~momma’s rain~ ~chapter five~ ~children in a crossfire~ ~part three~ ~sucker punch~

WordWulf By WordWulf, 26th Apr 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/gpjfk41c/
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Domestic Violence & Abuse

~take a sneak peek~poke your eyes around the corner~ice picks & thumb screws~devil gonna getcha boy~bleeding marble eyes~c’mon be a witness~ya got trust issues man~better deal with that~what the hell’s the matter with you~sucker punch~

~sucker punch~

Daddy and I went home with the itchies you always get from roofing and almost any kind of construction related work. After a bath and a meal Daddy wasn’t very happy about, leftover spaghetti, we were good as new. The Sterner family watched ‘Wagon Train’ on TV and went to bed early.

The next morning Daddy had to go get paid and see if he could attain some more roof jobs, so I got to stay home. Momma had a surprise for us after Daddy left. In the move from Garfield Street she had discovered a box of dry cereal she had forgotten about. She usually couldn’t afford to buy dry cereal but, in this case, she had found it and there was even milk and sugar to put on it.

I joined my siblings around the table, where Momma fixed us up with an assortment of bowls and cups full of cereal. Everyone began to chow down; everyone, that is, except me. Momma was across the room at the stove, pouring herself a cup of coffee. Jackie and Phillip were on each side of me at the table.

“You guys better watch out,” I warned, “I think there’s something moving in the cereal.”

Momma overheard me and approached the table. Jackie and Phillip hurriedly tossed aside their spoons, picked up their bowls and gulped the cereal down.

“Put those bowls down!” Momma ordered. “What’s wrong, Tommy?” I pointed at my bowl. Momma used a spoon to sift through the milk and cereal. “Oh God, it’s weevils!”

“Come here, you two!” Momma grabbed Jackie and Phillip by the napes of their necks and dragged them to the bathroom. She bent them, one at a time, over the toilet and told them to stick their fingers down their throats and throw up the weevils. What followed was a whole lot of gagging but no vomit. Momma stuck her own finger down their throats and got the job done.

So much for cold cereal. We were out of milk and sugar now, so Momma fell back to plan B which was oatmeal (I hate oatmeal) with commodity butter. The oatmeal tasted funny and I told Momma as much.

“Oh, stop it!” she said angrily, “You just think it tastes funny because of the weevils. Sometimes you’re so finicky. We’re not rich, you know. We eat what there is to eat.” Jackie and Phillip were staring into their bowls. This time they agreed with me. “Damn it! That’s enough!” Momma was mad now. “You three eat that oatmeal right now! I don’t want to hear another word until it’s all gone!”

We gave up and gagged the oatmeal down. A little while later no one needed to use their fingers. We were all puking rivers. I made it to the toilet but Jackie and Phillip lost theirs on the way. Momma pulled their T-shirts over their heads and used them as rags to wipe up the mess. She glanced at Jackie in particular disdain.

“Go get another shirt and cover up those skinny bones. People will think I don’t feed you. I swear, you must have a tapeworm!”

After the vomit was cleaned up, Momma got the jar with the oatmeal in it. She twisted off the lid and gave it a good long sniff.

“It’s kerosene,” she closed her eyes and said. “I’ll have to go to a phone booth and call the hospital. That jar had kerosene in it. Your Daddy used it to clean his putty knives and paint brushes. I thought, since it was glass, I could just soak it for a bit, clean it out with Ajax, and keep the oatmeal in it.”

I sat there staring at her, thinking to myself, ‘Now we’re all gonna die.’ Momma rummaged around in her purse and finally came up with a couple of nickels. She patted me on the shoulder.

“You keep an eye on the kids. I’m going down to make the phone call. I’ll be right back.”

Out the door she went. This was one of those times she was like a mini-tornado. I glanced at Jackie. He was so skinny that, when he got sick, I just knew there was no way he would survive. He did though; we all did. The poison control people told Momma to give everyone who ate the kerosene oatmeal some soup or something and, if we couldn’t keep it down or became any weirder than usual, she should bring us to the Emergency Room at Denver General Hospital to be checked out.

