~chapter nine~ ~children & dark angels~ ~part two~ ~beggars’ banquet~

WordWulf By WordWulf, 19th May 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Domestic Violence & Abuse

~counterfeit echoes~when it is your turn on the table~hear that other screaming again~realize it is you~going to the pit where words go to die~is it here~it is everywhere~but is it here~it is nowhere~we’ll follow the trail of dying~words to the game room~poets laughing~smoking tar opium~passing the pipe~passing a gun~pulling the trigger-boom~that’s where the words go~to be reconsidered~spit out anew~wisdom earned & turned~knowledge is a hole in the head~

~beggars’ banquet~

As I neared the back door, Momma heard the squeaking wagon and, for my part, I waited until the back door opened. Momma stood there with a smile and a glow on her face the likes of which I hadn’t seen for quite some time. Daddy came past her and lifted the box all by himself. He could see right into the top of it. I sure was glad I had the foresight to hide Daddy and Momma’s gifts in the bottom of the box. Daddy winked at me. “You got your work cut out for you, Kiddo!”

Adults are confusing critters to contemplate, I thought to myself. And not just my parents, most adults I had known in my life could be fighting like cats and dogs one day and naked on the couch the next. When it came to Momma and Daddy, your best bet was to just be thankful for the good days and run for cover the rest of the time. Well, this was one of those good days and I was thankful. Daddy set the box in the corner of the closet and showed me how to operate the on/off switch on the trouble light he had hung from a hanger in the closet. I would be able to close the door and work away. No one would even know where I was when I was in there. When I came out of the closet, Daddy and Momma were standing there with an arm around one another. I felt as if something was wrong with me because it just made me feel like crying.

I thanked my parents then went to see what my brothers and sisters were doing. They had been told to stay in the bedroom while Daddy carried in the box. As so often happened in our lives, when I was the happiest, Jackie was the most miserable.

“They made us stay cooped up in here while they were doin’ it on the couch,” he carped.

“They just wanted everybody to have a nap,” I argued.

“You’re a liar, Tommy,” Jackie accused, “You even came in an’ caught ‘em in the act. I heard ‘em talkin’ about it. Daddy saw the door open a little bit an’ snuck over here an’ conked me in the head with it.”

There was a dent and scratch in Jackie’s forehead.

“You shouldn’t o’ been listenin’ to ‘em all sneaky like,” I said.

“Me?” Jackie said indignantly, “You go in an’ catch ‘em doin’ it an’ you’re some kin’ o’ hero. I’m standin’ by the door an’ I near get my head knocked off!”

“Hey Lily!” I decided to play with and tickle my sister to get away from Jackie. He was messing with my good mood. Phillip piled on top of me and it wasn’t very long before Jackie joined in. I was the oldest kid in the family, even including all the cousins, and everyone would always pile on and try to hold me down. We wrestled and rolled around on that old blanket on the floor. All except for Linda, who was usually with Momma and Daddy if they were at home.

It was tricky business, fixing those toys. When Momma and Daddy were gone, I would have Jackie take everyone out back to play if it was warm enough. If not, I’d talk Jackie into tending to and entertaining them in the house. We struck a deal whereby I would allow Jackie equal time to roam the neighborhood. Those toys were about the only true secret I ever kept from my brother. To my knowledge, nobody but Momma and Daddy and Joe ever knew about me and the box of Salvation Army toys.

Speaking of Joe, the day before Thanksgiving a wonderful thing happened. A nice old Grandma and Grandpa couple knocked on our front door. They said they had a gift for Tommy Sterner and his family from Joe and the Salvation Army. They brought in a humungous basket with a big ol’ turkey and all the stuff that went with it. There was hard candy and fudge, lots o’ really good stuff to eat, the likes of which I had never seen before. It was like Jackie’s grocery bag, only better. We didn’t have to hide this food. Momma was suspicious of the couple and the basket until she found out these nice people weren’t going to read the bible to her or ask her to join them in prayer, none of that religious stuff. She claimed to have made her own peace with God and refused to listen to preachers and bible readers. Daddy wasn’t home so she and us kids got everything put away and chomped down a good part of it before he showed up.

That night, when Momma put the turkey in the oven, I was allowed to stay up and keep her company. She was in a thoughtful and quiet mood. There were tears in her eyes but I was fairly sure, this time at least, they were happy tears. Daddy came home and he didn’t like it much that people had come while he was gone and left food at the house. He was always suspicious of what he called ‘handouts’. He wasn’t too drunk, though, and didn’t let his negative feelings ruin Momma and us kids’ high spirits.

