Our house was the epitome of poor white. Dad worked at a cable company so we always had various sized wooden spools scattered around the house acting as make shift tables and cinder blocks with long boards acting as shelves. Now I’m not opposed to making things work, I’ve become and expert at it. It’s more that as far as décor goes, we embraced most of the poor white stereotypes: black velvet tapestries (think sunsets), wrought iron and red velvet furniture, wooden spool tables with a scarf thrown across the top, as if it makes it better, and silly geographical nic nacs celebrating our day trip to Galveston or the likes.
Dad’s efforts certainly didn’t help, as he was always quick to put up a full size mural on the living room wall of any house we rented. In Oregon our he’d put up a warm tropic Hawaiian mural so we could imagine laying on the sun warmed beach as the cold rain poured outdoors. In Texas, he’d put up the scene of a cool green rainforest to try and psychologically lessen the fucking heat that perpetually permeated our house. The décor was just one reason I rarely invited friends over. Another was the likelihood that the seams of our thread-bare functionality as a family would expose our raw bare skin. My goal was to maintain the façade as long as I could, to pass. Bringing friends to my house was too risky, something was sure to fall apart.
Jason, being a younger male, was much less concerned and on occasion would have a friend over. He was in fourth grade and on this particular evening was super excited to have a friend stay the night. I remember the two boys playing some sort of spy game outside and ending the evening in front of the TV.
As an argument between Vicki and dad escalated in the back bedroom, I began to gather the flock and direct the boys to Jason’s bedroom, in fear of the conflict going global. I told them to get in the bedroom, close the door and stay put and I retreated to my own room. As expected, the battle soon pervaded the entire house. Vicki’s shrill voice pierced through the wooden bedroom door and scraped each of my vertebrae like fingernails on a chalkboard. The hair on my arms stood up as I crouched on the floor and whispered a prayer. “Just don’t bring it in here. Just don’t take it to Jason’s room.”
The violent cracking sound of Jason’s bedroom door being kicked in shook me from my pious stupor and I ran to try and put myself between the perpetrator and my little brother. Dad wasn’t having it as he grabbed Jason by the scruff and threw him out of his bed onto the floor. These scenes were common enough to be able to predict their onset, yet so bizarre that we never really knew why they were happening. Tonight Vicki was complaining about her perceived inconsistencies between the disciplining of her own daughter and us. Basically, she thought Dad wasn’t beating us enough and wanted him to up the ante.
My 200+ pound father proceeded to punch and throw my 9 year old brother around the room all the while yelling, “is this what you want, is this good enough!” The fear and humiliation in Jason’s eyes made me crumble in helplessness. He couldn’t decide if he was scared to death of Dad or if he was humiliated beyond belief in front of his friend. I’ll never forget the total surprise and disbelief on his friends face as he cowered in the corner on Jason’s bed. Can you fucking imagine? A normal kid unfamiliar with such violence witnessing this atrocious scene? Dad continued to beat the shit out of Jason until he ran out of breath and could beat no longer. At the end of the drama Jason lay sobbing on the floor, Dad stormed off to his bedroom and Vicki, although a little shocked, appeared pleased with the outcome. I think Jason’s friend went home.