~momma’s rain~ chapter four ~children ... it’s elementary~ ~part one~ ~bastard bitch~

WordWulf By WordWulf, 17th Apr 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1_p6fsuj/
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Domestic Violence & Abuse

~out there in the driveway~behind the house~we were taught to be men of a separate stripe~stroking & stripping~killing & skinning~learning the heartbeat~when to direct it to stop~to deliver sweet meat to the table~but it don’t stop damn it~damn it~it just don’t stop~

~bastard bitch~

Denver, Colorado
Fall, 1959

Grandma Webster wore her stubbornness like a badge of truth. She was a large-boned solid woman and would brook no opposition. She and Grandpa Webster lived in a small house in an area of Southwest Denver called Goat Hill. I supposed that was because there were people in the neighborhood who kept goats in the yard. There were a lot of chickens too. We had been staying with Grandma and Grandpa Webster for a couple of weeks, ever since our return from Montana. Grandma Webster was Daddy’s mother. Paul Webster was her husband, Daddy’s stepfather. I heard him ask her when she was going to get all the little bastards out of his house. There was no yard or garage and he was worried that his Packard would be scratched when the brats were playing in the driveway.

Grandma was holding Linda and feeding her a bottle while she argued with Grandpa. Their small house was terribly crowded. Grandma rarely threw anything away so the hallways were cramped and every bit of wall space was stacked floor-to-ceiling with newspapers and boxes. She kept knick-knacks everywhere, elephants with their trunks in the air. Never keep an elephant with its trunk down, she warned me. They’re bad luck if their trunks aren’t held high up and pointing at the sky. Grandma and Grandpa’s argument grew louder and louder so I took Phillip and Lily out into the driveway. Grandma was attempting to shush Grandpa. He stomped his foot and insisted he would not have a woman shushing him in his own house.

I heard the screen door squeak and bang shut and there she was, Grandma in a rage. I was her first and favorite grandson, oldest of all the grandchildren but that didn’t cut any ice when it came to whippings. She still had Linda in one arm but managed to land a walloping flat-handed swat to my butt, which knocked me to my knees in the driveway. I might have avoided some of the impact of her assault if I had known it was coming. As it was, I had no idea why she was upset and had decided to punish me.

“Don’t you ever go outside without asking! And to bring your little brother and sister with you! Why, they might just dart out into the road and get run over by a car! And, speaking of cars, you had better stay away from your grandfather’s Packard!” With an indignant twist of her head, she shushed Phillip and Lily toward the house.

Through a mist of tears, I watched her broad, stiff back and rounded shoulders as she strode purposely toward the door. She walked fast with her upper body pitched forward, hell bent for leather, Daddy called it. She told me I was the only child she’d ever known who could keep up with her. I picked myself up, walked to the end of the driveway, and began kicking stones as I made my way down the steep gradient of the bumpy dirt road away from the house. I was over the swat on the butt but sobbed in frustration as I walked along. If I had interrupted Grandma and Grandpa to ask if my siblings and I could go outside I’d have been punished for speaking when I hadn’t been spoken to. I didn’t like hearing myself and Lily and Phillip referred to as little bastards and had taken them outside to avoid listening to the ugly argument. Grandma’s voice interrupted my melancholy musing. “You get back here, Tommy!” I heard her yelling in her shrill, high-pitched, whine. She was very good at whining and threatening and both at the same time. “Don’t you dare run away from me!” Evidently she had come back outside to take me in the house with her.

I just kept walking, hands in the pockets of my worn out, second hand jeans. I wasn’t running away. I knew exactly where I was going. Momma was a waitress at the Pine Cone Bar and Grill which was a couple of blocks away at the bottom of the hill. Grandma didn’t want us around and Grandpa didn’t like us period (he didn’t like anybody). There was no place to sit in the cramped quarters of the house. It was impossible to hide from Grandma and Grandpa’s accusing eyes. There was no yard around their little shack, just the driveway with Grandpa’s old Packard parked in it. We weren’t supposed to play in the driveway when Grandpa was home because he was afraid we would scratch the car, being the destructive little bastards that we were. I knew I was in for it now. I was feeling sorry for myself and frustrated with life in general. I wished for the millionth time that I wasn’t a kid, swore to myself I would be a better adult and parent than mine were and theirs were when my time came. I would feel guilty about these thoughts later, was aware of that as they occurred to me, but was unable to curb them.

There was nothing I could do to rectify the situation but I couldn’t stop thinking about it so I ignored Grandma’s voice, sobbed and kicked stones, and continued to feel sorry for myself. I enjoyed a bit of relief from my problems when the larger stones jarred the bones in my toes and gave me something else to think about. I knew they were right, Grandma and Grandpa. They shouldn’t have to take care of Daddy and his family. I wondered if I really was a dirty little bastard. As they always said, Grandma and Grandpa, they had worked hard and raised theirs. This should be a time of peace and rest for them. Grandpa was employed as a baker afternoons and nights and Grandma was a cookie packer for the Bowman Biscuit Company. They were trying to lay a little money aside for their retirement. Grandma had varicose veins and her legs hurt. She stood her place on the assembly line six nights a week, two to eleven. She rode the city bus to work and back home with the midnight crazies. Grandma didn’t drive.

