Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Flash Back

Spangled motes of dust, trapped inside stray shards of sun, rise, twist and spin, as a timid breeze sighs in through the partially lowered window. James Taylor has Carolina on his mind. The transistor radio crackles, the reception fading out and back, rendering snags of the lyric indecipherable.

Propped, knees up on her parents squeaky bed, Carol moves the radio over to the other side of the bed again, watching as her baby sister, mid-crawl, once more alters direction, a human sound-seeking missile intently honing in on her target. It's a repetitive game, but effective, providing distraction enough to free ten-year-old Carol up to listen in to her favourite weekly programme, "The Hairy Monster's Saturday Top Ten Chart Count Down".

The warm air leans heavily against the tulip-clad wallpaper, it's too hot and clammy to be penned up indoors, but because Lainie is nearing a feed, and also because she'll be needing a nappy change before taking out, Carol resolves to hear The Hairy Monster through before taking her downstairs. She moves the radio out of her sister's grasp again, as The Scaffold raises a glass to Lilly-The-Pink.

Most days include taking charge of this occasionally cute, but mostly annoying breathing doll. Much as before, Carol still plays out on the cobbled streets with her friends, except now she wheels the Silver-Cross pram out along with her too. It's mostly all fine and well enough, so long as she remembers to wheel her back in again at the end of the day.

She sometimes forgets.

Once, she had gone so far as to almost come in through the front door completely minus her charge, but thankfully (for the both of them), Pat-next-door, sitting on her step with a smoke half-way to her lips, had jogged her memory in the nick of time with an accusatory, "So, where have you left the bairn, then?"

Hand flying to her mouth, Carol had spun, running full pelt all the way back down to outside of the sweetie shop, the place to where she'd last parked her. Her sister's yells met her long before rounding the corner, Lainie had successfully worked herself up into a right old state. A clutch of adults had gathered round, curious to investigate the source of the distress, and Carol had had to muster up a fair amount of courage to, with head bent low, elbow her way through the group, and to lever the brake off. Wheeling the pram through a sharp sling-shot pf fully barbed rebukes, she whisked them both away as fast as she was able.

Luckily, her Ma had been none the wiser, and good old Pat-Next-Door never did see fit to raise it with her. Suffering no real lasting damage, Lainie screamed long and loud enough for many's another day.

Now, as Peter Sartstedt wonders where his lovely goes, Carol closes her eyes, melting into the heat of the pillow, as she slips inside the verses of the song, picturing herself running with all the other street urchins there, skipping along with them by the beautiful canal paths of Venice.

She barely hears little Lainie's coo of delight, as her plump, dimpled arm reaches closer to her trophy. It's only when the radio abruptly squawks and clatters bouncing to the ground, that her eyes fly wide open. Her heart gripped in horror she watches as, in sickening slow-motion, Lainie follows it down, tumbling, head-first, through the crack between the bed and the wall. For a micro-second all the air is sucked out of the room, the scene freezes mid-breath, until the jarring thump of her sisters fall tears through the fearful vacuum.

Terrified, Carol's throat locks.

Little Lainey, hurt and frightened, ululates a high, wavering howl.

Scared witless, Carol vaults to the floor, peering frantically under the huge, wide bed. Seeing her lying there, stuck way, way back in the far corner, lying crumpled awkwardly on her side, she is far too afraid to go in there after her, for fear of further damage. Racing to the top of the stairs, she summons for help, screaming from the top of her lungs, she yells for all she's worth that Lainie's fallen down the back of the bed!!!

Her da is the first one up, her ma following in fast behind. He tosses the bed effortlessly aside as if it were made out of match-stick, as her ma runs around it to snatch up and cradle the rescued Lainie into her arms. She is dust-grimed and sobbing, with a faint trace of a bruise blossoming on her forehead.

Carol doesn't see it coming.

Out of nowhere a punch sucks the wind from her lungs.

Barely before this registers, a second, harder blow lifts her clean off her feet, dropping her like a stone.

