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Small Town Drama

by Lisa Lambson 10 months ago in Short Story
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A Time For Healing

Their gravestone

Looking out over the frozen pond, I knew this would be the last time I came back here. The memories, the guilt, the fear, the shame, all tucked away in a nice little box that never needs to be opened again. It is strange to feel those things over something that was done TO me. Strange how the mind works, twisting things to alternative realities that some people never get over. She was one of those people, my mother. Her gravestone just a short distance over the hill. Their gravestone. What is that even about?? He divorced her. Re-married, had more children for God's sake. Yet, when she died he was the one that purchased the headstone. He put them next to each other and sharing a stone, no less. It is still the biggest mystery of my life. Did he miss her? Regret leaving us? Did it ever occur to him what a piece of shit he really was? Is that why he put them together on one?

Growing up in a small town is, let's call it interesting. Everybody knowing everybody else and their business can seem cozy and safe, or it can be more like you are on public display for everything and everyone you know and all of your families misdeeds and disappointments. Another thing that isn't ideal is being the baby of the family and ten years younger than the next sibling. Made for a pretty lonely childhood especially when you add in the poverty and the alcohol.

I could tell very young that something was wrong. By the time I started school, I still didn't know why but it scared me. Then, Dad moved out. I heard mention of a girlfriend and my mother cried a lot. As she cried, I tried to comfort her but all she wanted was him. She told me, her youngest child, that her life was no longer worth living without him. I am not sure what she thought my little brain and heart was supposed to do with that but I suppose she didn't care. Money became an issue even more so after he left us. He left us there living off the government because she was a diabetic and couldn't work. She chose not to have a drivers license so she couldn't even drive.

Dad said he was going to keep paying the bills at the house for us, like most men do when they leave, but that didn't last long. The issues started almost immediately. We had to shut off the upstairs of the house so we didn't have to heat it, which meant my room was gone. The only escape I had was now cut off to me too. I began sleeping downstairs with my Mom since that was the only place that had heat. Wisconsin winters are brutal. Time passed while they were going through the divorce and things got pretty ugly. One night my Dad actually brought his girlfriend to dinner at my house. They were extremely drunk and my Mom tore her nails through his chest until he was bleeding everywhere and finally realized they should maybe leave.

Just before I started Kindergarten, Dad started coming back home in the middle of the night. He would be drunk and get into a fight with his girlfriend. He still had a key since he had just moved out and was still paying the bills. It was pretty frightening to be woke up in the middle of the night by the smell of alcohol and a man stumbling around the room trying to talk to my mother. Of course, what I didn't realize then was that he wasn't trying to “talk” to her. He was trying to get laid.

Being as weak as she was of a person, I am surprised she didn't just take him right back but for some reason she told him no. One of these times, she got up out of bed. She went out into the kitchen to smoke a cigarette and cry away from him. The first couple of times it happened he would follow her out there and try to change her mind. They would fight and he would storm out. Until one night, he didn't. He stayed in the room with me. And life changed forever. Mom never said a word or did anything to stop him and it continued. She would leave the room and leave me there with him night after night until all of a sudden, it stopped.

There was an auction where they sold the little bit of stuff we did have. I don't remember much except my siblings being there trying to bid on my Mom's vintage dishes. They managed to keep a few of them. We were moved to a tiny little duplex on the edge of town like we were the trash. 5 years old and I was moved into this tiny dump with a women that had no will to live herself. She didn't make food for me. She didn't clean anything. I was left on my own to figure it out. She had one friend that would come and pick us up once a week to go do laundry and get groceries. The rest of the time it was up to me or we went without. We ate a lot of ham and cheese sandwiches I cooked in the microwave at the gas station across the street. The man that owned it was my best friends brother and he would let me buy them with our food stamps.

