Tears stream down my face after the beating. It is not just my body that is bruised and sore but I am careful to cry silently as I continue to wash the dishes. A clean dish makes a tinkling noise as it goes into the drainer and that that brings Daddy charging back into the kitchen. “You’d better not break your Mother’s dishes or I’ll give you some more!” He sneers and stands for what seems like forever watching me. Finally the telephone rings. It is my Mother calling, I can tell by the lies he tells her.
Mom is a clerk at a drug-store. Normally she gets me up and ready for school before she sets off and by the time I am home Daddy is gone to work. But in summer, in the long vacation, there is nowhere to hide. I cannot dally away from home, cannot go to a friends house without his permission. Permission he will not give unless there is something he wants to do. The mornings seem like forever. And forever is a long time to be frightened. I stay quiet and hope he will forget I am there, and I count. If I am counting he will not see me.
I hate summertime and hate that she works. She’s mostly on my side and somewhere deep inside I know that she loves me, though at times I wonder. Doesn’t she know how he treats me? Can’t she see what is going on? Sometimes I think she is afraid of him too and then I think I have to take the abuse to protect her. While I am his punching-bag, she is safe . Lunchtime would save me though. He goes to work at the machine shop. I’m not sure what he does and I don’t care. I just want him to go. Why is he so nice to the whole world except his family? I often wonder why God doesn’t just kill him? I’m sure that my brothers think that too.
Daddy is so mean to them. Michael is seventeen, Terry and Jerry sixteen years old. Daddy forces Michael & Terry to sell ice cream and takes all of the money off them. Jerry is in a state school far away from home. Sometimes, I feel as though Michael is the only one that loves me. He is the funniest brother, cute, sweet and takes me with him driving around the lake in his SS 396 when he’s not into trouble with Daddy.
He drives an ice cream truck from sun up to sun down, seven days a week in the summer. My eldest brother has light blonde hair that makes me think of cotton candy and the bluest eyes. I want to marry somebody like him one day, somebody who is kind and will make me laugh and will laugh and put things right when I mess up. And I want to go and live in Europe or Africa, somewhere so far away and strange. Daddy will never find me there and nobody will know him to tell where I am. I know that every man is not like Daddy. I know there are people who are gentle and kind. And I know the stuff that happens in our house is not right, I think about it almost all the time. The only thing that stops me thinking about it is counting.
Terry pushes a cart filled with ice cream and secretly eats three or four a day. None of us tell Daddy anything that would get each other in trouble. None of us ever mention it to each other either. We know, there is no need to talk, and anyway talking about bad things is bound to make them happen. It is kind of a conspiracy between us all.
Terry and Jerry take after Mother with their olive complexion, dark hair and huge brown eyes that always seem sad. Jerry escapes Daddy’s perversions. He is the lucky one, a car hit him when he was six years old and is severely brain damaged.
With all the dishes washed , dried and put away, I sneak out of the kitchen. As quiet as a falling snowflake and just as cold. My panties and pajama bottoms are still wet with pee. My butt and private parts are burning. I don’t want to take a bath because the noise of the running water might cause Daddy to beat me again, or worse.
Slowly I tiptoe down the hall passing my parents bedroom. I know that he’s in there, even though the door is closed. I hear his hacking cough. When he coughs like that it reminds me of the neighbor’s old truck. Mr McCarthy was always fixing his truck but never quite managed to get it fixed. It was funny when he would spend all day on his back, getting covered in oil and cursing when he skinned his knuckles and then when he would come out and turn the engine over it would sputter and spatter a few times – blahat – blahat blahat blahatblahatblahat – blerrrt. With a final cough the engine died. Finally Mr McCarthy gave up trying to fix the engine and had a big truck come and tow it away. The old truck died forever. Everything dies forever sometime . . . doesn’t it?
Finally, I make it to my bedroom, closing the door very gently, very carefully. There is a certain way to turn the knob a so that it makes less noise. I quickly change my clothes, putting on clean panties, shorts and a summer top that makes me feel better when I wear it. Looking into the mirror, I am shocked at what I see. Though it’s not unusual to see the bruises and welts, old and new. My hair is in knots and looks like a birds nest. My eyes are red with dark circles under them. I wonder if Mother will let me use her make-up again. Brushing my hair hurts my head and once again the tears fall like rain. I hate Daddy! He’s a mean bastard, I’ve heard my brother Michael say it before and I know that he’s right. At last, I am dressed. I wonder if Daddy will let me sit on the front porch. God, I don’t want to ask him.
Instead he hurries into my room. I freeze in place. “I’ve got to go to work early, so you be good” he said to me. Free for a whole day! My mind is racing; I could go down to Woodland Springs to swim. Instead, I decide to go outside and just sit and stare skyward. Looking at the clouds is one of my favourite things. Sometimes I see faces, jolly ones, mean ones but I don’t mind the mean ones, they are in the sky. Sometimes they are sail-boats racing through a blue ocean, sometimes dolphins or whales. Always they are magic. I imagine that one day a cloud will swoop down and swallow me up.