A DarKnight Within: Chapter 1, Adult at the Age of Four

By Xtom James

Chapter One: Adult by the age of four.

“I am Batman!” I would say, said my mother talking about when she would introduce me to coworkers when I was three. I never really understood that simple connection to a superhero a kid can have, not back then anyways. I used to watch the Batman movie on VHS over and over, then the cartoon series, the old and the new. Mimicking the wording, the action, a pretend bad guy at my feet; my blue ’69 style Batman cape, sewed by my mother at my whined request, drawn in a bow over my Batman and Robin cartoon t-shirt, it was my power.
Riding the city bus, I see the same pretend action play out on the playgrounds, with Power Rangers and Dragon Ball Z artifices, “Transform” one kid yells, loud enough to cut through the dank grumbling of the engine situated behind my seat. This pastime of watching people, gleaning the simplest nuances and facts from their ever changing faces, it is the merest glimpse that leads me to remember or forget; and all the while I take away from them my words.
My memory of growing up is simple, many long events that play out every day, my brain forcing me, reminding me of the dangers I should evade. Avoided past that marks my future anger and guilt, a solid refined mask that hides the deepest and darkest hatreds one could imagine.
I am a student now, set in the cold west of Wisconsin, separated from my family as the underarm is from the hand and elbow. Two hours from anything interesting and me without a car.
The kids fade in the distance as I remember playing as they do. My stage is a park of sand and steel, away from the awning eye of my mother, my friends’ mothers. It had a ready built dome cage for the bad guys, a slide high up separated by sea or lava, or the maze of imaginary buildings marked by swing black launch pads made from durra-rubber. Here I learned my place, my art of martial action. Back flips, sidekicks, the pretend made real for meek and simple minutes. I had no fear, climbing to the top of the stainless metal poles that made the swing what it was. Dangling by hand and feet a story, no, more, head first over sparkling sand and laughing friends; but before this brief reprieve, and true childhood, that had been maybe the happiest time in my life, there was the debt and set revenge I felt.. I needed solace; release from the anger pent in side me.
The small city of Clear Water was made up of those who sought safety and peace. These attributes being partly the reason that I find myself here, my mother’s need for shadowed life, hidden where none could find us. A need that left me stricken from my friends and familiar scenes of battle; my castles, my spires, my subterranean sewers, where imaginary foes had been bested in my wake. Yet before this, this move in altitude and climate, where the longest stay in one place was a few months at most, was what set my young mind to the task that lay in front of me.
It was no more than the days after our first Christmas with him, back when I was still Christian and believed in a god of graces and forgiveness. I was maybe four then, and Charles had married my mother the spring before. He, at times, was nice, a new father figure to replace the one that had threatened my very life inadvertently through drug use and an excessive mind to forget me. Charles had been the stable statue of masculinity meant to be my guide into life. In the beginning he had compassion and nostalgia, a man that had been raised traditionally with equal mindset and clarity. It was unknown to us up until our move from the southern Kansas boarder to Wichita that his mentality was a hoax, a casual act to render my mother heart taken amidst her misgivings towards my real father.
He had taken us to his parents for Christmas that year, to meet them for the first time. They could not, or maybe would not, make the long trip from Fargo down to Wichita for the double wedding that had taken place with Charles and his younger brother. I should say even then I did not like Charles, for a three year old I had a keen sense of humaneness. And my mother, even then, did not trust me, though she did ask me anyways, “Do you think I should marry Chuck?” It was a simple enough answer, though I did not really know the circumstances for which my answer would be so terrifyingly right, “No!” I said.
As a child we have a different understanding of the world and the things that happen in it. We see things in this black and white, yes and no, right and wrong way. We are taught what is right and what is wrong as though they were truly polar opposites, cut down the center with a definite, irrefutable edge. This grey area, in which so many actions fell for adults, never made sense to me, not then and not now. I feel that that Christmas was ok. His parents had bought me a tin of popcorn and a grey sweater which I had up until the age of seven when I finally out grew its stretch-ability. I remember staying in their basement guest bedroom, amidst a pile of boxes of toys. Charles’ mother Susan, who I never called grandma, was a professional day care provider, run right out of her home. Two days after Christmas she had nearly thirty children in the house, early, near eight.
“Mom…” I remember saying as I walked up the then unfamiliar stairs that lead to the kitchen. “Mom, I’m hungry.” I had started calling her mom sometime when I was four, after my birthday, rarely the mommy that she later would tell me she missed. I opened the door to the kitchen to see a dozen kids, many older than me eating a snack along a bar like counter that divided the kitchen and the dining room. Several snickered at my footy jimjams, a blue zip up front. Suzan was situated at the sink, dressed in a country style pink blouse, blue jeans, and high healed cowboy boots. Her large hair was poofed and curled a bouncy hairstyle that I think should never have existed for women. She looked and smiled at me with a fake smile that would scare any kid, with a sense of what was and was not, to death; gleaming peril teeth framed by bright ruby red lipstick.
