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Archive for the ‘My Family File’ Category

The Night the Bat Girl Connects with Her Father’s Melon Ball Head

23 Oct

My father is sitting on the couch watching football when I take a crack at the back of his large head like it’s a pinata with my Louisville Slugger.  It’s an accident, of course.  I’m seven years old, playing batter in the family room, the only room airy enough for me to practice my swing.  The night before my father and I had gone to an Angel’s baseball game and I want to prove to him that I can bat just like home run hitter Brian Downing.  My mother and older sister are out shopping.  It’s just me and my father inside the house.

The hollow sound of wood against flesh and bone isn’t what fills me with fear.  It’s the way my father rolls onto his belly splayed  heavy on the dark shag carpet like a dead sea mammal found beached on shore.  For a few seconds as my father lies there knocked out cold, I’m convinced I’ve committed involuntary manslaughter.  Even at my age then I know the unlawful terms for what I’ve just done.  My father was a defense attorney and I learned the modes and years of punishment for serious crimes the way some kids learn their multiplication tables.  This means no more skidding out on the sidewalks in my Big Wheel, no more Scooby Doo and Pop Tarts on Saturday mornings.  I’m going away for a long time to a scary kid’s prison until I’m at least eighteen.

The sight of my father just lying there paralyzes me, that is, until I see him coming to.  Slowly, he pushes up on his elbows, rocking his head in his hands, trying to make sense of why he is in so much pain.  Then he turns and squints, and I see he’s putting me into focus.  Immediately I drop the bat, screaming at my Dad how sorry I am all the way into my bedroom where I slam the door, lock it and brace it with everything from my sturdy desk chair to my Star Wars Death Star Space Station that’s made of lightweight plastic.

My father was not a small man.  When mad I’ve seen men just as big as him but not as crazy back down if he came toward them daring them in Greek to go ahead and take the first punch.  That way it would be self-defense and my father has free license to beat them good.  By the time his foot falls right down the hallway, I’m wedged in tight under my bed that’s littered with games and other junk.

He rattles the knob.  “Paula,” he mumbles groggily.  “Paula, open up.  I just… I just want to talk to you.”

“No!”  I’m crying now, afraid I’ve made him sound this strange, this brain damaged where he will have to repeat himself over and over again forever.  He’ll lose all of his clients and my mother will have to stay home all day and spoon feed him cups of brightly colored Jello.

Then abruptly my father is gone.   By the time I’m brave enough to remove the obstacles against the door and open it, he’s all the way in the kitchen helping my mother with one hand unpack the groceries.  The other holds a frozen lamb chop against the back of his head.  When he notices me in the dark of the hallway, he gives me a funny look that says it’s okay that I come out now, that I’m the one who’s not thinking straight.  He’s not a father that is going to hurt his daughter simply because she unintentionally hurt him.   He knows I was not trying to kill him, yet I’m banned for life from ever pretending like I’m an Angel.

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