Virginia, cont.


Virginia- Cont.

            I am a wild child, roaming the hills and woods around our little town of Nokesville. I spend most of my time outside because I am told to go and get some fresh air by my adoptive mom. If I hang around the house, I have to do more chores. As it is, I have a lot of chores. I do my own laundry and hang it on the clothesline, even when it is below freezing outside. I have to vacuum the entire house, a three story house, and dust everything. I do all the weeding and cutting of the yard. I love cutting the lawn though because we have a riding lawnmower and I can go as fast or slow as I want. I sit up there and sing at the top of my lungs as I barrel around the yard. My neighbors just love me. Our next door neighbor, Mrs. Zimmerman, came out one morning as I was finishing and putting the mower away. I was secretly in love with her and I was pretty sure that she was really Dinah Shore, the talk show host. She looked just like her and she always smelled so good and was always so nice to me. I hated her kids, but I loved her. She loved to work outside in her garden and she would talk to me sometimes as she cut and trimmed her rose bushes.

“Wow, you have quite a pair of lungs on you, don’t you”, she smiled at me.

I remember blushing so deeply as she said that. “Sorry about that, I managed to croak out. I’ll try not to be so loud next time”.

She looked at me and seemed to understand how embarrassed I was and she laughed and said that she didn’t mind. “I sometimes wish that I could sing loudly like that. I can’t sing though and I don’t think anyone in my family would approve.” The sound of her laughter and the way she smiled at me made me happy and I remember walking away, wishing so badly that she was my mother.

We moved to Nokesville when I was eight years old. We live in a three story house and I have my own room that I got to paint purple. It’s my favorite color and I have a pair of purple polyester pants and vest that Mom made me. I hate the clothes she makes for me but at least I get to wear purple. A friend of my Mom’s has a pair of purple glasses and I want a pair of my own. I’m told no, though, and I don’t know why. Isn’t it bad enough that I have to wear homemade clothes and stupid glasses? At least the glasses would look good if they were purple and maybe I wouldn’t get beat up and teased so much.

We live on a cul-de-sac and we live in the first house on the left of Cowne Court. We have six neighbors in the neighborhood and three of them have kids that I play with sometimes. I am not sure ‘playing’ is quite the word to describe what we did. Really, I spent most of my time trying not to cry around them. I mean, I wore glasses and homemade clothes and my Dad seemed to freak out the neighbors and my mom didn’t really seem to talk to the neighbors much. I spent a lot of time alone, mostly, and I preferred that. I loved going outside just as the sun was waking and laying in our yard, watching the spiders and ticks coming out of their cocoons. I would lie for hours and watch the dew shining in the clear, morning light on the blades of grass. I could watch the cocoons opening, and the insects pouring out of what looked to be a wad of spit. I was fascinated to watch the baby spiders crawl out and take flight in the wind, spinning wildly on a strand of web as the wind would send them out over the yard. The damp smell of dark earth would fill my nose as I watched crickets, praying mantis, and ladybugs crawl on my arms and fingers. Most of the time, I had a dog or cat or both to keep me company. They would follow me as I made the rounds of our yard and neighborhood. They were my true companions and playmates. One of my neighbors, who really lived in another neighborhood but whose lawn ran into our neighborhood, was a police officer. He had a giant red Labrador, named Big Red, of course, who would run over to my house every morning. He and I would run all over the yard and we would play in the ditch that ran all the way around the neighborhood. He would let me straddle him as we ran, and I imagined that I was riding my big stallion, fighting the cowboys and dragons.

Our neighborhood was filled with kids of all ages. Our next door neighbors were the Zimmermans and they had three kids. Sarah was the oldest and she wanted nothing to do with the rest of us. Paula was next in line, my age, and was a bitch. Johnny was their younger brother, a year or two younger than I was. We got along for the most part because he didn’t pick on me like the others would.

Next to them lived an older couple who were raising their grandchild. She wasn’t allowed to play outside much because she was retarded. At least that was what we were all told by our parents. We would see her outside sometimes and if none of our parents were around, the other kids would shout at her and call her names until her grandmother would come out and shoo them all off.  I would always get mad at them and tell them to stop but then they would turn on me. Mostly, I would just run off into the woods or cow pastures that were near us.

Next to them lived the Berdines. Todd was the oldest and was two years older than me. He was the bully and a Dallas cowboys fan. Tyrone was the second oldest, same age as I was and he was the cute, sweet one. He liked the Pittsburg Steelers and everyone liked him.  They had two younger siblings but I didn’t really know much of them.

An older, married childless couple lived next to them. We hardly ever saw them, except when he would come out to mow and trim their yard. Looking back, I think she must have been a recluse. Then, we used to imagine that they were in the witness protection program or that they were criminals on the lamb.

Next to them lived the Scotts’ and they were the rich neighbors. They had the biggest house and yard and they always drove brand new cars. They had two daughters, Sandy and April. Sandy was a year older and April was a year younger than me. Sandy and I were friends, as long as no one else was around. Sometimes, she would invite me over to play in her room and I would spend hours with her and her sister, playing in their rooms. Sandy’s father was a builder and he built the house they lived in. He made Sandy a secret room for her in her room. It had a door that was near the bottom of the wall that you had to crawl through. It was fabulous! She had a black light with posters plastered all over the walls and ceiling. Her mom would make us snacks of cookies and cool aide that we would eat in there. We would play records and games and laugh about stupid things in our life. When they would go on vacations, they would have me come over to feed their animals and to play with them. I loved going over there when no one else was around, wondering thru the different parts of their house. I imagined what my room would look like and how it would be filled with stereos and speakers and records and have a closet full of store bought clothes. Being there alone also allowed me to go into their food cabinets and eat things I was never allowed to have at home. They always had bags and canisters filled with cookies, candy, and gum. They had Twinkies, Ho-Ho’s and ice cream and a real sugar bowl that sat on their counter.  I think they must have noticed how low their sugar supplies were once they came home, because they stopped asking me to watch their home after a few years.

Football was big in our neck of the woods and we played it every chance we got. Once school started, we were relegated to evenings or weekends. We would all be scrambling to finish our homework so that we could play for an hour before it got dark. The one and only football game I ever got to go to was a Redskins game. We watched them play at RFK stadium and I remember that it was so cold in the open air and the noise was deafening. We were so high up in the bleachers that it was hard to see what was going on and so we watched it on the big screens. It was so exciting to be surrounded by so many screaming Washington Redskins fans and to eat hotdogs and drink hot chocolate. I will never forget how happy I was that night.

Every day during the summer, all the kids in the neighborhood would come out to play football. Todd, the cowboys fan, would always play quarterback and he basically told everyone else what to do. I was brought up to be a Washington football fan and so I was his arch rival. He thought I was weird anyway and being a skins fan only furthered his disdain for me. I was always the last one to be picked and if we had enough players for two teams, I was always told to get lost. I didn’t care and I would stick around until one of the younger kids would quit so that I could take their place. I loved playing the game even though I stank at it. I was always the slowest and the clumsiest and they would always pile on top of me once I was tackled. I didn’t mind as long as I was allowed to play. I would pretend that Todd was Roger Staughbach,(the cowboys quarterback), and that I was a skins tackler. I would picture myself barreling thru his blockers, tossing them aside until I reached him, throwing him face first into the grass. I lived for those moments. It didn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I would tackle him or intercept one of his passes and I would dance like crazy every time I did.

For the first few years after we moved into the neighborhood, we would have block parties for the fourth of July. Everyone would be out, barbecuing and visiting each other. We kids would play tag and hide and seek, using everyone’s yards. We would climb the pine trees in the back of the Berdine’s yard, smearing sap over our clothes and skin. Our mother’s would have to take turpentine to our skin and hair later on, but we didn’t care. We would race between the houses, stopping only long enough to drink some cool aid and grab some snacks. The Zimmermans, Berdines, and Scotts always had the good snacks. Cookies, cool aid, and ice cream could always be found there. Nobody wanted to go to my house for snacks because my mom would make kool aid without any sugar and she offered things like apples and oranges. Very little sugar was to be found in our house and what little there was of it was locked in the pantry. I was allowed one teaspoon of sugar in the mornings to put on my cereal and grapefruit. Not the sort of snack shack we all craved for then!