The next day we ate like kings and queens. The sun was out so Daddy had to go finish a roof. He almost took me with him but changed his mind at the last minute. I did my best not to let it show how relieved I was. Momma put the turkey and the rest of the food out on the table. She took a good portion out for Daddy’s part and some white meat for work sandwiches then told everyone to have at it. And have at it, we did. That turkey was a bare bones skeleton when we were through with it.

This particular Thanksgiving stands out in my mind and heart as one of those rare occasions, a day when Jackie didn’t get plinked, slapped, or sent to a corner a single time. He tried to fight it but from all appearances, just for a little bit, he was happy. Momma sat back rubbing the top of her belly. The baby was due sometime within the coming month. Phillip, Lily and Linda had mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie all over their faces. They were a sight to see.

“I wish we had a camera,” Momma said wistfully.

I brought her a cup of coffee and a piece of pumpkin pie. She had those tears in her eyes again.

“This is how it should always be, Tommy,” she whispered. “It is a wonderful holiday, thanks to you and your friend Joe. You’re a good boy.”

Us kids were in bed that night when Daddy got home but I woke up and heard him clunking around. Our happy Thanksgiving time had gone to bed with us. I heard Momma crying and Daddy calling her names. I put my hands over my ears and tried not to think about the knife under the stove and Daddy’s naked back when he was doin’ it to Momma. That would be a perfect time to get him. I considered getting another knife and having Jackie help me but pushed the thought away. I wasn’t sure what Daddy would do to me for sticking him with a knife. He would beat Jackie to within an inch of his life just for thinking about it. I was sure of that.

The night of knife and spaghetti changed me in a forever way. I learned to totally slip out of himself and, like Momma said that time, just go away. It was a scary process because I didn’t have any control over it. It was like when I attacked the fat boy who was torturing the cat. I wasn’t myself. A monster climbed inside my brain and looked out through my eyes. I was bound to protect Momma and my brothers and sisters. Whoever the monster was, it had come to protect me and me only. This Thanksgiving night, like so many others, somewhere beneath the screaming voice of my father, the monster just took me away.

A strange thing happened the day after Thanksgiving. A big truck parked outside on the sidewalk. A man got out of it and knocked on our door. Momma and Daddy were both working, so I answered.

“Your parents home, kid?” he asked.

“They’re at work,” I replied.

“I’m from A & A Glass,” he said. “Your landlord, Mister Garcia, has sent me out to fix the front window.”

I agreed to move the couch back from the wall, which was easy to do because the cushions were still busy being used as beds. The house faced north and across the busy expanse of 29th Avenue stood the mammoth hunched beast, Freeland Elementary. I had never considered the plywood window hole a barrier, not in any conscious sense at least. I realized now that was exactly what it had been to me. We didn’t own curtains and the blanket was in use in the bedroom. There was no escaping it, now the beast could watch through this window eye into our lives. My siblings must have felt it too. They all came and stood with me. We stared through the clear glass as the man and his helper gathered their tools, got into the big truck and drove away. I watched the exhaust from the truck form its own cloud and hover in the air. Lily grabbed my hand. “I cold, Tommy.”

Phillip and Linda chorused, “Me too!”

Jackie grinned. “We ain’ safe no more. We ain’ never safe no more.”

“You guys all go back to the bedroom,” I said, “I’m gonna light the stove.”

“You ain’ supposed to touch it,” Jackie reminded me.

“Just go,” I replied impatiently.

Jackie was correct in what he said. I had been told explicitly by Momma and Daddy both to stay away from the brown monster. Lighting it was tricky. I was aware of that, having watched my parents light it dozens of times. They always made the kids go in the bedroom just in case it blew up. I got a straw from the broom and lit it at the cook stove. Then I turned the knob on the heater and poked the straw in through its small round hole. Just as would usually happen to Momma and Daddy, the straw went out. I went to the cook stove and lit it again. When I poked the tiny flame through the hole this time, the brown stove blew up in my face. It always did that too but I had never been in the same room as the concussion.

My brothers and sisters came out of the bedroom and just stood there looking at me like I was a zoo exhibit or something. Jackie pointed to my face and started laughing. Phillip grinned and Lily said, “You look funny, Tommy.”

I slugged Jackie in the arm on the way to the bathroom. Looking in the cracked mirror above the sink, I was distressed and amazed to see my face was light gray and my eyebrows and eyelashes were gone. Both my ears were ringing loudly. The fine blonde hair on both arms was singed and curly. When I touched the burnt hairs they fell off leaving my forearms smooth and hairless like my face.

“Boy, are you gonna be in trouble,” Jackie said when I returned to the kitchen.

I ignored Jackie’s comment, went into the living room and took hold of one end of the couch. “Come on, Jackie. Help me put this thing back.”

“Tommy, are you blowed up?” Lily asked me.

