Posted 03-02-2004 at 04:25:24
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Becky's father died when she was eight, and from that point forward, Becky became the man of the house. She was running things at home. By the time she was sixteen, she was smokin' drinkin' and entertaining boys on a regular basis while her mother sat in a corner and whined and complained but did nothing about it. My mother never set foot in Becky's house, but she had an idea what went on there. She knew enough to know that she didn't want me over there.
So when I snuck over there and spent the afternoon one summer Friday, completely mystified by this girl and her home life, I knew better than to let on where I'd been. I sat over there and watched Becky smoke and watched her yell at her mother and wondered how many times Becky had had her butt whupped and suspected that it was very rarely, if ever. Some boys showed up, and per my normal routine where it concerned boys, I took off my glasses. (You know boys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses.)Even though I was only thirteen I knew this fact.
I didn't do anything wrong. Just sat there and squinted while Becky flirted and I listened to her mother complain, and watched the boys flock around Becky like bees to honey. Finally I left, and went on home, thinking I had pulled off a major sneak, until I walked in the door. Supper was on the table. Daddy was in his chair in the living room waiting to be called in to the table. I wondered briefly when he'd gotten home. He seemed to be early. Other than that, everything was normal. Until I reached up to push my glasses up on my nose, and discovered that they were still at Becky's house!
You have to understand that our house was run like a corporation. Everything done on routine, everything in it's place, kids who were seen and not heard. There was no way I could show up at the dinner table without my glasses without getting the third degree, and there was no way I could go back out that door while supper was on the table. It was unheard of. I was in a tight spot.
"Call your father to the table." My mother said as I passed through the kitchen, strategically keeping my naked face turned away from her where she stood at the stove.
I passed through the living room on the fly, my head down...
"Daddy, supper's ready." I said, and went on to my room. I had no idea what I was going to do. The best I could think to do was hide. So when Daddy came to my door five minutes later I was in bed with the covers pulled over my head.
"Girl, your supper's getting cold."
"I'm sick Daddy. I'm gonna sleep."
"What's the matter with you?" He asked, a hint of concern in his voice.
"I have a headache. I just need to close my eyes."
"I'll tell your mother." He said, and then, "you've been wearing your glasses right? You know you get headaches when you don't wear your glasses."
He knew. How did he know? He knew something. Oh Lord.
"Yes, I've been wearing them." I lied.
The minute he went back to the kitchen I was in my mother's room on the phone, begging my best friend Sherry.
"Please, please, you have to go get them for me! It's only a block, Sherry! Just go get them and bring them to my bedroom window. Hurry!"
Within ten minutes Sherry rapped on my bedroom window.
"You owe me." She whispered, as we lifted the window screen and she passed me my glasses. I sighed with relief and promised her my first born child or whatever other ridiculous thing she wanted. Now that I had my glasses back safely on my nose it occurred to me that my stomach was rumbling. Now that I had my cheaters back, there was no real reason I couldn't go back and get my share of that fried chicken that was on the table. If I didn't hurry I was going to be stuck with the back, which didn't have enough meat on it to satisfy a cat.
When I appeared at the table neither of my parents looked up. I was so focused on the chicken leg on the platter in the middle of the table that I didn't find that unusual. Second mistake. What was the first? Besides being where I wasn't supposed to be? Lying to my father. I just didn't know he knew yet.
"Feeling better?" He asked, still not looking up. It also didn't dawn on me how quiet it was at the table. When you get five people, now six, together at the dinner table there's generaly some noise, utensils clacking, talking, etc. At this point it was quiet as a tomb. That should have been a major red flag, but what did I have to be scared of, all was right with my world again. I had pulled it off. Gotten away with it.
I had the chicken leg halfway to my mouth when he dropped the bomb.
"What were you doing over that girl's house?"
My mouth went so dry I couldn't have managed to eat watermelon, much less fried chicken.
"Don't 'sir' me, and don't play stupid. I saw you come out of there on your bike not thirty minutes ago. What were you told about going over there?"
There was no choice but to tell the truth, now that he knew anyway.
"I was only over there for a few minutes." I said. Okay. Partial truth.
"What did we tell you about keeping those glasses on your nose? Do you know how much those things cost? We didn't buy them so you could leave them laying around. Do you think I'm blind? I noticed you didn't have them on your face the second I saw you. You're the one that needs glasses remember, not me. I can see like a hawk. Especially when it comes to my kids. I don't know how you got them back so fast but I know this...you were where you weren't supposed to be and you lied to us. There's only one thing to do, as far as I can see."
I sighed and put down my chicken leg.
"Go cut me a switch and wait for me in my room."
The cutting the switch and the waiting part was worse than the switching, although my legs were left with stripes, a few of them deep enough to seep tiny dots of blood. But through it all I knew in my heart that I was getting my just desserts. It never occured to me to feel that I was being abused or to think that Daddy might have been out of line. There was a different kind of justice back then, and kids knew that you screwed up, you paid the price if you got caught, and we knew that we were the ones who brought the whole thing about, and looking back I can't think of a single instance where I got my butt torn up that I didn't have it coming.
Becky is in her forties now. She has six kids from four different fathers, and just like her, her kids are growing up in a house with no father in it, and I suspect that they rarely get their butts whupped, if ever, and I don't care what the psychologists say, that's a crying shame.