It was late July, the sun lightly glistening through the trees and caressing the sky just before it settled into the empty darkness. I, in my child-like state, could care less what a bright yellow ball did to the Maple Tree in my backyard, much less the world beyond.
The gold running through my fingers was what held all of my attention. I was a miner, digging through ore and creating piles in my sandbox. My sister Rachel, next to me, was attempting to do the same. But then, a minute later, we had to go in. Specks of crystal and rock flew everywhere as I kicked up my feet and spread my arms wide, trying to get my unbalanced body in a standing position.
Next, I was a robot - walking, not running, coming when called, listening and acting as my mother instructed. What she instructed me to do did not cooperate with my programming. “Go upstairs and change out of those dirty clothes. All you girls did all day was fool around while I worked and now I need some help making supper,” she said, her voice more weary than strict.
I didn’t want to go upstairs. Neither did Rachel. We instead hid in a corner behind one of the couches in the living room, talking quietly about the Boogeyman - the tall and intimidating figure we called my father.
Although he wasn’t cruel and abusive, we always thought of him as such.
Being a typical five-year-old that wanted to play in my sandbox all day, I couldn’t fathom why I had to stop to clean my room or help wash dishes or listen to his boring lectures or get spanked for not obeying any of the previous three. It all just didn’t seem fair to me.
When I told my sister this, using my kid-like language full of improper speech and made-up words, she didn’t respond. It was because, at that moment, my dad rushed downstairs - fully dressed and freshly clean from his afternoon shower. “Maria, call the kids," he ordered my mother. "We need to have a family meeting.” Although he seemed somewhat relaxed, his menacing tone and stern expression told me all I needed to know - that we were in trouble.
After a few minutes, everyone had arrived. Matthew, the oldest of my siblings sat on the loveseat; my sister Gracelyn and brother Mark accompanied him there. Eric, only twelve at the time, sat alone on the farthest end of the couch, away from my dad who occupied the chair in the corner. The rest of us (Robbert, Quinton, Rachel, and I) just huddled beside the doorway to the dining room.
Then, when everyone was finally silent, my dad began to yell. He complained about his job - the meat factory where he works with my mother; his younger sister, Georgia, who brags that her boyfriend is a drug-dealer; his brother, Andrew, who locked him up in the nuthouse for several years on false charges who he hasn’t forgiven, and then the main thing that ticked him off and got him all hectic in the first place.
As it turns out, my sister and I hadn’t cleaned our room, which doubles as a hallway to the upstairs bathroom. He must have knocked down or stepped on and broken something on his way through before or after his shower. My dad always hates breaking our toys. He doesn’t like spending much-needed money to replace them afterward.
In the middle of his long speech explaining all the troubles we’d caused him, right on cue, Gracelyn started arguing with him. She pointed out that if he’d been more cautious about watching where he stepped then there wouldn’t be any problems in the first place. This only made my dad more furious. His voice grew louder, and his hands waved more dramatically as he tried to get his point across. Finally, his patience grew too thin and he roared, “I want everyone to get upstairs now and clean up that damn room!”
At that moment, I was so scared. My dad never swore or cursed before, and he wouldn’t let his kids utter any profanities either. He then ordered one of us to fetch the broom next to the front door. But I knew for a fact that it wasn’t there. My mother must have used it to sweep up the living room yesterday and placed it behind the chair my father was now sitting in.
I began to move, as if in slow motion - my feet edging ever closer, dragging the rest of my body towards my doom. When I looked up at him, he was still tense, just sitting there and waving his arms like a madman – still screaming his head off and not paying any attention to me. Standing two feet away, I knew what was going to happen even before it happened. I slowly began to reach out with my hands and grab the broom when, all of a sudden, my dad turned around and flung his arms at me. I was pushed so hard that I flew across the room and fell into a heap against the bookshelf.
After that, everything changed and became confusing. For some reason, I imagined I was drowning. I thought I was a fish drowning in water. The air wasn’t reaching my lungs like the way it should have been. I just sat there, my expression blank.
Suddenly, light and sound came crashing in on me like a fireworks show. I heard more yelling and screaming. My sisters were holding each other and crying. My brothers were arguing with my father. And then, still sprawled on the floor, I heard something that I would never forget. “I didn’t do anything! It wasn’t my fault! What have I done wrong?” My dad exclaimed with a bewildered expression, like the whole thing had been a dream – like he didn’t even realize he had just thrown me across the room like a sack of garbage.
After that incident, I no longer played merrily in my sandbox. I just sat there, running my hands through the crystal specks absentmindedly, as if trying to remember the better days when I wasn’t just a kid with hurtful memories - the days when I was a miner of the earth, a robot with no limitations, a ruler of sandcastles.
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