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Three Shattered Souls
By James Wilde
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 James Wilde
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI sat in the hallway outside the courtroom, watching as a number of families and attorneys bickered back and forth. Everyone was up in arms about something to do with their case and the noise was unbearable. People of all races and ethnicity were there fighting and screaming. It looked like the whole city was getting divorced. Some were actually trying to fist fight for their kids and I'm not referring to the men. The mothers were the toughest and loudest as it was nerve-racking while sitting there. I did my best not to look at these crazies, but I couldn't help myself. Mitch, Julie and I sat as quiet as mice in the old greenish hallway, sucking in whatever air was available. In those days smoking anywhere was permissible, so between the smoke and heat, my heart was racing non-stop. The three of us stuck to the old beaten bench like squashed bugs on a car windshield. We were sweating and waiting impatiently to find out who we were going to live with, our mother or father.
They were in the final stages of a long drawn out custody battle over us and I was emotionally drained from being dragged to court so often. By the time I was eight years old, the courthouse reminded me of an evil beast. The front door its teeth and mouth while the actual courtroom its belly. I pictured the bellybeing the pit of hell as my own churned from the horrors that evolved within there.
We soon heard the gavel bang as a muffled voice announced that court was adjourned. As young children, we didn't realize how that sound was the death of our old lives and the hatching of our new ones. That resounding noise was the decision we had to accept and live with forever. Our votes didn't even count and we didn't understand the impact of the verdict. By being so very young, forever didn't mean much and trying to perceive it meant even less. Regardless of our understanding, our fates were sealed and ready or not we had to survive it.
The bizarre outcome was surprising to everyone. Men normally didn't win custody from the maternal mother and that was exactly what happened. My father was awarded custody of my brother Mitch, my sister Julie and me. I was the oldest sibling and probably had the best understanding of what was happening to us. For two years my parents had been fighting over who would retain custody of our lives. Both of them fought like nasty rabid dogs and even had us involved. By being involved, I mean seeing shrinks, speaking with social workers and of course, the infamous attorneys. None of them really cared about the effects it had on us and my father was even worse. Every visit was grill time, "What did your mother do? Did your mother have a friend over? Were you taken care of or were you left alone? Did you see any naked people walking around the house?" My father continuously accused my mother of being a whore and constantly tried convincing us she was screwing everyone.
The courts decision was based on the grounds of infidelity and my mother being an unfit parent. Given that we lived in the same house, I never witnessed her with other men nor did my siblings. That's what was so comical about us being grilled by all the involved parties. Even if we saw an infraction, we were in no position to know. Most of our day-to-day education derived from the television and in those days TV showed married couples sleeping in two different beds.
After the people started filing out of the courtroom, we were confused about our situation. Were we to go with our father or our mother? We had been pulled in so many different directions in the past that we didn't know who was going to claim us this time. Our father cleared that up real fast. He came charging out and started pushing all three of us through the crowd. My mother, grandmother and grandfather were trailing behind him. They didn't seem like they were attempting to catch up, but faltering behind. They reminded me of zombies, just following the rest of the people out of the courtroom. They resembled sheep being led to a spring slaughter.
My father kept shoving and telling us to move faster with an agitated tone in his voice. It was the familiar voice which conveyed punishment if we didn't start moving at a faster pace and we certainly wanted no part of that. Eventually we made it to his car, the old white LTD sedan. He opened the door behind the driver seat and quickly pushed us in with his shaky hands. He then slammed the door shut and literally leaped into the driver seat. It was like one smooth motion previously planned out. Our heads were spinning as we were trying to comprehend the immediate rush. No goodbyes. No kisses or hugs. No one saying, "We will see you next weekend." It was like a movie in fast motion. He quickly sparked up a cigarette while hastily squealing out of the parking lot. All of us looked back through the window and couldn't conceive what was happening. I saw my mother hunched over crying as my grandmother was trying to comfort her. My grandfather looked like a man defeated. He just shook his head and had his frail arms crossed against his chest. He appeared as if he was trying to fight off the tears which my mother and grandmother were spilling all over the sidewalk. At that moment, I remember feeling cold and empty inside. It seemed somehow everyone was hurting except my father. I truly felt through the process, our answers to the court somehow impacted this outcome. I harbored a deep guilt complex, which tore at my insides for years to come. This was the turning point of our lives and I thought we had sabotaged our mother.
The windows were rolled up as the air conditioning was on full blast, fighting the recycled smoke. My father was a habitual chain smoker and was on his second cigarette when he started to explain our future plans.
