Category Archives: Domestic violence

Benny

[a short story, by Sha’Tara]

Benny sat by the river that flowed past the house, just beyond the back yard.  He was tossing small twigs in the water, watching them float away and he was trying to remember so he’d know who he was.  

His memories were all a jumble in his head and they usually frightened him.  He thought he remembered a couple, a man and a woman who were very loud and made him scream.  He remembered hurting and feeling guilty for that.  Then the woman would hurt him more but he never understood why.  He remembered being cold, dirty and hungry.

One day when he was alone in the yard and crying, hurting and hungry, a nice smelling woman came to him and picked him up.  She took him away from the bad people and he never saw them again.  Then an old man came to see him where he played with other children.  The old man took him away from there to a house that had trees around it, green grass, and at the back of the house, water flowed.  The old man would hold his hand and let him lean over the water.  Leaves and twigs floated on the water and down below the rocks shimmered and danced, changing colours.

Benny liked it with the old man.  He grew up and the old man said he was his maternal grandfather.  He explained about his daughter, who was Benny’s mother, how she was addicted to drugs and drank and how she liked running around with bad men.  One of those men was his father.  He explained that it was that man who had hurt him and that he was in prison.  Benny tried to understand all that when he got older but he liked the water better.

The old man, his grandfather whom he learned to call “granpa” taught him about the water.  “It’s called a river” he’d say, “it is very pretty but it is also very dangerous.  Even for a good swimmer, it’s a fast running stream and a person can easily drown in it, do you understand that?”

Benny had learned when only a baby to agree, no matter what was asked; to do what he was told or there would be consequences.  “I understand granpa,” he dutifully replied. 

But the water was more alive than anything else had ever been for Benny.  It would sing to him in a language he could understand.  It didn’t scare him like people did, or make terrible noises like street traffic.  It never hurt him and it was even more gentle than granpa.  If he felt thirsty, there was a log that dropped down into the water.  He could carefully walk down to the water, then scoop the cold water into his mouth.  It was so easy and simple, he’d laugh whenever he did this.

There were very large trees that grew by the river’s banks that bent their heavy, luxuriant tops over the water and swayed in the wind.  During the warm seasons the leaves would come, then slowly at first, when still green, they would fall in the water and speed away.  Benny liked looking up into the green canopies waiting for a leaf to get tired of hanging on to its branch, let go, and flutter down to the water to be swept away.  Later, as the leaves changed from green to brown, yellow or even red and green, more and more of them would fall away from the branches and float down to the water to also be swept away.  If a strong wind came up there would be cascades of leaves falling, covering the ground and the top of the water.  That thrilled Benny as he stood under the falling leaves with outstretched hands. 

Some days when he was really happy, Benny imagined himself a leaf floating down to the water and being swept away.  He knew granpa meant well to warn him about the water but if the leaves weren’t afraid, why should he?  He though of asking granpa, but that would be like disobeying and Benny remembered what that meant.  He felt the deep fear of the pain he had been given when disobeying the man and woman who were his parents.  If he questioned granpa, he knew he would be beaten and locked up and made to go cold and hungry.  I mustn’t say anything, but if I float away then no one will hurt me.

A leaf fluttered down noisily, landing for a moment at Benny’s foot then sliding down into the water to spin away.  Benny followed the leaf and the river took him away. 

The Interview

[short story by Sha’Tara]

          Brian adjusts his lapel mike and checks his recording equipment.  He speaks, Brian Hinksley Interview with David Burnside, January 12th, 2038.  The man sitting across from him gives him a bit of a crooked smile.

          Good morning, David.  I trust your hotel accommodations are to your liking?

          Good morning, Brian.  Yes, the hotel is quite over-the-top decadent.  I sleep on the floor as you know.  And I would never eat in that $100 a breakfast restaurant, so I walked around to a deli and fixed myself up a nice meal that cost under $20.  I warned you about wasting your money. 

          It’s not my money David, so don’t worry about it.  I know your habits but at the same time I didn’t want to appear cheap and nobody over here  but me would understand your ways anyway.  Shall we start then?

          By all means, let’s.

          Direct question to get things rolling: How often have you thought about changing the world, David?