I blinked my eyes in surprise when I realized I had reached the crossroads at the bottom of the hill. Cars swished back and forth on Hampden Avenue a few steps away. I turned to my right, squinted my eyes, and stared at the building where Momma worked. Coors and Pabst Blue Ribbon neon signs winked at me and, my favorite, Hamms ... the beer refreshing with the big smiling bear and the blue running water. I wasn’t so sure about my decision to walk down the hill now. I felt a tight fist form in my chest and knew I was between a rock and a hard spot when I noticed Daddy’s truck parked by the front door. There would be hell to pay for leaving Grandma after she had ordered me to turn around and come back to the house. Here I was, starting more trouble for everyone.

I was in a quandary. I had never seriously considered running away from home before but this might be just the situation for it. I wished for Jackie. My brother wasn’t very good at getting along with Momma and Daddy but he knew all about running away and making it on his own. What would Phillip and Lily and Linda do without me, I wondered ... and Momma. I didn’t have long to worry about the problem as it turned out. Daddy came staggering out the front door of the bar. He started to climb in his truck then noticed me standing by the side of the road.

“Get yer ass over here!” he ordered. When we were both seated in the old truck he administered his favorite punishment where I was concerned, an open handed slap to the top of my head. “What in hell gets into you, Tommy? Ma’s all shook up now. She thinks you’ve run away. She really got pissed when she called here to talk to your mother and they called me to the phone. I’m afraid you’ve messed it up for all of us with that bullheadedness o’ yours. She don’t want me drinkin’, y’know?”

The top of my head smarted and I winced in anticipation of another slap as I replied sadly and truthfully, “None of us do, Daddy.”

Daddy surprised me by rubbing my head affectionately. “’S okay, son. You sit tight while I run in ‘n tell your mother you’re all right. I think I found us a place to live. We’ll pick up your brother and sisters and go have a look. I’ll talk to Ma when we get to the house but you’re gonna have to apologize to her for your behavior.”

Daddy went into the bar and came right back out. He drove his old Ford truck up the bumpy dirt road and parked in front of the little house on the hill. There was a clothesline set up at the back of the driveway just in front of Grandpa Webster’s car. He kept rabbits in hutches against the rear wall of the house and was busy outside tending to them. He waved nonchalantly and walked behind the house as Daddy and I came walking up the driveway behind his Packard. “Go see your Grandpa while I go inside and have a couple words with Ma,” Daddy ordered. “I don’t even want her to see you since you took off without her permission. You hurt her feelings and there’ll be hell to pay.”

Spending time with Grandpa Webster would never find itself on the list of things I would like to do. I knew better than to argue with Daddy. My head still smarted from the slap of his hand, so I walked slowly past Grandpa’s car toward the rear of the house. “Don’t walk so god-dam close to the car!” Grandpa warned, “You goddam brats are bound ‘n determined to scratch the shit out of it!”

I sidled over next to the house. When I came to the corner, Grandpa was standing next to the hutches holding a large rabbit. “Get a handful o’ clothespins out ‘o that bag,” he said to me. I stepped over to the clothesline and did as I was told. Grandpa was right behind me with the rabbit clutched close to his chest. It was kicking and clawing furiously with its rear feet. Its nails were long and blood oozed from a deep gouge on Grandpa’s wrist where it had scratched him. “Nice bunny bunny,” Grandpa cooed. He scratched the rabbit behind the ears and rubbed the back of its neck. “Bastard bitch scratched me,” he muttered to himself. “Gimme a couple o’ them pins,” he said to me.

I handed them to him while he lifted the rabbit up and bent one of its ears over the thick clothesline wire. He clipped the ear to the wire with the pins and held his hand out. “Gimme two more,” he ordered. He took them from me with his free hand and fixed the other ear to the line while gripping the animal close to his body. It was struggling madly, its eyes wide, wet, and full of fear. Grandpa hugged the rabbit close and made purring sounds deep in his chest. He massaged the back of the rabbit’s head and neck while slowly releasing it until it was hanging sedately by its ears from the clothesline. With a deft flick of his right hand he dealt it a blow to the base of its neck. The animal shuddered, kicked a couple of times then relaxed into its death.

Grandpa winked at me. “That’s tame meat right there. It’ll be tender in the pot, melt in your mouth. She died real good, didn’t she? Kill ‘em fightin’ an’ the meat’s gamier ‘n hell. Ever had rabbit stew, boy?”

“No sir,” I replied. Watching the slaying of the rabbit, I was reminded of Grandpa Jim’s rooster in Missouri and hoping I wouldn’t have to partake in the meal soon to come. As it turned out, I didn’t have to eat rabbit that evening. Daddy called me over to the house to help gather up my siblings and our belongings while he and Grandpa Webster said goodbye. My emotions were all screwed up. Having been walloped by Grandma, head-slapped by Daddy, and witnessing the death of the rabbit by Grandpa Webster was just about all I could take. Not quite, I thought, now I had to face Grandma.