"Ok kids, court is over and we never have to go back there again," he said, sounding relieved. "That was it kids. The judge agreed you all are not allowed to ever see or call your mother or grandparents ever again. Your mother did a bunch of bad things to you kids and the judge doesn't want her to hurt you anymore. She and your grandparents could mess up your heads and make you crazy like your mother. The judge felt by not ever talking or seeing them again would keep you kids from going crazy."
We all sat in the back of the car in shock without responding. It was as if someone sucked the life out of us. "Go crazy," I thought. "What did she do to go crazy? I never thought of my mom as crazy." Throughout this whole mess, my father always threatened to send us to a psychiatrist whenever we acted up. He told us we would be locked up if the doctor thought we were nuts and it always worked. We were deathly afraid of being locked up and the word "crazy" was generously thrown around by my father. My darkest fear at that time was being thrown into the loony bin.
My father rambled on with his impassionate explanation and as he spoke, he seemed to get more and more emotional about the new situation. "I want you kids to know that I married Hamar. You remember her? She was the lady we visited a while back and had two kids. You remember Shlomo and Samara? They lived in that apartment and we all went out for ice cream." Mitch and Julie just sat there in the smoke filled car emotionless, but I remembered them. Who could forget? The lady's English was so horrid that I couldn't understand a single word she said. I didn't know how my dad was able to communicate with her. I had no idea what country she was from, but I sure knew she wasn't from here. When we met her, she was cold and aloof towards us and her face had difficulty forming a full smile. She didn't seem to have an interest of who we were at all, even though my father looked excited to introduce us. It was as if she were too good to make our acquaintance. She basically looked us up and down, like she was rating a dive at the Olympics.
"Yes." I finally answered, after thinking about that day.
"Good." My father replied. "How about you two? Mitch or Julie, do you remember meeting Hamar and her children?" They simply nodded their heads in agreement and passively answered yes. Considering Mitch was five and Julie was three, they probably had no idea who they met yesterday, but for his happiness they agreed.
"Alright, good. Well kids, here it is," he started, making it out to be a simple task for us. "From now on Hamar will be your new mother and Shlomo and Samara your new brother and sister. In my house the word stepmother or step-anything will not be permitted. From now on she is your real mother," he distinctively announced. "You are not to call her Hamar. Is that understood?" We all nodded our heads. He asked again, as if he wanted a verbal confirmation on the deal, "Is that understood?"
All of us chimed back in unison, "Yes."
"Good," he bellowed back. "Because if any of you call her Hamar or refer to her as your stepmother you will get a beating. That goes for calling Shlomo or Samara your stepbrother or stepsister. Is that understood?"
Not knowing what else to say to that offer we all answered, "Yes."
We knew his temper and I tasted a sample of his threats before. It wasn't something any of us wanted to be a part of. When he got mad, it was a bloodcurdling freak show. Our father stood about six foot two and from our point of view he looked like a giant. On occasions when he lost his temper, his scream alone was enough to rattle my nerves. It was so ferocious that I imagined the roof lifting right off the house and slamming down with a crashing explosion. In the years to come, I always wondered how no one ever heard what was going on in our house. I always hoped someone would step in and save us from the beatings, seeing that he never knew when to stop. Thank God he smoked because once he started gasping for air the beatings were usually concluded. During his enraged fits, my father's entire demeanor and physical appearance drastically changed. His eyes and eyelids would turn red as he seemed to forget we were just children by the language he used. Being the eldest, I had far more experience with his transformation and profoundly felt the grunt of his punishment more than my brother and sister. They were awfully young for that kind of beating. He would just beat the living snot out of me. I recall being physically thrown across the room like a paper airplane. He would punch me in the stomach with full force and slap my face with a fury like the world was coming to an end. It seemed like a beating he would give another man in a street fight rather than his own son. At the end of a beating like that, my brain was so rattled I honestly could not remember what day it was.
I recall one instance when he caught me fishing with some neighborhood kids. We lived adjacent to a country club called Comanche Creek. It was a beautiful area to play in due to the manicured lawn and the alluring ponds. One of the neighborhood kids had an extra bamboo rod and offered it to me if I went along. After my father had forbidden me to go, I shrugged it off and went along with my friends anyway. I never figured he would actually find out and the only dangerous part of the trek was crossing the road to the pond. It was an old dirt road with little traffic, but since I was five, my father didn't want me crossing any roads. My friends and I fished and played for hours. In fact, it was so long I lost track of time. I was hoping to be home before dinner, seeing how we started out so late in the afternoon. But just as I was throwing my fishing line into the pond, I happened to catch a glimpse of a car pulling up and stopping on the side of the road. It was a very familiar looking car and at first, it really didn't hit me that it could be him. I thought it would be very peculiar to see his car on this old dirt road, considering we didn't belong to the club. Then I noticed the passenger window was rolled down and immediately knew I was dead.