Momma didn’t drive and had just spent her last two nickels on the phone call. She held a hand over her mouth when she returned from making the call. I recognized the pain in her eyes. I knew she was suffering from one of her terrible toothaches. Her mouth was full of rotten teeth. She took a bunch of aspirins and crunched them up with a spoon then poked them into the holes in her teeth. Some days her face would swell up so bad I thought Daddy had beaten her up again. If I said anything to her about it, she generally told me to mind my own business. I didn’t have the courage to tell her I felt like she was my own business. She already knew that anyway. Momma wore her pain and weathered it well. Still, I was fearful that one day it would just wear her out.

We all survived the bugs and kerosene day, each and every one of us. Momma watered down some commodity tomato paste and called it tomato soup. Still sick from the oatmeal fiasco, I felt too yucky to argue. She had done the same thing in the past with catsup/ketchup. It just didn’t amount to soup/soup, and no crackers.

“Tomatoes is tomatoes,” she said in a feigned light air. I wondered what real tomato soup tasted like or if there was any such thing. Thoughts like that made me feel guilty. Momma always did her best. It’s not as if she had many choices.

That afternoon Jackie and I got to worrying about the tapeworm Momma was always accusing him of having. We devised a plan to get the wretched thing out of him. It went something like this: Jackie would open his mouth as wide as possible. I would dangle a bit of bread as bait to lure the thing out of his mouth. When it went for the bread, I would grab it and pull it out. Phillip would then smash it with a big rock. I was the biggest and oldest and thought I should be the one to smash it with a rock but Jackie and Phillip both refused to hold the bait. They were afraid when the monster jumped out of Jackie’s mouth it would bite them. I have to admit I was leaning toward such thoughts myself.

No matter, we got Jackie bent over with his hands braced on his knees and his mouth spread as wide as he could get it. I picked through the trash and found a piece of hamburger bun. It had mold on it but I doubted the tapeworm would care. I stood back and wiggled it in front of Jackie’s mouth, ready to run if I couldn’t get hold of the monster when it went for the bait. Phillip stood poised with a big ol’ rock, ready for action. He got scared looking into Jackie’s open mouth and was sure he saw the tapeworm ready to jump out. He smacked Jackie in the face with the rock. Jackie knocked Phillip down and cut his lip when he smacked him in the face in retaliation. I slipped in my efforts to slug Jackie as punishment for hurting Phillip. I banged my head on the clothesline pole. Momma heard all the commotion through the open kitchen window. She came out, gave us all a whack on the behind, and sent us to bed. She didn’t ask what it was all about and we didn’t tell her. That is the last time I offered to help Jackie with his tapeworm. He and Phillip got in trouble many more times for the same thing because they just never knew when to stop.

Daddy came home late that night after we had all gone to bed. I heard him yelling at Momma because her lazy ass was in bed and not up cleaning the pigsty of a house like it should be. Something glass crashed and broke. I untangled myself from my brothers and sisters just in case Momma needed me. I couldn’t understand how my siblings could sleep through all the noise and violence. If it was because they were used to it, then why wasn’t I?

I got up quietly and put an ear to the door. It was as silent as deep night should be on the other side of the door and that worried me. I held his breath to better hear. Nothing. I tried not to cry but a tear came to my eye when I imagined why it might suddenly be so quiet. Fear played tag with my imagination. I took a deep breath and opened the door a crack and squinted my eyes into the light of the kitchen. Momma was sitting at the table but there was no sign of Daddy and Momma wasn’t moving.

I eased the door shut and waited until my eyes adjusted to the darkness. My jeans were folded up by a corner of the mattress. I got them and slipped them on as quickly and quietly as possible then tiptoed back to the door. I took a deep breath, opened the door and stepped into the kitchen. I closed the door silently behind myself.

Momma was sitting at the table with her head resting on her arms. She lifted her head and said, “Shh ... Tommy, be quiet.”

I was making my way across the room to join her when I stepped on something sharp. I gasped as it cut into my foot. I sat down and attempted to examine the bottom of my own foot, an impossible task. Momma came to me and kissed the top of my head.

“What happened, are you okay, Tommy?”

“I stepped on something and it’s in my foot,” I whispered a painful reply.

Momma sat next to me on the floor and put my foot in her lap. She had a cut over one eye. Her blood dripped down on my foot.

“I’m a mess,” she said. “You must have stepped on a sliver of glass. I’ll get it out for you then you’d better get back to bed.”

