Where ‘The River’ Flows

Besides, she had no other choice because each time they fought there were so many of us and, over their years of marriage, more on the way. He wasn’t used to losing. But this time, in the afternoon, he lost. He lost his life. It was the day our lives changed forever.

Mother was at the counter cutting vegetables with the kitchen knife to cook for supper. I was sitting at the kitchen table with my two brothers, playing a board game, when we heard the tread of Father’s boots coming down the hall. It all happened so fast, we never had time to get frightened. He stormed into the kitchen, straight towards Mother in a drunken rage, still mad from their fight that morning. The boys, sensing Mother’s immediate peril, jumped on his shoulders. As he threw them off, Mother broke from his grip. I remember hearing him yell, “You’re going to get a beating now, Laticia.”

I ran down the hall following Mother, who was so scared he’d catch her. She knew Father would outrun her on the railway track behind our house, which went on forever, if she went out the back porch door, and she might best get to the safety of the neighbour’s house if she went out the front. I quickly thought about how I could help slow him down. I crouched down to trip Father up and down he went. He was drunk, so it was easy. He got up, grabbing her again at the front door, and they tumbled, struggling together, into the front yard. My brothers and sisters, hearing the ruckus, ran and watched from the front window.

It was as though time stood still that day. I remember placing my hands on Mother’s shaking shoulders as she sat on the grass, staring at her bloodied hands, saying “I killed Anthony, oh goodness, Susan, he fell onto the knife, I accidentally killed him. Anthony’s dead.” The officer standing over her was saying “Come with me. I will take you to the hospital.”

I remember being in bed at the neighbour’s house later that evening. Mother must have thought we were all asleep in the same room they had made up for us when she came back from the hospital because I heard her say, “Poor kids, look what they’ve got to face in the morning.”

We were somewhat prepared because Mother had prepared us so many times. Whatever rampage he was on we learned to scram until the dust settled. Father liked to have the boys’ hair cut close like military style, they were his little soldiers. Sometimes he would march through the hallway, at a good pace in his military boots he wore, as though he were back in the army. We would hide in the closets and not make a sound. My sister remembers it being like a game. He would not find anybody and leave.

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Beverley Anne Callahan, from Riverhead, Harbour Grace, Conception Bay North, near the community where the Hermit lived, resides in Mount Pearl, NL.
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