I came into the world bloody while battles raged around me. My “father” was a drunk, and my mother was an inconsiderate bitch who suckled at the tit of addiction and co-dependency. It sucks when your first glimpse of the world, and of the ones who brought you into it, is through one eye because the other is blackened…and swollen shut.
Hank and Ellen Belcher, those are the sterling examples from my childhood. It’s amazing how much children trust and believe in their parent’s decisions, and teaching. I think that’s because we’ve not yet learned how cruel the world is. If we could hear all the vitriol around us in the womb, and understand it, at least we’d have a head start on how to deal with this shitty little ball of blue we all call home.
I woke up because of another argument between our parents. Not the normal arguing though, but the “where’s my money, bitch” type of argument. We knew this one was more serious than the usual ones because we could hear them over the sound of Marty Robbins singing Devil Woman, at decibels that would shatter your eardrums, even if they were steel drums. The great thing about cabinet stereos is the speakers hold up well while at ear-splitting volumes.
There were five of us kids. Each of us was either a half, or a step something to the others. I don’t really get that whole thing. For me, they were my brothers and sister…period. Bobby, me, and Anna were Belchers, otherwise known as Hank’s kids. Then came Randy and Andrew. They were named Timmons; they were Ellen’s kids. Me, I was the oddball. I was that fat kid in a family of skinny people. That alone told me something was something different about me. What that something was, I didn’t know yet. Each of us looked so different from one another that we were never compared to each other as we moved up through our schools, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I woke up frightened for some reason. I looked down from my bunk bed and saw my oldest brother, Bobby. A small crease of light from the hallway lit his face as he peeked through the door he was holding slightly ajar. Feeling my bed move I looked down at the bottom bunk and saw my brother Randy slowly crawling out of bed, trying to be as quiet as possible on the creaky wooden floor. I looked over at the other top bunk where Andrew slept. Andrew was almost two years older than I was, but he was either still sleeping or pretending to be, as we all did, usually. I briefly wondered if Anna, who had her own room, was awake too. She probably was but since she was only four I was pretty sure she’d stay in her bed. I briefly wondered about how scared I’d be if I was alone, in the dark, and heard the loud music and screaming that was going on. The fact that my brothers were in the same room as me precluded any real, deep thought on the matter.
I watched as Randy started walking towards the door up on the balls of his feet and holding his arms extended out in front him. Both his hands were dangling down like one of those Saturday morning cartoons we always watched: after doing all of our chores, of course. I wanted to laugh at him but the argument in the kitchen was getting worse, so I couldn’t. Bobby looked at me as I slid out from under the covers and grabbed hold of the ladder to climb down.
“Get back in bed, Richard!
Bobby was kind of a dick, but he was still my brother and I was supposed to listen to him. At least that’s what he was always telling me, but since he wasn’t my dad, I ignored him. I defiantly climbed down the rickety three-step ladder to the floor, knowing he wouldn’t do anything. If he hit me, I’d just have to yell out then we’d all be dealing with an angry Hank. Nobody wanted that!
“I want to see what’s going on!” I told him.
“No you don’t.”
“If he can, so can I!” I whispered as I pointed at Randy.
I just finished saying that when we all heard my mother scream in fear along with the sound of a table chair hitting, and skidding, across the kitchen’s linoleum floor. We felt the floor vibrate for a second, too.
Bobby was fifteen at the time, and the bravest kid I knew. He opened the door and began creeping down the hall towards the kitchen. Randy, who was almost fourteen, looked at me and I saw that he was just as scared as I was. He stood there doing nothing until I shoved him towards the door. I followed Randy knowing that he’d more than likely suffer Hank’s wrath before me, if we were caught. I stayed as close to Randy as I could.
I was positive that I wanted to see what was going on, but I was also positive that I didn’t want Hank to know I’d been watching. I didn’t know why really, but I did. That was when my instincts first began warning me of things that were dangerous. It was also the first time I ignored them.
The three of us reached the end of the hallway and saw that the door to our parent’s bedroom was open. We each took a turn peering into the darkness of that room and saw that both the blankets, and sheets, were scattered over the bedroom carpet. Messes were not unusual in our house, but not when Hank was home. Former drill instructors didn’t like messes. Mostly it was a pigsty while he was out on the road but we would all have to pitch in and clean it up before he got home, everyone that is except my mother. She was more like that conductor the rabbit portrayed in the cartoons. All these thoughts rushed through my mind as we crept down the hallway. I think my mind was trying to protect me by distracting me from the chaos that was occuring in the other rooms. In my apprehension, I must have squeezed a bit on Randy’s arm. He quickly turned around and put his fingers to his lips, shushing me.
Bobby was the first one to the corner and peeked into the other room as he eased his head past it just enough to look. Suddenly, Bobby stood up and ran into the kitchen. Like all little brothers, we followed him as fast as we could, into the den that was adjacent to the kitchen dining table.
Randy and I froze as we neared the room that had once been a porch. We could finally see what was going on. Bobby, who was much faster than the two of us, was already lying on his back on the floor of the den. I looked at my mom and saw that her face was a deep purple.
I briefly wondered why when I saw it. Hank had thrown her onto the couch and had his hands near her throat with his knee on her chest, pinning her down on the couch. She was panicking and was tearing at something at her neck. I finally saw what it was; my father had wrapped the telephone cord around her neck. I watched as my mom clawed at the cord trying to loosen it enough to breath. I watched her fingernails tear her skin and leave little flowing trails of blood that she quickly smeared in her panic while trying to to loosen the cord. She was trying to insert her fingers between the cord and her neck, trying to breath.
I don’t know why I did this but I rushed past both Bobby and Randy and jumped up onto my father’s back. I wrapped my little six-year old arms around his neck and tried to pull him off my mom. He reached over his shoulder with one hand and grabbed me by my Mickey Mouse pajamas. He yanked me off his back and tossed me across the room, onto the recliner. I heard an explosion of air from the vinyl cushion as I landed. I crawled back out of the chair, ready to leap again but by the time I stood up, Hank was slipping on his dark blue work jacket and heading out the door without a word.
As my mother began crying, so did each of us. Welcome to my world.