Coming of Age
By: G Wayne
© 03/13/2011
Copyright © 2011 G. Wayne
The open newspaper shook slightly as it blocked my face from inquisitive eyes. The bus moved on and I carefully glanced around, nervously searching for people who would end my adventure. I calmed with distance, but the possibility of my quest ending before it really began, filled me with a fear that was hard to ignore. What I was doing was against the rules and I felt guilty about making people worry.

I grasped the railing and hauled myself to the door, taking a long look up and down the street, before working my way out of the bus. There were no cars on the street or people passing by that seemed a threat. I leaned against the building as inconspicuously as possible in a line with other ticketholders, and their lively mood was not able to break through my paranoia. People were amusing each other and joking with both friends and strangers. My attention was engaged by smiling faces and eyes that sparkled with an acute awareness. We were being joined by a mutual connection with a spiritual power that was a running total of everyone's emotions.

We worked our way into the theater at a snail's pace. Even though I was being taken by the moment, an urge to constantly look over my shoulder would not subside, neither would the sweat I wiped from my forehead even though the temperature was in the forties. I shouldn't have worried though, it was a big concert and I was hidden by the vast crowd.

The pre-concert music had already started playing, its volume and clarity increased as we neared the door. My mood somehow brightened, and I began to become more a part of the general excitement. The warm-up act being piped into the lobby was securing control of the crowd through the medium of music. I felt the contradiction between the physical and emotional world increase, and then drift from my mind like a feather in a breeze. After passing through the ticket taker's gate, paranoia vanished and I was filled with the sweet anticipation of enjoying something I had wanted to do for a long time.

"Hey asshole, no cutting in line!"

"I'm with her. She stood in line while I found a parking spot."

"I really don't really care. Go to the back of the line, asshole."

"Hey, come on people, this is supposed to be a fun time," I said.

"Who the hell are you, Bozo? Why don't you mind your own business?"

"You're right, this is none of my business, but I've been waiting to see this band for a long time and I can't help wanting everyone around me to have a good time also. I'm sorry, man, no offence."

"Ya, well, I came here to have a good time too, but this idiot cut right in front of me."

I nodded my head and drew a perplexed sigh, "Yes, he did cut in, but she waited out the line and their together. You know, if you give the guy a break, you might be making a new friend. You both like the same kind of music."

He gave me a look like, ya, you're right . . . but you're still a piece of poop. His hardened face changed to a friendly smile and extended his hand to the other man. "Are we okay?"

The woman smiled and nodded at her date. He grasped the man's hand and said, "Hell ya! Did you ever see these guys before? I heard that their last concert was prodigious."

"I never saw them before, but I've been wanting to for a long time," he said then gave me a wink.

~ ================ ~

"Marge, where is Ralph? I thought he was supposed to be sleeping in his room, but it's empty.''

"Maybe he's somewhere else in the house." she said with a cigarette in her hand.

"I checked all the rooms and he's not here."

"Did you check the garage?"

"Yes I checked the garage, and it is also empty. I should have checked the garbage, that's where the piece of shit belongs," he said and banged his fist on the wall. He then paced the room, stomping back and forth.

"Please, Don, calm down. We have to find him; you know he has health problems. What if he forgot to take his meds?"

He looked at her, his body shaking with rage. "I can't handle it. Things are tough enough at work and I do not need this extra grief."

"He's not so bad." she said.

"Not so bad, yes he is and he's your blood, Marge. This bullshit has to stop. I can't control him and he doesn't listen to me. Now I have to worry that I don't know where he is? No more. Things are going to change."

"I'll talk to him when he gets home. You don't have to worry," she offered.

"Oh, he'll get talked to alright. I'm fed up, you both disgust me."

~ ================ ~

I was able to find a seat by the aisle, but my view of the stage was partially blocked by people dancing. The intimate nature of an attractive woman's behind bobbing at eyelevel only inches from my face, ignited primal urges. She sensed my attention and flashed a smile over her shoulder at me. Embarrassed, I sheepishly smiled back as she evaluated me then seemed to judge me safe. She turned and resumed her commune with the seductive spirit of rock and roll. She moved with grace and a raw passion that I am sure was projected at me. I may have deluded myself into believing this, but she did dance very close.

The band opened with "Ride My See-saw" and the audience exploded with cheers and applause. This did make it difficult to follow the opening guitar licks, but the metaphysical energy that the musicians radiated filled the room, crystal in its clarity. I felt so alive and the moment had already far surpassed my expectations. I was experiencing a high that was intense to the point of permanently affecting my life. Believing that something like this would never end was easy, but when the last song settled the crowd and gently grounded us, we returned to how we were before the music started. I felt some surprise and disappointment at this, but mostly exhaustion.

