"Dad," I said.
He stopped briefly and turned around to look at me. On his drunken face, especially in his drunken eyes, I saw the undiluted anger, anger which was always there and had been lately morphing into rage. And behind that anger I saw another emotion displayed, one that seemed more insignificant and diluted compared to the former—surprise.
I guessed this was because it was the first time I had interrupted him while he beat my mom since the first and lasttime I had tried to intervene and he had given me one hundred whacks with my own belt. I had always been too afraid after that day a year ago to say anything to my dad, and I generally tried to disappear from the room when he began to beat her, even if I felt awful doing so. Sometimes, dad made me watch, and I wasn't allowed to slink out of the room. When this happened, I didn't speak. I simply watched in silence because I knew it was what mom wanted me to do, and I tried to remove myself from the situation, let my mind drift somewhere else.
Today, dad wanted me to watch as he beat her, but I couldn't remove myself from this dark room this time, because this time it was worse. This time, my dad didn't just beat her; he raped her as well. And this time, I found it impossible to keep silent, even if it meant I may be whipped. The reality of everything was simple—I couldn't sit here and watch my mom be humiliated like this. Physical abuse was one thing, but sexual abuse was something else completely.
My dad turned around and glared at me, his face twisted in drunken rage. He was on top of my mom, just beginning to rip off her light blue, skin-tight suit.
"You got something to say, Danny Boy?" he inquired drunkenly. "Danny Boy" was what he called me after he had had a beer or two.
"Dad," I began timidly, scare shitless but knowing I couldn't let him do this to mom. "Dad, I, uh, think halftime just ended...if you wanted to watch, uh, I could make you something to eat."
He looked at me, his features hardened, his eyes now glowing with something like suspicion, as if he thought I had some grand plan to poison a plate of nachos and then sit back and watch as he withered away in front of the Monday night football game…and maybe that suspicion wasn't so farfetched, because my wish, what I closed my eyes and hoped for as I blew out the candle in the cupcake Tucker and Sam got for me for my last birthday, was that my father would die, somehow. I wanted more than anything to come home from school one day and have my mother greet me at the door, tears in her eyes but a smile on her face, and say to me, excitedly and joyously and in disbelief, "Danny, he's dead! Your father is dead! He was hit by a car/gunned down by a madman/drunk and tumbled off a cliff/held hostage and wasted/choked to death/buried alive/mauled by lions/burned to a crisp in a fire/victim of a robbery/poisoned/sunk in quicksand/hung/beheaded/drown in a river and now he's dead!"
No one could ever understand how much I wanted to hear those words.
"You can't cook for shit, Danny Boy," he said in that same drunken voice which was now filled with skepticism.
"I can make popcorn, Dad."
He made a sound of disgust and waved his hand. "I don't give a fuck about the game, Danny Boy."
I looked at my mom. Our eyes met. She was staring at me with an expression of frenzied terror…but I knew it was not for her own safety—it was for mine. She looked at me and in her eyes I could see the question that I knew she must be thinking, Danny, what are you doing? In my own eyes, I tried to answer that question, I can't watch him do this to you. But I knew that wasn't what mom wanted. She always put my safety before her own, and when my dad made me watch as he beat her or…this, she wanted for me more than anything to silently watch as I was told so he didn't hurt me. When he went to the bar at seven in the morning, before I left for school, she always told me, "Danny, if you come home and he's doing something to me, go up to your room and don't come down until I get you. If he makes you watch, don't say a word." So I could understand why she looked so frightened now, but I couldn't watch him do this to her, despite what either of them wanted. And I didn't care if it meant I got hurt in the process.
"Dad, you…you watched the first half of the game…don't you want to see how it turns out?"
"I told you, I don't give a fuck! I don't watch football like your damn uncle!" he hollered, spit flying from his lips and landing on my face. I was too frightened to wipe it away.
"But Dad, I, uh, thought you wanted to see the Packers get their "asses beat into the ground" like you said?"
The back of his hand connected with my right cheek, causing my head to jerk violently and spit to fly from my own mouth this time. My mom cried out in terror, and stood up from the bed, even though I knew she knew my dad could have killed her for doing so. In the mirror on the dresser across the room, I saw my reflection, saw the huge red hand-print that resided on my cheek and that had begun to sting. My dad grabbed the belt that hung on a peg in the closet and I heard my mom moan quietly, knowing what was to come, more afraid for me than I was myself.
"Don't you tell me what I said!" he screamed, and brought the belt down on my right cheek. There was a sound—whaaaaaack!—and I thought this sound was worse than the actual pain itself.
My mom shrieked. As he brought the belt down on my face again, she pounced on his back, trying to pry the belt out of his hands, and it was by far the boldest thing she had done since he'd started drinking a year and a half ago. But he wasn't focused on her anymore, and he simply ignored her as his attention was turned to me and he brought the belt down on my body again and again. Mom tried, she fought,to get that belt away from him, but he was so much stronger and bigger than her and he didn't let up, and he whipped me everywhere there was to be whipped—my face, my thighs, my chest and stomach, my back, my butt, my arms—for nearly an hour, my mom screaming and begging and weeping all the while, until my body was covered with dark-purple lash marks, some bleeding. I lay on the ground near the bed on my stomach, trying to gather some strength. I thought distantly, Come on, Danny, if you can just go ghost!
My mom was now pounding on his back with both fists even though it looked like he was through beating me (he had tossed the belt to the side) and shrieking every cuss word in the book at him, enraged, frankly astonishing both my father and I. He turned away from me, grabbed my mother, and flung her onto the bed which such force that she crashed into the headboard and sent a splintering crack up the middle of it.
I lay on the floor and listened as he brutally raped her, his moans and grunts and her shrieks of pain and helpless sobs amplified, as if there were microphones attached to them and the speakers were in my head, echoing endlessly.
I lay there and thought, "You could have stopped this, Danny. You could have saved her. If only you'd gone ghost."
The next day, after my dad left for the bar, my mom slathered my face with a cream that was the same color as my skin. She sent me to school in a long-sleeved t-shirt.
VC: Don't give Jack an axe!