Monday, March 20th, 2017 – 12:55 am
Children’s books author Paula Louise Shene received eighty dollars a week in 1970 and after paying bills, she had twenty remaining for groceries and luxury items.
A dollar fifty went to priceless Golden Books. Based on size, it made cents that each primer was thirty, forty, fifty, sixty or seventy nine. We would precisely pick only unique ones each time. What does the word thrift mean, mom? Twice the number of books if they’re used, honey.
My two years older brother Paul sat me down when I was almost two and began to read to me from one of his favorites. He could not discern the letters, but remembered every story with frightening precision. He became frustrated when baby brother feet followed my flagging attention and so he smacked the book on top of my head and yelled that I sit down and listen. At all his future readings, I was notably absent.
My MP father grinned as he told four year old Patrick and his brother torrid tales of broken sailors, crying in their cell, forced to hold up broom handles and briefcases and beaten if their arms and the floor didn’t remain parallel. He promised his boys he could break the will of any man, but was looking only at me as he spoke.
Two of my favorite reads by five were dad’s Playboys and horror comics. Asses and demons. Still American family favorites after all these years. I began to track mother’s schedule downstairs each day to stretch my secret reading times. I could read and write before four, so I knew instinctively that every truth and answer and the way to God must lie hidden in a book somewhere. I just didn’t realize I would prefer the pictures.
My brother slapped his seven year old hands on several centerfolds that our bad dad had thoughtfully tacked on the wall. Paul yelled “mommy!”
Mom laughed. But then dad said, “I wish.”
I could see that made my mom sad. “You know how you are different from all those other girls, mom?” I asked. “You are sweet and prettier and you have brown hair, not yellow.”
I loved the pictures and looked at them after I finished my homework. Every day for ten years. But after a while, mostly the faces look different. Especially the eyes.
When this breaker of men told me he would spank me if I kept looking at his Playboys, without blinking I promised him that I would still sneak in every day to look at zombies and boobies until I am a hundred.
In his heart, that little boy already knew he was able to withstand anything that anyone had to throw at him. I had already divined father and I were the same size on the inside. The already shattering five year old swore to be the first to break the mold. Thus epic hammer and anvil crashed in vain for decades.
An early attempt at perfect justice, discipline and order, our father once spanked us with the belt and then stood us brothers in opposite corners. I glared over at Paul and dared that he not fall to the pressure. But within minutes he wailed and our wanton warden released the coward as reward.
Then I saw my smug father smiling and I pictured sailors crying and lifting trembling broom handles for hours or maybe days.
I swore to the quiet above and the burning below to break this brutal bastard in two, if it took me eighteen years.
Silent and staid, we wondered why we could see tears rolling down the cheeks of the little boy in the corner, but there were no heard cries or any light in his eyes. Then I wondered how I could see Patrick from the outside. In my story, I am the master of muse, musics and magics and only I decide what to ban or abide.
Over four hours later, my father caught me falling as my two eyes rolled backward and my five year old knees buckled. He yelled and spanked me again and sent me to bed without supper.
But I won.