I won’t close my eyes
I won’t fall asleep
Dreams turn into nightmares
Fists slamming clad walls
Hate and anger aimed at me
Hear your screams from downstairs.
Punishment Due. M.S 1989
So that day walking home from school, when Herod and I sat in the low bluestone wall and talked things out, was the turning point for me in more ways than I could count.
I’d found out he didn’t resent me for anything. I found out that he had not only noticed the harshness of our father’s punishment and the one sided nature in which it was delivered but he had at times tried, unsuccessfully, to stop the punishment. But perhaps the most revealing thing was that in a very short time I had gone from respecting Herod, to doubting him and back to respecting him far and beyond how I respected him before.
It was a respect that grew daily from that point on as I realised just how much I looked up to my brother. In many ways from that day forward I believe I looked up to Herod as my father figure. I guess that sounds kind of strange given he was only minutes older than me, but I’d begun to realise just how little fatherly influence the head of our house really had. I guess if I’d had a close uncle or grand father my fatherly figure might have been found there but there was a rift in our family long before that day and it was a rift no one was prepared to repair.
Needless to say on that day we were late home and not just late home Herod and I walked in the door a full thirty minutes after our father arrived home. Whether he’d had a bad day at the shop, not sold enough bibles or something, I don’t know, and never got the chance to find out, but even from the front gate we could tell he was raging. He was yelling , presumably at our mother, words so indecipherable that it sounded almost alien to my ears. There was little doubt in our minds that he was yelling about us even if we couldn’t understand his words.
“Leave this to me.” Herod said as we walked up the concrete driveway. “I’ll tell him I forgot my homework and I had to go back to school and get it. I’ll tell him it’s all my fault.” I said nothing, simply nodded in agreement. “Follow me in, I’ll do the talking and if he asks you anything just say you know nothing more than me forgetting my homework.”
I rarely felt easy walking into our family home, even less so when my father was raging but on that day after such a meaningful talk with Herod and his selfless offer to take the entire blame for us being late I did feel somewhat easier than I probably should have. Pity for me it was a false sense of ease.
“Where the fuck have you been?” For a religious man our father certainly didn’t mind swearing and by the time Herod and I were forging into our second decade of life his venomous words were rarely absent of profanity.
Despite our father looking around Herod and directly at me as he asked the question Herod answered. “It was my fault. I forgot my homework and we had to go back to school so I could get it.”
“Bullshit!” our father spat.
“It’s true, Father,” Herod said. “If I didn’t go back and get it I would have gotten in trouble tomorrow.”
“Don’t lie for him Herod,” Our father said stepped towards us. Herod tried to block him but he was shouldered out of the way. “Stay out of this boy!” I heard as our father stepped around Herod and grabbed me.
My school bag was still on my shoulders, which didn’t help my balance as I was dragged out of the kitchen and into the lounge room. I knew better than to protest, I also knew better than to stiffen up or go rigid as I was pushed and shoved to wherever it was my father wanted me.
Like a rag doll I was shoved to the floor between the couch and the glass top coffee table. I yelped in pain as my left hip connected with something on the floor but I didn’t get a chance to find out what it was before I was being man handled yet again. I could hear Herod still protesting my innocence in the kitchen, I could also hear our mother telling him to stop talking and not enrage our father any more than he was. Whether he stopped protesting or not I couldn’t actually tell you because at that time everything other than our father’s voice disappeared from my ears.
With one hand our father dragged me into the sitting position behind the coffee table, with his other hand he shoved a King James II bible, release the year after our birth, in front of me and screamed for me to read. There was no indication what he wanted me to read, there never was, it was just a request to open the book and start reading as if the words would some how forgive me of the sins he’d decided I had committed.
When I was too slow to open the bible, he never took into account that I was reeling from his heavy handedness, he opened the book for me and shoved my head at it. He never had any regard for how hard my head might hit the table and that occasion was no different. My head slammed into the open book, not hard enough for me to see stars but definitely hard enough to bring tears to my eyes, but he didn’t care.
When he’s deemed that I had read enough, I had to read aloud to prove I was reading, he then dragged me off the floor, from out behind the coffee table, and all the way to our shared room. Inside that room, behind a closed door, he then smacked me with his open hand across the arse, the legs and the upper back until I could not scream any more.