Jack was taking a shower at 9 o’clock PM on a Saturday night. That could mean only one thing: he was dying his hair again. Jack always made a terrible mess in the bathroom when he dyed his hair. He stood in front of the tiny bathroom mirror with the door opened and applied the dye to his greying head. He slopped it in his hair, dropping black blobs onto the white and blue floor tiles where it left an ugly black stain. Then he would comb the dye through his hair giving the comb a little flick when he reached the back of his head. When he flicked the comb the hair dye spattered all over the white door. It looks like blood spatter that you see in crime photos, Martha thought as she surveyed the newest splats and splatters on the bathroom door.
She opened the door slightly and peeked in. Black gooey hair dye was on the floor, on the sink and on the wall behind the mirror. In the sink was the wide-tooth green plastic comb that he always used to make sure that dye reached all his grey roots. Jack was 50 years old but often told people he was 40 or 45 years old. He had to dye his hair to keep up the ruse that he was decades younger than his actual age, but Martha figured anyone with half a brain could see that Jack was years older than he claimed. The comb left dark stains in the blue porceline of the sink. Martha knew bleach would clean that up. Jack never washed that comb after using it with the hair dye. He just stuck it up in the medicine cabinet behind the two dozen or so used disposable razors he kept in there. Martha never understood why he saved used razors. Once there were so many used razors in the medicine cabinet that they came tumbling out into the sink and all over the floor when she opened the door to get some fever medicine for Mikey. Martha picked them up and tossed them into the waste basket. Jack hit the roof and told her to stop throwing out his razors.
Martha stuck her head farther into the bathroom. There on the floor was his shit-stained underwear and the baggy blue jeans he had worn that day. The pants were open and Martha could see the crotch and backside of his jeans. Jack never wiped his ass. The shit had come through his shorts and left a long, crusty, brown smudge up the seam in the back of his pants. Once Jack had several of his friends over to their apartment for a night of drinking and singing. Jack always fancied himself an undiscovered rock star and never missed an opportunity to sing to a captive audience in his living room. Jack went to the bathroom and when he came back he had taken off his outer shirt. He was wearing only a white tee shirt and was sagging his jeans below his butt. Jack turned around and Martha saw that he had a shit stain on the tail of his white tee shirt. All the men in the living room saw it too, but no one said a word and they let Jack walk around with shit on his shirt. No one said a word when he left wearing his shitty shirt to buy more beer either. Everyone was afraid of Jack. He often boasted about beating people, but the only person Jack ever beat up was Martha.
Martha’s eyes lifted from the filth on the floor and saw her white shower curtain that she had just installed the previous day. There were large black stains all along the side of the curtain where Jack had pulled it back to get into the shower and carelessly allowed the curtain to fall against his dye-covered head. There were also black hair dye stains on the powder blue curtains over the bathroom window too. Martha burst into tears. She had worked so hard to make the tiny bathroom look nice and now it was ruined. Martha should have known better than to put anything nice in a bathroom that Jack would be using.
“Jack?” Martha called.
“Yeah?” he responded.
“You ruined the shower curtain and you ruined my blue curtains with your hair dye,” she said.
“What the fuck Martha!” Jack shouted from behind the ruined shower curtain. “I’ll get you another motherfucking shower curtain bitch!”
“Jack,” Martha started. “All I ask is that if you are going to dye your hair to please not make a mess. It’s so hard to clean it up and it stains everything.”
Jack was enraged. He threw the shower curtain to one side getting even more dye on the curtain and on the floor.
“Didn’t I say I would get you another fucking shower curtain? Didn’t I? DIDN’T I SAY IT BITCH! Get the fuck on, stupid fucker.”
Oh I’ll get the fuck on, Martha thought. I will get the fuck out of this hell and away from you and your hair dye and your shitty pants. You will come home one day and I will just be gone.
“Alright,” Martha said timidly as she closed the bathroom door.
Soon Jack finished his shower and came downstairs where Martha and Mikey were watching television. Jack was wearing only a towel and dripping water all over the floor. He gave Martha the I’m going to choke a bitch look and Martha instinctively cringed. Mikey saw it too. He pressed against his mother and put his head behind her back. Martha imagined that Mikey thought if he couldn’t see Jack then Jack couldn’t see him either. Martha held Mikey close until Jack was through glaring at her and left to get dressed.
