The wind gusts up around my ankles and up my legs like a ghostly arm. Branches and twigs blow past me, almost carefree. The rain, which started out as a breezy mist, now pelts against my neck and face. In the distance, thunder cracks and lightning lights up the sky like a desklamp would a desk. The wind is now a cold being against my bare back. I shiver in a vain attempt to keep warm. The house is right behind me – the warm, bright, cosy house. But I dare not go back there. Not for a while yet. Dad’s in one of his ‘moods’. One of his violent, sadistic moods. One in which I’m stripped down to my undies and sent out into the freezing cold while he gives Mum her nightly beating. It’s not as if I didn’t see enough of it when I was younger. He probably figures that I won’t have the guts to do anything about it if I’m out here half naked. I feel ashamed that I don’t have the guts. Dad’s a pretty powerful man, which surprises me that Mum can put up with his constant beatings. Nonetheless, as a 16 year old I feel that I’m letting Mum down by not trying to defend her. As I contemplate this, hailstones fall from the dark sky above, crashing against my head and shoulders and falling to the ground at my feet. I can’t stand this much longer.
“Dave”, Mum calls. I can hear the pain in her voice. “You can come in now”.
Dad must have finished. I turn and trudge back inside, soaked from head to toe.

“Dave. Get over ’ere”.
“What do you want, Dad?”
“Just get over ’ere, will you?”
He’s drunk. Very drunk. You could light a match on his breath and he’d breathe fire like those guys at the circus. I go over to him and sit next to him.
“You know I love your mother, don’t ya?”
What am I supposed to say in response? Gee Dad, who would have thought it with the constant beatings? Or, you’ve got a funny way of showing it? But I manage to bite my tongue and comply.
“Yeah, I know”.
“I don’t mean to hit her. I’m just an angry man. There’s no-one else to take it out on”.
“Well Dad, you could take it out on me”. I cringe as I say that line. In many ways I’m grateful for Mum taking the beatings. It saves me from them at least. How selfish of me.
“Son, I wouldn’t do that to you. You’re my flesh and blood”. It’s almost laughable: he wouldn’t hit his son, his own “flesh and blood”, but he would hit his wife. Talk about taking the moral highground. I get up and walk towards my bedroom.
“Yes Dad?”
“If you ever step in to take Mum’s punishment, you will be sorry. Understand?” I stand and stare into his glazed eyes, pondering what would happen if I did dare step in and take a beating.
“Yeah, I understand”.
“Now fuck off to bed. Get some sleep”.

“Dave, is there something wrong?”
“No Mrs Armstrong. I’m fine”.
“You sure? You look a little flustered, that’s all”.
“Yeah, I’m fine”. She knew that I was lying. I could tell by the look in her eyes as she continued on telling us about the goings-on of the Cold War. Her voice became a blur as my mind wandered onto the seemingly more important issues of home rather than the struggles of the Red Bear and Uncle Sam. I could hear Dad’s voice scolding Mum for not washing his good business shirt for the next day. I could hear the smash, the crack and the continuous thumping of Dad laying into Mum. I shuddered to think about it. My father was obsessed with beating up my mother, yet I was powerless to do anything about it. I continued to drift in and out of reality, occasionally picking up pieces of information like “Kennedy and Khrushchev” and “Cuban Missile Crisis”, whilst drifting back into semi-consciousness.
“For fuck’s sake Helen, what is your fucking problem?” A slap across the face.
“You really are a waste of space”. A short arm jab to the guts. Mum’s on the floor, clenching at her stomach. The kicking begins, starting at her face and gradually moving down her body, becoming more and more severe. There I am, standing at the door, too gutless to save Mum from the thrashing. Dad stops and turns to see me there, a pained expression on my face.
“Go back to bed, Dave”. I stand there, staring first at him, then at Mum, blood trickling from her mouth.
“I said go back to bed!!” I slowly turn and walk to my bedroom while Dad continues to beat Mum to within an inch of her life.
“Although the Cuban Missile Crisis lasted about two weeks, it was one of the pivotal moments in the Cold War which lasted about 45 years”. Mrs Armstrong’s voice jerks me back into reality.
“I want you all to your homework, which I handed out earlier, by next week”. Homework? What homework? It’s then I look down at my desk and discover it, a three page document lying face-up on my desk detailing the week’s assignment.
“All right class. Time to go home. See you all next week”. I get up to go, but Mrs Armstrong beckons me over to her desk.
“Are you sure you’re OK? You seemed really spaced out in class today, particularly near the end”.
“Yeah, I’m fine. If you don’t mind Mrs Armstrong, I’d like to get home. Mum doesn’t like it if I’m late”.
“OK Dave. See you Monday”.

