Open your nearest book to page 82. Take the third full sentence on the page, and work it into a post somehow: “He would have cringed at the sight of the intruder’s weapon, whimpered, and crept away.”
On the red-eye flight back to the bible belt for Thanksgiving I sit knee to knee with strangers on a plane, speaking not a word to my fellow travelers about the scene back home that flickers on a non-stop reel beneath my closed eye lids. I barely produce the obligatory ‘hello’, and am relieved to listen to the young man and woman on my aisle drone on about their carefree lives with a punctuated “that’s intense” or “that’s hilarious” to keep the conversation humming along beside the jet propelled engine.
I want to blurt out, “Intense, young man, aside from your obvious masked attraction to the blonde sitting next to you is the crime committed against the father of four last night before midnight,” but I hold my tongue. I keep re-hashing the details in my mind and think if the father had owned a dog maybe the dog could have protected his master, but then I think if his dog were anything like my own he would have cringed at the sight of the intruder’s weapon, whimpered, and crept away. No, no animal could have prevented it. As it came to be, it was the man’s teenaged daughter who would come to her father’s rescue.
When she saw that the person wrestling against her father was not an intruder at all, but her schizophrenic brother who everyone knew one day would follow through on his warped words to either kill his older brother or his father she did not stand back helplessly like her mother, sister and two younger cousins (her older brother was out of the house on this particular night). As her father’s back slid down against the kitchen wall to the ground, blood spurted from his head from the glance wounds he’d tried to avert from his assailant son. The daughter walks barefoot through the red pool of family blood to get to the kitchen knife drawer and she passes her father a shiny piece across the once white floor before running out through the front door in her long pajama bottoms and a top.
Her feet pound the cold walk two blocks to our house and she pummels our locked door with her fists. ”Open the door, it’s me,” she yells. Our girls open the door when they recognize her voice. She’s been a part of our family for the past three years as my husband’s middle school student and basketball player alongside our two older daughters on his team. She had been over earlier that day, reclining on our couch with the kids telling us about her mom’s latest announcement that she was leaving her father and how she had told her mom not to because it was wrong. Now here the girl was in our back bedroom, near hysteria, and noteably without tears. We send our four girls into the living room and shut the door.
“There’s so much blood, there’s so much blood,” she repeats her disbelief. My husband stands there with his arms around her 100 pound body and I turn on the master bathroom light.
“What do you mean? Slow down,” my husband gauges the situation.
“My brother’s stabbing my Dad.” I fall to the floor beside their feet as I try unsuccessfully to take such news on just two hours of sleep.
“Did you call 911?”
“No, I ran out.”
I get up to fetch her a cup of ice water, unsure if this is what she needs in such a crisis. My husband looks at me and says, “I’m going to go over there to check it out.”
“Okay,” I say as I grab the body pillow and extra comforter from the foot of our bed and place it on the floor. I convince her to lay down with me while my husband leaves. I stroke her coarse dark hair and keep my hand on her back. We are both under the covers in a spooning position and I just keep praying aloud, “Help us Jesus,” over and over again while telling her to breathe. I give her a wet washcloth and wipe her face, like I do after one of my kids has thrown up and I wipe what looks like Indian war paint off the top of her beautifully small caramel foot.
My husband comes back with good news that he has seen both her dad and brother alive amidst a buzz of local emergency workers. She relaxes, and asks me if she can use the red washcloth to wipe her hands clean. When the two police officers arrive to take her statement, I help her out to our living room on the couch and cover her with the same white blanket with yellow daisies. She looks at me with scared eyes and says, “I don’t want to do this,” but she does and then she sleeps like nobody else can. She’s there on my couch, my girls are back in their beds and I pick up the washcloth by a corner and hang it over the edge of the laundry basket.
When I return from my trip, I throw the washcloth away. The girl comes over, but her eyes don’t look scared anymore and we learn that her brother is not allowed to live with them anymore. I brought back with me the Truman Capote book from my father’s shelf that always peaked my interest as a child, In Cold Blood.
Truman Capote , 1948