saturday evening

By , clarks summit, PA
It was like a disease; eating Mama from the inside out. I was standing faithfully by her side with the rich mahogany stand towering over me. Her once rosy cheeks pale and shining dark hair disheveled. A new sadness that she never showed was surfacing in her cerulean eyes. Her trembling lips parted to speak.
“Please,” she just barely choked out, “I’m scared. I need this” A cracked voice floated down to me with her reply.
“Sorry, we have no evidence of abuse.”
She took me by the hand and led me back to the beat up Toyota that could just barely pass for car. I stayed quiet, trying to imagine what kind of creature was sitting behind that stand denying my mother the protection she so deserved. A picture from the stories Daddy used to read me at Halloween popped into my head. A crooked old witch with a twisted nose and warped lips, cackling to herself, came into my mind.
I shook my head, trying to rid the picture from my brain. Instead of the witch leaving, it morphed into Daddy. Not the one who used to lay in bed with me and read me stories, the familiar smell of father twisting around me. Not the one who came home early everyday, each day with a different pen to give to Cory and me for our collections. You know, the colorful pens that medicine companies gave out; trying to promote sales with bright script and little green cartoons. No, that Daddy was long gone. No more Daddy, just Dad. Too many smokes. Too many pills. Way too much booze. Sucked dry of all his love for us. Living in his own substance nourished world. A world that made him king, the Ice King, not worrying about the rest of his once loved family. Not caring that he fueled his narcotic anger towards Mommy.
She didn’t talk to me the whole ride back home. Her knuckles were white, gripping the wheel, and her eyes fixed on the road ahead. I was too scared to talk so I kept my mouth closed and stared out the window. She thought I was too young to understand what was going on. I was too young, too young for what I have seen. It’s made me mature faster than I should have. A ten year old, living a life no person, child or adult, should ever have to see.
Mama was doing the dishes and I was sitting at our fractured granite kitchen counter, helping Cory with his math homework. Addition and subtraction. My mind wandered back to when I was six, when everything was so easy. So blissfully ignorant. Daddy was especially late tonight, the stove was blinking 10:02. There was a screech outside and Mommy dropped the dishes in the sink. She turned around and told me to take Cory to our shared bedroom. Now. I took Cory’s little hand and he followed, happy to get away from the math homework he was whining about.
We went into our room. It hasn’t been redecorated since Cory was born. Cartoon lions and tigers and elephants and giraffes were smiling down at us from their cheerful yellow and green jungle. I wished I could go into the wall and live in their world. Where everything was always bright and sunny and happy. They didn’t have to live in fear.
I took out Cory’s Legos for him to play with. The front door slammed, rattling the frame of our tiny house. I crept to the top of the stairs, where the smell of Dad, not Daddy, was already permeating the air. The recognizable stench of amber liquid and smoke filled my nostrils. His eyes were red rimmed with anger, darting back and forth searching for his prey. Mama had escaped into their bedroom, where she would be pretending to sleep.
Daddy knew just where to find her; by now it was standard procedure. He started towards the room, and I was drawn to follow. My need to protect Mommy was overwhelming my fear. This could not keep happening, if I was big enough to see this happen, I was big enough to stop it. I crept down the stairs, skipping the fourth and the seventh step, for they creaked. I got to the bottom and watched as Daddy took a detour through the liquor cabinet in the kitchen. He grabbed his familiar bottle of Jim Beam and took a few swigs, before calmly placing the bottle on the table. I waited as he disappeared into the room. He slammed the wooden door behind him, ruining my chances of helping. I lost my power to help. I cringed, waiting for the usual sounds of fists raining down on skin, the stoic whimpers from Mama, so Cory and I wouldn’t hear. After four minutes it was still quiet. Eerily hushed. My stomach dropped and my vision was blurred by streaks of red and purple. I heard the rusty doorknob squeaking as it turned and I dove behind the couch, cutting my elbow on a loose wire sticking out from the bottom. Daddy emerged, a sick and twisted grin cutting through his rough stubble. He looked satisfied.
I held my breath and clutched my throbbing arm as he took his bottle from the counter, and rummaged through a drawer below it. He left the drawer open and vanished out the front door. I ran into Mommy’s room. We had to get out of this place, just get in the car and drive forever. As soon as I stepped through the door I saw her body crumpled on the bed, head encased in a plastic bag. Her skin was just so lightly tinted blue. My legs turned to jello, my skin ice. I hit the ground and couldn’t stop the vomit. Curled in a ball, heaving in shock, my nose perked at the smell of smoke. Not the usual smell of cigarette smoke I smell on Daddy, but fire smoke. I willed my legs to harden so I could stand and tried to run. As soon as I stepped into the living room I was hit by a choking black cloud of smoke. Within seconds, the fire alarm was screaming. Our large bay windows in the living room shattered and flames jumped through. The room was grey and orange. Hot and thick. My thoughts went instantly to Cory. I made my way through the cloud of bitter smoke and tripped over something at the bottom of the stairs. I looked down and saw Cory crumpled at my feet. I was able to grab him by the hand and drag him through the kitchen to the back door. I had no choice but to drag his little body down the deck stairs, leaving it at the bottom to run to the neighbors.
The rest was so surreal, blocked out by a wall in my memory. Sequestered into a corner of my mind that may never be found. I’m forced to spend my days now at my aunt’s house. My aunt with the whacked obsession for dogs. I’ll never have the feel of lavender and laundry detergent scented arms wrapping around me. Never see the sparkle of Mama’s ocean colored eyes as she laughs at one of Cory’s silly knock-knock jokes. It was all taken away by a person who I had once trusted. A messed-up, self-centered piece of the universe who is now tucked behind bars. We were stripped of security, childhood, and everything we owned. Every now and then my mind wanders back to the spotted grim carpet of the court house. The creamy chocolate wood of the wall between me and the person who denied my mother protection. The policeman says that nothing could have been done, my father just wasn’t right in the head. But how can I trust him? He’s a part of the legal system. Just like the judge that I now know denied Mama’s request for protection. She refused to okay the restraining order. The lethal system. The unfair system that okayed Mommy’s death. If that cold creature behind the stand, the witch from my story books, had a heart, my life would not be shattered. Cory would not spend his nights crying and wailing for Mommy’s protection. I wouldn’t spend my days, locked in a small dark room with a therapist who thought he could understand my problems. I wouldn’t have twisted thoughts of my own brewing inside my head.





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