Still Learning How to Fly ~ Chapter Three: "To School" (Pt. 3)

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 17th Sep 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Biography & Autobiography

In a very dark & difficult chapter the author relates a difficult beating AND an emotional run-in that his mother has with the next-door neighbor.

Beating Body and Soul

It would be not long after this during these elementary school years amid the always tenuous relationship which existed between my mom and me there then occurred what I’ve often referred to as the mother-of-all beatings. This happened I believe if not during the summer after my 2nd grade year than probably early during early 3rd grade. The weather was still sunny and reasonably comfortable outside, and I wouldn’t mention this incident at all were it not for the size and scope of the incident and the subsequent tie-in within the family dynamic.

To this day, I still do not know what it was that I did, or what she thought I did that set her off. Most often that was the case. Most of the time her charges against me were trumped up for the most minor of infractions would bring the most major of punishments. Or worse still, I would never know what it was that I had done. Such was the case this time.

And what set this thrashing apart this time wasn’t the choice of punishment tools nor was it the routine screaming fit. My mom always kept her favorite weapons, yardsticks, fly-swatters, and spatulas, all of the wooden, metal, and plastic varieties close at hand, and the level of her ear-splitting decibel output would reach its routine maximum. No, this time it was the depth of her hostility and the scope of her blitzkrieg which prompted me to run for cover, something which proved to be a new tactic in my arsenal of defense.

With me in the lead just a few short steps in front of my crazed mother who wielded a very thick, brand-spanking-new yardstick though I was unarmed, the chase began on the first floor of the house. This level contained the living room, kitchen, dining room, utility room, and the house’s only bathroom, and it was this first floor domain which I largely shared with my always-cleaning mom when I was home from school. For a moment I thought about running upstairs, but then I realized that my sister would be playing in her room, and there really wasn’t anywhere for me to go unless I planned on jumping out of my parents’ bedroom window. So after a lap around the first floor, I ran into the bathroom and locked the door behind me.

One-one-thousand. Two-one-thousand. Three-one-thousand. I felt like if I could make it to a minute I might have a chance, and that if I got as far as two minutes I might be home free. However, at about the 45-second mark the button on the bathroom door popped out and the wobbly handle quickly turned. My mom charged into the room brandishing the yardstick in her raised right hand and a toothpick in her left which she promptly tossed into the wastebasket. Seeing the blood-lust in her eyes, I began to whimper at having been done in by the old toothpick trick.

The first blow would have landed across my right shoulder had I not shielded myself with my left forearm, and it landed instead near my chubby left wrist with a loud smack! First one wild swing, then another, and another, and I couldn’t count how many blows landed on my fleshy body they kept coming so fast and furious at me. By this time I was crying uncontrollably with each blow feeling harder than the last. And all this time my mom kept screaming at me. The blows kept landing on my body from my shoulders all the way down to my calves, and they struck pretty much, every square inch of acreage in between with the exception of my private parts which I was doing my best to shield.

As this thrashing continued for quite some time, my mom would stop every couple of minutes to give me five or ten seconds to try and catch my breath which proved a physical impossibility in such a short amount of time, and then she would go at me again looking like a tennis player in pink pedal-pushers, but one who wielded a yardstick rather than a racquet but who still owned a wicked backhand.

The onslaught continued until the yardstick finally broke in half on my right thigh. This only made my mom madder still, and shaking the half of the now jagged-ended stick in her right hand in front of my sobbing face she screamed at me, “Now look what you’ve done!” Finally she dropped the stick and started to use her hand, but she never used it anywhere on my body. I always figured that it must have hurt her hand too much to do so, so if she was using her hand on me it would mean that the back of my head was to be the primary target.

“I know where to spank you where it won’t show,” she snarled at me as she assaulted the back of my head which at that time was thickly overgrown with luxuriant dark-brown hair.

Not long after this began, either her hand grew tired or she thought I was about to pass out, and so she called a halt to the physical portion of the attack while continuing the verbal assault for awhile longer. By this time, I was gasping for air trying to stop crying, and so her solution was to scream at me to instruct me to stop crying as if this would help at all. Of course, I could not accommodate her. And so she tried a new approach. She started a new verbal assault about her being the neighborhood battle-axe, something which I held no control over. So she knew what they said about her. Well, these walls were only so thick, and I’m sure the neighbors next door were getting an earful right now! I squeezed in all these thoughts somehow trying to string two lucid ideas together while trying to stop crying.

Finally, like a shark that leaves the scene of the frenzy after satisfying its hunger, my mom turned and quietly left the room leaving her only son still sobbing, tormented with pain, and lying in the bottom of a pristine white bathtub. Despite all the blood-lust, mercifully none had been drawn. In my tortured dishevelment, I crept back into my bedroom next door to the scene of the crime, and it would take another half-hour before I could finally stop crying and breathe normally again. Mercifully, I fell asleep in my bed.

The next day you’d never have know that anything had happened to me except for a few telltale red marks on my forearms, the product of having worn a short-sleeve short during the attack. These were the remnants of my attempts to ward off the blows, and even these looked like the common nicks and bumps that kids get everyday from their normal pursuit of happiness. I noted that no redness remained on my legs which had been covered by my pants during the attack, and, of course, I had no visible bruises anywhere. But the emotional scars . . .

