I woke up, jolted by the cry of my mother’s distress. Her shrieks came in rhythm, rising and a falling, and for a while, at the groggy edge of my slumber. At first I was neither awake or asleep, inbetween dreams and I that someone was in there, just down the hall, torturing my mother. It wasn’t until a passing cloud cleared, allowing the moonlight to fill my room that I realized I was, in fact, awake. And that I’d wet the bed.
Mom wouldn’t like this. I was five now and the peeing was supposed to stop. I lay there, soiled, ashamed, clinging to my wet sheets as my mother’s prayers went unanswered. Thinking Hannah would know what to do, I got my legs out on the floor, felt around in the dark for a dry clothes, and slowly opened my door with a creak.
I skittered down the hall, shocked to a stop when I heard the rapid movement just behind Mom’s door. It was a man causing the anguish. I heard his spastic grunts, his deep bellows between my mother’s pleas. The attacker’s low voice groaned to a laugh, as though deriving some sort of sick pleasure in what he was doing in to her in there.
I’d just watched a movie about medieval knights, so my mind was attuned to all the dastardly things that could cause such distress. I stopped in the hallway, between all the doors in the darkness. What was his tool of pleasure? The Rack? The Tongue Tier? Hopefully not the Breaking Wheel. I had to hurry.
There was no time for Hannah, Mom was in danger. And being that I was the man of the house, it was up to me to save her.
A big gulp of courage and I plunged into the darkness. My little hands found the door and I turned the knob and pushed ahead. I saw his back, hunched over, striped with the amber glow of the streetlight cutting through the crooked shades of the window. And just as I suspected, my mother was under attack.
He had her pinned down, even with all her moaning he wouldn’t stop. Still undetected, I looked for a book, or shoe, maybe the lamp that was on the floor at her bedside. No, there was no time for prep, I had to act. What is it that knight had said?
It worked. The attacker halted. He turned his head, and when he saw me, he flung himself over the bed towards the closet. Even more peculiar was that he was stark naked. His privates flopped around with his acrobatics.
Mom, safe from harm now, had yanked the covers to her chin. Her hair was tousled from being roughed up as it were, but her tone didn’t exactly convey gratitude for my bravery.
“Dougie, what are you doing in here?”
“Are you okay Mom?”
That’s when the captive spoke up from Mom’s closet. “Hey kid, it’s okay.”
His voice sounded pained. If I had to guess, I’d say he’d landed on one of Mom’s high heel shoes. She had enough of them in there, I’d done it before and it wasn’t pleasant. And this dunce didn’t even have clothes on.
He took a step, using one hand to cover his groin, holding out a pale palm in the light. Rather brave for a man headed to the gallows at dawn. My eyes had adjusted and I saw the stringy, shoulder-length hair. A beard. I took a step back.
The hair, the beard, that familiar wheeze. Chuck. The man who helped us around the house from time to time. He cut the grass sometimes and had just tonight hauled in that used clothes dryer Mom had bought. He lived up the street with his own mother, but what I wanted to know was, what was he doing to mine?
He spoke in a whisper, still out of breath from all his gyrating. “It’s okay son, it’s okay.”
Mom spoke again, not so softly. “Dougie, go back to bed, I’ll be in in a minute.”
Her regular voice had returned. I found it odd she could sound so calm, only moments ago she was screaming out for God to help her. A quick glance at Chuck. Where were his clothes, anyway? It was all so weird, maybe I was dreaming it all.
I stumbled out into the darkness, looking in the direction of my sister’s shut door, envious at how she could sleep through the most confusing things. I thought again about knocking, Hannah always had an answer for things, and I could use one right then. But I wasn’t in the mood to go looking behind any more doors.
I staggered back to bed, climbing in only to find my sheets wet and cold. Quickly, I bundled them and stuffed them under my bed. no need to get Mom started about how I was too old to be peeing the bed.
She’d done enough yelling for the night.