~momma’s rain~ chapter three ~children by the way~ ~part three~ ~little things in life~

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

~a life too full of maybes~dirt fights & wars~tv monster pretty boys~babysitter doin’ her boyfriend~butt bouncing on the door~lady with sugar tomatoes~frog legs~bloody hatchet on the floorboard~stabbed between the eyes~first time I took note of lightning~the fear/rage dynamic~it’s the~little things in life~

~little things in life~

“Hey boy, what’s the matter?” I was so embroiled in the shock of my discovery I hadn’t noticed Daddy come outside but there he was. He had climbed into the truck and was sitting on the big wooden tool box next to me. He put an arm around my shoulders and stroked my cheek with his hand. “Momma and I did what we thought was best for him.”

“Wha ... wha ... what?” I mumbled, Bird’s flat face and dark penetrating gaze clear in my mind’s eye.

“Ah, Tommy, I know how you feel about Jackie,” Daddy consoled. “He’ll be happier and healthier with Uncle Jack. They love each other. They belong together. You can see that if you just give yourself half a chance.”

“I miss him,” I lamented, relieved to avoid the subject of Bird. “I miss him somethin’ awful.”

Daddy rubbed the top of my head. “Sure you do, Tommy. Get that tar off yourself and come on in now. They’re showing that movie, ‘The Blob’, on Monster Night TV. We’ll eat popcorn and you can have a coke.”

A couple of weeks later we all came down with measles. We got to eat Jell-O and drink Kool-aid. I ended up staying home from school for a whole week. All three of us were covered with red spots. The rashes itched and hurt a little bit when we scratched them but, all in all, the measles weren’t that bad. On the weekend Daddy took us to a drive-in movie to celebrate everyone being well again. DHe made a bunch of popcorn and put it in a paper grocery bag, poured in some salt and butter, and shook it up to take along with us. When we got there, he backed the truck in and snuggled up with Momma and us to watch the movie.

Without Jackie for company, I wandered around at a loss as to what to do with myself in my spare time. I became friends with a boy named Rob. Rob was a few years older than me and lived in a big house across the field from the motel. Our friendship might have never developed, especially considering the circumstances of its beginning.

I was wandering around and exploring in the field when some kids from the neighborhood started throwing things at me. I ducked behind a mound of dirt and pitched a couple of dirt clods in their direction. There were four of them and, when I returned fire, they attacked with a vengeance.

I grabbed fists full of clay and fought back as best I could but was definitely outgunned. I poked my head up to take a look at where they were and what they were throwing. I found out pretty quick. One of their projectiles hit me squarely between the eyes. I fell back, blood pouring down my face.

There were a bunch of abandoned cars in the field and what the boys were flinging at me were the thin metal plates that make up the inside of car batteries. I touched the metal thing embedded in the bridge of my nose and winced with pain. Blood was running into my eyes and I was on the verge of panic. That’s when I met ten-year-old Rob face to face.

He peeked over the edge of my hiding place. “That’s enough, you guys!” I heard him yell. He helped me home and stood by as I stumbled through the door.

Momma gasped when she saw my bloody face and the big boy standing in the doorway. “Oh my God!” she screamed, “What have you done to my son?”

Rob took a step backward. “Ma'am, I ...”

“Don’t you ma'am me, you little bastard!” Momma yelled. “You get the hell out of my house!”

I sat down on the floor and Momma slammed the door shut behind Rob. She dabbed at my face with a wet wash rag then pulled the metal out. When she did that, there was an immediate gush of blood. She pressed the wash rag against the wound. “You hold that. Keep pressure on it!” she ordered, “I’m going next door.”

The lady next door had a car and a teenage daughter. She rushed Momma and me to the hospital while her daughter sat with Phillip and Lily. I got six stitches and a lecture from the doctor about throwing things at people. A quarter inch either way and I would probably be missing one of my fuzzy eyeballs. This impacted me, made me think. Fuzzy was better than nothing. Momma told me to stay away from the field after that and forbid me to ever play with Rob. “But he helped me,” I argued, “I don’t think he was with the big kids who were throwing things at me.”

Momma folded her arms, a bad sign when arguing with her. She hardly ever relented once her arms were folded. “Had you ever seen him before?”

“No,” I had to admit.

“You stay away from him,” she repeated. “He’s too old for you to play with anyway. Find some friends your own age.” She hugged me and kissed my stitches. “I’m your mother. I know he’s the one who hurt my boy.”

So I stayed away from the field and roamed in the other direction, down toward the end of the courtyard. The lady who managed the forty unit motel lived in a small house at the end of the horseshoe shaped drive. Her name was Mary. She was a nice lady who offered to pay me a few pennies for doing chores. One day I was helping weed her garden and who should show up but Rob. Mary stood up, hands on her hips. “There’s my big strong digger,” she smiled, “Glad you could make it.”

