No Response

“I am not a murderer. I rescued two children from the nightmare of child abuse.” I look at myself in the mirror and try again. “It was an accident.” I still don’t quite believe it. I try a different tack. “You are not a murderer.” Something deep inside me sighs. “You were just a kid. You didn’t mean to kill anyone.” No response.

It has haunted me for nearly forty years, this secret. I wasn’t even aware of how it dogged my every effort until last month. It popped out in my session with Dr. Hughes. We were talking about – I was talking about – the string of abusive alcoholic boyfriends my mother had entertained during my youth. “At least none of them ever touched my sister. Except for Don, but I put a quick end to that,” I’d blurted out. She asked what I meant. I told her.

I was seven at the time. Donald had already been beating me on a daily basis for about two years. I learned to get him to do it before he got too drunk, because then he’d only swat me with a yardstick until he broke it. When he’d really tied one on, he would smack my bare bottom with his calloused motorcycle mechanic hand until he broke a blood vessel in his palm.

Today, I know that he was sick, probably an abused child himself. Back then, I just did what I could to not cry lest I hear, “Shut up you little mama’s boy. You want a reason to cry? I’ll give you a real reason to cry.” And so it went until …

On a Saturday in late August, must have been 1970, Mom had taken me shopping for new clothes, shoes, and supplies for school. When we left, Theresa, my sister, was in the living room watching cartoons; Don was working on a Triumph in the backyard.

When we got back, Don was in the living room watching motocross and said that Teri was upstairs in her room playing with her dolls. I noticed the dozen or so empty Bud cans on the table next to him. I heard him grumbling something about us kids being spoiled rotten before I managed to disappear upstairs, too.

On my way to my room, I passed my sister’s open door. I heard muffled sobs and peeked inside. There she was with a big pink hand print on her left cheek, arms around her knees, rocking on the floor between the end of her bed and her dollhouse. I came in. She hid her face.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, “What happened?” She began to cry openly as I comforted her. “It’s okay. You can tell me.”

She stopped abruptly and looked me straight in the eye. “He touched me … down there,” she said as she looked between her legs. Without looking up she added, “I told him to stop and he hit me.”

That was it! I’m not sure if it was Donald, might’ve been Dad, but regardless. I’d hit Teri once and had the tar beat out of me. The message had stuck. Boys never hit girls. “I’ll go tell Mom,” I said.

“NO!” She looked at me pleading, terror filling her eyes. “You can’t! He told me that if I ever told anyone he’d ...” She broke into tears again.

“It’s okay. I’ll fix it.” In a flash I saw what I had to do.

I went downstairs and walked straight past Donald into the kitchen where my mother was starting to make dinner. “Mom,” I said, “Don touched Teri ‘down there’,” and pointed below my waist, “and then he hit her.”

She put down her tumbler full of scotch and looked at me for a moment. Then she picked up the glass, drank it all at once, filled it again and said, “You filthy little lying bastard. I spend all afternoon shopping with you and you … you … Get downstairs and wait for Don.” I knew she wouldn’t believe me. I ran down into the basement.

I wouldn’t have much time. I got my fishing pole from the closet and played out the clear monofilament. A quick slipknot and I made a loop about the size of a stair. I laid the snare and had just lifted the line over the railing as I heard him coming. I spotted my aluminum baseball bat at the end of the lime-green family-room hidabed, a few steps from the foot of the stairwell. Footfall up above, I stopped breathing and watched. I waited. He was coming down slowly, drunk. I checked my reel. It was locked. Another footfall, he was two steps away. My heart beat in my throat. What if it didn’t work? I hadn’t thought about that. Footfall, one more step. It had to work. I watched. In slow motion he stepped into the trap. I waited. Left foot in the loop, his right foot lifted and passed the other going down. NOW! I pulled my rod with all my might and weight.

Pulling and looking away, I heard him mutter some unintelligible profanity and begin tumbling down the stairs. I dropped the fishing pole, grabbed the bat and swung for the moon. CRACK! My upswing caught him on the side of his head. He landed with a thud. “Boys NEVER hit girls,” I said, but he didn’t respond. I tossed the bat under the sofa, deftly loosed the noose from around his ankle and stowed the rod. I ran upstairs.

“MOM!” I shouted on my way up. “Don fell down the stairs. I think he’s hurt really bad.”

Don was in a coma for about a week before he passed. We visited him the day he died and, while Mom was flirting with the attending physician, I got a chance to whisper one last thing to Don. “I’ll forgive you if you forgive me,” I’d said.

His death was ruled an accident because his blood alcohol level had been so high. It seemed obvious, so there was no inquiry.

In the end, I had set free his tortured soul, protected my sister, and … Okay, so I only saved two children, including myself … but still. I’m not a murderer … right?
Jerielle Jerielle
46-50, T
2 Responses Nov 26, 2012

By the way ... though based on events of my life, this is fiction ... names changed and all ... He did plumb my *** with his thumb many times, but he NEVER hit my sister ... I was too clever and made sure the attention was drawn down on me first ...

Not In My Eyes