“Hello Dave. How was your day dear?”
“Good thanks Mum. Mmmm, smells good. What’s for tea?”
“Sausages and mashed potato”. Mum turns away and starts to chop up some zucchini.
“Where’s Dad?” I ask.
“He’s away at a work conference. He’ll be back Tuesday”.
“So no more beatings until then, huh?” Mum turns and gives me a sullen look, but I could see the pain in her eyes.
“Set the table Dave”. I sighed and got the dinner plates out of the cupboard and the knives and forks out of the drawer and laid them on the table. Mum bought across the sausages and vegetables and placed them on the table where we were able to help ourselves.
“These sausages are great Mum. A little bit overcooked but still good”. Mum put her knife and fork down and bowed her head.
“All right Jim. Get it over and done with”.
“Mum. Dad’s not here. It’s Dave. I’m not going to hit you because the sausages are burnt. You expect the beatings now, don’t you?” Mum looked up and nodded.
“I’m sorry Dave. I just don’t know what to do. He’s so strong”.
“Go to the Police”.
“He’ll just deny it and continue to do it. I can’t win Dave. There’s only one way out and it doesn’t even bare thinking about”.
I knew exactly what she meant, but still couldn’t believe my ears.
“What? Surely there’s a better way?”
“I wish there was Dave, but it’s gotten to the stage now where that’s my only out. Nothing else”. I sat and pondered this information as it started to sink in.
“How would you go about it?” I ask.
“I don’t know Dave. The more I think about it, the more uncertain I become about it and the more I feel he’ll kill me”.
“Well, I could help you”.
“No Dave. I have to do it myself. I don’t want to drag you into this. Now let’s stop talking about this whole mess and get on with tea, hmm?”
“All right”. As I chew away at my mashed potato, I make an executive decision: Mum cannot go it alone. No matter how much she objected to it, I would help her out somehow, even though it would mean losing my father. But, I decided, it was a relatively small price to pay for the life of my mother. Besides, the callous prick had it coming. He’d had it coming for a long time.
“Good mash Mum”.
“Thanks Dave”.

“Hey, Dave. Get over ’ere now”. Holy shit. Dad was in one of those moods. His deep, broody mood this time. He is, of course, drunk.
“What the fuck are you playing at?” he snaps.
“Excuse me?” Even though I’ve kind of come to expect this from him, this potential outburst has taken me quite by surprise.
“Don’t play innocent with me you fucking arsehole. I’ve noticed your attitude over the past few weeks”.
“What attitude?” I’m starting to become more and more confused.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!! I told you, none of the innocent bullshit!! Don’t think I haven’t noticed you stupid little dickhead”.
I figure that it’s best that I keep my mouth shut while Dad continues on with his rant.
“You’ve been spending more time with your Mum haven’t you?”
“Ah, yeah, I guess so. Why do you ask?”
“Shut the fuck up and let me finish. You’re planning something aren’t you?”
“Ah, no. I’m not planning anything”.
“You fucking liar!!” He sprung up out his chair like he’d been shot. He grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and shoved me up against the loungeroom wall. His voice becomes a whisper as his face presses against mine. His breath reeks of scotch.
“You listen to me and you listen to me good. I rule this fucking household, which means I can do whatever the fuck I like, and there’s nothing you or your mother can do about it. Understand?” I nod, hoping all the while that he’ll loosen his grip, which has been tightening all the time he’s had me against the wall.
“Good. Now get to bed before I kick you there”. He lets me go and I take in a big breath of air. He laughs at me as I walk from the room, rubbing my neck. Little did he know what I was contemplating.

I wake up to a beautiful Sunday morning, the sun shining bright on my face. I get up, shielding my eyes from the sun. I stretch and yawn while I rub the sleep from my eyes. I’m suddenly snapped out of my lethargic mood by a plate shattering in the kitchen.
“For fuck’s sake Helen!! Can’t you do anything right?” I run out to the kitchen to see Dad throw Mum into the wall, then a fearsome kick to the face. He wasn’t holding back today. He’s not usually this fierce, even though he uses her as a literal punching bag.
“Get the fuck away from her!!” I never thought I would ever say anything to try and help Mum, just because Dad was so strong and so powerful. Dad turns slowly and stares at me. He walks across the dining room and stands about a metre away from me.
“What did you just say you little fuckwit?”
“You heard me. I told you to get away from her. It’s a pretty simple direction you fucking simpleton”. Again, something else I never thought I would say. Too late I see his roundhouse and I’m on the floor seeing stars.
“You’re going to regret saying that you stupid little fuckhead”. He starts to kick me, first in the neck, and then in the stomach. Each kick becomes harder and harder, and I’m finding it more difficult to breathe. Just as the kicks begin to subside, I see Mum out of the corner of my eye with a frying pan raised. Just as he turns around to head back to beating up Mum, she swings the frying pan with all her might and connects with the side of Dad’s head. He hits the ground like a sack of potatoes. I stand up gingerly and stand next to Mum, looking at Dad’s collapsed body.
“Is he dead?” Mum asks. I bend down and check his pulse. Nothing.
“Yeah, he’s dead”. We stand over his body, hugging each other.
“Should we ring the Police Mum?”
“No. For once I don’t want him to be the centre of attention. This is our moment Dave, and no-one can take that from us”.
“I suppose so”. She hugs me closer.
“It’s over Dave. It’s finally over”. And, for the first time in my life, a sense of relief I’ve never felt before comes over me, and I realise, as Mum said, that it finally is over.

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