“Hush, little baby, don’t say a word. Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird. If that mockingbird don’t sing, Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring,” my grandmother sang. Her voice was low and soft, and I finally started to calm down after another one of my nightmares. They started shortly after I moved in with my grandparents. I was eight years old when my parents were killed in a car crash, forcing my sister Emerson, and me to move from the only home we’d ever known to live with my father’s parents. We barely knew them, but they were the only relatives we had. I never knew how good we really had it until it was all ripped away. It had almost been a year, but I was still having a hard time adjusting to the change. That night I’d made the mistake of accidentally wetting the bed. My grandmother held me close, trying to comfort me while she continued to sing. I knew her words were a lie, that my mother was dead and gone, but listening to her soothed me. “If that diamond ring turns brass, Mama’s gonna buy you a looking glass.”
His fist slammed against the wall as he walked towards my room. Horror washed over me as I listened to his footsteps coming down the hall. The floorboards creaked under the weight of his body, my dread intensifying with every step he took.
My head was pressed against my grandmother’s chest, listening to her heart thump rapidly while he started to shout, “Don’t coddle that boy, Louise. Stop lying to him! His mama’s dead. She can’t buy him a damn thing! He’s no fucking baby. We’re not raising him to be a goddamn pussy!” he barked as he stood in the doorway with a scowl on his face.
“George,” she started, but he quickly cut her off, raising his palm up in the air, silently ordering her to shut up. She always tried to get him to stop, but it never worked. Once he got it in his head, there was no changing his mind.
“Don’t,” she pleaded as I curled deeper into her lap when he started stalking towards me. With his finger pointed directly in my face, he growled, “You wet that damn bed again, boy?” Rage vibrated off of him as he spoke, and I knew what was coming. He was furious, and only one thing happened when he got that worked up.
My grandfather was a military man, born and bred. He still looked the part too, sporting his buzz cut and the same athletic build he had in all of his army pictures. Every minute of every day was controlled by his orders. He ran a tight ship with impossible expectations. The old man was a force to be reckoned with and he hated any sign of weakness. Which meant he detested me. He hated that I was so weak, that my parents’ death still tormented me. He was determined to make a man out of me, even if that meant killing me in the process. There was a time, when the beatings first started, that he was careful, not wanting to leave any evidence of the abuse. But as I grew older, he made sure to leave the marks. He got some kind of sick satisfaction seeing the whelps on my back, smiling whenever he saw me looking at them. He wanted me to see them, to feel the raised scars on my flesh, so I would always remember. He grabbed my hand, yanking me from my grandmother’s lap and snarled, “Get your ass to the barn. I’ll teach you not to wet the fucking bed, boy.” I could smell the mix of old spice and bourbon swirl around me as my body collided against his side.
“George, it’s late,” Grandmother Louise pleaded.
Ignoring her, he pulled me out of the room and down the hall. As I stumbled behind him, I caught a glimpse of Emerson sitting up in her bed, tears streaming down her chubby little cheeks. She was only four years old, but she knew what happened out in the barn. Even though it sucked that I was his main target, I was thankful that he’d never taken her out there. The old man had a soft spot for her, and she could do no wrong. I wasn’t resentful. I felt the same way about her.
My bare feet dragged along in the dirt and grass as he pulled me into the barn; the large wooden doors slammed behind us, leaving us in the dark. The smell of straw and livestock whirled around me as he jerked me further into the dark. There was a time when I would try to pull away from him, but I quickly learned there was no use fighting him. I was trapped, unable to break free from his grasp. After binding my hands over my head, he reached for his favorite leather strap.
“If your father was still alive, he’d be disgusted with you. Such a fucking disappointment. You’re just like your damn mother. Worthless,” he grumbled as the strap whipped across my back. A searing pain shot through me, like hot coals burning through my thin t-shirt. I forced myself to hold back my cries as he continued to thrash the leather against my back, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of seeing me break. Unfortunately, that only made him angrier causing him to hit even harder. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for me to pass out from the pain, my body falling limp against the restraints.