“Why don’t you go sit down in the living room and watch some TV while I bring you some toast.” She pointed to the family room where one of their two widescreen TVs had been placed. Bozo the clown was smiling brightly across the huge screen. I honestly hated that clown, outwardly and utterly, I always felt that there was something better to be watched with that large screen, but the others enjoyed it.
She brought me buttered toast with bologna, which I will say right now is the most disgusting combination of foods ever to be spliced together. Why Nort’Dakotans do stuff like that I do not think I’ll ever know. My mother came in to the kitchen, “Chris, would you get dressed!” The time it would have taken her to come and get me in the living room would have been appreciated instead of yelling at me in front of thirty some kids from the kitchen. With the waving of the hand of a giant sized white faced clown on the TV screen and the curdling laughs of several other kids, I sauntered out of the room and down the stairs again. To me this day went by quickly, I suppose this is just how memories happen to be, it is not until much later that I pick up the same time. I think oddly, I remember the most traumatic things in my life, instead of blocking them out like others do. It was later that night, we had left Chuck’s parents and the relative safety of West Fargo, after a simple dinner compared to the Christmas dinner we had had only two days before. I slept stretched out in on the back seat of the Mercury Tracer. I was still short enough to do this comfortably. My dog Nick slept at my feet, his breath combined with the grumble of the tire well that was just behind my head. “No…you stupid bitch…” Chuck broke the silence left by the intermission of music on the radio. The Stones came on blasting, covering the voices of my parents’ argument. I remember Nick’s breathe becoming louder as the sound of tire on gravel ceased with a crunch of snow.
“Get out of the car!”
“What? You can’t be serious. What about Chris?”
“Open the door, and get the fucking hell out of my car!”
“Your…fine! Come on Chris.”
I am not sure exactly what struck this idea in Chucks head, but my mother pulled the seat forward in the car and started pulling me out.
“What about Nick…Mom…what about…”
“Nick will be fine, come with mommy ok.”
Chuck came around from the driver’s side of the car, his dark figure clouded by the heavy snow. We did not see it in time, the night stick in his hand. He hit my mother across the face, and as she fell she dragged me with her down the embankment of the ditch. She landed on top of me covered me with her body as Chuck beat her relentlessly.
“Just stay under me, don’t move…” she pushed me further down in the snow as she kicked out at Chuck. I could hear Nick barking out of the back window of the car. The traffic roared for a moment and he stopped, my mom laid there motionless for a time, maybe unconscious, or just too hurt to move. The car started and Nick whimpered before he was completely still and quiet. He drove off leaving us there, in the snow, in the cold, to die.
My mother picked her self up, her nose bleeding and her arm and back bruised and bleeding. This is when I knew my mother to be brave, when she was my mother and not the calloused person that she would become. Even as she was, hurting, broken, she had the courage to step out onto the highway and wave down a passing car headed back to Fargo.
She dragged me partially, partially me helping her along, up the embankment and she anchored me with her tears to the side of the road near a swerve guard.
“Stay here, don’t move from this spot.”
“Ok.”
She stepped onto the highway waving her bear, blood covered arms, over her head. It was ten minutes before a car finally stopped. A young man, maybe seventeen, driving home after a late night party, his backseat filled with beer bottles and trash.
Saying muted thank-yous to the person’s what happens, she shoved me in to the backseat, put the seat back, and set down.
“Do you need a doctor?”
“No, just take us to Fargo; we can get a cab from there.”
“Oh…okay.”

I wish I knew who he was so I could thank him as I am today. He took us to Chuck’s parents’ house, with out a second question. I am sure he probably got into trouble for being late to where ever he was going.
He saved our lives, not through some super-heroic act, but through his simple decision to stop, to help someone that was a perfect stranger. When I look back to this event in my life, something that is still fresh in my mind yet vaguely old and tattered, I see a true hero, my hero, the first of many that inspired me to be the person I am. In away Chuck began my childhood’s death, forcing me to be an adult, making me face adult decisions with the patience and clarity expected of someone with nothing less than great life experience.
In the instance he decided to take us out of the car and to leave us there, he decided that I was no longer a child, but an equal, deserving of what ever punishment his twisted mind decided to conjure into reality. It’s true that growing up I would goof off, or stave off my responsibilities, yet in the direst of situations I was the one lent on for support. I was obnoxious, arrogant, even a brat, but this never changed the fact that I am and will always be the adult I became at the age of four.
The bus rolled to a stop and Chris stepped from its flapped door onto the boulevard grass that separated the street from the sidewalk. “Home awaits me, what ever that could mean.”

A DarKnight Within: Chapter 1, Adult at the Age of Four

XtomJames

Joined November 2007

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This is a semi-fictional autobiography I’m writing.

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