfire in her eyes.

That did not shut me up.  I wanted it over, so I started telling everyone about everything, all of it and the harder they tried to shut me up, the louder I became.  And then I walked into a room where my Mom was on the phone, talking to someone, and she mentioned things like “accidental death” and “split it with you” and then she put me in the car and drove me to Uncle Ted’s house.  Uncle Ted was Pop’s brother and he was famous in the family for killing people and not going to jail for it, for poisoning five children with lead to make them “obedient” and then raping all of them.  He was known for sticking his dick into anything that couldn’t get away fast enough and I had never seen him without the devil in his eyes and that night, he tried to poison me and even though I had been careful, I had drunk part of a glass of instant tea and it made my kidneys ache and my spine seize.  I managed to squeeze out a few droplets of urine but it came out bloody and I was on fire every time I tried to move but I would not let him break me, either, so even though he stood at the foot of the couch and waited for me to die, I lay there and glared back at him and called him a cowardly son of a bitch and other choice names until he gave up and went away.  When Mom came back the next day, her anger at my continued ability to breathe was palpable but she did not say a word as she drove back home, ousted me from the car and drove off to somewhere that I was not.

 

1986:

 

1987:

 

1988:

 

1989:

 

1990:

 

1991:

 

1992:

 

1993:

 

And I can’t write any more of this, I can’t stop crying and those fucking monsters have never felt the teeth of justice on their necks and I don’t know how to take my rage and my pain and reflect all of it back upon them instead of allowing it to shine in on myself and it hurts, it hurts, it eats at my brain and gnaws on what little shreds are left of my soul because when I look in the mirror, I see the hellfire gleaming inside my eyes.

 

 

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