          As far back in my life as I can remember.  I was raised in a dysfunctional religious family remember.  Corporal punishment was the rule, not the exception.  It was mandated, and given on a regular basis.  However I tried to do what was asked of me there would always be at least one thing that would guarantee a whipping.  Some failure as a child to accomplish two or three things at once as ordered would necessarily result in at least one failed attempt resulting in a beating from either parents.  When I got old enough to leave home I didn’t go into denial about the way I was treated.  No, I used my home life as an example of how it is for most people in this world; how they are treated by their elites.  And I was driven by the idea that something had to be done.

          So, what did you do, David?

          Nothing!  Absolutely nothing.  Oh I wanted to do something, almost anything, and there were quite a number of moves I could have made to place myself into a world changing position back in the days.  Lots was happening around me.  There was student unrest at home; the flower children “movement” if one can call it that, the Hippies with their own dysfunctional ways of tuning out the world of their parents.  There was war and violent revolution in many parts of the world.  Suppression of popular movements in dictatorial “empires” like the USSR and China of course.  Out on the seas there were the Greenpeace boats and the Sea Shepherd society blocking oil tankers or attacking whaling ships.  I had lots of choices in entering the world changing scene.

          But why didn’t you, David?

          That should be obvious to anyone with a smattering of history.  Certainly that is a question you could answer for yourself, Brian, being a journalist and having travelled all over the world for your stories.  Isn’t it obvious that none of those quests to change the world have been entered into by individuals, groups, movements and armies since history was recorded and if anything they have only made things worse?  Oh sure there are a great many people, usually with some sort of vested interest, who argue against this claim of mine.  They’ll point at a great number of modern civilization’s accomplishments and bandy that about as proof that all these efforts have borne fruit; that society is essentially better now that it has ever been.  But you and I know this isn’t true, don’t we Brian?

          I’m doing the interview, David, so why don’t we agree that I’ll ask the questions? 

          Ah yes, interview – business – not conversation, huh? 

          Well yes, this is business, like it or not, and you did agree to do this interview remember?

          Yes I did.  Let’s move on then. 

          OK, so the ways and means people have tried to change the world, according to you, have only made things worse.  Could you elaborate on that?

          I’m not going to quote you statistics, Brian, that’s your department.  But I will tell you this: how many major charitable organizations have escaped unscathed from rulings of massive corruption in management since the new world-wide UN regulations mandate that audits be done by non-aligned, non-partisan UN auditors? Not one, Brian.  How much has the massive expansion of private security companies made the world, or individual nations, safer for their citizens and their visitors or tourists?  How have expanding wars and our yearly growing list of destroyed and failed nations brought about global peace?  And how much of this turmoil has been made possible by technology combined with the advent of computers?  How does that square with the oft-quoted line that “the computer revolution” has made life better for the world, I have to wonder – I am phrasing this so it does come across as a series of rhetorical questions, you understand.  After all, you’re asking the questions…

          I’ve heard your acerbic humour in other interviews and some of the documentaries in which you were featured David and point taken.  Let’s move on to the meat of this interview.  If none of the things previously attempted to make this world a better place have succeeded, or to use your view, have only succeeded in making it worse, have you, in your mental ruminations and experience discovered something that may be of use to us should we decide, let’s say, that our world does need fixing and all our efforts to date have not worked?

          I may have, Brian.  There is something available to man whereby he may yet save himself from the doom he’s placed himself under.  Mind, it’s not something I’ve discovered, it’s something that’s always been available to every person on earth having reached the age of reason.  It’s certainly not esoteric knowledge that requires special intelligence or wisdom, quite the contrary.  It’s so common place that it has been rejected out of hand as impractical.  People considering the idea have shrugged it off thinking that if it were designed to be so effective it stands to reason that the great leaders and rulers of the world would have latched on the idea long ago.  That the great teachers and way showers would have taught it as of first, if not of the only importance.  But it has been completely ignored while other concepts much more open to corruption or gross misuse have been loudly and dutifully promoted in its place. 

          Let me give you a partial list of some of the concepts proposed that were meant to change man; to make him a better person and by that, to make his civilized world a better place for all.  Consider love as being at the top of this list of very popular ideas pushed forth to change man and his world.  On its heels, happiness, or should I say the pursuit of happiness.  Peace, another popular concept and definitely one that has always ended up near the end of the race.  Humility has also been proposed, but mostly to servants and slaves in relating to their masters, or their gods and by definition, their betters who it is understood have no need to display such a weak nature.  Kindness, usually relegated to women and their children, preferably girl children: what have red-blooded men and their male heirs to do with kindness when it can only weaken them?  Goodness, that being strictly attached to one’s own, one’s nationality, or towards “the poor” (don’t forget to put that in quotations, Brian) if in a carefully restricted way intended never to pull them out of their poverty.  Gentleness, again a virtue generally reserved for women in service to their men.  Ah yes, let’s not forget patriotism, and what a wonderful virtue that has proven to be.  Then there’s faith, particularly religious faith.  There’s a world changer for you but I doubt that except for the most brainwashed of individuals few would consider it’s effect upon this world to have been much of a salutary one.          

