~momma’s rain~ chapter three ~children by the way~ ~part four~ ~lilacs & ladies~

WordWulf By WordWulf, 15th Apr 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Domestic Violence & Abuse

~I was Alley Oop during my eighth summer~designated so by the Queen of Sheba~we were lord & lady of the lilac tunnels of Montana~a magical realm beyond anything I had experienced in my young life~the scent of lilacs~any reference to Shirley Temple~spirit me back there~it is the best I swear~more than I ever hoped for or deserved~the kind of thing that saves a man’s life & makes it worth living for ever after~

~lilacs & ladies~

~momma’s rain~
chapter three
~children by the way~
~part four~
~lilacs & ladies~

A couple of hours later I awakened when I heard something bump against the wall, a girl giggling, and a deeper male voice. I got from the floor and squinted my eyes at Phillip and Lily where they lay on the bed. They were sound asleep. When I opened the door, I saw Missy on the couch. There was a boy on top of her and he had his hand up her blouse. “Stop!” she said in alarm, “That brat’s watching us!”

The boy sat up and beckoned to me with his finger. He had a mean face and messed up hair. He was rubbing his crotch with his free hand. “C’mere, cherry boy,” he crooned, “I’ve heard all about you. C’mon, I got somethin’ for ya.” He laughed through a big mouth full of crooked, foul-looking teeth, brown with the ooze and scarring of chewing tobacco. “C’mon, l’il boy, you don’t need t’ be ascairt o’ me.”

Missy stood up and wiggled her butt in the boy’s face. “You forget about this, Brad?” She grabbed me by the front of my shirt and shoved me in the closet then closed the door and held it shut with her body.

I tripped and fell onto my back. I began to kick the door as hard as I could while I screamed, “Let me out! I’ll tell my Momma!”

The door flew open and Brad slapped me, open-handed, across the face. He continued to rub himself, his lower body gyrating as he stood over me. He grinned at me with his mouthful of crooked, tobacco stained teeth. “You be quiet, you little cocksucker or I’m gonna do somethin’ you won’t like one l’il bit!”

I slid backwards until the rear wall of the closet stopped me. Brad followed me, pushed my head down until I was crunched in back of the closet against the wall. Brad laughed viciously, stuck out his tongue, arched his pelvis in my face, then backed away and closed the door. I have been to jails since then and found they have much the same to offer as this experience, dark and stinking while those in power stroke and giggle, threaten and wiggle their asses and genitals in prisoners’ faces. All my life I’ve listened to those with power play grab-ass, stroke and gasp and tweak their titties. They always come back to me, refuse to let me go, and they always own the key.

I put my hands over my ears, willing away the skin-on-skin smacking, Missy’s howling and Brad’s groaning. They were using me somehow, making me complicit in their filth and hump, eyes, eyes, people’s eyes. The darkness pressed in on me. I couldn’t breathe with the weight on my chest, unable to escape the tiny room, the awful people bumping against the other side of the door. Their bodies thumped a rhythm into the closet and I rode it away. Sometime later Missy opened the door. She offered to help me up from the floor. I stared at her proffered hand as if it were a dead stinking thing and flatly refused to acknowledge her existence. “Have it your way then!” she said with a flip of her hair. “I won’t tell your mother about your trouble making bullshit and you won’t tell her about Brad, understand?”

“I hate you!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. I pulled myself up from the floor, pushed past her and went into the bedroom with Phillip and Lily.

Momma and Daddy finally came home and moved us out to the couch. They went straight to bed. I could hear Jackie’s voice in my head.

“We’re safe now. They’re gonna do it. They don’t know nothin’ while they’re doin’ it.” The voice was right, as usual. The bed springs squeaked and Jim Reeves crooned ‘Blue boy, that’s what they call me.’ I could relate to that. I heard the usual little grunts of pain and pleasure from my parents’ bedroom. I closed my eyes and accepted the Hershey bar from Jackie’s stash. It was always there in my dreams. No one could take that away from us. Brothers are forever and that is all.

