The Cursed Year, the Year of Bliss

I just finished writing a short story in seven short chapters.  I am going to post each chapter, one at a time, either daily, or every two days or so, depending on time available.  Again, let me remind you that if the story is of interest and you want to read it as one story and not seven installments, please just copy and paste each segment in your own computer or tablet.  It’s what I usually do with blog stories that I like.  If you find discrepancies, please point them out in comments. Remember also, this story is fictional, only the names of towns and cities are real and they are all places I’ve been to, or lived in. Thank you for reading.  Enjoy.   “Sha’Tara”  

[The Cursed year, the Year of Bliss – short story by  Sha’Tara – part 1]

“Home”

The movie, Memoirs of a Geisha, begins with these memorable words: “A story like mine should never be told” meaning that such things should not happen, or so our minds insist on telling us women.  Things are done to us which we know are wrong but which we are helpless to prevent or more often, programmed to accept.  We live in fear in a system that operates on fear as the fuel of choice.  That system, supported from every power base is properly called “The Patriarchy” and in that Patriarchy women are the number one inferior group.  Fortunately some of us fight back and some of us discover ourselves in our struggle.  And some of us are re-discovered.  We are after all and above all else, “Mystery.”

It had been the coldest year on record, up here in the Peace River country, in northern Alberta.  And late in spring, almost summer, that is, the end of May, it looked like it was going to be the wettest summer on record.  The old snow was pounded into the ground by rains driven from dark angry clouds sweeping from the west in wave after wave from April and throughout the month of May.  What crops were seeded were soon drowned.  Only the hay fields would remain and of those precious little was foraged.

I turned sixteen that winter, November 11th, actually.  Mother was pregnant again and sick most of the time.  The boys’ squabbles and irresponsibility made my life hell.  My older brother gave me those looks, and as if that wasn’t enough, when mother went to the hospital, dad finally crossed the line before Gene did and under pretext of changing the bed sheets, got me into their bedroom where he suddenly locked the door, grabbed me and threw me on the bed. 

I was alone in the house, the boys were at school.  I struggled against him but dad was a very strong man.  He wanted me and he was going to have me however I struggled, screamed and kicked at him.  He slapped me hard, several times trying to slow me down and systematically ripped my clothes off.  He took his belt out: to tie me or beat me and subdue me? 

I knew if I stopped struggling it was all over.  He would rape me and then despise me and use me as his sex slave.  I would get pregnant and have his child and be forced to remain in his world forever.  The church would label me a “whore” and the entire village would blab on about my seductive wiles and my just deserved punishment raising a child out of wedlock.  Wedlock: what a telling word.  And for good measure they would say that my child looked dark and I had sex with an Indian out in the bush.

I knew these things went on in the village, that it was only luck that had allowed me to escape my fate until now.  I knew that nothing and no one would ever stop him or my older brother when he decided it was his turn.  I knew mother would accept it and hate me for it.  Everybody would hate me and all the village’s men would think that they could now have me too.  And I knew just as clearly that I couldn’t let it happen.  That it would be better for me to die than experience this.  In one blinding moment I knew and in that same blinding moment I knew just what the situation required of me.

A rage as from the wildest storm, something I had never experienced filled my entire body and I became akin to a raging wolverine defending her young against a marauding grizzly.  My unashamed, wild nakedness became my weapon – there were no longer any boundaries; there were no rules of combat, of decency, of respect or of love.  The barriers had been torn down allowing me to give full freedom to my feelings, my revulsion and my sacred rage.  

His arm came over my face and I bit into a protruding vein with all my strength.  When he tore his arm from my mouth his blood came flowing out.  I aimed my left knee at his crotch and caught him perfectly, immobilizing him.  I thrust fingers into his eyes and pulled his head back with his hair.  Some of it ripped out and I felt a glowing satisfaction well up within me.  I ripped the belt out of his hands and lashed out with it, whipping every exposed part of his body with such anger I imagined him dead from my slashing.  His blood was all over the bed sheets and the sight of it drove me into even greater fury. 

I saw a rope on the floor as I backed out of the bed.  He’d brought it to tie me to the bed posts.  I grabbed it and swiftly pulled several half-hitches around his wrists and ankles, enough to give me time to wipe myself up, get another dress, shoes, a coat, some of my stuff and run. 

