Four Went In Death Came Out
I went home yesterday to see the old place. A lot has change since I was there. But it still has an eerie feeling of yesterday. I smelled the smell of weeds growing in the back yard that now grows in the front as well. I bet this lawn hasn’t been cut since I left almost 20 years ago. I was twelve then. Wow--has it really been two decades already?
I was a child here in this house. I thought I would be a child here forever. Not because of some preconceived Peter Pan fantasy but because I thought I’d die a child here. I slipped the shinny copper toned key into the door. The key was warm from the friction of me nervously rubbing on it for the last two hours. The lock looks to be the only new restorations done to this place since I left. I got the key from a realtor who was hired by the state to sell off the property. The Government, because of years of owed back taxes took it from us. Just like the old man to forget to pay that. Just like he would forget to pay the rent and the light bills and buy groceries too.
I remember my sister Cinda-God rest her soul-would sit out on the old porch with me and pretend to cook a gourmet meal with the funky old weeds and dry soil when I would cry from stomach cramps. Sometimes we didn’t eat for a week. But for some reason I always felt full after one of her earthy play meals. God I miss her. Every so often even after we had eaten because of some charity my mom was able to scrape up-my sister would still take me out into the dusty old plot and make mud pies yards away from the back porch. As I got older I realized Cinda had been doing that as a way to keep me from the blood curdling screams of pain that would come from the second floor room in front of the house whenever Daddy came home. As I got older I realized those screams came from my mother and my older sister. Not my older sister that was the cook but my older sister who could pass for my mom’s younger sister. My mother had Kat at 11 years old. Kat was very pretty. Sometimes I wish she hadn’t been so pretty. She’s dead too now. Mama is dead as well, but she was dead years before her physical demise if you ask me. If Daddy weren’t dead I’d kill him myself. All of them died a wicked dark death. The memories rush back to me as I stand in the room where it happened. The very furniture could benefit from an exorcism. I close my eyes, footsteps and ghostly cries echo up the stairs behind me…
I turned around slowly to face the old steps worn from the passage of time. The pale white paint was peeling from the stairs like dead skin. The smell of rust and blood tainted the air; 80 degrees to my left is Mama and Daddy’s room. The door had been boarded up with two by fours and copper nails. A dull white light escaped from the cracks in the door and above the threshold as dust made ghostly shapes and shadows and danced jigs of demise in the air.
Just above me is the pull down ladder to the storage attic where they found me. It was two white police officers with flashlights and their guns drawn. I was tucked tightly in the corner covered by dust and cobwebs. Mama’s old chess full of dancing equipment was in front of me. That’s where I hid when the screaming stopped, that’s where I stayed until they came to get me.
I remember going back down the pull down ladder. There were dozens of people on the second floor. Official looking people in dark suits and pale plastic gloves stirring around. I heard voices overlapping voices. People speaking at the same time. “Oh my God.” Was the phrase of choice. “Oh my God.” Whispered under breaths of disbelief and shock. I walked passed the door that faced the steps a man standing in front of it saw me pass by and slowly closed the door to shield my eyes from the remnants of evil left behind inside. Everything seems posterized like double exposure. The blacks were blacker. The thick blood that seeped from under the closing door seemed redder, thick like sweet strawberry preserves that stained the wooden floor beneath the DNA puree like warm toast.
A female officer guided me down the steps the last time I would walk these steps for ten years. She had her hand on my back rubbing in gentle maternal circles to comfort me I assume. I looked up and saw her round face. Her face was brown like a crayon; the vividness of the moment allowed me to see the texture of her skin. The soft layer of makeup she wore. Her red lipstick. Red like the blood that chased me down the steps. Her eyes were soft and as dark as her skin. Strands of curly black hair fell in her face, she used her free hand to flick them away. The female officer looked down at me as we walked and I looked up. Her gaze was compassionate and caring. I could see the concern in her eyes because she knew what I was in for. The questioning, the funerals, the relocation. She knew as I knew that I was alone and empathy covered her face. She drove me to the precinct and never said a word.
At the precinct I was lead to a small windowless office that smelled of cigarette smoke and desperation.
“How you doin?” Said a deep voice. The voice reminded me of Daddy but kinder. The manly voice resonated from a white and lanky man. He towered over me. The light behind him turned his huge window frame glasses into a double-sided mirror. I looked up at the man he was wearing a blue button up agency dress shirt with the sleeves rolled to his elbows and a red tie undone.
