15 January 2009

SnowDay - part two

...it was while I was making Johnny’s bed, I found the matches.

He had them stuck under his mattress. “Johneeeee, I’m gonna tell. You got matches. Mommy said we can’t play with matches.”

“Don’t tell, Jake, I’ll let you play with ‘em, too.”

“But we don’t have anything to burn, ‘cause it’s snowed outside.”

“We could burn some of our blocks. We could take ‘em outside. In our pockets.” Johnny came back into the bedroom, wet and smelling of ivory soap. I could hear the tub draining.

“Yeah, that sounds good. We’ll make a fire with the blocks to keep warm in our fort. We can cook stuff.”

When I said that, Johnny went to the closet, and from his Kraut Helmet (a gift from Uncle Mike), he pulled out a bologna sandwich and 4 cookies.

“You have food? Can I have a cookie?”

“If you eat the cookies, then we won’t have any food for the war.”

“We’ll have the sandwich. We can cook the bologna.”

“No. They’re my cookies.” Johnny finished dressing. He walked over to the windowsill and picked up a block. “Maybe we should cook the bologna, now, so it’ll already be warm.”

“But we’re gonna eat breakfast.”

“Okay. But let’s burn one of the blocks, anyway.” Cool.

“But how can we put out the - I know, we can start them on fire, and then we can throw them out to into the snow to put it out!”

We stood there, at the windowsill holding match after lit match on a block that just wouldn’t start on fire. And now we were down to 5 matches.

Outside, we could see groups of men with shovels, not shoveling. All the dads, standing waist-deep in the snow, pointing at things, talking, pointing again.

“Time for breakfast!” Mom’s voice carried up from the stairwell.

“We’re coming.” I shouted back. I must have startled Johnny, ‘cause he dropped the match he’d just lit, on the floor. It landed on a ghost turd, and whoosh, it made a small flash of fire and then went out.

“Ooh” Our voices came out in a whispered rush. “Let’s find another one.” We looked under the bed for more dust and lit the little balls, one by one with the last 4 matches.

“We’re out. Let’s go eat.”

Johnny shook his head. “I have more. I stole them from Uncle Mike’s dresser when we visited for Christmas.”

“Where? Go get ‘em.” We had time before Mom called again.

Johnny went to the closet and came back with two more books of matches. “Jake, I wonder if we could keep the fire going if we started the dust balls right next to the blocks.”

“We gotta find more dust.”

We never heard Dad opening the door. “Is something burning in here? Are you two trying to burn down my house? Matches?”

“Johnny stole ‘em.” I rounded my eyes to show just how innocent I was.

“And you had no idea what you were doing with them.” Standing there next to the open window, I suddenly realized how cold the room was. I pushed my tongue against my chattering teeth. Johnny shivered, and it caught Dad's eye.

“Give me those goddamned matches!”

Ten feet from Dad, Johnny held them out with his arm.

“Bring them here. HERE!” Dad hollered when Johnny didn’t move fast enough. Johnny took little steps forward, still holding his left arm extended out in front of him, hoping the matches would reach Dad before he did.

Dad swiped the matches from Johnny with his left hand while he popped Johnny with his right. Johnny went down to the floor with a thud. Dad rounded to me and said, “You like fire? Let’s see how much. Why don’t we just put you in the goddamned oven for the day and see how you like being cooked.”

“No, Daddy, don’t cook me, please!

“Don’t cook Jake, Daddy. I won’t have nobody to sleep in the other bed, then.” Johnny stood back up.

“Jesus Christ, Joe. Do you really think you’re gonna fit him in the oven?” Mom. In the doorway.

“Ellen, just stay out of this, o.kay?” There was a look, then. An identical expression on each of their faces, but I had no idea what it meant. Dad snorted and made some kinda smirk. Then, wham! He hit my chest before I even saw his hand. “You goddamned little shit. If I ever see you teaching your little brother to play with matches again, I’ll set you on fire myself.” The thought brought a smile to his face, and he shared that with Mom, too.

“Yes, sir.” It was careful not to rub my chest while I answered. He and Mom started to leave then, and when Dad got to the door, he turned around and smiled again.

“You two can forget breakfast. And lunch, too. I don’t wanna know you’re even in the house till suppertime.” He shut the door then, carefully, like it was breakable. I held my breath waiting for him to come back in, till I finally heard his boots striking the hardwood stairs.