Where to?  No idea, I just had to run.  I bumped the coal oil lamp and it spilled over on the kitchen floor.  I saw the box of Eddy matches on the stove and thought of setting the house on fire before leaving but my animal fury was ebbing and being replaced by another sense: compassion?  No, just normal fear of the patriarchy’s long arm and serious retribution.  I knew I’d never see justice.  Run… and hide in the vast world called Canada.  I knew I could do that.  

I didn’t have keys to the old International truck sitting by the barn so I got old “Beauty” in the pasture, saddled her and galloped away, my brother’s duffel bag filled with my most precious possessions and extra clothes dangling from the saddle horn.  I hitched the mare at the general store, walked in with a made up story that I needed to go see my mother at the hospital in Peace River, the main town some twenty miles away.  I got a ride with Mrs. Dermott in their old late 40’s pickup.  Mr. and Mrs. Dermott owned the store and she needed supplies anyways, she said.  She took the Nampa road because the rains had made the coulee road to Peace River completely impassable. 

On the way she noticed my bruises and I saw her questioning look.  I told her what had happened, and that I was running away and never coming back.  She knew, she said, that I was telling her the truth – she’d seen how my dad looked at me when we’d gone to the store after Mass and had wondered when the shit would happen, and what would come of it.  After buying me lunch at the Sun Café downtown, she took me to a friend of hers in the town of Grimshaw and assured me that she would tell my father, or anyone who asked, that I’d jumped out of the truck in Nampa and saw me hop a freight bound for Edmonton.  Nampa was in the opposite direction from Peace River, so it should throw any search for me “to the woods” she said in her Norwegian accent.  She gave me a hug and I never saw her again.  I was on my own, making up my own path.

The Henderson’s gave me some money and put me on a bus to Edmonton, wishing me well and long life.  They also gave me their niece’s driver’s license she’d left behind when she’d returned home to Norway.  Licenses didn’t have pictures in those days.  I memorized the address and a few details, like the birth date that said I was now eighteen, and the last name, Kristofson.  They didn’t ask me if I knew how to drive, assuming as anyone there would; that of course I could drive.  Every kid in the north could drive as soon as they grew legs and arms long enough to reach steering wheel and foot pedals at the same time.  That aside, they too knew I’d never return. 

I watched the road pass under the bus, the broken center line, the water filled ditches and the muskrats swimming across in their endless foraging and my spirit lifted with each mile thus gained away from what had been my home and my private hell.  Now I too knew for a fact I’d never return to the north. 

[end part 1: “Home”] 

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9 thoughts on “The Cursed Year, the Year of Bliss

  1. Lily Von Valley

    Powerful stuff. And it seems that the Patriarch has conspired against women.

    I particularly liked the expression of rage and the heroine on horse back who rides to freedom; much better than the truck would have been. The “fear [of] patriarchy’s long arm and serious retribution” is an arresting phrase and like a dreadful epiphany, often entering one’s thoughts in that kind of situation – In the majority of cases it would stop a person from escaping, or reporting the event because knowing full well they were trapped, or be faced with (unjust) repercussions! The peculiar emotion that despises women most, when they are abused, is very well highlighted in your piece!

    Reply
  2. Sha'Tara Post author

    Thank you Lily, for that “high end” comment. I appreciate your thoughtful response. I’d say more more I’d end up tripping over a word salad… 🙂

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Ok-dokey, thanks for dropping by. I meant to put a bottle of chilled wine and glasses on the table for you but I got sidetracked. Take care!

      Reply
  3. L. T. Garvin, Author

    This is quite powerful indeed. The girl in the story discovers her amazing strength to fight back against patriarchy. I particularly like the line: “my wild nakedness became my weapon.” I like that the girl discovered the power within her to escape. I hope it ends well for her.

    Reply
  4. Woebegone but Hopeful

    Very impressive.
    The description of how quickly she assesses the situation and the outcome, and then explodes into resolution is fine writing.
    The undercurrent of the sisterhood of women in peril shown through the kindness of the Mrs Dermott is uplifting (and kudos to Mr Dermott)
    This is going to be a stormy but compelling ride.

    Reply

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