My style is to just write and only correct spelling once I’ve completed it. Even the names of characters are made up as I go. I write until I feel I’ve released enough.
Content: After reading through it, I realized I’m all the characters, all of them, without exception. The story includes domestic violence, child abuse, the death of a child, blood from an accidental cut on the hand, physical violence towards a male teenage child. No sexual abuse is discussed in this quick write. Spaces are added to distinguish one speaker from another. I used a phrase taken from congressional hearings but left out all other sarcasm or humor.
“Christopher, your father will be here any minute, please set the table. Get his tea cups, please.” Christopher rolls his eyes and says, “He”ll be here just a minute?”
“Not now, just finish setting the table, please.”
He sighed heavily but very carefully pulled down four small, black Japanese cups with a red flower he couldn’t identify. He sat them beside four square black plates and utensils he just figured out how to use. He’s frustrated…. no, offended. His father will be home soon so his parents can begin their ritual of pretending to be happy. In the blink of an eye the tide will change from a perfect brew to boiling lava spilling from his mouth burning his mother to the core. She lets him and she won’t stick up for her son. Her whole world is a man who comes home angrier each night and stays only to start another war. He leaves the carnage on the floor and goes out for the night.
Christopher’s mother begins to bring the meal out to the table but upon seeing the settings she gasps and drops the platter. “Why would you do that? Why are you so cruel to me?”
Christopher feels the weight of what he’s done and turns his head away from her. “Do it right and quickly!” she demands, but he’s firm in his resolve.
“No. The table is set. You wanted a family dinner and I’ve set the table for us all.”
By the end of her teenage son’s sentence she has become a quivering ball of tears. “Why? Why would you do this? I just wanted a nice night for once. Help me clean this mess. Help me get this off the floor before he gets here.” Christopher’s eyes begin to well with tears, his breath is heavier and his heart has moved to his throat, but he leans next to his mother whose tears now mix with the ruined dish. He cleans the broken glass from the floor. Mother is still crying, heartbroken that she won’t get it right, again. She can’t seem to do anything right. She’s a failure, a disappointment, again. As she hears the same old argument of worthlessness, she notices that Christopher’s hand is bleeding. He continued to pick up the pieces one by one, leaving drops behind as a witness to his loyalty, to his love and exasperation for the woman he calls mother.
His mother grabbed his hand and looked at him, “You’re bleeding. Honey, you’re bleeding. Don’t you see?” He dropped his head and shook it in disbelief that she for once saw that he too bleeds. “Christopher, what are you doing, go wash your hands, you’re hurt.” Christopher pulls back and continues to pick up tiny shards of glass. He pauses and says, “You never make special tea for me.”
“What? What are you talking about?” She’s confused. I mean my goodness, her husband is going to walk in the house and they’ll both be on the floor cleaning up her hundredth failure of the day. Her mind is cluttered, she tries to prioritize. Clean this up, get something else, get a reason for the delay and stay calm.
Christopher places the last of the glass on top of the pile of broken pieces. His hand drips a steady stream and shocks his mother back to the person standing right in front of her. She says nothing this time. Still crying she looks at him bewildered then holds his hand, wiping the blood away with her dress, the one she put on for her husband who will come through that door any minute. She wipes away the blood, but can’t stop his steady stream of tears. “What’s going on with you? What’s all this about? Tell me.”
His mother, Ruby, remained silent, waiting to hear him speak. Why would he set a table for four when there are only three of them now? No one talks about his younger brother that died. No one acknowledges how he died or what was said before he died. No one has said anything for years but at this moment, a teenage boy is tired of the movie about to play out. It’s a Leave it Beaver beginning with a Ted Bundy ending, and he refused to play his part. Christopher’s brother is gone, at the hands of his father he’s gone. His mother Ruby is dead inside. What role does he play? He cleans up her puddle of tears. He’s her rock, her support system and confidant, her scapegoat and invisible child. But this day, unlike other days, he just can’t get into character. He can’t bleed another drop and have it mean nothing.
Christopher is haunted. He hears his brother’s name flutter through the trees, rush through poles of the rusted out swing set and hide behind the sofa waiting to leap out and giggle with delight. He can still hear his voice, his laugh. He can still see the fear on his face, smell and taste the blood. He can see that tiny little three year old body held down by the weight of his father. One hand held down the nude, beet red, three year old body. The other hand delivered merciless blows with a dowel rod. Christopher wanted it to stop but he looked his father in the eye and saw Mr. Bundy. He saw him and then he threatened, “Go back to bed.” The look in his eyes was clear so Christopher turned around and walked away and left his brother with a monster because he was too afraid to help.
“What’s wrong with you?”
He was so scared. Christopher knew what dowel rods felt like. He’d had them on every inch of his skin. They were torture and yet he left his baby brother to endure alone. He left him and he went back to bed and put the pillow over his head so he couldn’t hear his brother cry. And then that beautiful little boy was gone, just like that. And it all became a secret, a nightmare, a haunting. Christopher can still hear little feet run across the floor to him but when he turns no one is there. It is merciless torment to seek. but never find.
“Mom.” Christopher said.
She sighs and wipes her tears.
“Mom, you can’t see me, can you?
“What are you talking about?”
“You look right through me. You look through me but you’re at his beck and call….and you let him kill my brother.
“Don’t say that! Don’t you say that!”
It’s true. You didn’t make him stop.
Take it back!!!
You won’t make him stop. When will it be my turn or maybe your turn first, huh?
Christopher’s mother was so enraged she slapped him across the face with force that knocks him to the floor. Two full palm prints in blood mark the last spot he’d ever bleed in that house.
“Oh my God! I’m so sorry.” Ruby moves to hold him but he gets to his feet, pulls his shirt down and walks to his room. She calls to him with desperation to get back out there and help her finish cleaning, but he’s done. He’s cleaned up the last mess, bled the last drop and cried the last tear he’ll ever cry in that house. He grabs his backpack and walks to the front door. Now his mother realizes he’s leaving. “What are you doing? Get back here!” He keeps walking, his hand reaches out for the door knob. “Christopher Randell get back here right now!!! You can’t leave me!‘ she wails.
Christopher reaches further for the knob but the door opens from the outside. His father is home. The three stand looking at one another as if caught in a script they hadn’t rehearsed. His mother tries to contain herself but her chest is still heaving. She’s barely holding on as her husband asks with irritation,”What’s going on here?” “Nothing,” Ruby replies. “Isn’t that right Chrissy?” She began to stutter, “I dropped a dish, um, and he was helping me clean it up, aren’t you Chrissy?” Her son did not look over his shoulder as he walked past his father and out of the door. Never again would Chrissy be played like a fiddle to the violin weepings that solo for orchestrated violent nights.
As Christopher walked down the street he realized the magnitude of what he’d just done. He was exhilarated and slightly nauseous but his eyes were wide open; his step was firm, resolute. He’d just taken the first step to freedom and he loved it.
For several hours Christopher walked the neighborhood taking in his new beginning. As he grew tired he opened the door to the run down all night diner he’s frequented for years. He sat in the same booth as always and expected to see the same waitress but a new face arrived, a much older, hung out to dry woman wearing too many rings. She walked right up, didn’t hesitate or make eye contact, but said: “How do you take your tea young man?”
“I take it strong.”
She glanced at him, gave him a half smile, a wink and left him waiting.