“Nothing Sir.” I replied to the twin reflections of myself in his glasses. His eyebrows softened as he sat across from me he looked to be no more than his late 20’s. I could finally see his squinting eyes. The man was of Asian decent. His brown streaky hair grew long on the top and was cropped close to the sides. He would constantly run his hands through it to keep the longer locks from falling in his face.
“Have you eaten son?”
“Are you hungry?”
“Do you say anything besides ‘no sir’?”
The female officer that escorted me to the precinct smiled and chuckled at me from the next room behind the man with the questions. He turned to her and asked her to get a candy bar out of the vending machine for me. Then turned his attention back to me.
“You must be tired, huh?”
“Are you comfortable, son?”
“If I tell you my name will you stop calling me Sir?” He smiled.
“My name is Branwen Santos. But my friends here call me Brawny. You can call me Brawny too.” That was his first statement since we met. It sort of eased the pressure caused by being questioned for the moment.
“What’s your name?”
Another question I thought to myself.
“Anthony.” I replied.
“Can I call you Tony?”
Can you stop asking question?
“Hey! What was our deal Tony?” Brawny flashed all 32 of his pearly white teeth at me in a genuine smile.
“A poet and you don’t know it.” Brawny chuckle. The female officer smiled again as she handed him a Snickers. I peered at him puzzled. Brawny’s smile faded away. He looked to the side inconspicuously faking an embarrassed expression at the joke he had just told and said, “Alrighty then.” Imitating Jim Carey to the tee. I smiled. Brawny had a look on his face like he had just broken through. Brawny unwrapped the top of the candy bar and handed it to me. I didn’t take it. He looked baffled and retracted his hand.
“Well dontcha want it Tony?” Brawny asked sadly.
“No Sir. I’m allergic.” I said.
“Why didn’t ya say so son?”
“You never asked Sir.” Brawny looked more shut out than an entire baseball team up against a pitcher at the height of his game. The three or four police officers in the room stared amused for a moment and then erupted in laughter. The laughter made me laugh too. Brawny took a rebellious bite out of the candy bar and smiled as well.
“Whattaya say we go for a walk Tony?” Brawny asked as he stood up and put on his sports jacket that matched his pants. I stood simultaneously and we both headed for the door. Brawny’s put his long thin fingers on my shoulder. The female officer followed us out with her eyes.
The phone rang, I wasn’t in the mood to answer it so I let the machine pick up. After a couple of rings a pre-recorded electronic voice answers. Usually people that know me will just leave a message other idiots will hang up and call back thinking they made a mistake. I figure the person calling was one of those idiots because they hung up and called back right away. I could tell by the caller I.D.
“I don’t know if this is Tony Anderson…” A woman’s voice said sounding confused. “But you gave me your number at the Seminar for Psychological Welfare.” I jumped up from my seat and quickly rushed to the phone tripping over an area rug and slammed my shin into the glass coffee table. Needless to say I didn’t make it to phone and I left a trail of blood all over the stained hard wood oak floors.
In my haste I didn’t get a chance to fully understand the end of her brief message. As I nursed my wound with a tissue from the box of Cleanex on my desk next to the phone I took my bloodied index finger and press the PLAY MESSAGES button. “Mr. Anderson,” a stern man’s voice reported, “We have found your luggage sir. I will be sending your things promptly as soon as I am able to verify your address sir.” Fools, I thought to myself annoyed. “We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and would like to offer you 100 extra free flyer…” *Click* I pressed the forward button to get to the next message.
“Mr. Anderson, Jaguar is proud to have you as a new owner! Sir your loan for the Type-S you requested has been approve.” I smiled and in jest tossed my keys to my outdated Land Cruiser in the tin trash can next to my desk. “Other than some paper work…” The voice of the snooty man continued, “the car is yours. May I say you’ve made a wise choice with…” *Click*
“I don’t know if this is Tony Anderson…” The angelic voice of a woman spoke so softly, “But you gave me your number at the Seminar for Psychological Welfare.” I turned up the machine so that I could absorb every word she spoke. “I was really looking forward to speaking with you this evening so I’m very disappointed that you are not available. I will try to call back again later this week and hope that I can have the good fortune of catching up with you…” Abruptly my peripheral caught the green light of the caller I.D. console light up. It always lights up first when a call is coming in then the phone will ring. The message that I mortally wounded myself over to hear automatically clicked off when the phone rang. Dammit who the hell is this? I said out loud. It wrung a second time so I picked up. “Hello.” I said in a toneless drone like manner.
“M-Mr. Anderson?” It was the angel on the answering machine.