“It’s your fault we got in trouble. You stole the matches.” I hissed at Johnny. “You were the one who wanted to start fires.” He whined back.
“Well, you did too”
“No I didn’t”
“Did too!” Our voices started to raise.
“I'm heating up the oven!" Dad's voice came up through the floor.
“See what you did?” Johnny accused me, now.
“Shhh! Do you want him to come back?”

So, for a while we played quietly with our little toy soldiers, when an idea came to me. “I know what we could do and it won’t make any noise.”

“What?” Johnny was standing at the window. Behind him, on the sill, a company of green plastic men poised ready to attack castle walls of red and black checker pieces.

“I bet if we let the blinds down, we could swing them from my bed and knock soldiers out into the snow hill downstairs.” I ran over to the window to let down the blinds. They were made of sheet metal that would slice you like a loaf of bread if you slid your hands across the blades. The straps that held them were of heavy canvas-duck cloth. They’d probably been white, once, but there were stains on these with brown and orange rings. And some the blades were greasy and thick with dust. They didn’t quite fit the window. Even when they were down, you could still see inside our room at night through the 3-inch gaps on each side.

“Here.” I handed the bottom bar of the blinds to Johnny. “When I get on the bed you hand it up to me.” I climbed up using the headboards. “Okay, hand it up.”

Johnny reached up and I reached down. Johnny opened the window the rest of the way, and ducked. I let the blinds go and, wow. They knocked two of the soldiers out the window. Johnny stood up and looked out, lifting the blinds over his head. “I don’t see them.”

“They’re probably in the snow. Let’s try some more.”

“Okay.” Johnny set up another soldier. He handed me the blinds and I let them swing down. This time they swung right through - right out the window with the soldier.

“OH!” Johnny’s eyes went round as he looked from the swinging blinds to me. The blinds twisted as they swung, and when he grabbed for the bar, he accidentally grabbed a slat, nicking his hand. He did say, “ow.” But thinking back, it was more a reflex because the grin on his face reached both ears. And his mouth was opened too wide to talk. “Jake, Jake. Ah. Ah! We. Jake!”

“What! What?!”

“We! We could swing on the blinds! We could stand on your bed and hold the blinds, and just swing through the window!”

What a great idea. “But you gotta go first. I’m too big. And we’ll hafta pull the blinds higher, too, so we don't hit our feet on the sill.” I climbed down quietly, suddenly remembering, “Johnny, Dad’s still home. We gotta be real quiet.”

“Oh yeah. Okay.” He whispered as he started climbing onto my bunk. I moved over to the window, and pulled the blinds three-quarters of the way up.

“Johnny, you’re gonna hafta keep your legs tucked up, okay?”
“Okay.” He nodded his head “Jake, how’m I gonna reach the blinds if they’re pulled up?”
“I’ll stand on the headboard, and hold your waist while you reach out for them.”
“But I’ll fall.”
“No you won’t”
“Yes I will. You’ll drop me.”
“Shhh. No I won’t. I’ll hold you.” My voice honked while I try to yell and whisper at the same time. “I promise.”

So, I climbed up, and holding on to the top headboard with my right hand, I stood with my left foot on the windowsill and my right foot on Johnny’s headboard (the lower headboard). I took hold of the blinds with my left hand. And then, as I reached to put my right arm around Johnny’s waist, I let go of his headboard.

Problem was, Johnny wasn’t holding on to any part of the bed, either. As he felt the weight of my body pulling us both away from the bed, he grabbed the blinds with both hands. Just as my right foot knocked into the windowsill to meet my left, the blinds broke free of their anchor at the top of the window. The weight of them came down just as Johnny made it to the window.

With his knees knocking into my chin and the blinds hitting the right side of my head, Johnny’s body dragged me out the window, head first. I must’ve let go of him, then. Because he went straight down to the drift below, crushing it with his weight. I could hear him scream out as I followed close behind.

But instead of hitting the top of the drift with Johnny, my body slid, head and arms first, down what was left of its slope, right onto the bare ground in front of the brand new living-room window. The blinds, still firmly in my grasp, struck the glass, hitting it with a crack. I pushed myself up, and there was my father’s contorted face, yelling at me from the other side.


artandsoul said...

