A day later than planned, but here we go…
I was telling you about my father, and all the great times we had when I was a kid. And I said the next post would be one particularly entertaining anecdote. In today’s very special episode of Taken By The Wind, I’ll tell you about the day I effectively became an orphan.
Here’s the scene:
Afternoon. Me, at sixteen, reading on the sofa in the living room.
My father and his wife, my second stepmother, are in their bedroom.
Their door opens and my father steps into the living room, glaring.
“You stole something from our room,” he says. “Give it back.”
I’m at a loss, since I have not, indeed, stolen anything from their room. I say something to that effect.
“Yes you did,” he tells me. “Get it.”
“What did I steal?” I ask.
“You know,” he says. And he’s very angry.
“I have no clue what you’re talking about,” I say.
He fumes. “You know what I’m talking about,” he says. “I’m going back in the bedroom. I’ll come back out in ten minutes, and you better have it.”
And he disappears into the bedroom.
I go back to my reading. Can’t do much else.
Ten minutes later, he returns. His thick leather belt is in his hand. “Where is it?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He glares at me, looking like he’s trying to solve an algebra problem that keeps kicking him in the nuts.
“I gave Pam a gag gift,” he finally says. “You went in our room and stole it.”
And then I realize what he’s talking about.
Flashback several months: I was home alone, on the other couch, the one in the den, watching TV.
I became aware of a weird noise toward the back of the house. Like a rattling. So I got up to investigate, following the noise to their bedroom, to my stepmother’s wardrobe.
Atop that structure was one of those old-fashioned bathing sets, a big bowl with a matching pitcher. The weird noise was coming from that pitcher.
I stood on a chair and looked in, where I saw…
And it was alive. Rattling inside the belly of that pitcher like a perverse plastic Jonah wanting out of a crockery whale.
I laughed, turned the thing off, and went back to my show.
So now, with my father angry at my alleged thievery and clearly uncomfortable talking about the object in question, I realize the “gag gift” he speaks of has to be the loquacious sex toy I met briefly those long months prior.
“Oh,” I say, “You mean the vibrator.”
He looks overinflated. “Yes.”
“That’s in that pitcher on top of the wardrobe.” And I tell him how I know.
He goes back to the bedroom. Now clearly the vibrator is where one of them, probably Pam, put it, then stupidly forgot. Clearly it has not been stolen. Fortunately, I actually knew where it was by a quirk of fate, since I clearly would have been beaten had I not known where they, themselves, had misplaced it.
Then my father returns. He still has the belt. “Come here.”
I try to argue. “But I didn’t steal it,” I say.
“Maybe not,” he says. “But Pam says you’ve obviously been searching our room, or you wouldn’t have known where it was.”
Even though I’d already told him how I knew. Which I tried to do again, but he was having none of it.
So, had I not known and not been able to tell them, I’d have been beaten as a thief, even though the fault was in their memories.
But because I did know and was able to tell them, I was still going to be beaten. I had done absolutely nothing wrong, but I was in a very real no-win situation.
My father took me to the den. There was a table along the wall under the window. He made me put my hands flat on the table.
The window was open.
He started whaling at me with the belt. I gritted my teeth, determined not to give him the pleasure of my cries. But he was just as determined to get that pleasure, and he had the upper hand. He kept beating me until I cried out loud, loud enough for the neighborhood beyond that open window to hear. Then he beat me some more.
At some point, a week later or sometime else, I’m not sure now, but at a point where things had calmed down, I challenged him on the unfairness of it all. And he basically acknowledged it, but told me that he had to take Pam’s side in these things. I would be out of the house in a couple of years, but Pam would still be there. He’d been through one hard divorce already and he couldn’t do that again.
So, in any instance where there was conflict between me and her, it didn’t matter if I was in the right, or if I was being wronged. They were a united front. Against me. His son.