My sin, if I may call it such, always has been a sin of physiology, and thus less perceptible to the outside world, but well-known to me from a young age. I just didn’t bruise very easily. Being strong-boned and thick-skinned even as a child with an extra layer or two of baby fat covered over by a thick layer of rosy, Caucasian skin which has several times over even repelled doctor’s needles, not only repelled them, but even broken them on a couple of occasions! Yup, I could sustain a beating as gargantuan as that one at the hands on my stark-raving-mad mother and not look too much the worse for wear even a few hours later. That was my sin, and I believe that my mom took from it that she was not going overboard when in fact she was mounting injury upon injury inside of me emotionally.

Nose Problem

Prior to writing about this mother-of-all beatings, I mentioned a tie-in. There was. My only problem is I can’t recall which event occurred first, and that’s kind of important. I think the event I’m about to write about happened first, and therefore may have helped fuel some of my mother’s frustrations with everything in her life in general. But then again, it may have happened just shortly afterward. I can’t remember the order of events. Please forgive me. But please understand that there was trouble in the household, and my mom was the focal point of all of this trouble. And the reason for the trouble, basically, as always . . . her nose was where it did not belong.

First of all, my mom always had great difficulty getting along with anybody as we’ve already established. If she were to live on a deserted island populated only with palm trees, she’d have difficulty getting along with the coconuts! So living in any subdivision was just too much for everyone concerned. Our house really should not have had any windows at all! But it did, and one of them was located in the kitchen where she spent an inordinate amount of time, and it was located on the north wall of the house overlooking the next door neighbor’s driveway not more than fifteen or twenty feet away. This would be the house to the north whose neighbor lady had witnessed me being tied to the clothes pole in the afternoon sun a few years earlier. And for the sake of protecting the guilty here, I will change their name in this narrative to the Green family.

Well, once or twice a week while Mr. Green was at work, in the afternoon, Mrs. Green would entertain a gentleman caller, someone who drove a truck for the local 7-Up distributor (the reason I know it was a 7-Up distributor is because I saw the truck parked there a lot), and this fact drove my holier-than-thou-Bible-thumping-Baptist mother nuts! I mean she would talk about it at the dinner table in front of us kids, and not just once or twice, and not just for a day or two, but for weeks. Now my dad was still working second shift at the plant in those days, so he wasn’t home in the evening yet. He’d be gone from 3 to 11. So during the day if she brought it up, he’d tell her it was none of her business and to stay out of it, but during the evening, she’d just run on and on and on! And, of course, her imagination just ran wild. Plus it didn’t help that this good Christian woman read True Confession magazine. Nothing like feeding your mind on the good stuff! No we couldn’t have that!

Well, this went on for weeks until one evening, and I don’t recall if Dad was there when she did this or not. I just remember the aftermath. But she went over to the Green’s house, knocked on their front door and told Mr. Green all about the truck in his driveway once or twice a week while he was at work, etc. Well, Mr. Green got really worked up about it and started arguing with my mom about how it was none of her business, and, of course, I still don’t know all of what was said, but I do know that during the course of this ensuing argument, Mr. Green slapped my mom in the face and she came running home crying. Police were then called, and somehow my dad materialized though unmacho man that he was he never did go over and knock Mr. Green’s block off.

However, I recall thinking my mom had all of this coming. This was all on her! She had no business being on their front doorstep in the first place, but then the Green’s were getting a bit of the grief that I was so accustomed to, not that I wished any of this on them, but then when a hurricane lives in the neighborhood as Hurricane Geneva did, sooner or later some of the outer bands are going to reach out and dump on somebody else, and they just did!

Mr. Green did not go to jail, because we did not press charges. Obviously, she should not have been there in the first place. How it was resolved I’m sure caused further embarrassment to my grandma Bess, but she had gotten used to it by now, I’m sure. It seemed that the Green’s were Presbyterians as was Bess, and even attended the same church when they attended. And so the pastor, Reverend Martin, who was a close personal friend of Bess’s in that she would baby-sit his children on occasion, intervened between the two families and ironed the whole mess out. I fondly recall Rev. Martin. Really nice guy, and what he said to my mom and dad and to the Green family quieted things down between them for awhile, but it would never fix the imaginations in my mom’s mind. And as a result she would only find a place to misplace her anger and frustrations elsewhere: my hide. I had become the family scapegoat for whatever was eating at Mom, and whether my dad knew it or not at that time, (and in later years I came to understand the he did grow to understand it), no one was about to change the order of things, because the volatility of it proved to be too daring for him to ever bear to change.

(Next, more school shenanigans and my dad does some good things).

Link to next installment . . .

Link to last installment . . .

Link to beginning of book . . .


Autobiography, Child Abuse, Childhood, Childhood Memories, Growing Up, Memoir, Memoirs, Memories, Memories From Childhood, Memories From My Young Days, Memory, Non Fiction, Non-Fiction, Nonfiction, Serial, Series, True Experiences, True Stories, True Story

Meet the author

author avatar Ken Painter
Retired Chicago public school teacher. Singer, songwriter, musician, author, & opinionated old curmudgeon. Married to my husband & living in Colorado, USA. Also a father & grandfather.

Share this page

moderator Steve Kinsman moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
17th Sep 2013 (#)

Hi, Ken. Reference all my past comments; they still apply. You writing though is beginning to flow differently. It appears easier, if you know what I mean. I encourage you to continue and I'll read the next installment.
Curmudgeon? You? I hardly think so underneath. ~Marilyn

Reply to this comment

author avatar Ken Painter
17th Sep 2013 (#)

Thanks Marilyn. I appreciate this, but I have my curmudgeony moments! :-) It has to do with my age and physical health I think. At any rate, thanks for the encouragement, and if you see any "Aha" moments you feel necessary to point out that perhaps I've missed, please let me know. I am NEVER to old to learn!

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Can't login?