Every year, on the fourth of July, my Granddaddy Cliff would drive down from his house near Maryland and he would drive up with the trunk of his car filled with fire works. Every sort of imaginable firework was in there and all us kids would gather around to watch him empty his trunk. He would pass out fire crackers, smoke worms, and caps to all of us as we ran around screaming. Everyone liked me then because he was my grandpa. Once it started getting dark, he would hand me the sparklers and I would pass them out to everyone. I always got the first and last ones. All the parents and relatives would gather in our yard, spreading out chairs and blankets for everyone as Granddaddy prepared the evening’s fire show. He was always telling us to stand back so that we wouldn’t get hurt, but, as he would step back from lighting the fireworks, he would walk to me and put his arms around me. I loved standing with his arms draped over my shoulders, brushing back my bangs as we stared at the bursting lights. It was the best place to be in the whole wide world and I knew I was safe with him.

Growing up in Nokesville was complicated. It was a very small town and so of course everyone knew everyone else’s business. When we would play outside, us kids would sneak up to the doors and windows of our parent’s houses and listen to their conversations. We knew who the drunks were, who beat their wives and kids, who had been arrested, and who went to Church, or not. One time, we were listening to Todd and Tyrone’s parents talking and they started talking about my family.

“I don’t know, Honey, Mrs. Berdine was saying. I just don’t trust that man. He makes me nervous and I don’t want the kids around him”.

“Well, what do you want me to do about it?  I’m at work all day so you have to be the one to make sure the kids don’t go over there”, said Mr. Berdine.

“At least tell the kids that you don’t want them over there playing with that girl. Tell them that if they want to play with Alicia, she has to come over to our yard. I know it’s not her fault that her Father is the way he is, but she’s like him too; strange. At least the boys will listen to you. If I tell them, they just ignore me.”

I didn’t wait around to hear anymore. My face burning, I pushed away from the other kids and started running. The kids were laughing, and the Berdines were yelling at us to get away from the window. I ran to the woods down the hill and I hid out until it started getting dark. I never mentioned it to my parents because I knew that it was all true and they would just get mad at me for spying. The kids never let me live it down.

 

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Poems for a Soulmate



The following poems were written years ago for my soul mate. We didn’t make it, but I will always carry her in my soul. These were for my Rennie and I hope that one day they help my son know just how much I always loved his Nanna.

Seaside Secrets

I traced her footsteps, curving around the bend,

waves danced in the hollows as they washed

back the sand.

Entering and exiting as my tongue had once done in

her hollows.

Salty and creamy was the froth of those waves

I watched.

Much as I remembered her.

My heart would pound as I wandered up her

trails and entered her being. The waves now

brought back to remembrance the same thunder.

Sand dunes covered with soft, willowy reeds

bring to mind her own soft mons-

Tawny hair elipsing her folds which

guarded many treasures…

and pleasures.

What lay beneath those dunes and would

the treasures be as great and wondrous as

those which I had found within her?

I traced her footsteps- slowly disappearing with

the tide. I looked towards the horizon as the sun

suddenly burst out of the clouds. Shimmering light

dazzled my eyes and the roar of the waves washed

over me. I ran towards the water’s edge and…

I entered her.

 

 

 

Heaven-bound

She walked in and ordered her gin,

strolled to the jukebox and played

something sad and slow.

I watched her lips move and I could

see her hips were swaying too.

I thought I might move on over

but only in my mind, you know.

Aw, what the hell- Hello there Honey.

Won’t waste names cuz no one remembers

in the cold, dark, early morning.

Let me buy you another, and then we’ll dance.

Ooh! How she could dance. Hips swaying

breast laying across mine. Heaven.

That’s what I’m going to call you.

Always wanted to go to Heaven. Never

knew it was so sweet. Fragrance like

honeydew and watermelon wine. Ahh!

Thank you Heaven. I hope I’ll see

you again real soon.

I sat down on my cold stool and drank my warm

beer as I watched someone else go

to Heaven.

 

Cravings

Fingertips that reach across time

Groping, grasping, reaching…

A stillness, a peace, a calm

Is what the soul craves.

She is the mellowness, the warmth, the peace.

I reach, but am burnt by the touch.

Diving, twisting, turning to break thru…

To what the soul craves.

 

Sssex

Smooth as silk

Slick as slime.

I slither, I sip.

Your sex

surrounds me.

Savory as sap

Slippery as silt

Your sex…

Surround me.

 

Cavorting

Dark

Dark and damp

Dark and damp and

Dismal.

White

White and warm

White and warm and

wonderful.

Why?

Why and where?

why and where and

Who?

Look

 look and listen

look and listen and

feel.

I am dark

I am white

I am why

Feel

Me

Dark and damp

White and warm and…

now.

 

Sleep Walk

She walks in my dreams

I am not sleeping.

She touches my face

I am not there.

She whirls in white

I cannot see.

She whispers of danger

I cannot hear.

My lady, my dream

 And I cannot sleep.

 

 

 

Destination

“You’re following me” I said.

“I go where you will” you replied.

“Where are we going?” I cried.

“Only where you take us” you smiled.

 

 

 

Knowing

Curly hair streaked with silver,

eyes the color of the blue England coast.

Her smile which lights up my heart,

I see her now, from so far away.

Whispered words

Gasping breath

Bonded bodies.

I feel her now, from so far away.

A breaking heart, crying out.

A soul, lost in forbidden desires.

Her longing calls to me and

I hear her now, from so far away.

Tangled tongues,

Slippery bodies,

Hot heat.

I taste her now, from so far away.

Cool streams, winding down mountains,

Sunshine, warming our grass and cone strewn bed.

Cries echoing with winged eagles call,

I know her now, from so far away.

Whispered words

Breaking hearts

Searching souls.

I need her now, from so far away.

 

The following poem was written for Rennie, but as a way to say what she wanted to say to her ex-husband. I don’t think she ever gave it to him, but I still remember how in awe she was that I could put into words everything she wanted to tell him.

Dear John

I married you in my youth, when marriage just seemed the

 thing to do. There had been passion once, between me

 and you. Till you went away. I was torn in two.

 But love still lingered and so I said I do.

 Marriage to you wasn’t like marriage at all. I did my

 thing and you yours. Friendship was our bond. Love lingered

 the outskirts but never waged war.

 I bore you two children and kept your house and waited

 on your friends. And you. And life seemed good.

 Then the darkness set in. Darkness I had fought all my

 life, finally won. I retreated, you followed. I gave you

 what you needed: to be needed. I struck at you and

 hated you and you loved me even more. Nightmares were

 my world and I wanted no more. I tried to die but

 you wouldn’t let me. You needed me and I let you. And

 when the shadow lifted, you took me in and let me be

 what you needed. And I went- gratefully. I needed

 you.

 Now, I don’t want to need you. I don’t need you and

 what you offer. I want my own life. I want to finally

 live for myself. And you can’t follow. You don’t feel

 needed and though you wish me health, you still need the

 darkness. For without that darkness, I live. And I

 live alone. There was a time I wanted to live with you

 but you wanted the life out of me. I suffocated

 and I almost gave into your need. I almost let

 you be needed. But I survived.

 And now, I’m leaving. I can’t go back to the

 darkness and you can’t stand my light. We both

 feel the pain of losing twenty-three years together.

 I, for staying that long and trying to give you what I didn’t

 have. You, for having wasted those years on someone who

 gave you what you what you wanted and now, takes it away.

 We were always best at being friends, the rest was just second best.

 We played up the façade of happiness because it made us happy.

 We needed it. Now, I’m ready for real happiness and it tears you

 In two. And I, in my own way, feel it too.

 I wish you well, my love. I wish for you what I could

 never give you: happiness. And I wish the same for myself.

