~chapter seven~ ~children & angels alike~ ~part two~ ~vestigial survival~

WordWulf By WordWulf, 8th May 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Domestic Violence & Abuse

~thirty years later~I took a friend looking for ‘gone fishing’~a song by bing crosby~the man’s dad had died~he wanted to play the song at his funeral~went to have a drink at the bar~sat there with his motorcycle friends~they took us outside & made a human circle~around us & told us to fight~my friend smacked me in the face with a liquor bottle~I refused to fight him~but engaged the men in the circle~they kicked my teeth out~a good Indian girl took me home~bathed me & brought me back to life~

~vestigial survival~

All I could think about was the knife under the stove on the other side of the table. I was ashamed of myself. What a fool I had been to think I could save Momma when I was unable to defend myself or my brother. Daddy’s hand came down so hard on the top of my head that I bit a chunk out of my tongue. The taste of blood brought me out of my pitiful self-musings. The ringing in my ears went to the next level of intensity like a growing and angry swarm of bees. Knife, what knife?

Daddy sat back down and said, ”Gee, I’m sorry it has to come to this, fellas, but I will not put up with liars and thieves in my house.” His eyes rested on Jackie for a moment, then shifted to me. “Tommy, I used to be able to trust you. Now I want you to be perfectly still for a minute while I ask Mister Asshole here a couple of questions. I don’t want you to so much as hiccup. Do I make myself quite clear?”

I licked blood from my lips. “Yes Sir.”

“That’s good,” Daddy said calmly. “That’s real good.” He took a bottle of peppermint schnapps from his back pocket and drank half of it in two large gulps. He set the bottle on the table and focused his attention on Jackie. “First question, Mister Asshole: Did your mother give Tommy any money before she left for work today?”

Jackie’s lips trembled. It took every bit of resolve I had to keep from turning toward him. “I don’t know ...” he began.

Daddy reached across and backhanded Jackie out of his chair again. “Wrong answer! I don’t feel like chasing you around on the floor anymore, Mister Asshole,” Daddy said. “You keep going to the floor and I want you to sit in the chair. I have asked you repeatedly to sit in the chair.” Daddy put both hands flat on the table, lifted himself up and roared, “Get your fuckin’ lazy ass up off the goddam floor!”

Jackie used the chair to pick himself up from the floor then sat down in it.

“Okay, you guys,” Daddy said softly. “Let’s get to the point here. Phillip told me you two had a lot of money and that Jackie went to the store to buy goodies for the two of you.” He turned his attention solely to Jackie, pinned him to the chair with his eyes. “Your brother chose to lie to me, didn’t you?” I was caught off guard as Daddy slapped me openhanded in the face.

“Jackie-boy,” he said, “let’s cut to the chase. I want you to empty your pockets onto the table - right now!”

Jackie stood and turned his pockets inside out. The dirty gray of the pockets hanging out looked like mouse ears on a face of blood. Seven pennies, a wad of dirty string, and a bit of lint fell onto the table.

“Now you,” Daddy said, turning his attention to me. “Get up and empty ‘em out. Let’s see what you got to offer.” I turned my pockets inside out and produced three marbles, a dead bug and a penny.

“That’s about fucking enough!” Daddy screamed. He stood up slowly, uncapped his liquor bottle, and took a swig. He belched loudly and unbuckled his belt. “Mister Asshole, you know what happens next, don’t you?”

Jackie nodded his head almost imperceptibly.

“Then get the fuck ready!” Daddy ordered.

Jackie stood up, unhooked his trousers, and pushed them along with his dirty underwear, down to his ankles which he grabbed with both shaking hands. Leather on cloth. Cloth on skin. Leather on skin. No. No. No. ‘Neath the startling glare of the naked kitchen light bulb I took notice of the freckles on Jackie’s poor skinny butt.

“This is your business, Tommy, and nobody else’s!” Daddy proclaimed as he let fly the first burning stripe.

“Was that welt there before the leather belt spoke to it, just waiting to rise up and be noticed?” I thought to myself stupidly.

Daddy flicked my ear with the tongue of the belt. He seemed to sense when I began to slip away, when I went running to that other place, that safe place inside. My hand rose to my ear of its own accord and Daddy tore into Jackie with a vengeance.

“Any time ... you feel like ... telling the truth ... I can stop,” he gasped between lashes.

He whipped Jackie until his back and legs were bloody. Jackie didn’t cry but I did. I wished to God for piles of money and the strength to shove it down my father’s drunken throat. Jackie just wished it would, some day and some way, be forever over. Daddy pulled his belt through the loops of his Levis, swish, buckled it, raised both arms in an exaggerated stretch.

“I’m going to the Dog House to see your mother. I want you to clean up Mister Asshole and the rest of this mess then feed your brothers and sisters some soup or something.” He made his way to the door then turned back and fixed me with a wicked gaze. “One day son, somebody’s gonna rip that look off o’ your face. I keep tellin’ you t’ stop coverin’ for him.” He gestured with a nod of his head toward where Jackie remained bent over, hands on his ankles, and bloody butt in the air. “Maybe this time you’ve learned your lesson.” He glanced at Phillip, who was peeking out the bedroom door. “Tommy, be sure nothing happens to your honest brother. I’ll know even if he’s too scared to tell me.”

I could only answer with silence, unable to trust the voice my words might choose to take. Daddy shook his head then turned and walked out the front door. I didn’t move until I heard the truck start and pull from the curb. This took longer than it should have and I could see Daddy in my mind’s eye, glancing around, opening the bottle and closing his eyes as the liquid heat poured through his face and fueled his inner fire. When he was finally gone, I tried to help Jackie and hug him but he just pushed me away.

“I’m here, Tommy; I didn’t run away,” he said weakly as he stood and pulled his clothes up over his bloody backside. “I hope you’re happy. Is this what you want?” The tears he refused when Daddy whipped him were twin rivers through the blood and freckles on his nine year old face.

I went looking for Phillip. He wasn’t in the bedroom. I found him hiding behind the living room couch.

“Come on out,” I told him. “I’m not gonna hurt you but please, Phillip, don’t ever do anything like that again. We’re brothers. We gotta stick together. You’re gonna get Jackie killed.”

He climbed out from behind the couch and followed me into the kitchen.

“Don’t look at me!” Jackie cried. He mopped a shirt sleeve across his bloody nose. You got what you want, Phillip. Now jus’ leave me alone.” Jackie got up and walked out the back door.

I sent Phillip in to lay down and keep an eye on our sleeping sisters, picked up the pieces of the broken chair, and went out back to throw them in the trash. Jackie was pulling something out of one of the garbage cans. When I reached him, he stood there holding a large grocery bag he had retrieved from the trash. I dropped the chair pieces in the now half empty barrel.
“Here, you have this.” Jackie shoved the bag toward me. “I’m gonna go for a walk.”

It was dark and I couldn’t make out the expression on his face. “Jackie ... what?” was all I could think of to say.

He touched my arm as he moved past me in the dark, “Don’t worry, Tommy. I ain’t gon’ run away nowhere. It ain’t time yet.”

My vision, not very good in the light of day, was terrible at night. Jackie was gone from my sight before his voice was finished speaking. I was left standing alone in the alley with only the ringing in my ears for company.

The grocery bag was heavy. When I got back to the kitchen, I was amazed at what I found inside the bag. It was full of wonderful foodstuffs the likes of which I had never seen. There was heavy brown bread and little brown fuzzy fruit things. In the bottom of the bag I found four large cans of stew. The pictures on the label showed big ol’ chunks of meat. If the contents of the can came anywhere close to matching the picture on the label, we were in for a feast tonight. I opened two cans right away, poured them into an old saucepan, and put it on the stove to heat up. Daddy had told my siblings I would feed them some soup or something. There was no soup or something. There was nothing until now.

Phillip must have smelled the stew because he came out of the bedroom.

“Stay in there with the girls for a few minutes,” I said. “I have a big surprise for you guys but you have to wait ‘til I come to get you.” I rushed over to Phillip, turned him around and ushered him back into the bedroom. He sat down on the mattress and gave me a suspicious look. I closed the door behind myself and went to stir the yummy smelling stew. Phillip could be unhappy and suspicious if he wanted to. I had made up my mind that, after the events of this night, Phillip would never again be any part of mine and Jackie’s doings.

This meant I needed to find a place to hide the bag full of food and get rid of the empty stew cans right away. Having used the pile of coats twice in a row to stash things, it was high time to find a new hiding place. I could hear little kid voices from the bedroom. The delicious smell of the stew was speaking to them. I didn’t have much time. There was a large dresser-closet thing against the wall in the living room. My brothers and I had collected liquor and beer bottles from the trash, rinsed and filled them with water. We put them in the dresser thing and played bar sometimes when Momma and Daddy weren’t home. I opened one of the large side doors, rearranged some bottles, and set the bag behind them. I returned to the kitchen and ate a huge chunk of meat from the stew pan, gave it a quick stir, then ran outside with the empty cans. I threw them in a trash can two doors down from our house just to be sure they wouldn’t be traced back to me and Jackie.

