Thursday, February 01, 2007

Cherry Flavored Jell-O and the Grinch

My brother Richard was a carbon copy of our father, in both appearance and personality. So much so, that our sister Debra once referred to him as “the one Judas amongst us.”

Except for a few special occasions, Richard and I normally got along quite well. This night would be one of those special occasions.

It began with daddy telling me that he and my mother were going out, and that seven-year-old I was in charge of my three younger siblings.

“Bet not nobody go in the kitchen while we’re gone,” daddy warned me with piercing eyes, “Or that ass is mine.” He pointed at me.

I recognized that look and knew that he meant exactly what he said. Richard and the girls were also familiar with that look, so they understood my situation. Daddy gave me one last gaze before closing the door behind him, and we soon heard his car pulling out of the graveled driveway.

It was a perfect opportunity to get into trouble, or show that I was responsible. I tried to keep everyone in my sight, and away from the kitchen. We watched TV in the living room, where everyone but Richard was content. He kept complaining that he needed to go to the bathroom.

“Can’t you wait?” I said, “They’ll be back soon.”

“No! I need to go now!”

I reminded him that no one could go into the kitchen, and he promised that he would not. The kitchen was in the opposite direction from the bathroom, which was down the hallway, so I finally gave in.

“Just hurry up,” I said... and he swaggered down the dark hallway, out of my sight.

While Richard was away, my attention shifted back and forth between the TV and the hallway. It never occurred to me that he would climb out the bathroom window, and in through the kitchen window, all for the sake of mischief. He then retraced his steps to rejoin my sisters and me in the living room.

Daddy had placed a trap on the refrigerator door, a small piece of paper at the door’s upper corner. Upon opening the door, the paper would fall unnoticed. Inside the refrigerator, daddy was chilling a bowl of cherry flavored jell-o. It was the reason he wanted no one inside the kitchen – and I had no idea that Richard had devilishly taken a huge gouge from the center of the jell-o.

I was relieved when daddy returned home, and proud that I had accomplished my task. The first thing he asked was had anyone been inside the kitchen.

“No daddy,” I said, watching him as he walked through the room and into the kitchen.

When I could no longer see him, I listened for any comments that he might make, while my eyes shafted back to the TV, where we were watching Sesame Street.

“Get your ass in here!” daddy suddenly yelled.

I knew that he was talking to me, so I sprang to my feet and dashed two steps toward the kitchen before stopping. “Wait!” I thought to myself, “What is he mad about?” There was no time to think. My thoughts were scrambled, and I knew I had better not keep him waiting.

He met me at the door.

“I told you not to let anybody in the kitchen!” He grabbed my left arm and jerked me forward.

“Daddy, nobody came in here,” I said, pleadingly and puzzled. He then snatched me stumbling towards the refrigerator.

“Then who in the fuck did that?” he yelled, yanking the refrigerator open and pointing. I stared, but nothing made sense until I saw the gouge. I took a mental snapshot of it, just before he threw me to the floor.

“I’m-ma teach your ass!” he promised and stormed from the room. I stayed on the floor, waiting for him to return, furious and afraid.

“He’s crazy,” I thought, “He set me up.” I believed that he had taken the gouge from the jell-o himself, just for an opportunity to beat me – but it made no sense. There was not much time to think about it. Moments later, daddy stormed back into the kitchen and snatched me up.

I dangled at the end of his grip, airborne between the strikes of his heavy leather belt, as he cursed me the entire time. I had never been so angry with him – and when he finished, he told me to take my “ass to bed.”

Richard followed me like a shadow, studying me as I went to the bedroom, crying and rubbing my stinging arms and legs. I sat on the floor with my back against the wall, while Richard sat across from me on the bed. The lights were off, but I could make out the curious expression on his face.

I soon stopped crying and began recalling the chain of events. “Why would daddy go through so much trouble to set me up?” I thought, “Why is Richard acting so strange?” “Why does he look so sinister?” Then I recalled that Richard was the only person to leave my sight while daddy was away.

Then it hit me.

“You did it; didn’t you?” I said - hoarse, looking across the room at him. Even in the shadows, I could see his lips curl into a devilish Mr. Grinch-like smile.

“Yes…” he whispered, now sporting a full grin. I was still rubbing the welts on my stinging legs.

For a brief moment, I felt relieved, thinking that I could tell daddy. “Maybe he wouldn’t be mad at me anymore,” I thought. Then I considered that he probably would not believe me. That he might even beat me again. “Why did you do that?” I said, “You don’t even like jell-o.”

There was an awkward silence before he answered.

“To get you in trouble,” he gloated for another moment and then left the room.

7 comments:

eastcoastlife said...

Oh no, kids! ha...

That's what happened between my brothers and I when we were younger. hahaha..... set one another up sometimes. Silly game.

Cath de Paris said...

Great short story :)

ps : love the "newlook" of your site !

Vanessa Byers said...

Great story. I do hope it's fiction.

Dixiechick said...

Sounds exactly like something that would have happened in our house... I was the middle child and it seems that my younger brother was always trying to set me up....

Flawed & Disorderly said...

Oh, please tell me this is fiction! That's heart breaking!

LJ said...

This a great piece, Eugene. I hope it's fiction too...but if it is, it's certainly reading as real and believable.

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