High heel boot.
And a butcher knife.
We have a lot to do in this chapter so let’s get started.
There was a time when people smoked in their houses. This was a while ago. Now most times smokers spend a lot of their time outside. Can’t smoke in restaurants anymore. Bars. Public buildings. Can’t even smoke in parks most of the time, but the homes around the nation used to be covered in a thin haze of smoke. Back in those days, whether you smoked or not, you had to have ashtrays. You had to have lighters set out for visitors. When I was growing up we had one of these.
It was a table lighter. You kept it on your coffee table in your living room so that company could light their cigarettes. They were small, fit into the fist. Had a heavy base and a flip lid that when you hit a button the lid popped up and the flame spit out from where it had been. Ours was set in a thick heavy base. The thing weighed almost a full pound and it was the perfect weapon. Like a cue ball or a paperweight, the table lighter fit in your hand and its heft made a swing lethal.
Those of you who grew up before the age of the debit card, do you remember the penny jug? This was a jug, usually pretty big, often thick glass that your parents had found somewhere. Everyone had pennies lying around back then and this is where they ended up. Nickels, dimes, and quarters stayed in the pocket but the penny was thrown in here and saved. One day it would be full, they always told us. We would roll them all and it would be like free money.
Most parents had plans for the penny jug. They had an object they wanted to get for the house. Or a big dinner planned. Sometimes a trip. And that might sound funny but usually these jugs were pretty big and, if you filled one up, you had big bucks to spend.
Less would come out of her room when my parents weren’t around. They were at work or my grandparents’ house or a friend, it doesn’t matter where, but Less had been blasting her music for hours and she came out steaming. This was common. There would be a look to her. Her head down. Her eyes swinging. Her hand flexed and her jaw was clenched. She usually had her hair hanging odd. Not in her face but framing it like a cowl and from deep in that cowl her mind was raging. She wanted to hurt something and it didn’t matter what it was.
She would pick a fight. Sometimes we had been too loud. Though she could not hear us over the blaring of her music. Sometimes she was itching because she had not done her chores and my parents would be home soon and why hadn’t I done her chores for her? The TV was on the wrong station, the chips had been eaten by my parents. It did not matter in the least what reason she had. She would come out and find a reason to scream.
On this day it was the TV. I was watching a show she didn’t like and she screamed at me. I was on my feet instantly. I had a thing I needed to do. Grasp was about five at the time and I had to get to him. I had to grab him and get to the bathroom. I had to slam the door closed and lock it because it was an old house built with sturdy wood and no matter how she railed against the bathroom door, it would not break.
She stood heaving in the middle of the room, her hands down, her eyes searching. This time she wanted to do real damage and a fist would not work. I could see it in her steaming eyes that this time she wanted to hear my scream. She wanted to see blood and she stomped left, looking for the item that would do it.
She went left. I went right. I ran for all I was worth as I saw her grip the table lighter and wind up. I rushed as fast as I could and when she threw it, I heard it whistle through the air. I instinctively leapt a moment before it hit my knee. It slammed in to the penny jug and I heard the inch-thick glass explode. It hit the wall hard enough to dent the plaster. I ran as fast as I could.
Through the house to my bedroom on the far side. I grabbed my brother because back then he was worth protecting and I hefted him in my arms and ran. She stood near the penny jug shards and I saw her pick up a great big jagged piece of glass and lock eyes with me. I reached the bathroom as she burst into a run and I threw my brother in. I slammed the door and twirled the lock. She hit the door like a bull and roared. She pounded and kicked. She swore she would kill us and I knew she still held that jagged piece of glass in her hand.
I was eleven. She was thirteen.
Servant paced the bathroom floor and Grasp huddled in the tub and cried. She raged and I waited. We were in that bathroom for about an hour before all fell silent out there. Another hour and I came out. Grasp ran for our room. He slid under the bed and cowered against the far wall. Servant could not see her and he cautiously searched the house, praying she had gone back to her room but knowing better. If she had, he would hear music blaring. He found her in the living room crouched beside the shattered pieces of glass and scraping a jagged piece across her arm, her face slack. Her breath heaving.
