The door to our attached bedroom would open, we never wanted it to, but it would. Hattie came in upset, the crying streaked her make up, he grabbed at her, and yelled, “Where the fuck do you think youre going?”
Catherine cried immediately. I’d love to tell you that I never cried but that would be inaccurate. It was tough to watch my little sister crying and not follow suit. It was more frustration than fear.
“Pieces of shit.”
“Just stop already.”
He dragged her into the living room to chastise her for her past, her ex-husband, for the bad flop, our existence, for overcooking the steak and all of his failures. It was all Hattie’s fault. Maybe I had something in common with her current husband after all. I blamed her for a few things. My life was not the result of Hattie or him but it was hard to let go of the grudges I held against them. Those adults, did I dare say guardians, what did they guard me from, nothing. They shaped my environment and one shared genetic coding but that wasn’t everything. I strived to be a better person in spite of all those people who refuse to take accountability for their actions. If anything I was grateful, I had seen the ways in which not to treat the woman you love. It had instilled tenets to guide me on how one should behave. I learned to never raise my hand to a woman.
He punched my mother. It made a sound unlike those you hear in the movies. I’d like to tell you that it never happened before but I’d be a liar, and though I am one. He hit her with his disgusting hands. Unwashed hands I was forced to shake. Hands with bad habits. I cringed when he dug them into ground meat or Hattie. He pushed onto a table where he kept his paperwork, receipts flew around. He swung and swung again. Punch. Punch. Punch. Catherine stood behind me in the doorway, watching and learning. Was that love? Hattie shrieked, a sound that I hated more than any other sound in the world. I heard it on nights like this or the ones where she left the house on a gurney.
“Stop. you’re hurting her.”
“I’m not hurting her. I love your mother. I’d never hurt her.”
I wanted him to hit me so badly. One chubby finger and I thought someone would storm through the door and save us. Please, punch me. If he hurt me my father would come back like Clint Eastwood with the vengeance. All the people we swore not to tell would rescue us if he touched me. Where was everyone? No one ever came. No one ever knew to help. I wanted to protect Catherine and Hattie but I didn’t. Helplessness was the expression I wore. Blood surged in my tight discolored knuckles. I gritted my teeth.
He shoved my mother and she fell through the glass coffee table, shattering it. He had a look of disbelief. I don’t think he intended for that to happen, not that I was defending him, I’d never do that.
“You broke the fucking table,” he said, standing over her.
“Enough,” she said, sobbing while inspecting the cuts on her arms. She got up carefully, and he hit her again, and she fell against an end table, tipping a lamp over and shattering that as well.
Why didn’t I go and get help? Our family lived nearby. I could have gone and got my uncle. I didn’t care about what I saw or how I felt, my only concern or regret was that I did nothing to shield Catherine. My guilt for my sister decimates me. We were almost rescued that night, almost.
They knocked on the door. Two police officers were at the front door of the house. Peculiar to hear anyone at the front door since we only ever used the door. I don’t remember anyone answering it but they were inside the house. They said a neighbor had reported a disturbance. I wondered who, so I could thank them. Hattie’s current husband sat at the dining room table and shuffled his paperwork he had picked up from off the floor.
Hattie tried to tidy up the living room while one cop asked her questions. He never took his eyes off of his partner who was in the next room over talking to Hattie’s current husband. The cop asked a lot of questions that Hattie didn’t want to answer.
“Miss, what is your name?”
“What happened here tonight?”
“Do you need medical assistance?”
“Are these your children or are they his?”
“You need to press charges…”
“I know you don’t want to, but you need to.”
“Look at what this is doing to your kids.”
“How many times has he hit you?”
“Ma’am, they could take you kids away.”
There was a knock at the side door. The door we used. Two more patrol cars had arrived to join the fiasco.
“Sir, we need you to step outside,” the policeman said.
I went out the front door, in my pajamas, with my red hooded sweatshirt over them, the cowl covering my head, bare footed, useless and pathetic, and stood in the driveway to watch. Hattie’s current husband went to the door but wouldn’t step through it.
“Sir, please step outside.”
“For what? This is my house.”
“No,” he looked back into the house at Hattie. “You called the cops you fucking rat bitch.”
“You’re frightening the children. They look like they’ve been crying for days. Your neighbors reported not your wife, sir.”
He tried to shut the door on the police officer and they reacted. They fought with him, while reciting his Miranda rights, wrestling against the side of the house. One cop smashed Hattie’s current husband’s face against the brick siding of the house. I was ear to ear, overcome with joy and excitement. The bastard sun rose, while all of our neighbors were outside watching the spectacle of him getting roughed up and arrested. My happiness was short-lived.
I realized how alone I really was. Hattie was crying but for a different reason, it was worry and sympathy for him. Dare I say, love. Catherine emulated her. At this time in our lives I was not very kind to my mother, and after that night I would rarely show any warmth. I had lost my innocence long before, but now my compassion for my mother was gone too. She wasn’t leaving him.
He went through the system, Central Bookings, got arraigned and was back in his house in under thirty hours. The fighting never subsided, but he didn’t use his hands so much anymore. My feelings toward them were decided. I wanted to write on the front of the house. You know I love quotes, though Nietzsche would not be impressed.
W. Flood is dead.
W. Flood remains dead.
And you have killed him.