 I will live and I will feel life. And never again will I

 be overshadowed by darkness. May we both find the light

 That will lift us above the pain. May you once again be

 needed, as I once convinced you that I needed you. May

 you finally need yourself, as I now need me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Winds of Love


Winds of Love

 

Forces of nature have ruled my life.

With each passing season I have learned.

From Fall thru each Winter, I have seen

loved ones pass on and with each Spring,

I have known wonder at another ones rebirth.

Thru-out all, I have felt the wind rush on.

Gentle breezes have brushed my soul as I

gave birth to my children.

Gale forces have hurried me on my way as

I struggled to hang on to love thru life’s

twists and turns.

I have been the hurricane and I have been

the gentle flow, caressing all those I touch.

I have raged at a God I do not know,

I have prayed to the Spirit I have known.

Thru-out it all, the wind has blown on.

Now, as the last Winter covers my body, Spring

caresses my soul and beckons me on.

Though my body may disappear from your sight,

I live on in the eyes of my children,

in the memories of friends and loved ones.

When next your heart feels sadness,

emptiness at my demise,

Walk under the open sky and stand,

still in the silence.

You will then know that I have not left you.

Whether it is a gentle flow or a strong breeze,

you will feel me in the wind.

I continue on my journey as you continue yours,

knowing that thru-out all, the wind continues on,

uniting you and me, in love.

I wrote this poem years ago, for a friend of mine who was dying. I still miss her and think of her often. I hope she likes it. Love you Mary.

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Brooding/ Part II- Virginia


Brooding

I am brooding.

That’s what my Momma calls it.

Brooding.

I can brood with the best of ‘em.

I go places when I am brooding.

Brooding

I am those ants.

Tiny, miniscule, strong.

I can move mountains.

Brooding

 

 

Part II- Virginia

 

“Come on, pull your pants down. Just give us a peek!” A group of three boys and two girls surround me. We’re in a culvert that runs under our street and I do as they say. I pull my shirt up and my pants down. I lay sprawled out on the metal spiral tube. “Hey, pull it open so we can see!” Spread your legs more.” The two girls, sisters, yell that they are going to tell and they run off. I don’t care. Who needs them anyway?

            I’m ten years old now and I been- oops, I mean, I’ve been adopted now for two years. I have been working very hard to lose my accent. I had a teacher at my new school tell me that I sounded ignorant and that no one would take me seriously if I didn’t learn to talk like normal people. I hated that teacher for sayin, oops, saying that, but then I got to thinking about the books I liked to read. In all the books, all the good characters are well spoken and the bad characters use bad grammer. Since I wanted to be good like the Bobbsey Twins and like Jo and her sisters in Little Women, I figured that I had better learn how to speak like them.

            I am definitely Satan’s child, just like my Momma used to say. I try and try to be good, but somehow I still wind up in trouble. I do things even when I know I shouldn’t. Like when I sneak cigarettes out of my Dad’s jacket. My foster sister, Donna, and I started sneaking cigs right after she came to live with us. I don’t really like it because it burns my throat but I do like the smell of it. Donna likes it so she smokes most of them. Dad tried moving and hiding them for awhile but we always managed to find them. He doesn’t bother hiding them any more and there seems to be an unspoken pact with us. As long as we don’t take more than five out of a pack, we’re fine. Of course, we push it sometimes. We can’t help it, it’s in our blood. The devil’s blood.

            Donna was my foster sister for about a year. She came right before the adoption and I was so glad to see her. Now I had someone to talk to and play with. She’s three years older than me and she’s half Blackfoot Indian and she told me that I’m part Cherokee. We’re the only Indians we know now and we get along great. We’re blood sisters now too because we had a ceremony where we stuck our fingers and we mushed the blood together and then licked our fingers clean. Donna went to school with my real sister when I still lived with my real family in Manassas. She would come over to play with my sister sometimes after school. She knew all my brothers and sisters names and sometimes, when I asked, she would tell me stories of what she remembered. I was so glad that she lived with me. I didn’t feel so lost when she was around. She was a connection to my real family and she felt more real to me than the fake family I have now.

            I haven’t seen my real sister in two years now. After I was taken away and brought to Nokesville to live with strange people, I used to still see her after school. She and I would sneak away from the bus line and go stand in a corner. We would stand huddled together, crying and laughing and giving messages to each other. We got away with this for about two weeks before the teachers started walking us to our buses. My new parents told me that I wasn’t allowed to see Sis anymore. The lady, the one I’m supposed to call Mom, told me that my real family wasn’t a good influence and that I should forget them because I wasn’t going to see them anymore. She told me it was for my own good and that they, the new parents cared about me very much. I don’t like this lady. She doesn’t like touching me, I can tell. Her face gets all pinched up and even more white than usual. She’s only hugged me a few times and I could tell she didn’t mean it. I wish she would just give it up. I don’t like touching her either.

            Not too long after I moved in with them, I got in really big trouble. ‘Mom’ gave me a whipping, the first I had ever received since coming here. I was out in the backyard playing with our cat. I had never heard of having a cat as a pet. All the cats I had known up to this point were wild cats that lived outside all year long. Anyway, I’m trying to get the cat to play with me and I start thinking about a cartoon I saw on TV. I remember thinking how funny it would be if I could really swing the cat around with his tail. Without thinking anymore, I grabbed the cat’s tail and lifted him while I started turning in circles. Next thing I know, I hear this loud shouting and then the screen door slams and I see ‘Mom’ running at me. I let go of the cat, who is hissing and thrashing by now, and I try to run. Mom grabs me and starts waling away with her hand. “How could you be so cruel? Don’t you dare let me see you do something like this again. You understand me!”

I ran off into the woods and found a tree to climb. I sat there and cried my heart out. I felt so bad for that little cat and I knew that I wasn’t trying to hurt it when I picked him up. I thought it really would spin. I felt so bad that I had hurt him and I wondered if he would play with me anymore. I cried too because I had been whipped so hard. I thought that I wouldn’t be hit anymore because that’s what Mr. Sinclair told me. He comes by every week and we walk around the yard and talk. He keeps asking me how I am and I tell him fine. He tells me how lucky I am to have found a home instead of living in some orphanage somewhere. I don’t feel so lucky. He tells me that I can tell him anything and that he just wants to be sure that I’m happy. I just smile and tell him what he wants to hear.

            I stayed away in the woods as long as I could that day. Those woods became a balm for my soul. From that day on, I would find comfort and solace in nature. I thought about how much I didn’t want to be hit anymore and how I didn’t want to hurt anything again. I prayed that the cat would still want to play with me and I prayed that I wouldn’t be sent away anymore.

            I have a lot of new relatives and it’s hard to remember all of them. I have two granddaddies and two grandmas. Granddaddy Cliff and Grandma Ruth used to be married but now they are divorced. They still like each other even though they don’t live together any more. They are my favorite grand parents. They hug me a lot and they mean it. I can tell. Their faces get all happy looking and they hold out their arms for me. They love me and I love them. Even when I do stupid things like steal money or perfume from them, they still love me and stick up for me. This one time, I snuck into Aunt Laura’s room and picked up all the change I found on the floor. I had a huge bag of it and I was trying to figure out how to get it home when I heard Laura come home. I ran out of her room and into Uncles Rays. He had moved out by then but there were still a few things in there, including pennies on the floor. I don’t know why, but I walked downstairs and showed Grandma what I had found and I said that I had found it all in Uncle Ray’s room. I asked her if I could keep it. Mom and Dad were there and they all made me sit down in the living room and tell them the whole story. They said that there was no way that I found all that money in Ray’s room and they wanted me to tell them the truth. I stuck to my story even though I could tell they all knew that I was lying. Grandma Ruth was the one that said we should call Uncle Ray and see what he thought. I sat there, scared out of my mind, until Grandma came back and informed everyone that Uncle Ray said that he didn’t doubt that all that money was found in his room. He said that If I had bothered to pick it all up, I deserved to keep it. Grandma put her arms around me and said that I should go get washed up for dinner. I knew that we had a secret together and that she loved me more than Mom did. I vowed that I wouldn’t steal anything more in her house.

