only remember ever seeing my father drunk once.
Kind Hearted Woman
Copyright 2018 by Bryant Ross
was six or seven years old and all I really remember about it was
being scared of this big angry man who I suddenly didn’t
recognize. Then pain and ringing in my ears, the taste of blood as he
backhanded me across the face, dizziness as I lay on the floor, and
terror as I saw him coming for me again.
my mother, all chunky five feet of fury, her fists clenched and her
voice, a hoarse snarl of rapid-fire Sicillian standing between him
and I, and that huge man stopping, standing with a hand raised and
her standing her ground, glaring.
went to their bedroom then, and spoke for awhile. My father came out,
pale as winter. My mother came and held me while I whimpered and
won’t hurt you again” she said, calmly, with conviction.
do you know?” I asked
know” she said, “We talked”
did you say to him?”
told him a story” she said “and we won’t talk about
my first child was born, my mother sat at my kitchen table. She held
that tiny baby in her arms, close and safe, warm and fresh with new
life. She looked down at him, and said to me, her eyes never leaving
the baby “Do you remember when your father beat you when you
said “I don’t think I’ll ever forget that”
told me then that when she was a girl of nine years old, during the
great depression, her father, a shell-shocked World War one veteran,
had moved their family to a cabin on the banks of the Fraser River in
the wilderness up past Hope, in Othello B.C. where they eked out what
living they could.
told me about how the river roared and thundered non-stop. The
current was so strong sometimes that it rolled boulders along with
it. She said you could hear them rumble along past, clattering and
crashing with the other rocks as the water swept them downstream. Her
mother warned her never to set foot in that river. She said that if a
person fell in, they’d be gone in an instant and their body
pulverized in minutes by those rolling balls of stone. No trace would
ever be found.
told me that during the spring of her eleventh year, while that river
rushed and rumbled by the cabin, she had gone to sleep one night
listening to the boulders clattering and grinding along a hundred
feet or so beyond her bedroom window.
had woken up suddenly in the darkness, terrified, with a hand
pressing over her mouth, the stink of whiskey and tobacco in her
nostrils, and her father’s voice whispering to her to stay
quiet or he’d kill her.
wasn’t the first time, though, and she closed her eyes tightly,
waiting for it to start, waiting for it to be over. Trying to wish it
all away, but his hands pulled down the blankets, and pulled up her
then they stopped.
stopped, and there was silence. She opened her eyes, just a crack,
wondering why he waited.
stood her father, bolt upright, his eyes held wide, his teeth bared
in a snarl, his hands shaking.
mother… My tiny grandmother stood behind him, holding his own
proud possession, an ebony handled straight-razor tight against his
where you are” my grandmother said to my mother, “Don’t
come out till morning no matter what”
she turned her husband around, and walked him out the front door.
mother lay in her bed, her eyes pressed shut, the blankets over her
head, weeping. All she could hear was the thunder of the water, and
the boulders grinding in the riverbed. She wished that river would
reach up and drag her in, taking her far away, never to be seen
the morning she found her mother in the kitchen, as always, doing the
work that never ended in those days of hand-powered water pumps, and
wood stoves. Her father was nowhere to be seen.
Papa?” She asked.
went away” my grandmother said. “He will never hurt you
again. He won’t be back”
did he go?”
went away” her mother replied, a bit louder now. “And we
will never speak of this again”
they never did, and my grandfather was never seen again.
only thing my grandmother kept of his, my mother told me, was his
ebony handled straight razor, and for her whole life, my mother said,
my grandmother kept it tucked inside her brassiere. The one time my
mother asked her about it she said
keep it, in case it’s ever needed again.”
at the table, then, holding my newborn son with an ease brought on by
raising four children of her own, she looked at me long and hard. She
the story I told your father that time he beat you”
you have a son of your own. You inherited a lot from your father. You
have his size and strength, and, God help you, you have his temper.”
transferred my infant son from one hand to the other without waking
him, with that black magic voodoo that only grandmothers seem to
reached inside her blouse.
pulled her hand back, and lay the ebony and steel straight razor open
on my kitchen table. It was smooth, its handle was black, and it
shone. Its blade was silver and it gleamed. I could tell just by
looking at it, that it was sharper than evil itself.
turned her eyes to me then. I had never seen them like this in my
were flat black, and cold as the Sicilian mountains that she came
from. They were merciless, and pitiless. They were as protective as a
tell you now, that I told your father then, in case you ever think of
hurting this child.”
eyes bored into me then, like murderous icicles.
I keep it…”
case it’s ever needed again”
Ross lives in Langley BC Canada. Bryant and his wife are
spoken-word artists who run the Vancouver Story Slam, a monthly
storytelling contest in Vancouver BC. He was born and raised in
Langley and has been a Firefighter there for 35 years, and has raised
two sons, many hounds, and a whole lot of bees.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher