~chapter seven~ ~part one~ ~crime & punishment~ ~children & angels alike~

WordWulf By WordWulf, 7th May 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Domestic Violence & Abuse

~punishment for getting caught~rarely equals the value of booty~jackie never seemed to get that~I suppose the joy of the score~getting’ over on ‘em once in a while~that made it all worth it to him~like setting things on fire~just to watch ‘em burn~you got the inside information~you’re the only one who knows~pay for it in blood~that knowledge~jackie thought it was worth it I guess~he paid the price all his life~he sure as hell did~

~crime & punishment~

Fall 1960
Denver, Colorado

It was the first of September. Jackie and I were dreading the beginning of the school year. Jackie was going into fourth grade and I, fifth. The first day was a week out but we felt it pressing in on us. Mom was at work and Dad was passed out in the bedroom. Phillip and Jackie had just left. They were taking the wobbly wagon around the neighborhood collecting pop bottles. Twelve and sixteen ounce bottles were refundable for two cents apiece and quart bottles brought a nickel.

The process by which Jackie and Phillip collected pop bottles, other than actually finding them in the trash or gutter, went something like this: Phillip, at seven years old, was youngest and had big brown eyes; he knocked on the front door of the house to ask if the people had any pop bottles they would give him. Meanwhile, Jackie went to the back of the house and, if he wasn’t accosted by a watch dog or some other deterrent, he looked on the back porch and next to the back door to see if the folks kept pop bottles stacked there. If people didn’t offer the bottles to Phillip, Jackie stole them while Phillip tried the next house. On a good night they each earned a couple of dollars. This was one venture they had never been caught at and Phillip was pretty good about not snitching as long as they never got caught. If they did happen to get busted while committing their crimes, Phillip immediately pointed a finger at Jackie and said it was all his idea, which made sense since Jackie was two years older than he was. I could never understand Jackie’s behavior when Phillip did snitch him out. He didn’t get mad or attempt to get even at such times.

“Don’t do no good for two of us to get in trouble,” he explained to me. “I don’t mind taking the rap for my little brother. I just can’t stand it when I have t’ listen t’ him whine about it.”

Being the oldest, I was usually at home watching our three younger sisters and didn’t take part in the daily collections. I turned a deaf ear to my brothers’ exploits and pretended to myself that they were ‘finding’ pop bottles laying around in gutters and parks. I got in on the take though because I had to let them out of the house in the first place. I also had to cover for them if Mom or Dad showed up unexpectedly and asked where they were.

One particular day the week before school, we had six dollars and thirty two cents to spend. I had just put the girls down for a nap and didn’t have to try to wake Dad up for a couple of hours. It was tricky business when he was home and we were doing our thing right under his nose. The three of us were trying to figure out how to divide and spend our pile of money.

“I want a Royal Crown Cola,” I began.

“I know, I know,” Jackie interrupted me. “Salted Spanish peanuts and a candy bar.” After finishing my list for me, he gave me a critical once over. “Tommy, you’re jus’ too predicable.”

Phillip folded his arms and stuck out his bottom lip. “I wanna go to the store with him. I don’t trus’ Jackie. He’s a stealer.”

Jackie stuck his tongue out at Phillip and rolled his eyes like he was trying to be threatening and goofy all at the same time. I replied to their behavior with my ‘quit it or I'll kill ya both’ look’ then offered Phillip a patronizing smile.

“Hey Phillip, you’re the best. We all know that. Trouble is, if Daddy wakes up and you ain’t here, we’ll all be in trouble, you included. If you don’t want Jackie to get anything at the store for you, we’ll just give you a dollar and you can go get your stuff later.”

Phillip scuffed the floor with his shoe then looked away from Jackie.

“I want more ‘n that.”

“I heard that!” Jackie grabbed hold of Phillip and threw him to the floor.

I put a headlock on Jackie and pulled him off Phillip. I was about to belt him one when I heard Linda begin to cry from the bedroom. I fixed my brothers with a scathing look.

“Now you’ve done it. We’ll all be in trouble if Dad hears Linda and decides to get up.”

“I won’t,” Phillip said innocently.

I left them and went into the bedroom. “Me want my Momma,” Linda cried.

“Don’t cry,” I attempted to appease her. “Try to go back to sleep. Momma’ll be home in a little while. You can see her when she comes home.”

“Me want my Momma!” she wailed. I couldn’t stand her when she was like this (which was most the time).

I bounced the bed a bit in an attempt to entertain and calm her and spoke to her in a singsong voice.

“If you close your eyes and be quiet, I’ll send someone to the store to buy some licorice, okay Blondie girl?”

She extended her right arm and made grabbing motions with her hand. “Me want canny! Me wanna right now!”

Lily, who was five years old now, looked up at me with her big blue eyes. “Why’s Linda cryin’?”

I stroked Lily’s cheek. “Will you bounce Linda for me and talk sweet to her while I go get some licorice?”

Lily began to bounce Linda, who had quieted down. “I don’ like her cryin’ at me, Tommy.”

“She’ll stop,” I said hopefully. I cast a quick glance in Cheryl’s direction. At six months old, she was chubby and had just about outgrown her dresser drawer bed. She was sleeping fitfully.

I dashed from the room and went directly to the living room where Jackie was sitting on the couch. “You gotta hurry go get some licorice for Linda,” I said to Jackie.

Jackie jumped up from the couch. “I’m goin’ ‘fore ya change your mind again.”

“That’s fine,” I said. “Just go.”

Phillip joined him at the front door. “I’m goin’ with him,” he announced. “I want some candy.”

I grabbed his shirt collar. “No, you’re not. You had a chance to tell him what you wanted before. Now just sit down and shut up before Dad wakes up.”

I dragged him over to the couch, shoved him into a sitting position, and plopped down next to him.

“I’m tellin’ Daddy,” Phillip threatened.

“Go ahead,” I said menacingly. “You know where he is. Just go on in there and tell him you’re mad ‘cause Jackie’s going to the store to buy some licorice for Linda.”

“That ain’ it,” Phillip pressed his point.

I closed my eyes and shook my head. I could hear Linda fussing with Lily. “Just shut up for once, Phillip.”

Jackie left for the store. I sat tight with Phillip to keep him under control until Jackie returned with some candy. I figured a couple of pieces of licorice would placate Phillip until the three of us could work out a deal on the money. Haggling with my brothers and worrying about my sisters wore me out some days. This day in particular had taxed me worse than most. I must have dozed off because I was awakened by Daddy nudging me with his foot.

“Wake up,” he said groggily. “You need to get in there and take care of your sisters.”

Cheryl was crying. I went in and changed her diaper. Actually I changed two diapers; she was older now and very busy peeing and pooping, so they had to be doubled up. There were only four diapers so the messy ones had to be washed right away, rinsed in the toilet, and hung over a chair to dry as soon as she was changed. On a good day (and there weren’t many of those) the hanging ones would dry before she messed or wet again. Usually I had to resort to using one of our six bath towels in between. Glancing over at the bed, I was pleased to note that Linda and Lily had fussed themselves back to sleep. I propped a bottle of warm water into Cheryl’s mouth and tiptoed out of the room.

Dad was sitting at the kitchen table. He had his hat on, which meant he was probably going somewhere.

Tommy, come here,” he beckoned, a finger, a motion, an accusation. I walked over to the table and Dad gestured for me to have a seat. “Where’s Jackie?” he asked.

“Linda woke up and she was cranky,” I replied, “She wanted licorice so I sent Jackie to the store to buy some to quiet her down.”

“Did your mother leave you some money before she left for work?” he asked.

Now I was afraid. Momma hadn’t left me any money. She didn’t have any to leave. I had walked into a trap. I knew it and there was nothing I could do about it. I caught Phillip peeking around the corner from the living room but he pulled his head back when he knew I had seen him. Daddy slapped the flat of his hand against the table so hard it knocked the sugar spoon out of the bowl.

“Hey!” he yelled. He lowered his voice. “Now that I’ve got your attention, I would like an answer. That is why I asked the question in the first place. Don’t fuck with me, Tommy. Did your mother leave any money with you?”

“She couldn’t,” I replied. “She didn’t have any.”

“Bullshit!” I got the flat of Daddy’s hand smack on the top of my head. My ears began to ring and I could feel a warm flush crawling up my face. I tried to hold them back but had no power over the tears running down my cheeks.

“Let’s stop playing games,” Daddy said. “Phillip, come here.”

Phillip came in from the front room, a sweet smile on his dirty, little-boy face. “Hi Daddy.”

“C’mere punkin,” Daddy said. He patted his upper leg. “Hop up in Daddy’s lap.” Phillip crawled into Daddy’s lap and shared his smile with me.

“Tell your brother what you told me,” Daddy said to Phillip.

Phillip put on his baby face, the one he wore just for occasions like this.

“I say my brothers got lots o’ money an’ won’ gimme none.”

“We just had a little bit from cashing in pop bottles,” I admitted, attempting to get by with a half- truth. “Linda wanted some licorice and that’s where Jackie went.”

Daddy squeezed Phillip's leg. “I don’t like it one little bit when you lie to me, Tommy. We’ll see what Mister Asshole has to say when he gets home.”

I was so worried about Jackie, I didn’t have time or the inclination to be upset with Phillip. Things were going much too quickly here. If Jackie came in with Royal Crown Colas and Spanish peanuts, our goose was cooked. Even if he had the good sense to hide everything but the licorice outside, we were done for. Then the money would be all gone and that was what Daddy was fishing for.

I heard the front door open and the rattle of paper. I almost screwed up the courage to cry out and warn Jackie to run away. I could add this to a very long list of almosts when it came to having the courage to do something in situations like this. I felt utterly desperate, helpless, when Jackie walked into the kitchen. He took one look at Daddy sitting at the table with Phillip on his lap and stopped dead in his tracks. I had the feeling he might bolt for the door without the warning I had been too weak to give. It was obvious we were found out and in deep trouble.

“I want my canny,” Linda whined as she toddled in from the bedroom.

“Gimme,” Daddy said. He set Phillip down, reached out and grabbed the small paper bag from Jackie’s hands.

“It’s jus’ lic’rice,” Jackie said weakly. He bit his lip. “Tommy sent me for Linda.”

Daddy grabbed him by an arm and pushed him toward the chair directly across from me at the table. Jackie’s eyes searched my face for answers but I had none to give. Daddy rubbed Phillip's head affectionately and handed him the bag of licorice.

“Here ya go, punkin. Your nice brothers brought you some licorice. Why don’t you just take it with you into the bedroom and share it with your sisters? Daddy’s gonna have a nice little talk with your big brothers. He touched Linda’s nose with a gentle finger. “That’s right, Linda, honey, just go with Phillip and he’ll give you some licorice. Pretty soon Tommy’ll fix you kids something good for supper.”

When the door to the bedroom closed behind Phillip and the girls, Daddy backhanded Jackie out of his chair. Jackie lay where he fell like a broken thing. Blood ran from his nose and mouth. Daddy stood up and kicked him in the legs.

“Get up, asshole. I didn’t tell you to lay around on the floor.”

When Jackie got up, Daddy slammed him into the wooden chair so hard that it split in half. Jackie fell to the floor in a heap and Daddy booted him in the legs a couple of more times.
“Get your fuckin’ ass up! I did not tell you to lay around on the fuckin’ floor!”

Jackie picked himself up. He was shaking so bad I thought his bones would break. There was blood all down the front of his shirt.

“Oh, him dot a bwoody nose,” Daddy taunted in baby talk and Jackie’s own slurring of R’s. “Mebbe him sit by him bwuddew an’ him feel bettew.” He dragged a chair from the end of the table and set it next to mine. “Sid down, pwecious,” he lisped.

“Now, Tommy,” Daddy turned his attention from Jackie, “How do you feel about being the one who started all of this?”

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, Crime, Denver, Family, Free, Memoirs, Missouri, Mommas Rain, Money, Mothers, Parenting, Philosophy, Photography, Poverty, Punishment, Religion, Saint Louis, Sons, Survival, Tom Wordwulf Sterner, Violence, Wikinut, Writer

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

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