Where were you when tragedy struck?
Alone in your own little world
Sheltered from reality.
Sheltered by your own beliefs
How do those beliefs serve you now
How do you live with your mistakes
Suddenly I just don’t give a fuck
The Day Tragedy Struck M.S. 1989
I wish I could say that the beating I received on the day after arriving home late with Herod was the last beating I ever received but it wasn’t. Disciplinary action was delivered in varying forms, with multiple instruments and with annoying regularity. Herod continued to protest against our father’s unfair treatment, once even going as far as requesting the punishment be dealt to him instead of me but all his requests fell on deaf ears.
It might sound strange to someone who grew up in a household where such things didn’t happen. It might even sound strange to someone who did grow up with the threat of violence always on their door step. But the one thing you do learn after a while is that every house is different just like every violence filled rage is different and every punishment is different.
For me the punishment went from less violent and painful forced bible readings and forced sessions of reflection of what I was told were my mistakes, to full blown thrashing with fists flying. By the time I’d become a teenager I’d been hit with just about every item in the house that was not screwed down and fitted in my father’s hand.
By the same age Herod had felt none of it, he’d barely even felt the force of an open hand slapping against his backside and he’d definitely not felt anything like it since around our tenth birthday, the time our father started using me exclusively to drain his rage.
However like I have said previously, I did not think less of Herod for the beatings of our father, I respected and looked up to him. Herod may have been unsuccessful in his attempts to stand up for me against our father but he was not unsuccessful in helping me avoid some of the beatings. Efforts like making sure we got home on time, reminding me to do the chores, or tasks assigned to me if it appeared I had forgotten, even doing those tasks for me unbeknown to our father. There was even a few occasions where Herod sat up well past the midnight hour doing my homework, or working with me to get the work done when I was too hurt, damaged or broken.
The picture I paint showing Herod to be the guiding light may be a little blurrier than I wish it to be. Maybe to some I haven’t explained clearly as to why I looked up to my minutes older brother the way I did. There might even be some out there, Dr. Sherper I’m looking at you (more on the good(?) doctor later), who would suggest my feelings and thoughts related to Herod are biased and not entirely clear based on not having the fatherly figure to look up to but I assure you even if the picture is not clear the respect was definitely there. How do I know this? I know this because when Herod was taken from me there was nothing, absolutely nothing, left.
I’m going to skip ahead a little bit here, but only a few years, because what happened between our thirteenth birthday and our fifteenth birthday was more and more of what I had already outlined, and you probably don’t need to hear about every punishment I received or every time I was forced to read the bible. So instead of those stories I’ll skip to Wednesday the 14th of August 1985, the day that changed my life forever.
Herod and I were walking home from school, side by side along the footpath on Berry Street, not far from the intersection of Cagney Road. We were on time to beat our father home and cheerful given the gloomy day that surrounded us. We thought it was a good sign that the rain had stopped before we left school, the roads and footpaths were still wet and grimy, but the feeling of rain had passed.
As usual when we walked along Berry Street I was walking on the inside of the path and Herod was walking closest to the grassed nature strips, it was the walk we did every day. Little did we know that it would be the last day Herod would ever walk that path again after an out of control car came skidding around the corner of Cagney Road, running a red light and ignoring at least a dozen other road rules at the same time.
What started out as a fishtail around the left hand corner trying to beat the red light on the wet road ended up with the Holden Torana’s rear end flicking out into and across onto the wrong side of the road. Had there been another car waiting at the red light of Berry Street to stop the car skidding Herod may have been saved, but there wasn’t and from a left hand slide the driver over corrected into a right hand slide. The second correction, still too much by the inexperienced and panicked driver, then saw the car heading straight for us. It mounted the kerb lifting the front left hand wheel off the ground but barely slowing the car. The screeching rear wheels were still spinning trying to find traction when they too mounted the kerb and by then even if the driver had been able to find the brakes it wouldn’t have saved Herod.
I felt the car skim past me, the passenger side mirror clipped my upper arm and left a bruise that matched the one next to it which our father delivered several days earlier. But for Herod there was no chance, there was only centimetres between us and it was those centimetres that were the difference between life and death as Herod was slammed into by the front corner of the car.
The car continued over the footpath, through a brick fence that for years had stood just over a metre high, into the front yard of number seventy six Berry Street, across the yard and into the brick front wall of the house. For that entire trip of about thirty metres Herod was an unwilling passenger, what he felt, what he saw and what he thought I would never know.