I told Momma about the closet and Missy rutting against the door with Brad. She spoke with Missy’s mother about it and the woman opined that I had a very vivid imagination. Her daughter would never do anything like that. Why, she wasn’t even dating yet! A few days later Brad caught me and dragged me to a tire swing that hung from a tree in the courtyard. He tied the rope around my body in such a way that I was suspended helplessly above the tire. I hung there struggling in an effort to free myself while the children from the motel pushed, taunted, and spit on me.

The taunts bounced off and the spittle joined the river of my tears. The sticks and stones felt good as they fed the insatiable pit of my rage. I fought the rope mightily and, when my struggles finally paid off, I fell on my face in the dirt. Stunned for a moment, I spit the bloody mud from my mouth. I was about to experience one of the many-to-come freeze frame moments of my life.

They stood around me, the children of the motel court, their hands full of childish weaponry, sticks and Tonka trucks. Saliva hung from their mouths in the air and everything slowed way down. Their taunting voices became one, a cacophony of shrill vindictive. Fear lifted from me in layers and was replaced with livid rage, red and deep, howling. A growl began in the bottom of my spirit and launched itself from my lips in an ungodly roar. I crawled to a nearby tricycle, pulled myself up on it then lifted it over my head. With a primeval scream I began to chase them round and round the courtyard. After all of Rob’s lessons, I had finally found the lust to kill. Unable and unwilling to slay frogs and birds, even mad roosters and blueberry chickens, I discovered a hunger for blood deep inside myself, the blood of those whose hands spilled my own.

Momma heard the riot of my raging attack, as did most the people of the motel. They dragged their terrified sons and daughters into their units, safe for the time from the eight year old monster. Momma tackled me, wrestled me, shaking into her arms. She held me and wrested the tricycle from my grip. “I’ll kill ‘em all!” I wailed, “I will kill them all!”

Momma held me against her body, my blood and tears soaking the front of her blouse. “I know, Tommy, I know. Please God ... Please ... I got you now, Momma’s right here. Take a deep breath and tell Momma what happened.”

A policeman knocked on the door a few minutes later. Momma sent me to the bathroom to clean myself up. It was the first time the police were called on me. It sure as hell wouldn’t be the last. They asked Momma questions, filled out a report, and went to visit neighbors.

When Daddy came home from work, he sat me down for a man to man talk. “Never fight them, Tommy ... never. You can’t win. They have made a police report and Mary has asked us to move. The neighbors have signed a petition against you. Their children are afraid to come outside to play. Son, I just don’t know… I don’t know what gets into you sometimes.” He was muttering and shaking his head as he went out the door to appeal to Mary. He was broke and the family had no place to go.

There was nothing Mary could do. She liked me but had to respect the neighbors’ petition and police directives. Tom Sterner, my father, knew a man who knew a man who owned a tiny court, half a dozen units, water at the pump in the kitchen, a shared latrine. He moved his family the next day from the outskirts of town and into Billings Proper. We would be living in another court but this time the landlord called it an apartment. There was no place to play on the property but right across the street was a city park. I discovered the wonder of lilacs there and scampered through the dark green tunnels of their supporting limbs. The fragrance of lilacs takes me back to that place every single time. That’s where I met Shirleen.

I was hunched down in my private fort, an open space between a thick stand of lilac bushes. I could sit there and see all around myself and no one could see me. I was able see everyone and everything and felt as transparent as the invisible man. One day, when I decided to make the rounds of the tunnels, I came around a blind corner, where I bumped into a sturdy young girl. She had curly hair and freckles across her nose. I thought she looked just like Shirley Temple. “Are you blind?” she asked, a petulant look on her pixy face.

“Uh ...” I stammered, “I don’t see so good.”

