The last three Wednesdays I’ve posted stories that truly were a “downer.” They weren’t easy for me to write, nor, I suspect, were they easy for you to read. My posting for today and for next Wednesday will also be sad, but I want to include in this on-line memoir the stories that reveal why I never married and why I lived in fear for much of my life.
If this five-part segment disturbs you, please ignore this and next week’s posting and return on February 27 when I’ll begin to post two or three stories that, I hope, will have you chuckling.
Let us begin: When drinking hard liquor, Dad became an angry and sometimes violent drunk. I was seven and my little brother four, when Dad tried to kill our mother.
As a result, until I was eighteen and left home, I hid all the sharp kitchen knives, the hammer, and the axe each time my father got drunk. At least two, if not three, times a week, he’d stop after work at the Do Drop Inn in Sugar Creek or Sam’s Bar in Independence and drink until he became a danger on the road to others and to himself.
A bar, similar to Sam’s Bar, in Louisiana. (From Wikipedia)
Mostly he drank beer, but every so often—maybe once a year—he’d drink the hard stuff. Then scary things could happen. After the terrifying scene in May 1943—when he tried to kill Mom—I remember nothing violent happening until the summer of 1947.
Well, once during that time he almost burned the house down after falling asleep and dropping a lit cigarette on the couch. Sometime during the night, smoke woke Mom. She managed to lug Dad off the couch while my brother and I rushed outside to pump water to throw on the smoldering cushions.
Mostly, though, on those nights he came home drunk, disturbing sounds filled the house: of loud arguments between a drunken father and a weary and disillusioned mother, of Dad snoring after he collapsed on his bed in a stupor, of Mom slapping down one solitaire card onto another on her playing board.
However, one summer evening in 1947, when I was eleven and my brother eight, Dad became violent again. He and Mom had an angry shouting match in the front room where my brother and I huddled on the couch. Suddenly Dad reached forward, grabbed hold of the neckline of Mom’s dress, and ripped it open. He proceeded to strip her bare. While he tore all the clothes off of her, Mother stood still. When I think of the look on her face, the words that come to me today are defiant. Imperious. Regal.
After stripping Mom, Dad shoved her into their bedroom. No door, just a curtain, separated the room from the hall. I heard someone plop on the bed and Dad’s slurred words as he continued shouting names at Mom.
Terrifying new sounds issued from that bedroom. My brother cried; I held him close, crooning Cole Porter songs I’d learned from Mom who sang her way through the day. I trembled because Dad was hurting Mom and I didn’t know how to help. I just sang louder so my brother wouldn’t hear. At the time, I didn’t know the word rape, nor did I know what it was.
At some point, all I could hear was my brother’s sobs and the words coming from my mouth. Then I heard snoring. Then Mom emerged from her bedroom, wearing a housecoat. She told us she was going to wash up and not to come into the kitchen. I heard her heating water and then pouring it into the basin. Finally I heard the slap of a wet washcloth. All this puzzled me because normally we washed in the morning.
Afterward, she came into the living room and settled in her easy chair to play a game of solitaire. Nothing was said. No explanation. Life went on.
Postscript: Today the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Content published its list of those “pitches” that propelled authors into the second round of the competition. My name wasn’t on the list. I feel a little down because of this but there’s always tomorrow! Peace.