{July 30, 2012}   Rag Doll

An excerpt from my book (in progress) “The Indelicate Flower”

Rag Doll

When I was five years old, I didn’t know that money bought things. Daddy would come home from work in the evening, empty his pockets of change, and tell me to go and put the change in my piggy bank. I saved and saved, emptying my full piggy bank into a large burlap sack. When that was full I’d sit cross legged on the floor and roll up the change with little paper strips. When that was finished, I’d go to the bank with my mother to deposit it into a bank account that I was told was in my name. It was an exercise meant to teach me how to save money, but I hadn’t connected the dimes, nickels and quarters to getting the things that I wanted. When I went to the store with mother, I’d get to pick out a cereal or cookies, but I didn’t know that money was exchanged. I thought all anyone had to do was get to the store and then pick out whatever was wanted. Every time Mother drove to the store, I’d sit in the back seat and try to memorize the turns to get there. I’d been there so many times was certain I knew the way.

When I was five going on six, I decided to walk to the store, and talked my four year old neighbor, Anna, into walking there with me. I promised her that once we got to the store, she could pick out anything she wanted. “Just follow me!”  So, off we walked, two girls under six years old walking to the store on a Saturday afternoon. At first, I knew every turn; it all looked familiar. But as we kept walking, I took a wrong turn and things didn’t look familiar anymore. We walked and walked and pretty soon I realized that I didn’t know the way back home. Hours passed.  Anna was crying but kept up with me as I turned left and right through neighborhoods I’d never seen with street names I couldn’t read.

We were walking along Ponce de Leon Avenue when a car pulled over and stopped. A man was driving. He opened the side door and demanded, “Get in!” I was scared because I had been told never to get into a car with a stranger. But Anna said, “It’s okay! He’s my dad!” so I got in, and her father drove us home.

I came skipping into the house, glad to be home. Daddy was watching sports on TV, and he came out of the den and said, “Where have you been? Your mother is driving around trying to find you! We had to call the police!”

I was in trouble? “I was trying to find the store.”

“Your mother is mad. When she gets home, you’re in trouble,” Daddy said, and he went back to watching TV.

Trouble. Now I was scared. I went to my room and closed the door. I could already feel the sting of a switch on my legs, my arm jerked up over my head as I did the circle dance of pain. I sat on my bed waiting for the door to open. What face would she wear? What would she use, a belt or switch? I cried. I knew it was going to be bad, but I didn’t know just how bad it was going to be.

The door opened suddenly. My mother pounced on my bed, a belt in her hand.  “You ran away from home, didn’t you? I’ll teach you to run away from home!” She jerked me up by one arm and flipped me over on the bed. I tried to protect my legs with my hands but she pulled them away. She started beating my legs and my back. All during the beating, she screamed, “Are you going to run away again? Are you going to run away again?” I screamed, “No!, No! Please!” but she kept beating. And beating. And beating. The beating continued until I couldn’t scream any more. It hurt so bad I started to feel nothing. She pounded my body again and again with daddy’s belt. I closed my eyes and felt another blow. But I couldn’t cry anymore. I just laid there. My body was broken. I was more like my rag doll than me. Then, she stopped. Lying on my stomach I pretended to be dead. If she thought I was dead, she would stop. It worked. I kept my eyes closed and didn’t move. I heard her footsteps leave the room and slam the door.

I didn’t move again for a long time. I cried so long I couldn’t breathe. Finally, I rolled over onto my back.  The sting of whip marks hurt so bad, I rolled back over onto my stomach and tried to go to sleep.

I was called to dinner a few hours later. I didn’t want to go. I wasn’t hungry and I didn’t want to see my mother’s face. The women who beat me was the same woman who cooked my food. But tonight, I rejected it. Daddy came to my room and said that I had to come to the table. He told me that I needed to eat if I wanted to be strong. I could see sadness in his eyes when he looked at me. I told him I couldn’t eat. I turned my face back into the pillow to cry. He closed the door to my room softly and went to the table to join the others.

copyright 2112 by Lynn Alexander Ehrlicher


Beth W. says:

Wow, that is really powerful…and heartbreaking. I could feel all the emotions throughout the excerpt…the excitement, the relief, the fear, the hurt, and then the sadness, yet helplessness of your father. It made me cry.

lynnygal says:

Beth, thank you for your comments. You are right to perceive helplessness in my father. This is one small portion of my book, The Indelicate Flower, which I hope to finish this year.

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