Six-year-old Jackie crossed his skinny arms and shivered. He thought about his older brother and four younger siblings, muttered to himself, “Momma and Daddy hate me. We ain’t even got a Christmas tree like everybody else.” He closed his eyes tight and bit down on his tongue until it bled when he heard his mother’s voice.
“Jackie, where are you? What is that smell? You kids help me find your brother.”
Jackie scrunched down behind the couch that made into a bed, the place where he and his siblings all slept together, except for the baby who slept in a dresser drawer in Momma and Daddy’s bedroom. Frail and thin, he tried to make himself even smaller so as not to be found. Warm blood on his lips from his cut tongue, he maintained a fetal curl as a hand groped blindly behind the couch. It brushed the skin of his back.
It was Momma's hand. Eyes closed tight, he knew it was Momma's hand. “There you are, you little bastard! You shit yourself then hid behind the couch.”
Daddy's boots. Jackie smelled Daddy and heard his boots. “I told you what was gonna happen the next time,” Daddy warned, his fingers unbuckling the belt around his waist.
“I wu-wu-wunning away,” Jackie cried.
“You wunning away,” Daddy mimicked in a whining voice. “I’m sick of you and your baby talk and your filth. Your little sisters talk better than you do. They know the difference between w’s and r’s.”
He smacked Jackie on top of the head with the flat palm of his hand. “Take ‘im in the bathroom and clean ‘im up,” Daddy ordered Momma. “I don’t wanna get shit on my belt.”
Momma grabbed Jackie by an arm and dragged him to the bathroom. “You’re always causing trouble,” she accused. “There’s no peace in the house for anyone because of you.”
She lifted the toilet seat, tore off his ragged trousers and underwear, then plunked his bottom into the cold water, lifted him clear, then down again several times, rinsing him off and wringing him out like a dirty rag. “Oh, oh, oh,” Jackie cried when the cold water splashed his skin. “Momma, no, no, Daddy, no.”
She slapped Jackie’s face. “You stop your whining! You’ve got this coming to you. You know better than to shit yourself!” Then she said the magic words, the words Jackie longed to hear. “If you don’t straighten up, we’ll send you away to live with your uncle. What that man sees in you I don’t know, but I’ve about had it with you.” She picked a dirty towel up from the floor and pushed it into his hands. “Get your ass out of the toilet and dry yourself off.”
Daddy smelled like the stuff in the bottle he was always drinking out of, only like sick or something. “Grab your ankles, boy. I’ll stop at ten if you don’t fall down or cry like a little girl.”
Jackie stood his ground, wobbled a bit at first and stumble-stepped under the tenth lash but did not fall down. His bloody tongue helped him to remember to keep his mouth shut. He was denied his government commodities dinner of hard biscuits and watered down spam gravy and spent the night with his face wedged tightly into a corner of the room to atone for his sins. His bare, belt-striped butt was cold and he was afraid to shiver, wished he could will himself to stop breathing.
The next morning he and his older brother dressed in their ragged clothes and left for school. “Don’t get into trouble,” their mother warned. “We don’t need another night like last night in this house. None of us like it, Jackie.”
Jackie snickered to himself as his brother picked through the trash. They never talked about it but Jackie knew what he was doing. His brother would retrieve a paper bag and some crinkly plastic so he could make noise in the lunchroom and pretend he had a lunch to eat like all the other kids.
Jackie knew a better way. He usually sneaked back into the building during recess or pretend he had to use the bathroom. Then he’d go to where the lunches were kept and tear the bags to pieces. He gobbled down what he could of the things he liked and filled his pockets for later. The rest he smeared on the wall and into the seats of the spoiled brats who had lunches and Christmas trees.
Someday he’d get caught and thrown in jail or Daddy would finally kill him or send him away to his beloved uncle. He was finding out it was all out there. The keepers had it. All he had to do was take it.
~knows what to expect of morning~
~that the pain is deeper~
~yet easier to abide~
~learns a sense of owning~
~having starved in the prayer~
~desert of hope~
~given up on the god of blame~
~add a beating or two~
~he learns to hold his water~
~including & especially tears~
~that fresh blush on his face~
~fierce brand of authority~
~stand the wall~
~take your punishment~
~someday ain’t no room to hold you~
~hell, hunger is the easy part~
©2015 graphic artwork music & words
conceived by & property of
tom (WordWulf) sterner 2015©
~momma's rain~ Buy Kindle version here - $2.99 ~paperback @ amazon $10.94~