Her da, face contorted, now straddles her, punching and slapping her about the head with all the furies of hell behind his fists. She can no longer hear him, just the blood singing in her ears. Futilely, she raises an arm to her face in an attempt to fend off the blows, but this only serves to further enrage him, and he grabs to twist her by the hair, slamming her head up and down, he pounds it relentlessly and repeatedly, continusley and mercilessly, battering her head again and again, he bounces it to crack heavily against the solid, un-giving floor.

She thinks she is screaming, but no sound comes out.

Carol feels something cave from the back of her skull, a flood of wet is trickling over her eye, blinding her vision. And now floating, the world slips to gray, the chaos around her slowly fades out, as she is sucked down into the swirl and rush of her own pulsing veins.

.. .

Despite her fractured skull, no social workers call. The doctors and nursing staff never ask of her what really happened, but then, even if they had, schooled well enough to hold her tongue, it's doubtful she'd say. Ma fawns over her at every visit, pointedly hissing through smiling lips for her to next be mindful where she places her foot on the stair.

This is still in the day when no decent, self-respecting family owns to admitting mental illness through it's door. Carol's Ma claims it's her bad head that makes her eyes leak so much, which is why she needs Carol to take over for her every now and then. But that hardly explains why her ma sees and hears so many of the things that no one else ever does.

'Course, Carol knows her da has more than enough on his plate, what with working so hard as he does down the quarry. Sure enough, doesn't a man deserve a little recreation, after providing so well for his family? (Least that's what her ma says). Well, yes, Carol thinks that's maybe so, if only his raising a drink with his mates down at the pub, didn't also so often extend to his raising his fists to her ma once home.

Though she hasn't yet seen many years, she's seen enough to know it's the beer that turns him sour.

Her big sister was right all along.

Apparently big sis' is now a complete waste of space ,(though not to Carol she's not, nor will she ever be to her) which is why she hardly lives under their roof any more. She left the year after her big brother took off, but unlike him, she does still come over and visit even still. It was her who pulled her da off of Carol that day, that first time she was beaten to a pulp. She was truly amazing, so she was. It's something Carol will never forget, even though she can't remember it. She is also sure the whole world must fall instantly in love with such a big sister as she.

Even as bossy as she is.

See, her big sister taught her something from that fateful Summer day, something she takes to heart. Seems no matter how scary the circumstance, there are some times you just have to stand up, because to not do so might prove to be even scarier still.

Her big sister's love faced the monster down that day, and it sealed a bond between them, one which only grew and grew..


She Writes said...

Oh, please, please tell me this isn't about you. I could hardly bare to read it.

TechnoBabe said...

In families like this, each one knows the secret. That is probably why the older brother left and still also why the older sister felt the need for return visits. As it turned out, it was a good thing she was there to stop the father from doing any more damage. It is sad that in some families there are things that cannot be spoken. You did a wonderful job writing this.

Fletch said...


Leslie: said...

Too many people can relate to your story.

simon said...

Violence in the home is more common palce than most of us care to admit.

I was shocked to learn that my Grandfather would beat his wife if the home was not cleaned to a particular standard. Makes me ill to think of it....

Mickle in NZ said...

Oh Shrinky, my heart goes out to you. Wha incredible, honest writing.

Sending much care and warm huggles,

Michelle and Zeb

Kristina Hughes said...

That's quite some flash back - amazingly written, heart-breakingly sad. Your writing really has a special way of connecting with people and conveying the essence of who you are - you should write a book. xx

jinksy said...

There could be no greater incentive to anyone, to stand up for those weaker than themselves, than to read such a story as this.

Anonymous said...

A sweet, comforting scene turned into horror. It's a story that can stand on it's own. You've wrapped up the ending with an explanation of the circumstances and... a heroine who ceases the brutality... of the moment, at least. ((Hugs)) BRAVO!

mrsnesbitt said...