“Sit!” she ordered, gesturing with a pudgy finger. “I am the Queen of Sheba and I order you to sit before me.”

I obeyed, sat and squinted at her. Her dark hair was done up in curls and adorned with a pretty lilac wreath. She was wearing a frilly print dress. The Queen gazed back at me, eyes unblinking. I felt the heat rise to my face. My ears were burning.

“My name’s Tommy,” I offered, nervous and unable to think of anything else to say.

“I think not!” she replied haughtily. “You are Oop. You have come to lead the Queen of Sheba to the pot of gold.”

“I am?” I squeaked. “I have?” (Pot of gold? Boy, did she have the wrong guy.)

She stood and executed a perfect pirouette. (Maybe she was Shirley Temple, after all). “Come, my slave,” she ordered, “The time of riches is upon us.” I followed her through the lilac tunnels and sat with her on the sidewalk in a fall of summer shade. “A game of jack ball?” she inquired.

“Sure, I guess,” I replied. (Jack ball?)

Shirleen produced a handful of metal stars and a small red ball from a tiny pocket on the front of her dress. It came as no surprise to me that she could pull stars from her pocket. I could see them in the sparkles in her eyes. “They’re called jacks,” she smiled. Two perfect dimples found her cheeks and displayed themselves there. I imagined my index fingers would fit perfectly in them, my hands become a flesh frame for her pretty face. Shirleen tossed the jacks out on the cement in front of her and began to snatch them up one at a time to the bounce of the ball. She had an incredible sense of rhythm. Bounce the ball, pick up a jack, catch the ball, bounce the ball ...

“Onesies done,” she announced then tossed the jacks out again. She made it almost to the end of her twosies then dropped the ball. “I did that on purpose,” she said as she handed the ball and jacks to me. “All in a sense of fair play so that you may have a turn. Let’s see what you’re made of, Oop.”

I tossed the jacks and she giggled as half of them bounced into the grass.

“Oh, that’s so like you, Oop,” she twittered. “You really know nothing about jack ball, do you, you ape of a man?”

She was on her tens and I was still struggling with my onesies when a man walked toward us on the sidewalk. I made as if to get up and move aside for the stranger but the queen wouldn’t allow it. She stood and pushed me down with a pudgy finger. “Sit still, Oop! The pot of gold cometh.”

I was thinking, ‘What a strange girl’, when the man reached us. He leaned on his cane, put a hand into his pocket, extracted it and dropped a handful of change between us on the sidewalk. My mouth dropped open and the man sauntered away without a word.

“Close your mouth and gather the gold, Oop,” the Queen ordered. She patted her hair and smiled, quite satisfied with herself. “Then follow me to market.”

I gathered the coins from the sidewalk. I couldn’t believe our good fortune, eighty five cents. I had never had that much money to myself in my whole life. I glanced around, fearful that the man would want it back but he was half a block away and walking as if he had not a care in the world. I followed Shirleen to a small corner store where we bought penny candy, two cent tootsie roll pops, and sodas. There was seven cents left over which I offered to Shirleen. She closed her fluttery little eyes, pushed my hand away.

“You did all the work, Oop. The spoils are yours to keep.”

Oh, we had lots of fun in our lilac kingdom, the Queen and I. I discovered I actually was Oop, as in Alley Oop from the comics, and she was Queen of all the lilac jungles in the universe. I never knew where she lived and was afraid to ask, but for a couple of months it didn’t matter. Momma allowed me to go to the park almost every day and on the very best days I would find my Queen there waiting for me.

Then Linda was born. The eighth of August and now I had two younger sisters. No one in the Sterner family remained the baby for very long. Most of the time after Linda was born I had to stay home to help Momma while she recovered from the birthing. I spent a lot of time looking out the window and wondered if Shirleen was watching from deep in our jungle. It wasn’t too long though before Momma felt better and I was allowed to spend more time in the park.