“No, I’m not,” I replied. “And you guys stay away from the stove. Just like Momma always says, ‘It’s hot!’”

“You are too blowed up and maybe about to get died.” Phillip just had to add his two cents worth.

“Just shut up and help Jackie bring the cushions and blanket in,” I said. “You guys can all sit on the couch and warm up while I find us something to eat.”

“How come he’s allays the boss o’ us?” Phillip asked Jackie.

Jackie mumbled something in reply as they went to do my bidding. I got some commodities out, rice and tomato paste this time. There was no meat in the house but Momma had taught me to boil and fluff rice, then add one can each of tomato paste and water. Throw it all together, add a little salt and pepper and Voila! you had Spanish Rice.

My fingers kept going to my face to feel the skin where my eyebrows and eyelashes were supposed to be. I was upset about having them burned off and, on top of that, afraid I’d be in deep trouble when my parents got home. There was nowhere and no way to hide this situation. One look at my hairless face and I would be found out. I expected Momma to be home first or I would never have tried to light the stove in the first place. She would understand about the window men and the cold outside air getting in. Daddy, on the other hand, might or might not, depending largely on his mood and state of sobriety. These thoughts ran over and over in my mind, always looping back to, ‘Will they grow back?’

I had watched a television movie about a boy whose hair turned green. I was haunted for weeks after I saw it and would swear my hair was turning green every time I looked in the mirror. This eyebrow and eyelash thing was hopping around in my mind the same way. I didn’t want to be the boy with no facial hair. If Daddy was in a bad mood, it didn’t matter. I’d just be the dead kid with no facial hair.

When Momma got home, she was upset that I had turned on the stove. After the scare of lighting it, I hadn’t attempted to adjust it and it was very hot in the house. She turned it down and continued to scold me about it. She finally settled down and told me she was just relieved that I was alive and hadn’t blown myself up. I was, of course, never to touch the stove again. When I asked her about my eyebrows and eyelashes, she took a second look at me and broke out laughing. When she got control of her giggles, she held a hand on the top and bottom of her belly and told me it would take a while but they would grow back. Daddy got home after everyone had gone to bed. He was so drunk he probably didn’t know if he had eyebrows and eyelashes himself. He set his quart of schnapps and a jug of ice water by the bed and fell over sideways.

A couple of days after the window was put in, just like Momma said would happen, a man came and put an eviction notice on the front door. My brothers and I went to school and the neighborhood children had something other than lunches to snicker at us about. Now we were the family soon to be put out on the street. Having been there many times before didn’t help much. I wanted to fight the taunting children but the fear of Daddy’s belt kept me in line. All three of us boys had been duly warned: if we got into any more trouble at school, our fault or not, there would be hell to pay. Daddy had enough problems of his own. He didn’t need us to pile on any more.

Momma went to court on the eviction notice and offered her paycheck, eighty four dollars from the Dog House, to keep her family from being thrown out on the street. The judge was openly sympathetic toward this extremely pregnant woman and her six rag-a-tag children. We stood with her before the judge, her four stair-steps, me, Jackie, Phillip, and Lily. Momma held Linda and Cheryl snuggled into my arms. The judge smooth-talked the landlord into accepting Momma’s check. Mister Garcia was very clear on one point though. He would have full payment, including back rent, by the thirty first of December or out the Sterners went. Momma knew it would take a miracle to meet these conditions. Her faith in miracles was running out. She leaned against the marble walls of the City and County Building and smiled wearily at me. Her victories were hard fought and small, the epitome of surviving, living life one day, one moment at a time. She was only five foot one. Taller in my eyes than anyone in the world, I felt sure her belly was rounder now than she was tall.

“Tommy,” she said, “people like us have to be satisfied to claim our small victories. That man will have us out but not before we celebrate our Tommy Family Christmas and I see this baby born.” She closed her eyes and the peaceful smile remained on her beautiful face. “God bless that judge.”

Inquiries: wordwulf@gmail.com
©2014 graphic artwork music & words
conceived by & property of
tom (WordWulf) sterner 2014©
~also available at Amazon ~
~chapter one~
~chapter two~
~chapter three~
~chapter four~
~chapter five~
~chapter six~
~chapter seven~
~chapter eight~
~curse of days~


1960, Alcoholism, Art, Beggars Banquet, Colorado, Denver, Family, Free, Memoirs, Momma, Mommas Rain, Money, Mothers, Parenting, Philosophy, Photography, Poverty, Religion, Sons, Survival, Thanksgiving, Tom Wordwulf Sterner, Violence, Wikinut, Writer

Meet the author

author avatar WordWulf
I write novels, poetry, songs,nonsense & lies. Sometimes truth sneaks in when I ain't lookin'.

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