“Yes, may I help you?” I said smoothly keeping my cool. I laughed at my juvenile response because deep down I knew this woman made me as nervous as a teenaged boy experiencing his first crush. Except I was thirty-three.
“Y-yes.” She stuttered again. I smirked again because her obvious angst signaled to me that she was just as attracted to the voice on the other end of her phone.
“Sir,” her tone now clearly more professional, “I’m glad I caught you. Although I must admit I called minutes ago and left a message. I forgot to leave my cell phone number so that you could contact me so I was calling back to do so.”
“No problem Ms…” I paused so that she could fill in her name although I knew it. I mean damn I could spell in backwards on command.
“Mrs. Shannon Marx.” I was thwarted when she stressed the MIZZUSS. There was an awkward silence.
Why didn’t it even dawn on me that such a lovely and highly educated woman would have been taken off the market years ago by a very smart man? Shannon Marx was an incredible woman. She had studied Child Psychology and graduated first in her class at Harvard where she also later received her doctorate there at the tender and ripe age of 26. She wasn’t very tall but her beauty commanded a far greater presence than even the most statuesque woman did. Shannon Marx stood about 5 foot 4 with 2-inch heals on and had a robust built. Her sensual curves whispered the ethnic melody of her hot native island Jamaica. I envisioned her soft skin and golden complexion rapped up in a very revealing bathing suit as she strolled the shores of Montiga Bay.
Shannon’s hair was as off beat as she was. It was a mass of golden and honey brown locks which stopped right below her ears and mimicked a burning flame. I remember it smelled like papaya when I spoke at my seminar in West Connecticut last week. When Shannon turned and walked away I inhaled every drop of her out of the lingering air. Shannon was a very successful textbook writer and a part-time professor at Howard Universities School for Psychology.
“Mr. Anderson the reason I am calling…”
I interrupted her, “Please call me Tony.”
She continued as if I hadn’t said a thing. “…Is because my school would be honored to have you speak and I was given the privilege of asking you and to also find out your fee.”
“What school would that be Mrs. Marx?” This time I stressed the MIZZUSS. I knew what school Shannon was referring to but I wanted to keep her on the phone as long as possible. She made an out-wind noise. You know the kind that one would make when smirking at a sarcastic gesture. Unaffected by my childish disdain MIZZUSS Marx continued.
“Howard University sir. More specifically the School of Psychology.”
“When would you like me there?” I asked. I usually don’t set up my own appearances. I have an agent that did that. But in this case I couldn’t resist.
“Great!” Shannon said breathlessly like she had just removed a splinter. “I don’t know your schedule Mr. Anderson but how about some time early next month?” It was only the end of the first week in August and I was sort of disappointed that she hadn’t requested an earlier time.
“Sounds good but only on one condition Mrs. Marx.” She paused longer I assume so that she could ponder my proviso.
“And what would that be Mr. Anderson?”
“For now on you call me Tony.”
“Sure.” She sounded relieved that I hadn’t approached her with an indecent proposal of some sort. Get your mind out of the gutter Mrs. Marx I thought to myself.
“Ah, sure um…Tony.” Shannon sounded uncomfortable with my casual request.
“I’ll tell you what,” this time I adopted the professional demeanor to ease the tension in the fiber optic air.
“I will give you the number to my agent. Have your people contact her and she’ll set up a more definite time and give you my fees. If everything is acceptable I would be happy to speak at your event.”
“Excellent Mr., I mean Tony.” Shannon some how made my first name sound as formal as my last.
After I gave her the number and assured her that I saw no reason why I couldn’t be at her event she hesitated and asked me a question.
“Is it true you know how to tell almost exactly what a person is thinking from just a glance Tony?”
“Yes, so I’ve been told Mrs. Marx.” I continued to use her last name chivalrously because she had not given me permission to address her otherwise.
“That’s incredible, when did you realize you had this ability?”
“After the death of my family. I suppose God thought it some sort of consolation prize.”
There were no words for a minute. Shannon then said, “I’m sorry.”
“No apologies necessary Mrs. Marx.” Another minute of silence. I supposed she wanted me to tell her what she was thinking but I am not able to do such a thing over the phone. And unless I am speaking at a seminar or a demonstration I find it redundant and a bit ridiculous to tell someone what they already know their thinking.
“Well thank you Tony for your consideration and we look forward to seeing you there.”
“I look forward to being there Mrs. Marx. Have a pleasant evening.”
“You as well.”
Right before Mrs. Marx hung up she said in a pleasant disarming voice.
“Please call me Shannon.”