          So let me leave you with this thought, Brian: the one thing all of you need to think about seriously is the concept of compassion.  As you know  this has been the central point of my teaching, if one may call it that, and certainly the expression of my own life.  Once I made a decision to think and act in a compassionate way it behoved me to express the idea to others in such a way that they wouldn’t think of me as another odd-ball altruist; a religious self-flagellating crazy; a charismatic mystic dreaming of leading multitudes to counter the works of global social dysfunction or whatever labels your world would want to give me.  The “evil” (again I remind you to use quotations around that term when coming from me) within the Power workings of your world is adept at destroying the works of those who would counter it.  Any good it encounters it turns to some form of destructive evil, and claims its destruction as virtuous.  People are taken in because they believe they cannot see the future, or should not try to see it. 

          Here’s some re-hashed, modernized teachings the Matrix uses to keep people in mental lethargy as the pull of organized religion wanes planet-wide.  People are told to live in the present; that it is a present.  Unfortunately for those who become believers of this mindless exercise it’s a complete lie.  The present does not exist.  The whole teaching of it is an obfuscation; a forced denial of one’s life from one’s past and all the possibilities that are held in its future; a poisoned dart that kills the spirit.  There is nothing in the present, and here’s another lie of the Matrix: that having nothing in one’s mind is the ultimate wise choice for beingness.  That such a thought is both foolish and futile somehow never registers.  These vacuous concepts of now and present and nothingness create only powerless mind-zombies.

          But when you approach all of your life through compassion you find yourself energized.  You are no longer the innate selfish Earthian but a kind of angel of mercy to all those you interact with.  You become empowered to give; to heal, to understand but also to judge all things and know right from wrong, not from external sources but from within your own spirit.  You know what to say, and what to do and if there ever is doubt in a situation, you know to give rather than withhold, to free instead of holding on; to sacrifice yourself if need be; that your whole life is a transaction in giving and in which you are always controller and master; in which you express of your own and constant free will – by choice, a choice once made and endlessly renewed.   

          Well, thank you David.  An interesting view point, and not lost on many these days, based on the level of popularity you seem to have garnered.  Any final thoughts on that point?

          My personal popularity is one of the difficulties I have to deal with.  It’s not something I wanted but it is something I knew might happen if what I teach was to catch on.  I sometimes think of “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein and wonder about the parallels.  Fortunately for me I know the lures and the traps of such a path.  I seek neither popularity nor martyrdom, just to live an honest life within a difficult and demanding idea, or concept.  The goal for me is to be true to what I am.  What others see, what they get from it, what they do with it, that is entirely up to them, just as what you make of this interview is entirely up to you.

          You’re not going to hold me to writing what you said here word for word?  You’re allowing me the freedom to describe our interview as I see fit then?

          Absolutely Brian.  I hold no copyright on anything.  Write whatever you think is best for you.  Once I stop talking, the contents of this interview are yours, not mine.

          Thank you, David, and I mean that.  I need to ask, will you be staying the full four days at the hotel?  I need to know, for the paperwork. 

          Ah, no Brian.  Please tell them I’ve checked out.  From here I’ll be taking the bus back home.  And I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you about the accommodations but I had warned you I didn’t need them.  Thank you again.

          Oh, one more question I meant to ask, one that many have asked and you never answer.  How old are you, David?

          The balding man in the comfortable black work pants and grey sweat shirt smiles to reveal a mouth with very few teeth left in it.  He stands, as does Brian and neither men say anything more.  They shake hands near the set of automatic sliding doors which open wide then close with a definitive hiss behind the reclusive, nonagenarian David who walks out easily and casually into the morning sun towards the bus station.  

 

My Golden Boy

(*** for Vidhika at “The Grateful Dead” blog***)
   [a Short Story – by Sha’Tara]

It had all happened so fast.  Maybe because everything spoke of perfection, a dovetailing of events that happen only in fairy tales.  It was my fairy tale.  That perfect Summer.
 