“Don’t you ever turn your back and walk away from me like that again,” she admonished sternly when I entered the house. Her eyes always looked like they were swimming behind the lenses of her thick glasses. They were wet now, full to the brim with tears soon to be spilled. She pulled me to her, hugged me to her breast and wept for a moment. Her tears ran down her cheeks and onto my forehead then into my eyes. It felt to me like they burned more than my own did. She took a deep breath and pushed me away, held me at arms’ length, her hands on my shoulders. “You look out for Phillip, Lily, and Linda, hear me? I’m sure gonna miss all of you around the house.”

I was struggling with tears of my own. Now I felt as if I was abandoning Grandma Webster. After her complaints, I couldn’t understand why she was crying when Daddy was doing what she had asked, taking us somewhere else to live. It was difficult to believe we’d be missed in the Webster household. “You have to stop drinking,” I heard her stern rebuke of Daddy as my siblings and I piled into the truck.

“I’m tryin’, Ma,” Daddy replied, “Doin’ my best.” He hugged her, waved at Grandpa and the dead rabbit, climbed into the truck, let out the clutch and pulled slowly away from the curb.

Daddy made a deal with a man and we moved that night into a motel called the Corncrib Motor Court. It was across the road from the Corncrib Saloon. The man who owned both businesses agreed to exchange rent charges for roofing work on the bar and the units in the motel. We spent the summer in a tiny one room kitchenette, as they were called in those days. The unit next door was empty and Daddy pried open the high window of a connecting door. He fixed it so we could shinny through and color in color books and play in our very own apartment. It was tricky business though because we always had to remember to pick everything up and make it appear as we had found it in case the landlord came to check on it or show it to prospective renters.

There was a community laundry room equipped with a couple of ringer washers for tenants to use. Momma could wash the family’s clothing in a tub using a scrub board then run a load through one of the ringer washers. She told me a funny story about a big breasted woman getting one caught in the ringer. Although I never saw it happen, it’s one of those vivid memory pictures that has stayed with me my whole life, always good for a grin in its remembering. I helped her with the wash and enjoyed pinning clothes to the wire lines outside in the yard. Rabbits hopped through my mind whenever I hung out clothes. Clothes pins signified the death of rabbits. Only nine-years-old, something about that just didn’t feel right to me. I played chase and tag with the other children in the motor court. We thought it was great sport to run between sheets hanging out to dry, especially on windy days. This earned us many a spanking but we couldn’t resist the fun, especially if there was a breeze blowing the sheets back and forth. The Mommas of the Corncrib kept close watch and someone was always in trouble and in for a butt warming.

Daddy spent a lot of time across the street at the bar. Work on the roof proceeded at a very slow pace. One night while he was there, after Momma and I got the kids to bed, she made some coffee and sat up talking with me. She told me about her mother, Ada, and her father, George Hart. Ada Mae Downey was a short, withdrawn girl whose status was further diminished by her hunched over posture and large nose. Her parents and siblings referred to her as the ugliest girl in Centralia, Illinois.

When she was eighteen years old, she happened to meet George Lovett Hart from Abilene, Kansas. He was dark and mysterious, his mother’s Cherokee blood running strong in his veins. He did his level best to deny that heritage by running away from home in his early teens to become a man of the rails. Ada promised to never mention his Cherokee blood. She would do anything to avoid raising the ire of her half-breed man, including deny his heritage if that’s what he required of her. He told her she was beautiful. She stood up ramrod straight, all four feet and ten inches of her, and kissed him on the lips. “Take me away from here and love me.”

They were married in a simple ceremony in 1925. George took his new bride to meet his father who ran a broken down chicken ranch outside Goodman, Kansas, in a place called the Ozarks. George’s father came from a long line of slavers. He had, in fact, bought, sold, and owned slaves, both Indian and black. He had fallen on hard times and was bitter and resentful of life. He had the gambling vice and his Cherokee slave, George’s mother, had died a couple of years before. He reminded his son that he owed him nothing but offered to put him and his new wife up in an old chicken coop behind the house if the two of them would help out around the place and tend to the chickens. George and Ada swamped the place out and, for the first time in her life, Ada was happy. She felt beautiful and George proceeded to love her well. His father was gone most of the time, drinking and gambling whenever he had two nickels to rub together. There were chickens and eggs and Ada put in a small vegetable garden.

The birth of their first child was a disappointment to George when the midwife announced it was a perfect baby girl. He had his heart set on a son and named the child George Ann after himself and his sister. Soon after the birth, he hit the rails again, leaving Ada to tend to the baby and the chickens. Times were hard on the dirt farm and he was determined to provide for his family, to ride the trains to prosperity.

~wordwulf~
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~
~music~
~of lips, mother & wine~

Tags

1958, Alcoholism, Art, Colorado, Denver, Family, Free, Memoirs, Missouri, Mommas Rain, Mothers, Novelist, Parenting, Philosophy, Photography, Poetry, Poverty, Saint Louis, Sons, Survival, 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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