OMG. I have tears streaming down my face and can't stop laughing.

I know this is why I was so thankful I had all girls!!! That is freaking hilarious!

Renee said...

Okay, I saw that the story had arrived so I was like, I need a fresh cup of tea.

Well then I could not really drink it because for the first part I was waiting for one of the kids to be burnt to death and then I was admiring kids stamina and being able to not hold on to the dad's hitting them and for the last part I was laughing my head off.

Love it.

Love Renee

tsyòkawe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lissa said...

don't they feel bad about their behavior and then getting beat by their dad? why do they go & do something stupid again? but I guess I just don't get boys

tsyòkawe said...

I predicted they would burn the house down. I like your ending better.

My little brother and his pal from school burned down our garage in 1974. My father did not believe in spanking and he was so mad he broke his hand hitting the door. I will never forget my little brother and his friend crying and my father using words I had never heard in my life.

I hope you will write another story soon, Odd Neighbor.

tsyòkawe said...

@lissa, I couldn't say about Odd Neighbor's boys but I remember as a boy having a very short memory. Our father never hit us but he would make us stand in the corner or do extra chores for our grandfather's friends.

It didn't take long to forget the punishment when something exciting presented itself.

Catnapping said...

artandsoul: actually the part of jake is based some bit on me and some on my oldest younger brother...some of this story is based on actually events in which we were the perps.

renee: thank you. in dysfunctional families...children are taught to pretend bad things haven't happened. if these boys' father had seen either of them react to the pain of being hit, he would certainly have hit them again....cruelty? anger at being reproached? probably a combination of the two, depending on his motives for hitting them in the first place.

i love how funny things can be in retrospect...even for those who are angry in the moment. i remember the day my daughter drew life-size people in blue crayon, all up and down the hallway...and crosses!...for about every 2 people, there was a cross. all of it 3 feet tall...i was so angry, i could have chewed glass, but it wasn't a week later i was telling everyone i knew, laughing so hard i could barely get the story out!

lissa: kids have short memories. i know i did. i'd have every intention to avoid punishment, but then something would occur to me, and i'd have to try it out.

one of my brothers used to actually weigh the pros and cons...he often decided that the belt was a small price to pay, and who knew? maybe he'd actually get away with it. what a brat! LOL

tsyòkawe: i love your name.

i agree. short memory span. when something presents itself, it can be difficult for small children to resist.

hell, human beings aren't really able to tap into their frontal lobe efficiently till they're in their early 20s. kinda makes me wonder why we're letting them drive at 18, let alone 16.

(i won't even address going to war and marrying, yikes)

tsduff said...

Hell, you could write a movie script. (You'll shoot your eye out sort of thing) I'm laughing too - haven't stopped since the swinging out the window idea came in. Man alive, that is so funny. Being stuck in one's room with a sibling is just asking for trouble... I was fortunate in some ways that my dad is a very passive person so being whupped was never a problem. The only time I can remember that sort of capital punishment was with the handmade paddle which Dad had made, only to be used for DIRECT DISOBEDIENCE. WE were made to bend over and grab our ankles - then WHACK came the paddle on our butt. Once I put a book in my double layered pants, but somehow my Dad noticed and made me remove everything.

That was so funny - Thank you so much for that great entertainment.

studio lolo said...

I was on the edge of my seat again Cat! And I could smell all the burnt matches. I called the dad a bastard out loud when he mentioned the oven. And here his kid is lying on the pavement after falling from a window and he's still shouting! I guess kids can be trying sometimes. I'll wait to see what happens before I decide I hate the dad :P Wait, I don't hate anybody. Before I decide I have an unsavory opinion of the dad!!

Renee said...


Just reading your comments back to us was a complete lesson and I think I get it (not all of it of course).

One of my sisters two daughters were abused and molested by their father since we are assuming very small children up until the oldest was 15. How none of us knew this (including my sister -- although I find it hard to believe and at the same time I can't afford to let myself think otherwise)is incredible to me now.

Anyway the point I'm getting at is when you said in dysfunctional familes children pretend bad things didn't happen. It makes me understand my younger niece so much better. I am always coming from my perspective instead of hers. Because she almost seems oblivious to things I think are a big deal for her.

Thanks you are always teaching me something.

Love Renee