“C’mon Mikey,” Martha said. “Let’s go upstairs. It’s bedtime.”
Martha carried Mikey upstairs to the ruined bathroom and helped him put toothpaste on his electric Spiderman toothbrush. Mikey brushed his teeth and Martha set about taking down the shower curtain. She thought perhaps she could use some bleach on the stains and salvage the curtain. Martha brought a hammer into the bathroom with her because the shower curtain rod was broken and she had to nail it to the wall on each end. Martha stood on the edge of the bathtub and pulled the first nail. She put the hammer on the toilet seat and shimmied to the other end of the tub.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Jack appeared in the doorway wearing only a pair of baggy jeans and sneakers.
He had oiled his upper body with Vaseline. He thought it made him look sexy and buff. Jack was wearing the same blue jeans that he wore before his shower. Wait till they get a whiff of you! Martha thought to herself in the voice of the Joker. She imagined Jack’s face painted with a grotesque red lipstick smile saying, Wait till they get a whiff of me!
“I said . . . " Jack hissed through clenched teeth, his fists also clenched at his sides. “What. The. Fuck. Are. You. DOING?!?”
“I’m just . . . .” Martha began.
Before she could finish her sentence Jack lunged forward and pushed Martha off the bathtub. She fell against the rim of the toilet and knocked the breath out of her body when her ribs connected with the unforgiving porceline. Jack grabbed the hammer off the toilet seat.
Mikey threw himself on Martha and screamed, “NO!”
Martha instinctively rotated her body so that she was between Jack and her baby. There was less than 24 inches between the rim of the toilet and the bathtub. Martha and Mikey were trapped. There was no way to escape the hammer weilding Jack.
“Didn’t I tell you I would get you another shower curtain?” Jack shouted.
Martha cowered and tried to protect her head with one hand and hold Mikey underneath her body with the other.
“I said,” Jack continued. “Didn’t I tell you I would get you another motherfucking shower curtain?”
Martha was crying. Mikey was crying. Jack was murderously enraged.
Martha peeked from under her arm that she had instinctively thrown over her head to ward of the blows and saw Jack’s reflection in the mirror. What she saw there was not human. It was a monster. A big, Vaseline covered monster with shitty pants who was going to kill her.
“Please!” she cried out.
“Please what, bitch?” Jack responded. He moved closer to her with the hammer.
“I said please WHAT bitch,” Jack repeated.
“Please, don’t,” Martha cried.
Jack got on his knees on the bathroom floor, still holding the hammer in his hand. He lowered his voice, as he always did when he wanted to drive his point home.
“Bitch,” he hissed in her ear. "I will fucking kill you. Do you understand me? I will fucking kill you. I don’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life if it means I’m rid of your stupid ass. Do you hear me?
Martha continued to cover her head with her arm and covered her son with her body. Her ribs were really hurting now. Each breath caused a sharp pain just under her right arm.
“Did you hear me?” Jack repeated.
Martha knew the game. Jack would demand an answer and not stop until she said something. Then he would threaten to kill her if she said another word. Martha did not want to play this horrible game with him again. It always ended the same way. Jack would terrorize her until he was satisfied he made his point or until he needed another beer.
“You better answer me bitch,” Jack’s breath was hot on her ear. “I’m going to ask you one more time. Did. You. Hear. Me?”
“Yes,” Martha whimpered. She felt Mikey shift beneath her and knew she had to get him out of this situation.
“Yes, WHAT motherfucker?” Jack hissed into her ear.
“Yes, I hear you,” Martha responded through her tears.
“Shut up!” Jack screamed in her ear. “Say something else! Say something! I fucking dare you! Say something motherfucker! Say something else and I fucking swear . . . .”
Jack punctuated each word by poking Martha in the head with his finger. When Jack was sufficiently pleased with his terrifying performance, he stood up and left the bathroom taking the hammer with him.
© 2012 H Maria Perry
All Rights Reserved