            Granddaddy Cliff is my best friend in the whole world. He just holds me when I cry and he tells me that he loves and that it will be alright. My tenth birthday was the worst day ever but Granddaddy made it better.

            I was outside playing football with the neighborhood kids, waiting for all my relatives to show up. Everything was going fine until Johnnie started yelling at me about missing a catch. Jonnie was two years younger than me and I figured that since I was ten years old, I didn’t have to listen to him anymore and I told him so. “I bet ya I can still beat you up”, he said. Of course, everyone agreed with him and I got mad and pushed him and told him to go home. Well, he proceeded to beat the hell out me and he pulled a huge chunk of my hair out. I was embarrassed and mad and I ran home and ran straight into my Granddaddy Cliff. He asked me what was wrong and he picked me up, sat me on his lap and told me to forget about it. He said that this was my day and that all the people who loved me were here for me and that those brats were probably just jealous. He let me sit there on his lap for a long time while he cuddled me and hummed. That was Granddaddy Cliff. He comes over every spring to help us plant a garden. I have a section that’s just for me and I can grow anything that I want. He’s patient with me and tells me all about bugs and how some are good and some are bad. He teaches me to keep the weeds away so that my plants can grow up strong, just like me. He has a big deep voice and blue eyes, just like my real momma. I don’t want to disappoint him or Grandma Ruth because they really love me.

Grandad Larner and Grandma Viola are a little hard to figure out. They don’t hug me like my other grand parents but I think they like me. Grandma Viola gives me sticks of double mint gum even though Grand dad says it will rot my teeth. She has a whole big canister of it on her kitchen counter. She has another one full of cookies and sometimes she lets me have some with a big glass of cold milk. She makes me try to learn how to sew and how to do needle point. I hate it! I can’t sew a straight line to save me and my picture always has blood all over it when I do needle point. Grandma Viola’s face gets all pinched up just like Mom’s face. I know Grandma Viola is dad’s mom, but I think she’s’ more like Mom than she is like Dad. Granddad Larner doesn’t say much and Grandma Viola says it’s because he works hard all week. He drives a big greyhound bus and Grandma says he gets tired of talking to people all day. She says he just wants to come home and putter in his toolshed or watch sports on tv. She says he’s earned the right.

            Dad likes me and he makes me feel like he likes to hang out with me. We’re even building a soap box derby car together. It is so cool and I’ll be able to race in it when we have our next town celebration. It comes every summer and it marks the beginning of summer and fun. I know that my car is going to beat everyone else’s. Nobody knows cars like my Dad. He’s drives around in Nova that he rebuilt himself. He even painted it white all by himself. He’s been working on a Cadillac lately and he says that when he’s finished, we can drive around in style. He lets me come out to the garage and watch him sometimes and I wish that I was a boy, because I know that if I was a boy, he’d let me get all greasy and he’d teach me how to fix cars and things. He’s teaching me about building this soap box car though. Sometimes, he takes my hands and holds them as he’s making cuts on the big table saw. He listens and sometimes he lets me make the decision about something. He let me pick the design for the car and he’s going to let me help paint it. I can’t wait to smoke all those other kids!

            I have two aunts now that really like me. My Aunt Dawn is Dad’s little sister and she lives at home with Granddad and Grandma Viola. She has a closet full of Dennis the Menace comic books and she lets me read them when I’m visiting. Her whole room is filled with troll dolls that I think are weird. I think that they are a little scary and I don’t understand why anyone would want to be stared at by them all the time. They all have big bellies and different color hair and they remind me of the cannibals I see in the movies on tv. Dawn plays the guitar and I beg her to play me Puff the Magic Dragon every time I see her. Ever since the first time she played it for me, I was hooked. When I play in the woods, I sing for Puff, hoping that he will come play with me. He never does though and I figure that’s because I’m a girl, instead of a boy. I think I was supposed to be a boy but I think God messed up and put me in a girl’s body by mistake. Sometimes I think he did it on purpose.

            My Aunt Laura is Mom’s sister and she lives at home with Grandma Ruth. She is going to school and she works as a security officer. She smokes and drinks coca-cola out of a bottle all the time. Even though Grandma Ruth doesn’t’ like smokers, she lets Laura smoke in her room. Laura has to keep her bedroom door closed all the time cuz of the smoke and the mess. I can’t believe that she doesn’t have to pick up her room. It is the messiest thing I have ever seen! I hear Grandma and Mom talking sometimes about Laura and Grandma is usually mad. I’ve heard both of them call Laura the black sheep of the family and I don’t know what it is exactly but I want to be one too. I want to be just like Laura. She tells stories about the people she gets to arrest and sometimes shell talk about having to tackle someone and she has to fight them to get handcuffs on them. I wish I was strong like her and I know that I will be one day. Sometimes I sneak into her room and my favorite thing to do is to go in her closet and smell her suede jacket. It’s the best smell ever, smoke and suede.

            My Uncle Ray is Laura’s brother and he was living at home until recently. He’s married now to Aunt Deanna and they live in an apartment. He has this neat little red sports car and sometimes he takes me for a ride in it. I get to stay with them sometimes on the weekend and in the summer I usually get to stay with them for longer. Aunt Deanna loves to make crafts and things and she tries to help me make things but it’s usually a lost cause. She winds up fixing everything that I make but she doesn’t get mad at me. She just smiles and laughs and tells me that practice makes perfect. She’s really into Holly Hobbie and those precious memories cartoons. You know, those cartoon figures that talk about “love is…, never having to say your sorry. I don’t get it; I’m always having to say I’m sorry. I guess that maybe it only works for some people. Uncle Ray and Aunt Deanna let me drink cokes and have cookies and sweets. I’m not allowed to have those things at home, but they give it to me anyway and say that it’ll just be our little secret. I like having secrets and I would never tell Mom and Dad about it. They would just ruin it and I probably wouldn’t get to see Aunt and Uncle anymore. It’s our little secret.

            My Uncle Tommy and Uncle Kerry are Dad’s brothers. We don’t get to see Uncle Tommy very often and I remember hearing Mom and Dad talking one night about him being in jail again. He fascinates me but scares me too. He’s really good looking and he wears a leather jacket and drives a motorcycle. He knows more than Dad about cars and he can fix anything. I don’t think Dad and the rest of the family like him very much. He has a wife and two kids and I feel sorry for them. He smiles at me a lot and makes jokes and asks me riddles but he doesn’t do that with his kid. They always look scared of him and they never talk when he’s around. I don’t like them because when we go to play, they make fun of me, just like the kids on the bus and at school. Sometimes I feel sorry for them and I try to be nice to them but then they laugh at me or push me and then I just hate them. No wonder Uncle Tommy beats them, their just mean. I overheard the adults talking one time about how Uncle Tommy was in jail for beating his wife and they were talking about who would go bail him out. Granddad said Tommy should just stay right where he was, because Granddad was tired of bailing him out. He said it served Tommy right and if his wife had any sense she’d leave while she could. Uncle Tommy left with his wife and kids not to long after that happened and I missed him but I didn’t miss his wife or kids.

            Uncle Kerry and Aunt Peggy live on a farm in Maryland. I get to go stay with them sometimes and I wish that they had adopted me. They live in a big old house that has holes in the roof and no walls in some rooms. Mom and Dad and the rest of the family call it a hole and they wonder why anyone would want to live like that. I think it’s the neatest place and they take me thru the house and show me what they are doing and tell me all their plans. They plan to fix the whole thing up by themselves and they don’t care how long it takes. They have a big old barn with horses and cows in it. They also have a big pond that has ducks and geese in it and that we go fishing and swimming in. I won’t go swimming in it anymore though because once a big fish bit my toe. Uncle Kerry was holding me, teaching me how to swim when a whole bunch of fish started circling us. I was screaming and Uncle Kerry was laughing at me, holding me out so the fish could touch me. I started crying and just when Uncle Kerry said okay, he’d put me back in the boat, one of those fish grabbed my big toe and wouldn’t let go! Uncle Kerry said it was a catfish and I knew then that that cat I had picked up by its tail was getting back at me. It was probably a relative or something. I never did swim in that pond again.

