"The desert bears only a scathing sun, and nothing more."
"What about mirages?"

Monday, January 17, 2011

No Mercy For The Child.

The slamming of a hard, brittle door. Pounding footsteps that drew nearer with every breath—they sent tremors up and down my spine. I dashed into my closet, slid the door shut behind me and stood there, hoping he wouldn’t sniff me out.

He always did though. I thought when I was younger that he could smell the fear, smell how it stained the air. Our house always smelt like fear. It was sickly sweet, like roses wilting on a humid day.

I wasn’t in the closet even a second before he burst into the room. The smell of alcohol and something I could not identify lingered behind him, clung to his clothing like strands of cobweb. Through the crack in my closet door I could see his musty face, small pricks of greying beard lining his powerful jaw.

I saw him turn and start towards the closet, and I scrunched my eyes shut so I didn’t have to see the savage lurching motions he made as he moved towards me.

The next thing I knew, I was dragged out by my long tendrils of hair. I remember shrieking for my mother, who I knew was in the next room. She wouldn’t come. She always was such a coward.

He beat me then, as he had many times before. His fists rained down on my face, and when I turned away, my back.

“You don’t fuckin’ dump the milk out!” He roared at me. “You useless fuckin’ brat, I’ll take yer head off!”

“It smelled bad!” I screeched in terror. I tried to hold my arms up in a futile attempt to shield myself. “It smelled bad! It smelled bad!” I cried it again and again. I cried it for what felt like impossibly long currents of time; there was no end to the sound of knuckle cracking upon my body.

A few days later, I was outside in the backyard. It was spring time, and despite the chaos and terror that invaded our home each evening, the yard was green and peaceful. When I breathed in, I could taste the rain on the air. I could smell something sweet—I thought it might’ve been all the flowers budding.

The smell of flowers is nothing like the smell of fear.

I was standing on the porch, inspecting my face in the reflective surface of the sliding door. It was swollen and pink, one of my eyes adorned a ring of dark purple, and there was a little cut on my lower lip. When my teachers asked me about all the damage, I could see the concern rippling from their faces. For some reason, concern made nervous. So I pulled my chin up and with a triumphant smile I said, “I got it wrestling with my older brother.”

A downright lie.

As I watched myself, my chin quivered a bit. Tears were welling up and spilling down the contours of my face. I licked my lips and tasted the warm salt in them.

When I looked at my tiny dejected face, I felt ugly. And I felt like I could do nothing right. Something inside me, something that now I cannot decipher, told me that everything was all my fault. My face had crumbled, and in a fit of anger I stomped off the porch in search of something heavy.

Even blinded by anger and frustration at every injustice that had ever befallen me, my hands still managed to locate a fist sized rock, rough and sparkling in the sun.

I hurled it at the porch door. It shattered. And then I ran.


  1. Such a powerful portrayal of abuse. It is a heartbreaking story that happens all too often.

  2. The terror and the resignation of what ultimately comes are palpable.

  3. I've known these feelings. It was hard to read and saddened me. Made me angry too. Good writing JB.

  4. You spun a great story. Filled with fear and hopelessnes from a young person's perspective.

  5. The feeling of being all alone is almost worse than the abuse. You capture this well, darlin.


"Write with our backs to the wind and our faces to the hard, bleaching sun."