Mary introduced us and we went through the motions, pretending not to know each other, neither caring to explain the incidence of our first meeting. Rob dug and I hoed until Mary called break. She brought a pitcher of iced tea and a large bowl of sugar from her kitchen. While Rob and I fixed our tea, Mary picked an apron full of fat ripe tomatoes.

Rob winked at me as Mary sprinkled water on three of the tomatoes. Observing the two of them, I realized Rob had obviously spent some time with Mary. They seemed to know what to expect next from each other.

“Candy’s bad for kids,” Mary lectured as she cut the tomatoes into thick juicy slices. “Plenty of good food on God’s green earth. No sense rottin’ your teeth on that store-bought junk.” She sprinkled a thick layer of sugar over the tomatoes. “Here Tommy, you get the first one. Me ‘n Rob, we know all about sugar ‘maters. Maybe you don’t.”

I made a face. “I don’t care much for tomatoes, Ma'am.”

“You try one,” Mary insisted, “If you don’t like it after a bite, I’ll eat it my own self.”

I accepted her offer with reluctance. I knew better than to refuse an adult and sometimes they surprised me. This was one such time. I tasted one, then ate another and another. Fresh, sliced tomatoes from Mary’s garden and honeyed with sugar earned a four A stamp of approval in my personal Summer of 1958.

Mary poked Rob in the ribs. “Wait’ll he tastes your frog legs!”

Rob winked at her and I wondered what they were referring to but refrained from engaging in the conversation lest they produce frog legs and expect me to eat them.

When Rob and I finished tending Mary’s garden, we walked directly to the store half a mile down the road and spent the pennies she paid us on the poison she had warned us about. I bought cinnamon bears, two for a penny, kits, a package of four for a penny, and a Big Hunk candy bar for a nickel. We hiked down to the irrigation ditch, sat in the shade of a big ol’ tree and munched away.

All of a sudden Rob tensed up and stopped moving. He put a finger to his lips, “Shhh,” and rose soundlessly from the ground. Out of the back pocket of his jeans came a slingshot complete with wrist support. He picked a smooth round stone from the ground and loaded his weapon. He motioned with his head in a direction off to my right. I turned my head and pretended to share Rob’s vision. Actually, all I saw was the fuzzy green of plant life and the glint of the sun off near water running in the irrigation ditch. Zing! The stone flew past my face and Rob took off behind it.

I jumped up and followed him. By the time I caught up, Rob was standing by the side of the ditch. He was holding a large writhing bull frog by its hind legs. One eye was popped out and bleeding from where the stone had struck. I felt sick to my stomach, which didn’t improve much when Rob gave the frog’s head a deft whack against a nearby boulder. This resulted in popping out the other eyeball which didn’t matter, I supposed, assuming the act had rendered the frog dead.

I was mesmerized by the errant look of glee in Rob’s eyes. The frog continued to twitch as he pulled a knife from his pocket and sliced its legs off at its body. He dropped the legs into his shirt pocket and tossed the limp body into the ditch. It landed with a dull plop, then came to rest a few feet away against a dam caused by the lifeless body of a small cow. Flies swarmed around the cow and maggots heaved from the sockets of its dead eyes.

Before I could react to the sudden horror and violence of an otherwise peaceful summer afternoon, Rob was at it again. He killed ten frogs inside an hour with less than fifteen shots, a personal best he gleefully reported. “Now,” he said, patting the bulging pockets of his shirt, “we shall enjoy a meal of the Gods.”

Oh no, I thought, remembering Mary’s frog leg comment. Sugar tomatoes was one thing, frog legs quite another and impossible to consider. Watching Rob kill frogs, I realized Momma was probably right in assuming he was the one who hurt me when we first met.

Rob led me to a shallow cave where he set fire to a cone shaped pile of sticks surrounded by large stones. He placed an old piece of charred tin over the stones then laid the frog legs side by side on top of the tin. “Get ready!” he warned gleefully.

When the heat hit the frog legs, they began to jump. Rob laughed uproariously as he pushed them back to the center of the tin cooking sheet and caught one when it hopped a few inches above the flames. I stared in awe at the spectacle. It was if frogs’ legs had a life of their own past the death of their host.

“They’re alive,” I whispered fearfully, as if they might hear and wreak vengeance upon us.

“Nah,” Rob assured me, “They’re fresh kilt, that’s all. Their muscles shrink up from the heat or somethin’ like that and that makes ‘em jump all over the place. It cracks me up watchin’ ‘em.”

Rob turned the legs over a few times. He cooked them until their skin was as charred and black as the tin on his makeshift stove. He took a forked stick that was stuck into the earth nearby and hooked one of the legs. He lifted it from the tin in a solemn gesture of offering. “Sir Tommy, I am honored to offer you the privilege of beginning the feast.”

I backed against the wall of the cave. “I ... I ain’t ...” I stammered, “I ain’t eatin’ no dead frog legs.”