Guardian eased forward. He went to her and hugged her. He apologized and he gently took the glass away. He apologized because for sure he was wrong. He had to be. Of course he had in some odd way driven her to this violence. It was all his fault.
But it wasn’t. You all know it wasn’t. My sister was a monster. She still is.
It was about two years later when we lived in Allenton, WI. Allenton was not good to my sister. She never found a boy who was interested in her. She had a friend who was not serious about her and her life was about her music and the movie The Lost Boys. Like them, she was bent on violence. Like them, she was manipulative and unpredictable. Like them, she had an urge to hurt people.
I was in the living room when she came downstairs from her bedroom heaving. She was steaming again and as she walked past me on the couch she smacked me in the side of the head. She kept walking. It was just a thing to do. A small spark to set blaze to the fire she wanted to dance. I took the smack and Shadow spoke.
“You’re a fucking bitch,” he said in a sing-song way. Almost like one would announce they were home from work, or that it was time for dinner. By the time he said it and it registered to her, she was past him and into the kitchen. She walked a few more steps before she paused. Her head turned, her long hair swinging like a curtain, and she snarled.
“What did you say?”
Guardian heard it. He stood. He turned to apologize but she was rushing us. She was poised for murder. That might be an exaggeration, but it is not. My sister Less is unstable. Within her is housed a desperate desire for blood that rests deep at her core. It curls itself around the base of her spine and lays dormant for weeks. She will go for a long time just moody and often times chipper, but in there her monster has to breathe. It has to hunt. She is one bad moment from breaking and this day she rushed Guardian and he jumped off the couch and ran. He ran forward, fighting to make it around the coffee table so he was not trapped in the corner. He made it to the edge of the coffee table and was just about to turn when he was hit.
It felt as if his head had ruptured. As if the back of his skull had just blown off. He ran for a bit longer before the pain overtook him and he hit the floor. He gripped the back of his head and it was gushing blood. He screamed and kicked his legs.
It had been a heavy high heel boot and the heel had cracked his head. She ran upstairs and slammed and locked her door. Her music came back on and she screamed. Grasp rushed to the bathroom upstairs and closed the door but it didn’t lock. He climbed in the shower and pulled the curtains closed. He curled up as small as he could and fought not to exist.
I’m not sure how long I laid that floor. Not sure how long I screamed. My parents were a half an hour away at the restaurant they worked at and I crawled to the phone and fought my way to my feet. I swayed back and forth, the world tilting and bending, the numbers on the dial rippling and waving. I had that number memorized, our parents made sure of it, but I could not make the call. I dropped to the floor and leaned against the wall. I am not sure how long I sat there. I know Pain soaked all the horror of the wound. But after a while, my brother showed up. After a while, he took the phone from my hand and he dialed.
He was six at the time and I vaguely heard him say, “Jesse is hurt. He is bleeding.” He brought me a bottle of aspirin and I gripped it in my hand without knowing what it was. I stared at it for a long time before my mother came in and helped me to my feet.
I remember being in the bathtub that night staring at the faucet and trying to make sense of the brilliant shine of the chrome. I had a wash cloth to the back of my head and when I pulled it away and looked at it, it was covered in blood. I dipped it in the bathtub and watched the color go from red to pink to nothing at all.
I don’t remember getting out of the tub. I don’t remember getting to bed. I do remember the next night talking to my girlfriend Ruffle and telling her what had happened.
She was horrified. Horrified that it had occurred. She asked what had been done about it and I told her I didn’t remember.
Less probably got whipped. Laid across my parents’ bed with her pants pulled down to her feet and my stepfather lashing her with his leather belt. He would brace himself on the side of the bed when he reared back so that when he swung he had the maximum power. She most likely got lashed for what she did to me. She screamed if she did. We always screamed. But I know that when she went back to her room she was convinced her whipping was my fault. See in her mind she had done nothing wrong. In her mind, she had been provoked.
