Ramona age 5

As I sat behind the couch I studied the fibers that stuck out. Some were more like waving fuzzy worms, others like lopsided loops, but not one was the same as the other. I drew a finger across the surface feeling the roughness brush along my skin. A sudden jerk of the couch threw me backwards on my butt. I heard Mommy hit the floor her head making the final crack and the “foof” sound that came out of her mouth when the air wooshed out of her lungs.  Daddy was yelling verses through his teeth now, it sounded like he was spitting rather than talking. “Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keep his clothes WITH HIM,” Daddy was panting now, I could hear his fists making impact on her head, “YOU WHORE!” That last part was not part of the scripture, I knew this even at 5 years of age. I was surprised, Daddy always used verses when he punished Mommy, but this was new.

I peeked up over the couch now because I had never heard my Daddy use such a bad word before. Daddy’s face was red and his shirt was wet under the armpits and down his back, he was sitting on top of Mommy with her arms pinned under his knees.  Back and forth his arm went like on the grandfather clock, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. My mother’s face went back and forth back and forth with the impact of each swing. I stood now stunned. It had never been like this. Maybe the devil had got a hold of Daddy. Maybe I needed to get Pastor Dan… he would know what to do.

Quietly I tip toed around the couch and down the hallway, I snuck out the front door and then ran to the church at the end of the block. I saw Pastor Dan speaking to old Mrs. Rose the widow. I ran to him breathless, I told him, “Pastor Dan, I think th’ devil has got my Daddy in a vice like grip.” In spite of the urgency I felt, I felt a bit of pride too since this was what Pastor Dan always said on Sunday mornings when he was scolding us for doing bad things. He would say, “you keep that up and the devil will get’cha in a vice like grip.” And he would shake a fist in the air, showing how the devil would hold us.

I started to run back to my house, and Pastor Dan calmly said good-bye to old Mrs. Rose the widow before he followed me. He didn’t run, but I could hear the rapid snapping sound of his slick black shoes on the sidewalk. At his normal pace the only thing that was heard was a soft click as the hard-back edge of his heel was placed leisurely yet firmly in front of the other shoe.

The house was quiet now. Daddy was done screaming I guess. We walked into the setting room and found my Mommy still on the floor. Her face was all bloody and her arms had bruises on them from where Daddy’s knees had been. Pastor Dan knelt down by her side and put two fingers to her throat. He reached over to the phone and called the ambulance. He said, “I need an ambulance immediately,” and then gave them our address. He told me to go get some washrags and cold water.

I ran to the kitchen to do as I was told and saw Daddy sitting by the table with his hands on his head, elbows on his knees like he did sometimes when he prayed. His knuckles were red and bloody. His shirt too was filled with blood and not just sweat. He was crying real hard and rocking back and forth a bit. I didn’t want Pastor Dan to be mad at me so I ran to the sink and got the wash rags and got them nice and wet with cold water, then wrung them out as best I could. They were still dripping a bit but with the blood all over I figured a little water wouldn’t make any difference. I started to run past Daddy with the rags and he grabbed my arm. I squeeked when he grabbed me… it scared me bad. I thought he was deep in his prayers getin rid of the vice like grip. For a moment, the only sound was the rags plopping water on the floor.

“Pastor Dan said to bring these.” I whispered.

Daddy’s eyes were red and he looked towards the setting room. “He is here?”

I shook my head yes. Daddy got up and walked to the setting room, he took the rags from me and brought them to Pastor Dan. I followed Daddy and watched as he handed the rags to Pastor Dan who then started wiping Mommy’s face. The blood from her face had dripped on the rug and matched the swirly design pattern, little loops and swoorls, kind of like the threads on the back of the couch. I considered going back there. Daddy and Pastor Dan were talking now although I couldn’t hear their words. Mommy wasn’t moving at all and it scared me. I decided I would go behind the couch until Mommy got up.

They must have thought I had gone upstairs or somewhere else. I could hear Daddy crying again, saying, “sorry, sorry sorry.” That’s repen-tan-tence I thought, that’s the right thing to do when the devil got ya. Pastor Dan didn’t seem to notice though and was very angry at Daddy.

“What did you think you were doing? You could have killed her, and… and…,” he sputtered, “with your daughter right heeere?”

“She was cheating, I have proof, I can show you,” Daddy was whining now like when fat Bobby got caught stealing sandwiches from the school lockers. “I was huuuuungry…” Daddy was sounding just like Bobby and it made my tummy sick feeling. I didn’t like it at all.

Soon there were other people in white outfits in the setting room, some police officers too.  I could hear the snapping and clicking of the radio’s they carried on their belts followed by a crackly voice that said a bunch of number and letters. I moved to the side of the couch, still sitting on the floor so I could see better. Mommy still hadn’t gotten up to tell me everything was going to be ok. The white dressed people put mommy on a cart that squeaked when they put her on it and then rolled her out of the room. I panicked then and ran to her side.
“Mommy, mommy… “ I kept repeating, “Mommy, Daddy repen-tan-ted, he will be ok, the devil ain’t got him no more ok?” Mommy didn’t answer; her head jiggled back and forth a bit with the cart she was on. Someone took my hand and pulled me away from her. I never saw Mommy again.