Rob’s eyes turned hard as glass. He glared down at me, a disparaging smirk on his face. “So, you’re a sissy after all. That’s what I thought when I saw you that day in the field, a little Momma’s boy.”

I grabbed the frog leg from the pronged stick. “I ain’t no sissy!” I insisted with venom as I bit off the end of the leg, chewed and swallowed it down. I finished it off, spread my hands and grinned at Rob. “There, sissy that!”

Rob shook his head, tapped the stick on the tin and took me into obvious consideration, an amused grin on his face. He didn’t speak until I had devoured the whole leg. “Most folks don’t eat the bones,” he chuckled, “And I ain’t never seen nobody eat the damned feet! You’re crazier ‘n hell, boy. I like that!”

I gave him my best ‘Who cares what most folks do?’ look. I finished all ten of my frog legs, bones and all. I did, however, decide the charred little webbed feet weren’t all that delectable and tossed them into the fire. We leaned against the wall, bellies full of tomatoes and frog legs. We went through the afternoon in a drift, Rob telling me brave hunting and fishing stories. He had special plans for the dead cow in the ditch; in a few days they’d come back and stab it in the belly. “Boom!” he exclaimed and I laughed but secretly hoped I’d manage to miss out on that adventure. Thank God for Momma. Rob wasn’t about to mess with her.

I hardly ever did anything against Momma's wishes but that summer I broke the rules. I spent many secret afternoons with Rob learning the ritual of killing and eating and sometimes killing just to kill. I couldn’t talk to her about Rob because she was right. To this day I’ve never met anyone other than Rob with the skill to hit a boy between the eyes with a battery plate. Rob was a hunter and had chosen not to kill me. I couldn’t talk to her about that ever and she couldn’t talk to me about Jackie.

After the lady next door took Momma and me to the hospital, she would sit and drink coffee with Momma almost every day, sometimes in her unit, sometimes in Momma’s kitchen. I couldn’t stand her know-it-all fourteen year old daughter and the feeling was mutual. This became a problem when Momma told me she and Daddy were going to go out one Friday night. She had arranged for the girl next door to baby-sit me, Phillip, and Lily.

I informed Momma I was old enough to watch my siblings, had, in fact, done so many times in the past, so why not now? She puffed hard on her Pall Mall, blew smoke out her nostrils. “Daddy and I have been working hard and deserve a peaceful night out together. I will feel much better with someone older in charge. You’re outgrowing your britches, Mister!” She grabbed me by the wrist, swatted my butt, and stood me in the corner.

I couldn’t believe what was happening. I was being humiliated like Jackie. I could feel Phillip’s and Lily’s eyes on my back. I didn’t like that feeling most of all. I began to sob as I considered the hundreds of times Jackie had been forced to stand like this. Worse, he had usually been stripped naked and beaten first. I leaned my head against the wedge of the corner and fell asleep in Jackie’s face, wondering if my shoulder blades all bunched up made me look like a plucked chicken.

“Tommy, come here!” Daddy’s voice woke me and I stumbled to where he was sitting on the couch. Daddy smacked me on the top of the head with the flat of his hand. “Don’t you ever talk back to your mother! You do what you’re told and when she tells you to do something, you show her respect!”

My mouth dropped open in disbelief and I turned my head to meet Momma's cold stare. She stood leaning against the door jamb between the kitchen and living room, a cup of coffee in one hand and a Pall Mall in the other. “Phillip and Lily are asleep on our bed,” she said calmly. “You go in there and lay down with them. Missy will be over from next door as soon as Daddy and I leave. Don’t you dare give her a hard time!”

I turned and walked, trance-like, to the door of the bedroom. As I closed the door behind me, Marty Robbins on the country music station picked up where Momma had left off. He was singing about a white sports coat and a pink carnation. I lay down on the floor so as not to wake my brother and sister. I wept into a dingy pillow I pulled over my face. I was confused about what a white sports coat and a pink carnation were and wished the music would stop. I had little boy dreams, lots of them, like maybe Jackie, the girl with the golden chain, would have transferred to the new school I was going to now that my family had returned to Montana. Maybe Uncle Jack would get mad at Jackie or get run over by a bus or something and Jackie would come back to live with his real family. Maybe Momma and Daddy would get rich and they would have five loaves of bread on top of the ice box. Maybe they would be nice and let each of the children have a loaf all their own ... with lots of sugar. Maybe the Indian would be alive with a smile on his face and bounce me on his knee while he told me stories of our ancestors. It all happened in my dreams, there was no blood in that place where I went sometimes, but in his real waking life the maybes seldom turned out that way.

~also available at Amazon ~
~chapter three - part one~
~chapter three - part two~
~chapter one~
~chapter two~
~farewell captain charlie~

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


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'.

Share this page

moderator Steve Kinsman moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


Add a comment
Can't login?