I probably better go back a bit and explain.  Our family, that is my mom, my dad and me, well, we were what is called dysfunctional.  My dad is an alcoholic and an abuser.  Even as I write this, and admit it to myself I cringe inside.  I can still see him come into my room those nights when mom worked the night shift at the hospital.  I can still smell his breath and feel his hands on me as he tugged at my nightgown while I tried to hold on to it, curling up and crying, begging him to leave me alone.  But every time I had to let him or get beaten.  If I got beaten I lied to mom about the bruises.  I was so sure all of this was my fault and if she found out she’d hate me or beat me up and maybe send me away to a foster home or something.
 
But then he beat her too and she fought back.  She’s a nurse and you could say she’s pretty tough.  She kicked him out of our lives finally, divorced him with an injunction against him not to contact us.  He tried it once.  He went to jail.  I don’t know where he is now and hope I never find out.  I’m still afraid of him; afraid he’ll show up one day, even though I’m now living on my own.
 
After the divorce things got better for mom and I.  I told her then what dad had done to me and we became, well, more like two women who share their pain in understanding rather than mother and daughter.  You will say, she should have known, but I think she didn’t want to face it then.  I was only fifteen then but my life had made me mature in some ways, though in others I trailed behind.  In school I did well and I had a dream to become a doctor. 
 
Mom had saved up some money and some vacation time and after I turned sixteen she decided to spend a whole month in a cabin at a popular lake near the mountains.  Kind of a birthday gift for you, she said.  We took only what we could pack and took the bus to Chanesville, then a smaller tour bus to the resort on lake Chitsaw.  Our cabin was back in the trees, a bit old and moldy smelling at first, but it was far enough we didn’t have to hear the jetskis and power boats that continually tore up the waterfront.
 
The beach was perfect.  Golden sand under a golden sun.  I tan easily and within a couple of days I felt pretty good walking around in one of my two bikinis.  I had a blue and a pink one and sometimes I mixed the colours.  Within a week I knew almost everybody and had a couple of girl friends from my school.
 
I saw him during the second week and I fell in love.  No, not just infatuated, but deeply and madly in love.  It was as if he had materialized from inside my dreams.  Tall, handsome, beautiful of face with shoulder-length blond hair.  I wasn’t the only one who noticed him, of course, and soon he was the talk of our circle.  We dared each other to go over and talk to him.  Sometimes he walked alone along the shore and it seemed to me that the sand became even more golden after he touched it. 
 
I decided I’d risk it and waited until he took one of his walks by himself and walked to the water in an intersecting path.  When he was within a couple of yards from me I bent over pretending to be inspecting something in the sand.  He came over and asked what I was looking at.  I lied and said I thought I’d seen a green bug burrowing in.  He laughed.  Introduced himself: Dean.  I did likewise: Shauna.  We walked together.  I, lost in a lucid dream.  He, probably looking me over as men do.  It often made me uncomfortable but with him, well, I would have danced naked for him if he’d asked me!
 
D’you have someone?  No I said.  Neither do I.  There’s a party at our cabin tomorrow evening.  I’ll come by your place and escort you, if you want to come.  Sure I said.  It’s number forty-three, up there in the trees.  Yeah, I know, he said.  I’ve watched you before and I followed you yesterday. 
 
Well, with that my feelings went off the chart.  The rest is just too predictable, right out of a bad novel.  He came to our cabin and I introduced him to mom.  She didn’t take to him the way I’d expected.  She took me into her room and closed the door.  You watch yourself, Shauna, she said.  This boy makes me uncomfortable.  Maybe it’s just me, being your mom and seeing you go out on a date like that.  Promise you’ll be home by midnight and that you won’t walk back alone?
 
Yes mom, yes.  Promises are easy to make when your mind, your heart, your whole being is somewhere else.  Walking with Dean was like floating in the air.  Everything was wonderful, beautiful.  The stars were brighter than usual.  The air was cleaner, sweeter.  The party was great.  When most of the people had wandered off, the kids to “midnight swims” and the adults back to their own places, I found myself practically alone with Dean.  Come upstairs, I’ll show you my room, he said.  I felt a twinge of something – a warning?  Mom’s words tried to make me stop.  But I couldn’t.  He was my golden lover. 
 