Although things were hard, I was just happy that I never had to see my Father. He never showed up at the new house. Then, I found out why. He had gone to court and gotten visitation rights for me. I was supposed to spend every other weekend with him from now on. I couldn't imagine why he would do this. He never even spoke to me unless he had to and then it was as little as possible. There were no smiles, no fun. Unfortunately, I soon found out why.

He started picking me up after school on Fridays. We would go to his little dump of a place he was living. He would feed me some dinner and then off to the bar it was. I was sat at the table with soda, candy and plenty of change for the juke box and games. Weekend mornings began early with Dad making me breakfast and then we would just sit in front of the TV until it was afternoon and presentable to go to the bar. I became a solid fixture in his favorite bar. I was meeting all of the adults and they would give me money to play more games. Just when I finally started to think maybe everything was going to be ok, things changed abruptly.

I had just turned six years old and I was with my Dad at the bar. There was a back door to the bar that we went in and out of sometimes. I didn't like the back door because it was down an alley between the dentist and the bar. It ended at the bar door and there was no other way out. Just a short little brick alley that seemed wet and smelling like beer all the time. Even the walls were damp from pipes out there dripping down them. I didn't like the alley in the day time but at night it terrified me. After I had been coming to the bar with my Dad for awhile, one night we were there as usual. It was getting late and I was tired.

All I wanted was to go home and go to bed so my Dad said that he would take me home after I went into the alley with his friend. A man I had known for months took my hand and I wasn't understanding what was going on until we got to the alley and he began to unzip his pants. I will never get the image of the dark green work pants out of my head. Little did I know, that was just the beginning of the plans for me. My Dad was making a killing in beer money every weekend with me in that alley. He forced me out there three or four times a day with various friends of his. All colors and sizes of older men. I guess it depended on how much beer money he needed that day and who was there. He had many repeat customers that took me into that alley over the next couple of years.

Then, one day when I was about eight years old something happened. There was a couple that was always at the bar. In fact, every one in town knew them. They were both well known for drinking and getting a little out of control. They may yell at each other a little bit now and then and be seen out and about town, not with each other if you know what I mean. That man in that couple was the first and last man that ever took me in that alley.

I was sitting at the table as usual on a Sunday afternoon with Dad at the bar. I had my soda and candy and was listening to my favorite songs on the juke box. The man's wife came over to my table and sat down and started to talk to me just making small talk. There was nothing unusual about that. Everyone in the bar knew me and I knew them. But this time when she got up to walk away and go to the bathroom, she moved something under my hand quickly and walked away. Before I had realized it, I grabbed it and hid it in my lap and tried to act normal. I didn't even know what it was at the time but I knew she wanted me to hide it.

After I calmed down enough to look at what I had in my lap, I saw the red plastic of a Swiss army knife in my hand. I was confused for a minute until her husband got off his bar stool to head over to talk to my Dad. I knew what that meant and when I quickly glanced over at her, she quickly nodded at me as if to say it was ok. When her husband came to have me go for a walk in the alley with him, it hit me what she was suggesting I do. I stood there for a moment in that doorway looking at him and I told him, “Don't make me do this.” He shrugged me off with a laugh and said, “Now come on sweetie, just come take a little walk with me.”

When the moment came that I had a chance to use the knife I was hiding in my hand, I rushed it down as fast and as hard as I could into his thigh and I ran. I ran blocks and blocks in the dark crying. I ran all the way across town to my house and I let myself in quietly. I told my Mom that Dad had dropped me off and I went to bed. I didn't find out until a couple of years later that my Godfather had been called, the chief of police in my town. He, just like everyone else in that miserable little town, knew what was happening to me. They had been ignoring it and talking about it behind my back for years. When the police had got to the bar after the stabbing, my Godfather told my Dad to get the hell out of town by morning. He called a couple of days later from Arizona. Later that afternoon, I rode my bike to the cemetery and threw that Swiss army knife in the pond the healing could finally begin. I think I am almost there.

Short Story

About the author

Lisa Lambson

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