In our family, we have many “wise” maxims. We have to know them all.
We are not told what the rules are. They change daily. We should already know them. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. The maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters.
Any violation of the family rules, minor or major, will earn you one Hell of a beating. Our parents and all family adults are perfect. Their only failing is there inability to beat us enough.
In grade school and high school I cheat myself out of an education. The law requires me to go to school, so I am there. Every day. Sick or well. Perfect attendance. All my childhood diseases are accomplished during summer vacation. Adenoids, chicken pox, German measles, mumps and a tonsillectomy. I have been to school with a temperature of one hundred three degrees. I hold out until the weekend.
Nobody beats me at school. It is really nice. I hate summer vacation and all other times away from school. My grades hover at a C minus. One point away from a D. There is no law which says I have to get straight A’s, I only need a passing grade.
In our family, any woman’s problem has only one solution. A good screwing. It is my sacred family duty to screw every single girl in my grade at least one time. Failing to do this will probably earn me a bad beating.
I will follow my oldest and older brother into the U S Army. The Airborne and then Special Forces. With a side trip to Ranger School. Guys crave excitement or stupid shit. Same, same. The difference between Special Forces and the Rangers is. Special Forces plans a way into and back out of combat. The Rangers only plan on a way in.
In my family and in Special Forces, to stay alive you have to be able to figure it out. Correctly and quickly. If someone has to say to you, “hey stupid, this is how you do it“. You will soon be dead. My family and Special Forces communicate with their many arm, finger and hand signals. The sign language of the abused. I am hyper vigilant. War is Hell.
And yet, with all of this wonderful ability, I have absolutely no idea what women are feeling, thinking or wanting, nor do not like, nor want to do.
My oldest brother, the Jubjub Bird, teaches me a new word today. It is not a real word so it is a big nanny nanny poo poo. Are not or aren’t is the closest thing to it. “Ain’t“. It sounds beautiful. We spend the day trying it out as many different ways as we can think of.
None of us kids are allowed to have watches, as we will only break or lose them. We are still supposed to keep track of what time it is and not be late for anything. If we are early or late we will get the shit beat out of us. I try to accept the blame as much as I can. I am sure my younger siblings will not survive one of these beatings.
Some of them will not survive a beating.
I check the position of the evening sun and the length of my shadow. You cannot see in through any of the windows to check the time. Cloudy days are pure Hell. It feels like the evening mealtime, so we wander over to the house and go inside. After we wash our faces and hands, we check the house clock. It is a big old windup mantel type, which chimes the hours. We have two minutes to spare. We are good. At six o clock, when the clock’s first bong sounds there is to be no one at the table. By the last bong everyone is supposed to be at the table or dead. Or they will wish they were. There is the dining room table and the kitchen table. Different tables, different rules.
Gram reaches between The Jubjub Bird and me with the vegetable spoon. It is huge, with a long handle. It has slots in it for draining. She dumps a load of the nasty veggies on my plate, which I feel will feed three of us.
I inadvertently use my new word. “Jeez! I ain’t gotta eat all this do I?” The spoon shoots from my plate, to the front of my forehead. I jerk away and the chair bounces me back. The room is just swimming back into focus when Pop tags me with a backhand.
“You talk lik’a heathen ‘gain an’ I’ll rip out yer tongue an’ beat choo wid it. You un’erstan’ me?” asks Pop. I nod, yes, as I sit here blinking. When Pop uses his heathen talk, he is really really pissed. “You ain’t gonna go ‘roun’ gettin’ people ta thinkin’ we’s a bunch a Ghod damned idiots,” says Pop. There is no way in Hell I am going to mention to Pop he just uses the word, ‘ain’t‘.
I get the mental picture straightened out, when he reinforces his message with another jolt to my head. The incoming signals are scrambled, again. He grabs my arm, shakes me violently, and hisses at me.
“Who d’you think you are settin’ at t’ table with shit on yer stoopid mug?” asks Pop.
Back then there is no such thing as Shaken Child Syndrome or a whole lot of other really really fun things.
I stumble to the bathroom, mostly by feel. By the time I get there, the reception is better. I stand up on the toilet and peer into the mirror. In between the drain slot marks from the spoon on my forehead are squashed bits of carrots and what I call slima beans - when there are no adults around.
My younger sister, Rhonda Jean, renames lima beans as slima beans. She mangles the English language like a local person who claims to be a comedian and does this as his act.
Just to be safe, I wash my face and hands, again, and return to the table. Faces and hands are to be washed before each meal. Whether they need it or not. Rubbing your hands on the front of your shirt just does not cut it.
Pop is waiting for me. Oh shit. I try to endure the beating and remain standing. He knocks me down and I cannot get back up. He is kicking me, now.
The next thing I know, it is dark. At first, I think I am blind. It is just nighttime. It is the evening mealtime, last I know. Everything is gone from the table. The evening meal is over, dinner, supper.
I vow to Ghoddess to never again use a contraction and to speak perfect English.
I cannot tell if I am hungry or not. I hurt too much. I make my way upstairs, quietly. Dodging all of the squeaky spots on the steps.
This might be useful in the Army, in sneaking through the jungle.
The door to the girls’ room is open. They are waiting to see if I am still alive. They are asleep. I pull the door closed, so I can get undressed and get into bed. I wonder if I might get some thing to eat, at the morning meal tomorrow.
War is Hell.
General William Tecumseh Sherman [masked]