            “If I tell you a secret, promise you won’t tell?” Donna and I are behind Uncle Kerry’s barn and she makes me pinky swear and then double cross my heart that I wont rat her out. “I got these outta Dad’s jacket”, she says as she pulls two cigarettes out from under her shirt. I got some matches from Aunt Peggy’s kitchen. Wanna smoke ‘em with me?” I know that we shouldn’t be doing this, but I’m game. Who’s going to know? “Here, put the cigarette between your lips and I’ll light it. “You gotta hold it like this”, she says as she shows me the proper way to hold it. “Okay, now just suck it in like Dad does”. Donna laughs hysterically as I start coughing and turning red from the effort. “Well you do it then you ole cow paddy, I say as I hand it to her. “Oh, I do this all the time”, she says as she takes it and draws a long draw on it. “See, you’re just a baby!” “You’re not really smoking, you’re just blowin’ it out, I say as I reach for it again. You have to inhale it like Dad does”. I’m trying to one-up her and not having much luck, as I still choke on it. We’re always having competitions about something or other; who can swim underwater longer, who can run faster, who can hit harder, who’s the smartest one, who’s Dad’s favorite girl? Most of the time, Donna won, but every once in awhile I could beat her and I loved it when that happened. It was like Easter, Christmas, and my birthday, all rolled into one.

“Damn, is that Uncle Kerry calling for us?”

“Put it out! Put it out!

“Hurry up and run, Donna cried as she hurried to put the cigarette out. Go to the woods and I’ll be right behind you.”

I would love to say that we got away with our little secret but I’d be lying. Donna and I managed to sneak thru the woods and onto the long dirt driveway that led to the farm and then we walked up it like we were just returning from a walk around the pond. We didn’t see Uncle Kerry and so we were starting to think that we got away with it when we see him, Aunt Peggy and Mom and Dad walk out of the house towards us.

 

            Donna was taken away one day and I still don’t understand why. I don’t dare ask questions but I know that it has to do with something that Donna said to Mom and Dad. I remember that Donna was in trouble for something but I don’t know why. I remember that the four of us were sitting at the kitchen table having supper and Donna started to argue with Mom and Dad about something and I remember hearing Donna say, “Well, if you kept your husband out of my bed, maybe, I would”. What happened next is forever burned into my soul and memory and I know that if affects every decision I have made since then. As Donna uttered the last of those words, Dad jumped up and slapped Donna across the face, knocking her to the floor. He then picked her up by her hair and started beating her with his hands. He dragged and beat her all the way thru the house, up to her room, where he slammed the door on her. Mom and I just sat there, scared out of our minds. Dad came back into the room and sat down in his chair, asking me if I had anything I wanted to say. He smiled when he asked this but it was a smile just like Bill used to get- evil. I sat there looking into the soul of my dinner, and I just shook my head no. Dad laughed and tried to make light of what had just happed, but Mom and I just sat there, not saying anything. Dad gave up trying to talk and laugh and we sat there and finished our meal in silence.

 I snuck into Donna’s room later and asked her why she had said what she did and what she meant by it. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t want Dad to come into her room anymore because Dad had always been the one to tuck us into bed at night. It had become a nighttime ritual that she and I had always enjoyed, for the most part.

Every night, Dad would come into my room first and he would sit on the edge of my bed and tuck the covers around me as we talked about my day. He would ask me questions about where I had gone, who I had seen, what I had seen while walking in the woods or what games I had played with the neighborhood kids. He knew how much I loved books and he would ask me about what I was reading and he would listen as I told him about what adventures Freddy the pig detective was having or how Nancy Drew solved another crime. While we talked, Dad would stroke my hair or rub my back and I always knew that he was listening to me, and that he loved me. Dad would finally give me a big hug and kiss and then he would get up and shut the closet door, checking to be sure that no monsters were hiding in there or under the bed. He would then turn out the light, checking to make sure that my nightlite was working and he would say, “Don’t let the bedbugs bite”, and then he would close the door and he would go to Donnas’ room next. I always wondered why he closed the door to her room when he went in there and sometimes I would get mad about it. I could hear them in the next room, laughing and giggling and talking and I would wish that I could go in there. I would hear them for awhile and then I wouldn’t hear anything for awhile. Sometimes I would fall asleep before I would hear Dad leave her room. If I was still awake when he left her room, I would hear him tell her “nighty, night, don’t let the bed bugs bite”, and then I would listen as he made his way down the hall, down the stairs, and out the front door. Sometimes, I would get out of bed and I would look out of my widow, watching for the glow of his cigarette.

As I sat there on Donna’s bed, listening to her cry, Donna told me what she and Dad had been doing there every night. As she talked about Dad touching her and doing things to her, I listened with horror and disgust, and a growing sense of unease. As time went on, I found myself getting angry with her. I accused her of making it all up and I told her that I didn’t believe her. She told me that I would be next and that I had better watch my back.

Donna was confined to her room for three days, until a social worker showed up and took her away. I was scared, mad, and totally confused. Mom and Dad didn’t talk to Donna except to say goodbye as she was walked out to the social worker’s car. I never asked one question of them about what had happened or where Donna would go next. I knew that the same thing would happen to me if I did and I didn’t want to start all over again with a new family, or worse, be stuck in an orphanage. Donna had told me all kinds of stories about when she was in an orphanage and she had told me how foster families looked at foster kids as free labor. I didn’t care how bad it got or how much I didn’t like Mom, I was bound and determined not to end up like Donna. I also knew that unlike Donna, I was actually adopted by Mom and Dad, and so I figured that maybe I was safer than she had been. I mean, they couldn’t just give me away, could they? They were always telling me that I was special because they had picked me, and so I figured that I was luckier than Donna and that they couldn’t just throw me away, right? This occurred near my ninth birthday and to this day, I wonder what became of her. Did she ever find a family that loved her and did she ever miss me? I sometimes wonder if she was the lucky one after all.

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Part 1 Continued


         It’s not like all of my memories are bad. We had some good times too. I remember the whole family gettin together for picnics and such during the summers. We would gather at my grandma and grandpa’s place and the men folk would gather together in the garage next to the house and poke around the cars and trucks, telling tales and drinkin moonshine and beer. The women folk would gather in the kitchen and prepare all kinds of good food. Then they’d pile the tables outside with all kinds of meats and vegetables and fruits and desserts. The men folk would then sit around in chairs strewn over the backyard and wait for their women to bring them their plates. Next would be us, and we would sit at the kids table and wait for our plates. After that, the women would fix their own plates and go sit next to, or at the feet of their men. The single people, usually older teens, would wonder off and sit on the front porch by themselves.

            Everyone would be eatin so fast that there wasn’t’ much talk for about ten minutes. Then the chewing would slow down a spell and everyone would start talking at once. The men would be talking to each other, the women would be doing the same between themselves, and us kids would be laughing and joshin each other and we’d all be having a high ole time. Now this good natured ribbin would go on for a spell and then of course, one kid would question another kids parentage or some such nonsense, and all hell would break loose. One minute I’d be sittin there eatin watermelon and havin a seed spittin contest with my siblings and cousins, and the next minute I’d be runnin for my life, trying to avoid the lashes of a switch that had found it’s way into the hands of an adult. In times like that, it didn’t matter what kid said what, or did what, the switch would hit each and everyone who didn’t get out of the vicinity of the intended target. Of course, at the end of the switchin, we kids would all band together under the apple tree and commiserate with each other while the women would put away the food and the men would sit and jaw and play their mouth organs and guitars and banjos. Eventually, the switchins would take a back seat to a game of tag and we’d play that till it got dark, and then we would play hide and go seek. Once we wore ourselves ragged with that, we would take canning jars and run around catching fireflies. We’d have contests to see who could catch the most or the biggest ones. Eventually, we’d find our way back to the adults and would spread ourselves out in the grass next to them and listen to family stories or local legends. Our canning jars would be sittin beside us, lightin up the darkness. One by one, we would lie there falling asleep to the sounds of music and laughter. Some how or other, we would wake up the next morning in our own beds and we’d spend the next couple of days spinnin tales about what we’d seen and heard and done. Those are my best memories.