Good honest stuff hun, always rips the heart of those who read and identify! (((HUGS)))

Shrinky said...

Amy, forty years of healing has passed since then!

Thank you TechnoBabe, "Normal" is what you grow up with, it often takes a very long time living outside of a toxic enviromnent, for children raised within dysfunctional famies to gain a compass on what is healthy.

Fletch, thanks for that, it was a challenging write, I am less confident when I post this kinda' stuff. (smile).

Oh Leslie ((hugs))..

I agree Simon, but attitudes and times do change. I think it is a little less easy for abusers to isolate and silence their victims quite so well as they did in generations gone. That is not to say violence doesn't still continue on behind closed doors, but there now at least are some options available to offer victims today, that were simply non-existant in the past.

Hi Michelle, oh sweetie, I have long since managed to lay those demons to rest. My parents were victims of their own past, I didn't want that for myself.

Oh Kristina, you've just made my toes curl (laughing). I have tried, I even got mid-way through a novel which an agent expressed an interest in once - but it is so HARD!! Beginning is the easy bit, it's the following through part that ties me up in knots!

Dearest Jinksy, have you any idea how happy that's made me feel? Thank you, it means a lot to hear that said.

Awww, Chewy, none of these pieces would be around without your constant nagging, encouragement, brow-beating, and constructive imput - thanks for the pushing and prodding, I am always glad in the end that you've forced me along!

Hi Denise, well at least it had a sorta' happy ending (grin)!

Land of shimp said...

Well Shrinky, I'm not going to say I enjoyed that precisely, because it isn't enjoyable in the strictest sense. It's very sad, and very true.

It was also very well written. We come from similar backgrounds, by the way. Ah well, the things that go into shaping us, eh?

I'm so glad you built a better shape for your own life. I did too.

So yes, I didn't enjoy the post, because I empathized with it. But I also recognized the grateful distance from which it was told, and that's a lovely thing, the distance. The chance to make our own way, with purposeful choice.

Take care.

Shrinky said...

The things that shape us, yes. Not all negatively, either (smile). I take some positive from the rubble, there is always some good along with the bad. I am proud of my achievements, and of those of my siblings. For all the past, each one of us went on to make a big success of our lives.

Naturally, in their dotage, our parents sat back and credit for it (eyes skywards). Funny how easily history gets re-written, eh?

Anonymous said...

SHOVE! (giggle) See how good it feels after you finish writing? er... um... You are not finished yet.

She Writes said...

Still it breaks my heart for the girl you were. Had to come back and see if you answered. Your story haunted me.

But my own childhood aches are also mostly healed, so I understand.

SJ said...

Well written (obviously!)

I know too many people who have had lived through similar scenarios but not all have healed as well as you seem to have.

Shrinky said...

CHEW-EY!!! Gimme' a break here and cut me some slack, you bloomin' slave-driver, you! (Grin)

Hello Amy, thanks for popping back in. I'm happy to report that that little girl of then, she has long since escaped away to a far, far better place since - Look closer - can't you see her now waving to you, with that happy smile on her face?

Cheers SJ, thanks for that. Not everyone has a choice to heal, I was very lucky to find many good people who were there to help me find my way along that path.

SE'LAH... said...

stopping by from Soul Aperture. sending lots of positive vibes your way. one love.

~Babs said...

Wow, I sure didn't see that one coming, took me by complete surprise.And then I started to think it was a fiction piece, and then (horrors) I realized it wasn't.
I think it shows of what stuff you're made that you are able to write about this painful part of your life.(and write very well, I might add)
Good for you, Shrink,,,and from what I know of you, I'd bet you forgive and still love him too, hmm?

Relyn said...

I found my way here via Soul Aperture. You can really write to hte heart of things. What a gift. I love how many of us are roaming the blogroads stopping to say hello here and there. So, hello to you. Happy almost-Friday.

Shrinky said...

Oh my, Relyn, you came through Soul Apature too? (Smiling wide) Welcome aboard, thanks for popping by! Yes, isn't this net is an amaing place?