Yeah, we made love.  Wildly, passionately.  He had experience.  He drove me crazy.  I lost myself in him and finally fell asleep in his arms.  He woke me up just before midnight, reminding me of my promise to my mother to be home by then.  We got dressed and he walked me home.  I was still in that mood you get when you walk out of a movie theatre when the romance has triumphed.  Dizzy with love.
 
I spent most of the rest of that vacation with Dean.  Inseparable, we were.  Afterwards, we talked every night on the phone.  It was long distance but mostly he made the calls so it didn’t cost me much.  Then I missed my period.  I knew I was pregnant.  I couldn’t tell mom and didn’t know what to do.  So stupid.  I just forgot the damned pills.  Just figured it couldn’t happen until Dean and I were married, or living together, you know?  I told Dean.  Dead silence on the other end of the phone.  Dean?  Yeah, well, you going to get an abortion, aren’t you?  They’re not legal here and I can’t tell mom.  What do we do?  I asked stupidly.  I don’t think it’s a question of what we do, babe.  It’s not really my problem, is it.  You have to get an abortion.
 
I must have passed out.  When I came to, the phone was talking to me.  I hung up and tried to wake up from a nightmare.  But it was like before with dad.  It was no nightmare.  Real.  This was real.  Dean dumped me.  Then mom noticed and after much crying, I told her.  She was real mad at first, said I should have told her and she could have made the arrangement.  Stupid, you’re so stupid.  Now it’s too late.  What are your plans?  She asked.  My plans?  I don’t have any plans!  Dean and I were going to move in together eventually, get married.  Now I’m alone again, just like when you worked the night shift and dad molested me.  What can I do mom? 
 
You have to give my mom credit.  She didn’t stay mad, or in blame, or denial.  She asked me, what has life taught you so far when you have a problem?  And I told her, I have to find my own solution to it.  It’s my problem and I must deal with it.  And I want my baby I said suddenly with a new kind of passion I’d never had before. 
 
I continued in school until it got too embarrassing.  Took correspondence courses put together for girls in my situation.  Mom supported me.  She attended when I had my baby.  At first, well, he was just a typical shriveled up little thing with a loud mouth.  But as he grew I saw the spitting image of Dean in him.  He is my golden boy and I love him.  He’s the legacy of my lost pleasure and happiness as a stupid young girl and he’s my joy now, my life. 
 
I’m nineteen now, soon I’ll be twenty and Shane is three.  I moved away from home last year, just to be alone with my son.  It feels right to do this by myself and for him to know who his real mother is.  Mom was spending too much time with him thinking I needed time to myself.  I don’t need that much.  I like my work – I work in a hair dressing shop where they train you.  I like working with people and pleasing them with the right words, the right touch and of course, the right hairstyle.  We live in a basement bachelor suite in a run-down old quadplex but it’s a good place.  The owners live upstairs; an old Jewish couple who adore Shane.  They baby-sit for me, most of the time for nothing.  What can I say more?  My life and my world are good.
 
The other day as I was getting on the bus I noticed a stretch limo stopping on the other side of the street by a Starbucks.  I smiled – I always do at those ostentatious ugly vehicles that have only one message for the rest of us: Hey look at me, I’m rich.  Dumb.  Then I saw a man step out as the chauffeur opened the door.  Tall, handsome, blond.  It was Dean.  I know it was.  My heart was pounding in my chest and I had to grab the back of the seat to keep my balance.  I looked again but he was gone and the bus pulled out.  It’s then I realized how good my life really is.  It’s mine.  Dean could have been a part of the wonder we created in our foolishness.  But he chose not to and left the entire fortune in my hands and my heart.
 
When Shane is old enough I’ll let him go and give him his life too.  We make our own way in life; we don’t depend on others or belong to others.  Then life is truly good. 

Do Sound Waves Speak?

[poem by   ~burning woman~   ]

Sharp footsteps clack evenly
Down the old faded-gold hallway
With blistered hardwood floor.
Rain beats the window pane,
As wind blusters, impersonal, cold.

The front door like a thunder clap
At two thirty five in the morning
Slams so hard it fails to latch
Creeps back slowly on dried hinges
That creak like skeletal bones
Rattled from a dusty sleep.

Now you know, now it tells you
Even the ghost of her is gone.
All you can feel, all you can hear
Is the slap you gave her in the night
When she asked why you lied.

(“Now I predict the future / merely by listening to echoes. A slamming door / can tell you everything you need to know. It’s not a trick / only a simple matter of wisdom, an obsessive attention / to dreams.” — Mary Jo Bang)