 

               As a child in the hills of West, by God, Virginia, I witnessed a lot of violence. I think that when a whole population of people are brought up in poverty and have little means of escaping it, they tend to turn their frustrations and anger towards the only people they have contact with– their family and friends. Not only are they starving for food, shelter, jobs, and money, they are also starving for something else. They are starving for pride and approval and when those two basic needs are not met, the people’s shame is turned into an inner rage. Now while some folks meet with a bit of luck and ingenuity and manage to escape those circumstances, most of the mountain people are not so lucky. They spend their whole lives living in such dire straights that they forget that life can be beautiful and tender and nourishing.  There is no such thing as family planning, retirement planning, or savings accounts. You wake up, go to work, come home, eat, drink, fight, fuck, and sleep. You wake up and do it all over again. Generation after generation watches as the older folks work their fingers to the bone and wind up with nothing more than broken backs and broken hearts. It’s enough to dry up the most tender and precious of souls.

            My momma was raised with two brothers and a sister. At least that’s all I ever heard of. There might have been others, but they were never mentioned in my presence. I really don’t even know where she fit into the line– was she older or younger than the others? Your guess is as good as mine. What I do know is that she loved her momma and daddy and that she was a daddy’s girl. I reckon I was in my thirties when she finally told me that her daddy used to diddle her. At the time she told me that, she was in a mental institution, (once again), and for me, it explained an awful lot about why things were as they were in our family.

            Momma first got pregnant at the age of fourteen and was a momma by the age of 15. From what little Momma told me and what little my Grandma told me, Momma was a wild thing by then. She loved to go to the honk -tonks and hang around with older men and smoke and drink. Grandma once told me that Momma was so desperate to be the center of attention that she’d of done anything to get it. Momma’s way of getting that attention was to be the biggest hell raiser in the county and also the meanest. Momma had no problem with puttin a man in his place if she thought that it would get his attention. She could out smoke, out drink, out swear, and out fight any man in the room.

            I saw Momma in a bar fight once and I remember how in awe I was of her in that moment. Here were grown men, drunk off of their asses, tossin bar stools, pool tables, and each other across the room and in the middle of all that chaos is Momma. All five feet two of her shovin and pushin and slappin and kicken at men who were twice and three times as big as herself. I thought for sure that I was gonna have to call for an ambulance for her but after it was all over, she and her husband cleaned up the bar, laughin about the poor son of a bitches who had been hauled off by the police. Talk about a scrappy woman. That was my Momma at her best.

            Now, there were two sides to Momma. One was the tough, scrappy, hard-bitten carouser and then there was the other– soft, malleable, and abuseable.   I say abuseable because it’s the only word that’s applicable. It seems that once Momma got a man, she’d turned soft and defenseless. Oh, and pregnant. By the time she was in her late twenties or early thirties, she’d had thirteen kids. She lost one child and so she bore a total of twelve kids in her lifetime. She’d a kept on having more if her body hadn’t let her down. I remember talking to her on the phone one day, not many years before she died at the age of 62, and I can still hear the sadness in her voice as she talked about missing having a little baby around. Don’t that just beat all?

            As I said earlier, there was a lot of violence in our mountains and my family seemed to have more than it’s fair share. If the kids weren’t tearin into each other, it was the grownups rippin into each other. It seemed like there was a fight going on every other day and sometimes it got so rough that the law had to be called. Now, there’s somethin you need to know about mountain folks. One of our most revered truisms is that blood is thinker than water and it’s also agreed upon that outsiders are not welcome. We may not approve of Daddy beatin the shit out of Uncle, but we certainly do not approve of anyone callin the law or a neighbor to stop it.

            I still have memories of watching my Momma and Aunt whalin  the shit out of each other and then them turning around and fightin the folks who tried to break them up. As soon as they got rid of the interlopers, they’d turn around and resume the ass kickin on each other again. If the fightin was occurring between two married folks, the other adults would shoo us kids out the immediate area and then they’d just stand there watchin the fight. Once it was over, they would take both parties to their respective corners and patch them up and move on to other matters. It wasn’t unusual for another fight to break out later between two more folks who got to arguing about the first fight. It seemed that there was always a feud brewin and bad blood between one side of the family and the other.

            When Momma would find herself a man, things would be calm and cool for awhile. She seemed to love being in love. She would wait on her man hand and foot from sun up to sundown and there would be plenty of love and laughter to go around. We’d move into a new house and there’d be new toys and clothes and beds and plenty of good food. Then there’d be a new baby on the way. Momma always seemed happiest when she was pregnant and her new husband would be head over heels in love with her. We kids could get away with laughin and playin and whoopin it up in the house. Momma would smile at us and make cookies and laugh at our shenanigans and we would love to call our new daddy, Daddy. We all knew that things were lookin up and that we were headed for someplace better. Our new Daddy would have a good job and he wouldn’t have to go work in the coal mines or go to work in some factory and so come home all beat up and dead tired. Life was simply good.

            Momma loved her babies. The problem was that she didn’t know what to do with them once they started walkin and talkin. Once that occurred, she lost interest and seemed to have no clue as how to relate to them. To her, they seemed to grow into aliens once they passed the three year old mark. I’d catch her watchin us sometimes, and I’d notice the blank or sometimes wild look on her face and I’d wonder what she was thinkin. From the looks of her, I almost expected her to jump up and fly out the door, never to be seen again. I sometimes wished she would. Most times of course, I’d wish “Daddy” would just disappear.

            Now, a man has got to be a pretty strong man to raise a passel of other men’s kids. He’s got to be even stronger to bring another baby into the mix. It’s got to be tough to find the money for all the clothes, food, toys, medicines, and what not for so many kids. Throw a few resentful teenagers into the mix, and I imagine it must seem almost impossible to keep up with it all.

            The way my momma’s men dwelt with us seemed to center around beatin the shit out of us. The slightest infraction would bring out the paddle or belt or switch and we weren’t allowed to cry while it was happenin. Being the hellion that I was, I was always gettin switched or belted. Some of the worst beatins I got were because I would get out of bed at night. Momma would later tell me that I would just wonder all over the house in the dark and that I would get into things. That was her reasoning for tyin me in bed at night but I remember the truth.

            “Shh! Just hold these blankets between your legs. It’ll soak up the pee and I’ll throw them in the wash before Momma notices. Now be quiet and quit cryin before you wake them up”. “Just untie me, please! I’ll be good and I won’t cry anymore if you do”. I begged Sis to untie me but she wouldn’t do it. She knew she was already in trouble for helping me to begin with and she wasn’t about to push her luck. We both remembered what happened the last time she untied me. She untied one of my arms but then she couldn’t tie it back like it was and momma and daddy found out and beat her ass for it. Even Sis wasn’t strong enough to stand the belt.

            “Well, what the hell is this? Did you do this Tawnya? What  the hell do you think your doin? You think your helpin your sister? How the hell will she ever learn if you keep helpin her? Slap! Bill, get in here and look at the mess these two girls made.” Bill walks in and looks at me layin there with my hands tied to the bedpost and my legs tied to the end posts. A green blanket is scrunched between my legs, wet and smelly.