When I saw the horrific expression on his face, I instantly dropped the bamboo rod and stiffened up. I was praying maybe he wouldn't pick me out from the group of boys, but I knew I was out of luck when I heard, "Jim, get the hell in this car. Right now, GOD DAMN IT!" I nearly had an accident in my pants at that very moment. My face quickly went flush from fear as I ran, not walked, but ran to the passenger side of his car. I knew, opening the car door, what was in store for me but it would be far worse if I just sauntered over.
Once I jumped into the passenger seat and slammed the door shut, I felt a giant sweaty hand grab my entire head and slam my face into the filmy window. It stung something awful as my face stuck to the glass with the immense pressure from his hand. I actually felt my ear pop from the tremendous collision with the window. I could see my friends looking on with fear, as my face appeared to adhere to the glass. Then the yelling started.
"God damn it! Didn't I tell you not to go fishing with your friends? What the fuck were you doing out here?"
I was trembling so badly that my windpipe was closing up and could barely get out the words. "I, I don't know," I squeaked.
"You don't know," he hollered back. "Wait until I get your ass back home. When I tell you something, you better listen. Do you understand me? Don't you ever pull this shit again." Then out of nowhere "SMACK" right across the face. It stung like a board had just been crushed against my skull. I felt the blood rise to the occasion and fill my cheek up. I knew this was just the beginning of what was to come.
We walked through the front door with his right hand squeezing the life out of my scrawny thin neck. My mother was sitting in the living room entertaining some friends from New York. She immediately looked over and said, "Good, you found him. Where was he?"
My father sternly replied, "Fishing over at Comanche Creek Country Club. I pulled up and found him there with his friends fishing. Do you believe this shit? After I told him no and he goes anyway. I'll be right back."
I was embarrassed to be seen by their friends, feeling a welt developing on the side of my face from where he had smacked me earlier. Tears were running down my cheeks as I felt humiliated. I knew the worst was only a few seconds away. He picked me up by the seat of my pants, banging his way up the stairs with me dangling in midair. He kicked open my bedroom door and "Wham" threw me across the room. I hit the wall like a stray bird smashing into a glass window. Then he powerfully grabbed the front of my shirt and wildly started pinning me to the ceiling, then slamming me down on the bed. Every time he pinned me to the ceiling, he yelled, "You better damn well listen to me next time! Do you understand me?"
The whole time I felt like I was losing the ability to breathe. I was crying while panting at the same time from the pain. In my mind, I was praying for someone to come in and stop the beating. Finally, the pinning and slamming stopped and he started whacking away at my face, screaming, "Did you hear me? You better not pull this shit again! When I tell you something, you listen!"
The sweat from his forehead was dripping everywhere and his breathing was more like a rasping sound. It was getting to the point that he was losing his strength to scream. Finally, my mother flung open the door and panicking for my life, hollered, "Get off of him! You're going to kill him! Let him go!"
He turned to my mother while huffing and puffing and told her to get out. His hands were bright pink from slapping me and he was shaking like he had just been outside in the dead of winter. Eventually, she was pulling on him and he released the front of my shirt. He looked at me lying on the bed with my mother behind him. She had a firm grip on the back of his shirt. Her knuckles were pure white as she held on with all her might. I laid on the bed profusely sobbing and panting. I must have looked like I was ravaged by a wild bear or beast. He pointed his index finger at me and said, "This shit better not happen again. You're damn lucky your mother walked in when she did."
He seemed to lose the ability to scream since he was out of breath. "If I ever catch you fishing over there again." Then he took a deep breath. "Your ass is dead. Do you hear me?" His hands and whole body were uncontrollably trembling. I guess the beating took a toll on him too.
Trying to get the words out was pretty hard. I was panting, sobbing and shaking so badly it was hard enough to even breathe let alone exhale any words. Finally, I cried out, "Yes. I hear you."
Excerpted from Three Shattered Souls by James Wilde Copyright © 2009 by James Wilde. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Heartwrenching, emotional book. Reminds us all things aren't always what them seem on the outside. Reminds us to care for all children, especially children not born to us.
The book took me on an emotional roller coaster that I couldn't put down. I read the book in almost one sitting, yes, all 371 pages! But it was a heart-warming (and saddening) story and at times, chilled me to the bone. A must read!!!