Shrinky said...

Hi Babs, I guess I loved him, he lived with me the year before he died, by then he was no longer physically violent, but he'd certainly lost none of his cruelty.

Hello SE'LAH, how nice of you to stop by, welcome!

jay said...

An ugly story, beautifully told. Good Lord ... what you must have gone through.

I was thinking, 'how dare that mother leave her baby so long with one of her other children', before I got to the part about her own problems. Hard to understand how it all came together into abuse, though I know it happens and I feel wrenchingly sad for the young Carol.

And you know, my own mother was left to bring up her brothers and sisters, whenever a new baby came along. It was the way things were. But she didn't get beaten.

Suldog said...

Ah, Darlin', I read stories like this and once again realize just how fabulously blessed I was to have the home life I did as a child. My Mom and Dad were wonderful (well, My Mom still is...) and I ache for those who had someone they trusted beat upon them. Phew. Just not right.

God bless you with as much happiness now as you had sadness then.

Sunshine said...

Is it really about you? wow.. its amazing how you can write this with so many emotions.

Akelamalu said...

Oh Shrinky I cried reading that, as a mother that could never understand another letting that happen. :(

I'm so sorry honey. xx

Shrinky said...

Hi Jay, yeah, my big sis' raised me, just as I went on to raise Lainie, it really was just the way things were. Ma tried, she just wasn't equipped to fit that role. Da? Hnmm, he was a whole 'nother story!

Aw Suldog, into every life some rain must fall, eh? Mine has turned out just fine and well, I've known a lot of joy since way back then (smile).

Hello Sunshine, I am not sure that really IS about me, I can honestly look back quite detatched, as though it hapenned to someone else. It simply seems another lifetime ago now.

Akelamalu, Ma was one of eleven, and she grew up with abuse as an every day part of her life - she was a damaged,broken vessle long, long before any of her kids ever came along.

CJ said...

Wow. You're pretty amazing, you know that right?

Shrinky said...

Hey CJ, quit with trying to swell my head(blush)! Truth be told, scratch the surface of anyone you know, there is usually something there they have had to deal with, isn't there?

PRH....... said...

Your writing keeps improving as you go along Shriky....keep it up.

And true stories, warts and all, is what makes it so.

Nancy said...

Powerful writing Shrinky. Wow. You have a way of telling a story that wrings the heart and brings tears to the eyes, yet it's told without self pity. Amazing.

Just catching up on your posts - I will never eat cod again. And I've heard the same thing about halibut!

Calamity Jane said...

Oh Shrinky, I was lost in the sweetness of nostalgia and then ... I'm so sorry.

Shrinky said...

Ah Pat, you are one of my long term readers, it's not so often I post this kind of stuff anymore - thanks for the encouraging words.

Nancy, HALIBUT too?? Ye Gods, is nothing sacred?? (Sigh..)

Hi there Jane, not all my trips down memory lane are quite so harsh to walk along - I'll try topost a lighter one soon to balance it out (smile)..

Debbie said...

What an incredible story. You told this so well.

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

loved every word...very evocative, al rings true in my ear...

saz xd

Shrinky said...

Hi there Debbie, how great to see you back! I thank you for your kind words (smile), this is only one part of the story, there's lots more humour and lighter moments to weave through it yet..

Hey Saz, I LOVE your new blog make-over, that is soooooooo much more you! Thanks for the encouragement, it means a lot.

Carol@ Writers Porch/ Book House said...

Shrink, you are an amazing woman!

B.T.Bear (esq.) said...

Carol, I am sendin big hed hugs for yu.

An by the way, yu appeer TWICE in my list ov followers. I dident eevn noe that was possibol. Yu ar orfully clever, yu noe.

San said...

Carol, this is terrifying. How uplifted I feel knowing that that frightened little abused girl has matured into a wise, strong woman who is pouring all the love she didn't get into her own children.

Just beautiful.