       “Well, aint this somthin. Look at you, all smelly and wet. You both think you can put somthin over on your momma and me? I’ll deal with you in a minute. Tawnya Sue, get your ass into the livin room.” He, momma, and Sis left the room and I could hear Daddy’s belt striking her, but I didn’t hear a thing from sis. Now, get your ass outside and don’t let me see or hear you for the rest of the day!” Momma and Daddy came back in the room and he told her to untie me. “Get those pajamas offa her and stand her up. Alright you little heathen, bend over the bed”. There was no where to go so I did like he told me to. “This is for tryin to pull something over on us. This is for not listenin to me or your momma. This is for pulling your sister into this and this is for being a bad little girl.” He just kept whippin me as he talked and when he was finally finished, he told momma to clean me up and then tie me back in bed for the rest of the day. “Maybe this will teach you to mind what I say.” I wished I could just die. That would teach them.

            Lookin back, I like to think that those men actually loved my Momma and wanted to love us kids but it was just too great a burden. I think the actual truth was that they loved my Momma and tolerated us and loved their booze even more. I don’t think they had any idea of how to love and raise a family cuz they weren’t taught how to do it when they were kids. Lookin back, I see those mountains filled with children raisin children and not a lick of sense between them.

            When I was four or five, Momma had another baby and we had a new daddy. We moved to the state of Virginia, to a small town called Manassas. We had a new house with a big backyard that had an actual swing set in it. Our next door neighbors had a pool and we were so sure that we would be invited to swim in it and we would have new friends and there wouldn’t be any more fightin and arguin  and we would be the happy family we had all dreamed about. Life was lookin pretty good. Our Daddy had a good job workin at a gas station and sometimes he’d pile us into the car and we drive around checkin out our new state and we’d get to have hamburgers and fries at the drive-thru and he wasn’t drinkin much and Momma was happy to have another baby and we all felt rather fine. This is the town where I started first grade and my big sister sat with me on the bus and walked me to my class room and made me promise that I would be good and mind the teacher. She also showed me where her class room was down the hall and she told me that if I needed her, she would come get me. She wiped my tears and told me that she loved me and would always protect me. This is where I wish my memories would end. That this was were our happy ever after story would end.

            “Goddamnit Bill, I told you I was sorry! I’ll make sure the kids don’t bother you no more when you get home. They just get a little wild sometimes and  you know I can’t control them when they get like that. I’m sorry! You know Bobby doesn’t mean it when he talks to you like that. He’s just a little onery like his daddy was. Oh God. Please don’t hit me again! I’m sorry. I’m sorry! Oh God, no.”

            And so it went. We kids stopped laughing and pretending that things were different. We didn’t get invited over to swim in the pool anymore. That stopped about the time of my momma’s sixth or seventh fight with Bill. Nothing was ever said, the neighbors just seemed to stop seeing us across the fence. There were no more hellos, how are you, won’t you come over to swim today. We lived in our hell world alone again.

            I’m six years old now and I don’t know it, but my time is short. I know that the fightin and drinkin are gettin worse and all us kids go around wearing long sleeve shirts and pants to hide our shame. Momma wears sunglasses most of the time, even long after the sun goes down.

     No one is laughin or playin much. We kids sit in the back room watchin Captain Kangaroo and other kid shows but we’re really sittin there wonderin how long this can go on. We want to go back to West, by God, Virginia, and see our grandparents and cousins. At least they would talk to us. We sit there and wonder if Bill is gonna be drunk again tonight and if the cops will have to show up and take him away so that he can sober up in jail. We all hope that they’ll take him away one day and that he’ll never come back.

            This is the biggest fight ever. Momma and Bill are tearin through the rooms and I am so scared that I pee my pants. I’ve never seen momma so angry and I’ve never seen her beatin up on her husband! Bob is on the floor, momma on top of him, and he’s trying to get her off of him, but he ain’t strong enough. Momma is whalen away, and now she reaches up to grab a knife out of the dish drainer. Dishes, pots and pans and utensils are flyin every where and water is rushin over the side, right into Bob’s face. Momma has the knife in both hands, tryin to plunge it into Bob’s face, and Bob is screamin and thrashin, trying to buck her off of him.

 “Make them stop! Why won’t you do somethin?” My Sister is screaming at our  neighbor as he holds us back.

 “They just have to work this out on their own”.

I don’t understand why no one will help us. Why can’t he make them stop? Brother has disappeared and I wish he were here. He would do somethin I’m sure. Where is he?

Bill has managed to wriggle free and he hits Momma in the face, throws her backwards and runs for the living room. Momma is hot on his tail when the front door flies open and Brother tumbles inside.

“The cops are here, you son of a bitch! Now get the fuck outta here!” Sure enough, no sooner are those words out of his mouth, than the cops walk in. They look at Momma and see how torn up and bloody she is and then they look at Bill and see him holdin a knife in his hands. Both officers draw their guns out and tell Bill to drop it.

“She was tryin to kill me with this. I had to take it away from her before she gutted me!”

“Drop it and get on the floor now! Don’t make me tell you again.”

By now all us kids are bawlin and screamin and Sis tells the cops that Bill tried to kill Momma and that this ain’t the first time. The cops finally get Bill in handcuffs and walk him out the door. A cop helps Brother pick up Momma, who has collapsed on the floor, and lead her to the sofa.

“Would you like us to get an ambulance for you?” Momma just moans and shakes her head no. She sends the cops and the neighbor away and she tells Sister and Brother to mind us young uns and she goes to her room, locking the door behind her. Brother starts yellin about how he’s going to kill that son of a bitch if he ever comes back and sis is yellin at him while she’s tryin to pick things up. Brother finally storms out of the house and Sis takes us to the back room and gives us popcorn and tells us to watch tv while she cleans up the house. After she finishes pickin up everything she comes and sits with us until it’s time for bed. She cleans us up and puts us to bed and then she goes to Momma’s door. We can her pleadin with Momma to open the door but Momma won’t do it.

Brother comes back and they both try without success to get her to open the door. Mommas not sayin anything. Brother finally goes to the carport and grabs a screwdriver. He fiddles around for a few minutes, cussin the whole time until the doorknob finally falls away. Sis starts crying and Brother starts yellin and I’m cryin again.

“Get up Momma, get, up!’

“Common, we gotta get her up. Help me pull her up. I’ll walk her around while you go call for an ambulance.”

Brother continues holdin Momma up while draggin her around the room.

“Common momma, you gotta move your feet. Common Momma, you can do this. Help me Momma, help me!”

Sis runs back into the room and takes one side of Mamma.

 “Their on the way. Come on Momma, walk with me. Why did she do this? How could she do this? Walk Momma, walk.”

            It seemed like forever before the ambulance came. The same two cops were back and they both looked grim. They talked to Brother and Sister and our next door neighbor. I heard Sister say that our Aunt Carol was on the way and our neighbor said he would keep an eye on us till Aunt Carol got here.

            While they were talking, I saw the two ambulance men wheel out Momma on a stretcher and I could hear Momma cryin. Sister ran over to her and Momma stretched our her arms, cryin. “I love you babies, I love you. Don’t ever forget how much I love you.” Momma’s voice sounded so strange and so far away. One of the cops pulled Sister away and Momma disappeared into the dark of the night.

            I don’t know how long momma was gone. I don’t recollect our Aunt arrivin or leavin and I don’t know how long Bill stayed away. I do remember him bringin Momma home and how sad we kids were when he stepped thru the door.

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Part 1


 

Part I- West, ‘by God’, Virginia

 

“Shh! Come here, I want to show you somethin.” This is what I remember about dying. My brothers voice as he led me into his room and proceeded to show me his wanger. He tells me to act like it’s a lollipop and to suck and lick it. I was either five or six years old when this occurred and to this day it sometimes seems as if I am still stuck in that day. It’s like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, only I’m not laughing.

            “Now don’t you go tellin anybody or I’ll beat the livin shit out of you. And don’t think that anyone else will believe you either. You know that Bill will beat the shit out of you too.”

My brother then shoved me out of his room and I ran to my room and hid in my closet because I knew that I was dirty and I didn’t want anyone to see me. I imagined my mother taking one look at me and tellin Bill that he would have to woop me because I was such a dirty, nasty little girl. I never told anyone about that day until years later, when time and distance seemed to me to be a protector.