Not long after that in the same house, in the same living room, I was slammed in the head with a metal thermos. If you haven’t seen the type they are actually quite impressive. They were not plastic like they are today. This thermos was a good one. About sixteen inches tall and about five wide. It was steel and so heavy it was hard to heft with one hand when it was full. This was a solid piece of equipment and when it hit the back of my head I passed out. I slammed the floor and the last thing I remember was my sister’s scream.
See the day before, Jazz had tricked my sister.
This was my payback. This four-pound solid steel thermos to the back of the head swung as hard as she was capable of swinging was her statement.
It dented the thermos and I dropped like a stone. The next thing I remember I was standing on a lawn in a neighborhood I didn’t know staring at a drainage ditch. I could barely walk and my head was throbbing. I threw up in that yard and stumbled away. I walked but I don’t know where. I got home at some point and found myself standing in my room staring at my bed drooling. I could not climb into my top bunk so I laid on the floor and woke up wearing my jeans, my shirt, boots and jacket.
Probably she got a whipping. If she did, her rage for me was building.
Same house. She comes stomping down the stairs. I can feel the shift in the air. I can feel the heat of her rage wafting off her like waves of promise. Promise of pain and horror. Promise of blood.
She started yelling.
Guardian heard the screams. To this day he will not tell me what she said. I know he didn’t yell back. See, he was her servant, her protector and her victim. Anything she gave him he had coming. He took it all without complaint. But she was about to make a move that another would answer.
She raged and screamed and he said something to try to calm her down, but it was not enough. She gripped the knife drawer and ripped it open. She grabbed a butcher’s knife and screamed at Guardian. She took two steps forward and another shoved Guardian away.
Shadow looked her in the eye and laughed. He reached into his pocket without breaking eye contact with her and he pulled his knife.
Now he had stolen this knife from the hardware store the week before. He wanted it bad and X went to the other side of the glass counter and asked for the owner to help him look at something. I stepped around, slid the back open, and snatched the knife. I folded it into my jacket and met X outside. This was not a pocket knife. This was a work of art.
They call it a Buck 110. It is a folder that was designed decades ago to be just about anything the owner wants it to be, from a knife you use to slice an apple so you can share it with your grandson to a hunting knife you can easily gut a deer with. This is the king of folders. It is a thing of beauty and it has no thumb assist. You cannot take this knife out and with the slide of a thumb or the flick of the wrist spring the blade. This blade you have to open with two hands and when it does open, it gives off a hard click as the blade locks in place.
When she grabbed that butcher’s knife and screamed, Guardian was shoved away and out came Shadow.
He laughed. I have heard this laugh many times. It is a show stopper. It is a laugh reserved for the edge of violence. It is a laugh of mocking power that begs the listener for a reason. His laugh fired off and, without breaking eye contact with her, he opened his Buck 110 with both hands. It clicked into place and he dropped it into his hand. Without breaking eye contact, he flipped the grip and without breaking eye contact, he smiled.
She stopped. She stared for a minute. But she was not looking into the eye of anything she recognized. This was a new kind of brother. A darker shade of the mind she had not dealt with before. Shadow had been created months, not years, before and he smiled at her and nodded.
She slapped the butcher’s knife down on the counter and her head dropped. She stomped upstairs and slammed her door. Within a breath her music was blaring and she was screaming.
But it never happened again. She never pulled another weapon on me. She beat me with her fists until I got fast enough to catch her wrists and strong enough to squeeze. She slapped me for fun until I caught her arm and with a bend of her hand threatened to break her wrist. When her options were taken away by my size, speed, and Shadow’s willingness to meet her in the middle of a floor with his knife, the battles we fought became verbal.
She could no longer pound me into the ground. The concussions stopped and she never pulled a blade on me again.
But that is Shadow’s fault.