writing chapter 8.8
trying to pull the mask far enough away from his face to breathe unobtrusively. All this time, Dad was guttering the most amazing abuse at him, like a toxic waste pipe spewing into the ocean. The hatred and diseased thinking drenched everything in the room, demonic figures maniacally tearing around ripping things apart.
Strangely enough, only Nathan noticed the demons. Probably from lack of oxygen. The others didn’t even seem wet. Not that he could see thru the mask or anything. But he was having the most compelling, intense experiences.
Anomia appeared in front of him and showed him how to virtually breathe thru his mask, sort of a cosmic absorption of life energy that hit his lungs like mountain air. The shock was so great he nearly fainted, but she brought him back with a kiss, and after that took him aside and told him a whole lot of eternally true and undeniably important things, including the secret of life. He was so happy and content, so profoundly at peace that he hardly noticed when Dad began kicking him. He simply adjusted his body to protect his kidneys, and went on listening to Anomia’s wisdom.
Mom watched with horror as her husband attacked her son. Nathan just took it, sacrificing himself to protect her. He’d taken Dad’s abuse before, trying to get in between them during an argument. But Dad was really wailing (waling, whaling?) on him, and Nathan was doing nothing to defend himself. Everybody knew the worst would happen if you fought back when Dad was like this, but this was way worse than usual, and he still wasn’t resisting.
Nathan’s just a child, she reminded herself. He shouldn’t have to go thru this. I’ll have to use that special green salve from Mexico on his forehead. And ice pack: his ear’s going to get so swollen. Poor baby. Can you burst an eardrum twisting like that? Can you damage the ligaments? Can you break a bone? Mom had moved into that detached place that was the only barrier against emotional or physical violence. Her thoughts were fast and practical, multitasking because the immediate danger demanded it, focusing on the consequences of the moment and how she could best cope with them.
But something stirred her when Dad started kicking Nathan. You shouldn’t do that to a dog. It turned her stomach to see Dad kick Nathan. What contempt he must have for the boy. You don’t kick someone when they’re down. You don’t kick my baby ever.
Her self-protective barriers were obliterated by the most intense anger she’d ever felt, coursing thru her like someone threw a switch, and suddenly her armor was on the outside, and she knew exactly what to do. Which was to stride over to Dad and stop him from kicking Nathan. So she pushed Dad off balance, shoving him with both hands. Then she got in front of him with a body block as he regained his balance, and pushed him backwards with both hands.
He was surprised, trying not to fall. He was shocked seeing a hand raised against him. He was flabbergasted to find his cowardly little wife acting like a pit bull. But then he regained his balance, and after that it was a matter of landing a few hard ones to stop her, and then dragging her back to the bedroom to be taught a lesson in private.
Nathan sensed, felt, and heard Dad switching his attention to Mom, and tho he was happy with Anomia, he realized he was needed, and with her help peeled off the mask and came back to normal consciousness. To find Sis leaning over to see if he was still alive. He opened his eyes.
“I guess, maybe,” he answered breathlessly.
Satisfied, she straightened up and gave him a final, vicious kick to the head before wandering into the kitchen for a bedtime snack.
Nathan got up, feeling the bruises rising, and stumbled back to Mom and Dad’s room, where he could hear Mom whimpering as Dad smashed things and bellowed at her. He turned the doorknob. Mom noticed and made a squeak. Dad noticed and hit her, then thundered, “Go to bed,” at the locked door, and turned back to Mom.
Nathan crept back to his room to tend to his injuries and try to sleep. The noise from Mom and Dad’s bedroom went on a long time. Nathan slept very poorly.
Right about now you’re probably asking yourself Why? Why do they put up with it? We all know that Dad’s an asshole and Sis is a piece of work. Why do we have to read about such abuse? When are they going to get punished for their evil ways?
May I remind you that this isn’t really fiction? They won’t necessarily get theirs in the end. They might just become the most successful characters in the story, rewarded instead of punished for being completely wicked monsters.
But that’s not the question. Why do Mom and Nathan put up with it? Why was Mom unresponsive until Nathan was in danger of being seriously injured? Why didn’t Nathan call 911 when Dad was in the bedroom beating Mom up? Why do they endure the endless torment?
I wouldn’t stand for it, personally: one hand against me and I’m gone the next minute. And that’s certainly easy to say. But you would stay, if that was called love. If you don’t know any better. If you believed that blood was thicker than water, that’s this was how a family was supposed to be – just a little exaggerated, a little extreme.
It takes generations of cowing and discipline, breaking their spirits at every display of defiance or independence. It takes concerted effort by the whole society to keep women and children in their place. Dad was a proud member of that society and everything in the culture supported his obligation to be the head of his family as aggressively as possible.