At first I had decided to keep some of the brown bread out for us to eat with the stew. On second thought, I put it back in the bag. If Phillip and my sisters chirped about the great stew I served for dinner, I could say I made it with some commodity meat and vegetables Momma had lost track of on a high shelf. So long as the stew was all gone and the dishes were washed, I was fairly safe. Momma would back me up on the commodity lie. Brown bread was dangerous. We had never had brown bread to my recollection and the little kids would be bound to mention it. Whether they liked it or not, they would comment on its color.

My tongue ached where I had bitten it and the top of my head smarted. The ringing in my ears was a constant reminder that you can’t be too careful. I was sad momentarily as I reflected on how bad Jackie must be feeling, physically and otherwise.

I set up the dishes on the table and filled plates and bowls with stew. “Come and get it!” I called out to the little bedroom full of urchins.

For once even Linda didn’t have anything to complain about. She climbed up in a chair and chowed down. I held Cheryl in my lap and fed her stew gravy and little chunks of vegetables. We used to have five chairs, just enough for the five of us and Cheryl on my lap. Tonight we were one short because Daddy had broken the fifth chair and I had thrown it in the trash. For the whole of his life that’s what Momma and Daddy had tried to do with Jackie. The missing chair played tag with me somewhere deep in the pit of my brain. The kitchen was warm and our bellies were full. There were just enough chairs because Jackie had walked away into the night. That’s where broken things go.

The stew was a big hit and that was no surprise to me. It was delicious and we were starving. I had always figured rich folks probably ate really good food and now I had my proof. Dishes were easy to do because the kids licked them clean, silverware and all. Phillip asked for the empty cooking pan and I gave it to him to lick out. He looked funny with his face stuck in the thing. Now that I was full, I began to ponder over where Jackie had gotten such wonderful food.

I turned on the television and got everyone situated in the living room. While they watched Abbot and Costello, I finished the dishes and supper cleanup. Jim Reeves was singing ‘He’ll Have To Go” and I was sorely tempted to just turn the radio off. It was such a part of Dad that it was like he was never gone with the stupid thing singing its KLAK country songs. I needed him to be gone but was afraid if I turned the radio off he’d come home before I could turn it back on. Who knew what he might do? He might even have it marked or something so he’d know if anyone touched it. I began to sing with it. As much as I hated that radio and everything it stood for, I liked Jim Reeves and his smooth voice, “Tell the man to turn the jukebox way down low.”

There were some kind of fancy twinkie things in that bag too. I was eager for Phillip and my sisters to go to bed so I could try them out. I chastised myself for not having the good sense to put them somewhere handy so I’d have access to them when it was time to munch. They were safely hidden and that was more important than anything else. I took Cheryl into the bedroom to change her diaper. There, to my surprise, were three sticks of red licorice. That definitely confirmed the power of the smell of that canned stew. The kids had left licorice behind. That was a first. I changed that chubby girl’s messy diaper and had myself a couple of sticks of the red licorice Jackie and I had paid such a high price for.

I sat down at the kitchen table waiting for the radio to tell me what time it was. “On the wings of a snow white dove he sent his pure sweet love, a sign from above on the wings of a dove.”

I mumbled the words to the song by Ferlin Husky while he sang it on the radio. Now there was a name. How I hated my own name at times and what it stood for, fathers and grandfathers, cousins and uncles, all named Thomas until it meant absolutely nothing.

“I’d build for my Jenny a honeymoon home below that old white mountain just a little southeast of Nome.”

I shook his head and wondered where I had gone. I couldn’t remember the ending of ‘Wings of a Dove’ or the beginning of ‘North to Alaska’. Had the radio man said the time in between? And where was Jackie? Young as I was, these lapses in consciousness were more than a bit unnerving. They had also earned me an extra slap in the face a while ago. I wandered into the living room and was surprised to find everyone asleep. How could they sleep with the television blaring?

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~
~legend of new horse~


1958, 1959, Alcoholism, Art, Colorado, Denver, Family, Free, Memoirs, Missouri, Mommas Rain, Money, Mothers, Parenting, Philosophy, Photography, Poverty, Religion, Saint Louis, Sons, Survival, Tom Wordwulf Sterner, Vestigial, 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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