I visited the lilac kingdom several days in a row and was much relieved when Shirleen showed up one day. She laughed when I confessed to her that I was afraid she might have found a new Oop while I was away. “My dear Oop,” she replied. “There can only be one Oop and you are he. I knew it the moment I first saw you.”

I was seated before her and she leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. To this day I like to close my eyes and snuggle up next to the comfort of the tiny lips of my first kiss. The gold man came that day. He chuckled contentedly while I chased his pennies and dimes then went merrily on his way.

I came home from the park one day near the end of summer to find Momma upset. Uncle Tom and Auntie Barb were in from Denver and were coming to visit the family before heading home. Auntie Barb was Daddy’s other half-sister and Uncle Tom was her husband. He was my favorite uncle, a large jovial man. He was always nice to kids and had three sons, one of them a couple of years younger than me. He was called Little Tommy. I was Big Tommy. I couldn’t understand why Momma was so upset. She liked Auntie Barb and Uncle Tom. All of us kids got along well.

When Daddy got home from work, he and Momma began to argue. They were still at it when Uncle Tom and Auntie Barb arrived. Daddy went for a ride with Uncle Tom in his new car, leaving the women and children at home. They planned to return and have dinner together. I took Little Tommy to the park to show him the lilac jungle. He was mightily impressed. His eyes got big as saucers when I told him about my Queen and the man with the cane. I had thirteen cents left from the gold man. I took Little Tommy to the store where we bought penny candy. I felt guilty about that. What if Shirleen wanted something next time I saw her and depended on the gold man’s money to buy it?

We were in bed and asleep long before Daddy and Uncle Tom got home that night. Daddy didn’t go to work the next day. Now I knew why Momma was upset. Daddy and Uncle Tom had gone out drinking, talking about old times. They decided Uncle Tom would help Daddy finish the roof he was working on then the Sterners would follow him and Auntie Barb back to Denver. There had been a big hail storm the week before and the roofing business was booming. At first I was excited. Jackie was in Denver and Grandma Webster, Daddy’s mother. I looked forward to the prospect of seeing them. But Daddy was drinking and Momma was crying. The good summer was coming to an end.

Little Tommy and I went to the park the next two days but Shirleen was nowhere to be found. How I wished I had summoned the courage to ask where she lived. I touched my fingers to my cheek and told Little Tommy about the kiss. He laughed, accused me of making it all up, so I socked him one. I felt bad about doing that and tried to apologize but Little Tommy had his feelings hurt and refused to listen. We returned to the house angry and not speaking to each other. Little Tommy refused to go back to the park with me after that.

The day we were packed and getting ready to leave, I found a nickel in the grass while searching the lilac tunnels for Shirleen, a last gift to her Oop. I ran to the store and bought a Hershey bar which I hid in the truck cave Daddy had prepared for the ride to Colorado. Later on, as we prepared to pull away, I squinted my eyes and tried to see through the truck racks into the maze of lilac bushes. I like to think they wiggled, the Queen of Sheba waving her Oop farewell.

Daddy was drunk and the truck steered a little crooked as he pulled away from the lilac park. Momma and baby Linda were in the cab of the truck with him. I snuggled Phillip and Lily into their blankets and sang ‘Peter Cottontail’ until they went to sleep. When it was nice and dark and the tarp over our heads was all puffed up with the wind, I thanked Jackie. I smiled, took the wrapper off my Hershey bar. Jackie was always there in the dark, each square of candy bathed in our tears, the glow of brothers. It tasted funny, too, because I kept sobbing and sniffing a sprig of lilac the Queen had placed in my hand on the event of our last meeting. “I was born one mornin’ when the sun didn’t shine.” I let Tennessee Ernie Ford sing me to sleep.

~chapter one~
~chapter two~
~chapter three~

Inquiries: wordwulf@gmail.com
©2014 graphic artwork music & words
conceived by & property of
tom (WordWulf) sterner 2014©
~also available at Amazon ~


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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