1998: Silence is Not Golden

I barely get in the car when Dad asks, “So did you find out about your report card?”

I know I’m in the wrong here. But could you give me a break? For once!

 “Yeah they said they are mailing them out next week.”

“Oh okay. I know they’re all A’s, like always! But you know Daddy. I like to save them.”

 Enjoy your last couple days of life…

 Monday morning comes faster than usual. I don’t have an appetite for breakfast.

“Jenny, Jesus! Eat your scrambled eggs.” I would but the smell makes me sick. And I don’t want scrambled eggs for my last meal.

When Dad lets me off for school, I walk toward the door with a series of foreboding steps. Today I have more important things to sulk over than the fact that I’m the last loser with no license and no car.

Why did you have to fuck up? Why didn’t you just write those stupid Spanish journals? You know why! Yeah, but he doesn’t buy excuses. Fuck it. Just tell him the truth tonight. He’ll be angry, but what choice do you have?

 I stand at my locker with my backpack propped up on one knee. I reach for my report card. Too bad no one was willing to forge a fake. Bastards.

What? I know it’s in here somewhere. I pull everything out. Ruffle through every folder. Shake out every notebook. Oh come on! You lost it? After all this? So you’ll just tell him that you lost it. But that you had trouble in one class because the teacher wouldn’t work with you. So maybe he’ll just pop you in the nose and ground you for the rest of the year.

 My stomach turns a little more with the passing of each class. Someone help me! Can I live with you, Lauren? Your parents seem nice. They let you date. And get a fake tan. And drive.

 I look up at the clock in 8th period. 2:04 pm. Dear God! You know that he’s already parked outside. Waiting for you.

 I walk with my head held low toward Dad’s blue Dodge Caravan. Fucking world is unfair! I’m sure none of these other parents would give two shits. So I got a C. So unlike me. Big Whoop. Maybe I’m more complicated than people think.

 I try sucking up to Dad a little as I buckle my seat belt. “Hi, Dad. How was your day?”

“My day? Where’s your report card, young lady?”

I don’t dare look at him. “Well, I didn’t want to tell you because I lost it.”

Dad groans.

My speech is hurried now. Dammit. Learn to lie better. “I talked to the office. They are going to give me a new one tomorrow. Let’s talk about it when we get home, okay Dad?”

He’s curt. “Yes let’s.”

As Dad pulls in the driveway, I can hear each stone pop as the tires roll over them. Be brave. Tell him the truth. He always says you can talk to him no matter what.

 He barrels through the door. “Dad, there’s something—

He cuts me off. Veins bulging. “No! No more talking or chances for you. I’ve given you enough chances you goddamn motherfucking lying whore. You’re no better than your slut of a mother.” I wince.

“I called the office today. They said, ‘Oh Tom we gave Jenny her report card last week.’” I try to interject, “That’s what—” He raises his hand. I wince again.

 

“Didn’t I tell you to shut the fuck up? Some things are going to change around here. First of all. No more of this boyfriend shit for you.” Fuck off. That’s been going on for two months. I’ll be out of here next year!

 “I’ll never trust you again. And to think, after all your Father has done for you. I’ve been telling you since you were little that you’re my last daughter. My last baby. You have to make something of your life or all my sacrifices are for nothing. And I’m not going to let some boy take all that away.”

I brace myself for him to hit me. Come on you sick bastard.

 “I’m not going to hit you. You’re too old for that now. Even though I’d like to rattle your ass.” Bullshit you’re just afraid of the authorities. Child protection. I should have told them the truth three years ago.

 “So here’s how it’s going to go. You lied. So your punishment is that I’m not talking for a whole week.” That’s a punishment? There must be a catch.

 Just then, a knock. Saved by the bell.

 Dad flings the door open. It’s Mary’s mom. She asks, “Hi Tom, can I borrow some sugar?” But he stands there silent. She asks, “Tom are you okay?”

Dad points to his mouth. My face grows red hot. Mary’s mother looks at me for guidance.

Furious, Dad points toward me several times. And then back to his mouth.

I mumble something to Mary’s mother. “He’s mad at me.” I consider running. Do you get the punishment now idiot? He’s not talking to anyone. And you have to tell them why.

 The phone rings. He won’t talk.

 Our neighbor, Bob stops by. He won’t talk.

He slaps me in the back of the head if I don’t tell everyone that I caused his silence because I lied. No one dares to ask me a follow up question. They know he’s a psycho freak.

 Five and a half days later. I nibble on a chocolate donut for breakfast. The icing sticks to my fingertips a little. I always thought silence was golden. It’s not.

 Dad walks toward me. Just leave me alone, would you?

 “Well, Jenny. I hope you learned your lesson. You better never lie to your father again. It’s just us, you and Daddy. Like I’ve always told you, we rode the dragon’s breath to get here, and Daddy’s going to make sure you have everything in life.”

I feel myself exhale for the first time all week. Jesus. Thank god he’s back. I muster a smile through beady eyes. Six more months and you’re out of here.

Advertisements

1987: Nail-Biter

“Jenny! Jenny! Jenny! Look at your gorgeous, beautiful nails. Bit to fucking shit. What did Daddy tell you about being a young lady? You need long nails in case you ever have to hurt someone. They are your only protection. You can gouge someone’s eyes right out with long nails. Just look at yours now. Shaking his head in disgust he says, “Never, ever again.”

Why can’t my nails to grow back instantly? Why do I bite them so much? Why am I so nervous? Why can’t I stop?

 “You leave Daddy no choice. Come on. I’m going to buy that poison they put on bad children’s hands. That will stop your ass. Let me tell you, if you bite your nails with that shit on, you’ll know it. Teach you a lesson.”

I beg, “No, please. I promise never to bite them again. Just give me one more chance.”

His eyes grow cold. “You’ve had more goddamn chances than you deserve. Too late! We’re getting the poison. And I better not see any fucking tears!”

I wish I still had my nails to dig in my skin.

We arrive at the pharmacy downtown. He approaches the clerk.

“Ma’am I’m looking for a bitter poison to put on my daughter’s hands.”

The clerk looks back at him, startled. “S—ir, I’m sorry we don’t sell anything like that.”

He shoots me a glare. Now we have to look for the poison somewhere else?

But Dad distracts himself by browsing for a few minutes. I wonder what it would be like if the cashier was your mom? She seems nice.

He grabs some candy bars. Again, bothering the cashier, “You know when I was a kid, these candy bars were only a nickel and they were three times the size.” He holds up his hands to approximate the size of the former candy bars. “You wouldn’t believe how good they were too. They used real chocolate back then.”

As we walk out, the little bell jingles above the door. Oh I hope we don’t keep looking for the poison. I hope he won’t be even angrier that he couldn’t find it. Maybe he will just cut my fingers off.

I smell the mint as Dad chunks into a peppermint patty. Between chews, he tells me, “Looks like you got lucky this time. But it better never happen again. Don’t forget the lessons Daddy is teaching you. Daddy has a reason for everything that I do. I know. I’m a bastard, but someday it will save your life.”