Tuesday, January 26, 2010
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..