            I used to pray for a bout of amnesia, like you see happen to people in the movies. I would beg God to strike me dumb and I would make promises to him that if he would do this for me, I would stop lying, stealing, exposing myself, ect.  For some reason, God chose to ignore me and I figured that it was probably cuz I was so bad, and that I was the daughter of Satan and going to hell anyway, so God wasn’t to going to waste a miracle on someone such as me.

            I was born in Buckhannon, West, ‘by God’, Virginia. I was the ninth child of my mother and the only one she had with my father. They met at a bar and carried on for a few months before they broke up. I never met him as far as I know and I never even carried his name. I was given my stepfather’s last name and to this day, I have no idea what my real fathers name was. When I was told years later that his name was Mack Allen, I dreamed of  changing my last name to his. Many years later, Momma told me that Mac was not my father, but was in fact my older sister’s father. Talk about confused! It was a good thing that I didn’t change my name I guess, but it just opened another empty hole in me.

            Our household was full of tears and terrors. Most of my earliest memories concern being beat with a belt or paddle, or switch. I can still hear my grandma tellin one or the other of us to go get her a switch so’s she could beat us for our “tomfoolery”. If we came back with a switch that was too small, she would make us go get another one and then she would whip us twice as long and hard for making her wait. I remember one time she had hold of my arm while she was whipping me and I tried to run. What a mistake! I’m trying to run, grandma is switching away, and we’re running around in circles while my brothers and sisters looked on. Grandma and I both are red in the face, heaving for breath and that switch is running up and down from feet to back! By the time she figured that I had had enough, I was covered with welts from head to toe. I sure never tried to run again!

            The slightest infraction in our house was cause for a beating or backhand. I remember my brother Bobby got backhanded across the face at suppertime cuz he wiped the back of his hand across his nose. Bill got so mad and backhanded him so hard, that Bobby tumbled backwards off his chair. Bill then made him set back down and finish supper even though he was bleeding from his nose all over his food. You just didn’t cross Bill.

            The worst beating I ever got happened cuz I wasn’t sleeping when I was supposed to. According to Momma, she went into my room to check on my sisters and me to make sure we were doing what we were supposed to be doing, which was taking a nap. She told Bill that when she checked on me, I was playing possum and she knew that I was foolin around in there when she wasn’t lookin. Now me, I knew better. I was asleep until I felt that stare on me. You know how it is when someone is staring at you, and the hair stands up on the back of your neck and you just know. Well, being four or five years old, I didn’t know how to say all of that and so I just said that I had been sleeping. She just said, wait till my daddy got home. Then Bill comes home and asks me if I was saying my Mom was a liar and of course I said no and so Bill asked me again  if I was lying and I didn’t know what to say so I just nodded my head yes. He beat me with his belt and then sent me back to the basement. I didn’t say a word.  It didn’t pay to argue with him.

            What made this whippin the worst I ever got was the settin it took place in. It just so happened that Bill brought a friend of his home with him from work. All us kids were in the basement playing while Momma, Bill, and his friend visited. Bill had been home about an hour when Momma hollered for me to get my ass upstairs. I knew right then and there that I was a goner. When I dragged myself into the room, Bill was sittin on the couch and his friend was in a chair. I shuffled over to Bill and stood in front of him as he smiled a crooked smile at me. We all hated it when he smiled at us, cuz it was an evil smile and we knew we were in for it, but good.

“Well, what do you have to say for yourself?” he asked me. I just shrugged my shoulders and this seemed to make him madder.

“What, cat got your tongue or are you too embarrassed to tell me what you did? Look at me when I’m talking to you! So your Momma tells me that you disobeyed her and then tried to argue with her. Is that so?”

By this time I knew that I had already lost so the best course of action would just be to confess. It didn’t matter that it was a lie cuz they didn’t want to hear anything other than a confession, so I shook my head yes.

“Well, you know what happens to bad little girls who lie don’t you?”  I shake my head yes.

Bill stood up and removed his belt, then sat back down.

“Alright then, pull your pants down and bend over my knee.” I was horrified and terrified all at the same time, and I looked over at his friend and then looked over to my Momma who was standing in the kitchen. I pleaded with my eyes for her to stop this and then Bill yelled.

“Don’t be lookin at her to save you. She can’t save you, now do as I said!”

By this time I’m crying and shakin and am so red in the face that I am to afraid to move. Bill leans forwards and says with a smile, “Do like I say”. And so I do. I pull down my pants and lean over his knee.

“This is for not doing what you were told to do in the first place.” Whack, whack, whack, went the belt. “This is for lying about it”, whack, whack, whack. And this is for making me do this to you!” Whack, whack, whack. “Now pull up your britches and go back downstairs. An if you don’t stop that snivelin, I’ll really give you somethin to cry about!”

            I ran downstairs into my sisters arms and she held me as my other bothers and sisters gathered around us. We could hear Bill and his friend laughing about it upstairs and I heard Bobby say, “I hate that man”!

“Shh! Be quiet or you’ll be up there next”, said my sister. None of said another word.

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The beginning Starts


I suppose the point of writing this story is varied. I look at it simply as a way of putting into words the many and sundry ways I have arrived at this point in time. I see no point to the mess of life. I know, I know, many people say that it’s not the journey itself that matters, it is the way you travel it that’s important. Blah, blah, blah, I used to actually believe that but then life happened. Truly, how many times can you lose before you wake up and face reality and admit that you’re a loser? I keep coming back to the fact that every family I have ever had has disappeared. It’s not like they die either, it’s just that they walk away. They get tired of trying to help someone who is beyond help. I used to have the philosophy that in order to better myself and become someone others would respect, I needed to be around people who were, lets say, better than I was. You know, people who were smarter and stable; people who weren’t satisfied with their lot in life and who were on their way up to bigger and better things.

            Part of my reasoning for writing this is to explain why I believe in abortion and euthanasia and to show why I am a perfect example of why both should be legal and why it would be humane and sensible for society to implement these services.

            I look at our world and see unfathomable hate and anger and cruelty and I am at a loss as how to deal with it. We have half the population starving and dying from lack of food and or access to clean water and most of them are either fighting a war or trying to recover from war. And that’s just half the world. The other half are fighting corporate wars and litigations and waging fashion wars and turning idiots into reality stars. Athletes and movie ‘stars’ are paid insane amounts of money for their talents and corporate tycoons run the world. Good, decent, salt of the earth people are ignored, passed by, and looked upon as being ‘out of step’ with the times.

I have been ‘out of step’ my whole life. I have wasted inordinate amounts of time trying to ‘fit’ in with the world around me, and it just doesn’t’ work.  My hope is that I can get all of this shit out of me, tell the stories, and move on. I figure that if I can, perhaps I can move on and find the strength and will to live my life with some semblance of dignity. What is that saying? People make plans and God laughs. I figure that about sums up everything and all that is left is to tell the stories. 

The following poems and stories are part of a long and winding road. The poems were written during different times in my life and the stories are my way of explaining the thoughts and feelings that I felt when I wrote the poems and also how they relate to my life today. Things change constantly, and not everything is the same as when I wrote them. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Life In Three Parts

 Dying

I died when I was six years old.

I didn’t know it then.

Pain

That’s what I remember about dying.

no one else felt it.

Confusion

In death you don’t hurt anymore.

that’s what Mommy always said.

Hurt

If this is what death is, I don’t

want to die.

Living

I always smile when I’m supposed to.

I don’t cry: usually.

Tears

It’s what I save for real people.

no one else knows that.

Fear

It’s what I know surrounded by friends.

no one else feels that.

Isolation

No one else can touch me, or know me.

I can’t allow that.

Shame

If this is what life is, I don’t

want to live.

In Between

Sometimes I want to go back, start again.

I know they’d love me.

Terror

The nightmare would start all over again.

no one else believes that.

Horror

I know that I’m really alive,

even though I’m already dead.

Loneliness

I want to be surrounded by love, but,

only by myself.

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