Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A new short story

The uneven glass of the ancient window warped the view inside. The cold wet drops of rain against them made the scene even stranger. The color dancing from the fire place burst and receded across the pane without the heat I wished I felt. In the room, lit by two lamps and the fire, stood two people. The deformed glass made them appear boneless like snakes. They were standing close, maybe. I dared not wipe the window. I wondered if they turned, what my face might look like in the flickering glow of the fire and the wavy glass. Perhaps my face would look beautiful, deformed in reverse. I took a step back to further hide my presence. I could not tell but suspected the two I watched were man and woman. One gestured with noodle arms thrown up and brought back down. One backed away putting more distance between them. Did the one head turn my way? I backed up even more. I wasn’t peeping but walking by the old stone house looking for shelter in an old barn behind it on a moonless night. The pellets of rain popped off the leaves fallen from the trees just days ago. The ones that hit my head passed easily through my thinning hair sending notes of cold to my brain, notes without a pattern but a meaning. My cotton coat was soaked and pulled heavily on my shoulders, hugging me with its bloody warmth. Once more the teasing fire flamed up and brightened the scene. One of the bent figures had turned away from the other and moved to the fireplace. I could see the motion of the arm poking. The cause of the heightened flame. Now the other figure, the one who had backed away from the flailing arms moved back closer. Bent octopus arms reached for the other in a pleading gesture. The fireplace figure turned and wangled the crooked poker in a manner that looked not too polite. The other figure, instead of backing away moved closer waving the slithering arms faster, wider, thinner, and wider again as the old glass continued its tricks. I ran the palm of my hand across my face to wipe away the drops that hung from my brow. My fingers reminded me of the deformity of my face. Sometimes I wished I had never been born but the scene inside the house, an obvious disagreement, made me think that there were times being unloved was a stroke of luck. The twisted flesh that covered half of my face from jaw to forehead to my missing ear felt like drift wood smoothed by waves and twisted by time. The three fingers of my other hand, unable to clench was stuffed into the pocket of my corduroy pants, stained and ragged. I shivered. Muffled shouts rose over the splatter of rain and drew my attention from my shame back to the interior scene. Now both figures were waving watery arms like a fishwife at the crooked butcher. What words made the sounds I could not tell but the cut of them surely pointed to anger. Then the arm holding the rubber-like poker aloft, swung down quickly and the other crumpled into an indiscernible heap. I stood frozen, shocked. The poker was dropped and the other quickly left the room. Taking a chance, I moved closer to the window to check for movement. I wiped away the drops of rain but it blurred the scene even more. The fire ignored what had just happened and sent another yellow flare dancing across the window. I had no idea what to do next. The house stood alone a mile from town. Should I go in and help or run to town and notify the sheriff? The decision was made for me when I felt the cold steel of a pistol against my neck and heard the words, “Don’t move.” I was born normal, if poor and abused is considered normal. I suppose poor was and it depends on what one would consider abused to determine how abnormal mine was. I have never been so bold to ask anyone about their abuse. Everyone has been abused in their own mind. Going to bed without supper I am sure was the cause of someone to accuse father of abuse. For me, a belt, a boot, a punch were the exclamation points of directions to gather wood or go find food and drink for the barrel of a man called ‘Father’. That was the good days. If I procured too much drink, unnatural acts I wish to erase, took place in spite of my begging, pleading, or screaming. If I brought too little, or God forbid, none at all, I would sleep outside in the cold nursing the bruises on my ribs, face, and buttocks, subsisting on blood I sucked from my swollen lips. When I ran away, my face was still presentable but my soul I carried in a thick black bag tucked deep inside.

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