“Victor Please!” That was my Mother. Victor was my Daddy. Mama squealed in pain. My older sister Cinda grabbed my arm and led me to the back porch. Mama was now screaming and words slurred out of her mouth in chain fashion like a loud drunk. Even outside on the back porch I could her the skin tearing blows of Daddy’s thick leather belt. Mama’s agonizing screams now sounded muffled as if he had been covering her mouth. Kat never would follow us outside later I would find out why. The screaming ended about 12 midnight, Cinda and I stayed out in the dark confines of our back yard, we both fell asleep under the old tree. Cinda kept me warm-she shivered. I don’t know if it was because she was so scared of what Daddy might do to us or if it was the cool night air. When I woke it was morning and the sun peeped its golden eye over the front of the house. I dared to venture in.
The house that shouted from the throat of hell last night had been silenced by the dawn. It was so quiet I could here Petra the cat and her deep revving purrs a room away. I turned into the steps leading to the upstairs bedrooms and began slowly hiking up them. One by one each stepped let out its own unique pitch as they creaked and cracked from the pressure of my cautious incline. When I finally made it to the top I positioned myself against the wall like I saw the police on ‘Hill Street Blues’ do every episode and carefully gazed around the corner. I saw my Daddy’s dark feet dangling from Kat’s bed. Kat and Cinda shared a room and on good nights when Daddy never made it home the girlish laughter that radiated from their room would warm my soul and I would giggle right along with them. But lately those nights had come few and far. Cinda still laid ‘sleep under the tree out back where I left her.
I crept around the corner and slid down the dark wallpaper until I arrived at the door where Daddy’s feet dangled. Mama’s door was closed. I looked in and saw Kat lying in her bed with her eyes wide open in terror and red from her long night. Daddy’s huge arm was slung across her naked chest constricting her breast. She took short breaths so not to wake him. Daddy laid on his stomach naked wearing only his watch and he snored with half of his face buried in Kat’s pillow. On the floor next to a pink stuffed animal was his brown heavy leather belt that always looked a little redder after nights like we just had. Kat had pretty jet-black hair like Mama, it shined like sweet molasses, every strand in its place. But that morning Kat’s hair looked as abused as she had been. Dull and lifeless like her lost eyes. I stared at Daddy’s belt and wish I was strong enough to grab it and wrap it around his thick neck and squeeze the Devil’s beast out of him until his body went limp with death. I wished so hard that I could kill him so he could never hurt them again but I wasn’t even a quarter of his size. I stared at the belt for what seemed a lifetime. I stared until Daddy’s belt became an abstract blur, I felt the warm liquid make tracks down to the point of my chin. When I looked up at Kat her frozen Gaze was now directed at me. The way she stared at me scared me as if in disgust at another man-child that would mimic his father’s action and abuse the family I would start one day. Then her face softened and she forced a half smiled. Kat’s facial muscles winced from the pain as the skin cracked on her bruised and blistered lips. She slowly raised her index finger to her mouth and barely pouted her scabbed pallet and released air from her seized lungs. “Shhhhhhhhhhhh…”
Kat dropped her hand slowly and returned her gazed to the white stucco ceiling. The shadows from the blades of the slow-turning ceiling fan eerily distorted her face. I crept over to Kat’s side of the bed reached down to the floor and picked up the yellow bed sheet spotted with blood and covered the lower half of her brown naked body. I made sure that the sheet didn’t so much as graze Daddy. Kat continued to stare at the ceiling fan. I backed out of the room with my eyes fixed on Daddy praying that he didn’t wake. When I made it to the hallway I saw light coming from a crack in Mama’s slightly opened door. I only saw her eye staring at me from ten feet away. The door closed slowly and clicked shut. When I turned back the doorway I had just come out of Daddy stood in the threshold suddenly facing me. His wide body eclipsed the rising sun and it gave him a ghostly aura. He held his thick leather belt in his hand, raised his wide arm and slashed his tool of torture across my face. Blood splattered the walls; I flew back 5 feet toward the staircase. Daddy in his naked glory pursued me belt in had. The brass buckle that dangled free from his grip jingled loudly. I inhaled to scream and then I fell to my bedroom floor. My alarm clock rung feverishly. I yanked it off of my nightstand and it crashed to the floor and ricocheted off of my bare knee. That sent a sharp pain up my spine, this time I picked up my vindictive alarm clock and threw it clear across the room. It hit the far wall and it shattered. I thought to myself I’m sick of being attacked by furniture and appliances as I nursed the small bandage that concealed the gash on my shin from my encounter with the coffee table the night before. (…)