I touched her arm. “Where’s Daddy?”

“Shh,” she warned again. “He’s in the bathroom. This is going to hurt a little bit. Try not to make any noise.” I gritted my teeth as she squeezed and probed and finally produced a nasty little shard of glass. “He broke some dishes,” Momma said, “I’ll have to sweep this floor good before your brothers and sisters get up in the morning or everyone’s feet will be full of glass.”

“Let me help,” I offered.

“Oh Tommy,” Momma wiped a bit of blood away from the cut above her eye. “If he comes out of the bathroom and sees you helping me...” She paused and I knew by the light in her eyes that she had thought of something else.

“What Momma?” I queried anxiously, “What is it?”

“Bad idea,” she replied. “A really bad idea.”

“Tell me,” I begged.

“I’ll tell you then you go back to bed. There’s no way we’re going to do this but what I was thinking is that he must have passed out in there. If so, we could get his billfold out of his pocket and see if he has any money. I could get a few dollars to buy us some things. He’s so drunk, he would never know it was missing. He got paid today and, judging from his condition, we won’t see a dime. He’ll drink it all up.”

My eyes were open wide and round. I felt gooseflesh rise on my forearms. “If he caught you?”

The thought hung by itself in the air, ominous, threatening, almost inviting to us as conspirators.

“I’m not too awfully worried about that,” Momma replied as she ran a hand over her swollen and bloody face.

“Let me do it,” I said with all the firmness I was able to muster.

“That is out of the question,” Momma replied in her ‘absolutely not’ tone.

“You could go in first and make sure he’s passed out,” I offered, “Then I’ll sneak in and get his wallet. If his eyes open or something, you can warn me and I’ll back out.”

“If I decide to do this, I’ll do it myself,” Momma said. “And if I was inclined to have you help me, which I am not, I would have you do the watching.”

I picked myself up from the floor and made my way to the bathroom door, leaving small red spots behind me from the cut on my foot which, in the light of this new adventure (misadventure?), I had already forgotten about. As I reached for the door knob, Momma cut in front of me and opened the door. We held a collective breath, so terrified that both of us were unaware we were holding our breath. And there he sat, head down, drooling on his shirt. I got down on all fours before Momma could stop me and crawled through the doorway. Momma leaned against the door jamb watching, a hand over her mouth.

Daddy’s jeans were pushed down below his knees but his right hand was hanging loosely, just inches from the pocket with his billfold in it. Just as I got near enough to touch him, his body stiffened. He harrumphed a bit then settled back into a steady breathing pattern. Which is more than I can say for myself. My heart was a pounding trip-hammer thing and I had stopped breathing altogether. I didn’t have the courage to look back and see how Momma was doing.

My hand was trembling as I reached past Daddy’s arm and touched his jeans. I got my fingers on the billfold but was unable to lift it from Daddy’s pocket. It kept catching on the upper seam. Throwing caution to the winds, I crawled a bit closer. I used my left hand to hold the pocket and pulled out the prize with my right. I skittered backward on my knees and Momma pressed the door shut.

I had never touched Daddy’s wallet before and handed it to Momma like it was on fire. She opened it and pulled out the few bills it contained.

“He has eighty-three dollars,” she said, more to herself than to me. “A fifty, a twenty, a ten and three ones. I wish it was four twenties. He’d be less apt to miss one.” She pulled the twenty out and stuffed it into her pocket. “We’ll just have to hope he’s too drunk to remember.”

‘How are we going to put the billfold back?’ I was wondering. The sound of the toilet flushing stopped me cold in thought and deed.

“Go to bed and don’t worry!” Momma said frantically.

She helped me up from the floor and urged me toward the bedroom. This was one amongst many a night I didn’t sleep a wink. I heard Momma and Daddy go to bed but kept running scenarios of blood and mayhem through my brain. ‘What would happen to Momma when Daddy noticed his billfold was missing?’

~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~
~chapter four~
~music~
~I’m Bound to Ride Again~

Tags

1958, 1959, Alcoholism, Art, Colorado, Denver, Discombobulated, Family, Free, Memoirs, Missouri, Mommas Rain, Money, Mothers, Novelist, Parenting, Philosophy, Photography, Poetry, Poverty, Religion, Saint Louis, Sons, Sucker Punch, 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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