Exiting the theater into the late-night air brought on a chill and the hardened face of reality. It bloomed in the pit of my stomach, breeding thoughts of what would happen if I were discovered. I felt shame at going off on my own with everyone thinking I was asleep in my room. Minor defiance had been met with extreme penalties in the past and I am sure that this time, physical punishment would be in store if I were caught. The fear that welled up within me would have kept anyone from ever going home again, although I had no other place to go. I thought of how life and reality have differences. Although the two words seem the same, life is what people hang to and reality is something you want to stop sometimes. Like when fear caused me to imagine-no, to live my unwritten fate, over and over again.

Guided by terror, I walked as the chance of getting caught increased with each step. I hoped that no one was looking for me and wondered if I could sneak back into my room without being punished.

Standing in the shadows like the villain in a TV show-I had watched this exact scene before, but where I can't remember where-I waited for the bus while constantly scanning the street for anyone who seemed a threat. As it approached, I went to the curb, leaving only enough time for the driver to see me waiting and stop. I was pleased to see the almost empty coach and hoped it would stay that way. When I almost collapsed into a seat, trying to keep my head below the window as much as possible, I could feel the suspicious attention of the other riders. As the bus moved on, I considered the mounting problems at home and decided that sometimes, it is best not to get involved.

I could feel my fatigue and I knew it would be difficult to walk in the rain, but I left the bus several stops away from my house. Outside, I heard an electronic siren going eeeh-eeeh-eeeh, woo-dle-woo-dle, nik-nik-nik-nik and saw reflection of the headlights in the trees. Before the car was in view I was gone, vanishing into the shadows like a scared rabbit. The cold flooded my senses with needle-sharp torment as I pushed on. The house came into view, frowning at me with sullen disgust. It was no longer a picture of warmth and safety as it had been so often in the past. I remember wanting to run, run as far away as possible, but where? Although a lot of bad things happened to me in that house, it was where I lived and in the end, I had no choice.

All the lights were out as I opened the front door. The stillness of a house where all were asleep made me relax just a little. I slowly closed the door and rested to regain my strength when the lights went on. A tsunami of horror gushed through my veins. As it consumed my ability to think or act, I noticed light coming through the small cut-glass window in the front door. The patterns it projected on the wall brought back fond memories that only brushed by in a faint diversion. The glower of hate-filled eyes bore down on me with a wrath I had never experienced. His hands were clinched in rage and beads of spit flew from his mouth and onto my face as he bellowed vulgar threats. I cowered, feeling helpless to avoid the humiliation and abuse that faced me. He grabbed a lamp that had been in the family for years and smashed it on the floor. The crash was deafening and I would have flinched if I were not petrified.

"What in the hell is wrong with you. I don't have time to put up with your shit."

I looked at the ground, not wanting to make things worse.

"Look at me when I talk, you piece of garbage. You have no respect for anyone. You're disgusting." He paused for effect, "You know, she's not here. It's just you and me this time." The back of his hand swung hard and smacked the side of my face, knocking me back to the door. At first, I was disorientated and then the sting brought me back.

"You think because you're weak I'll be nice? Well, I'm not putting up with you anymore!" he screamed.

His clenched fist drove into my stomach, doubling me over and setting me up for his knee to crash into my face. Trying to dodge the blow succeeded in keeping my nose from being splattered over my face, but caused my right eye to take most of the force. I immediately lost vision in that eye and it soon swelled shut. As I started to blackout, the doorknob in my hand kept me from dropping to the ground. Falling was no longer a problem when he pinned me against the wall by my neck. I made gurgling noises, but no real words came out while I choked, gasping for breath. Reality became elastic and flapped in a wind of emotion. It was hard to understand what was happening to me.

He pushed me toward the stairs and I stumbled for the railing. It was a funny dance that amused no one.

"Get out of my sight," he said in disgust as his boot kicked out and sent me sprawling on the stairs. That foul excuse for a human being kicked me in the ass like I was an animal and my hip burst into pain as it seemed to crumble.

I crawled to my room like an injured animal. Things were fuzzy and distant and I hoped I could make it to my bed. I remember feeling shame, and hoping he did not come back. My self-deprecating thoughts were intense, but I hung on to the idea that I was mistreated.

I passed out and a weird movie started to play, only I was the main character. A western boomtown appeared complete with a little girl handing me a rose. She wore a bonnet and a gingham dress that reached the ground. There was a grateful smile on her face and I noticed her mother standing several feet away orchestrating this show of appreciation. After handing me the flower, she ran to her mother's side and they hurried off, leaving me standing alone with the flower in my hand on the dusty street of this cowboy town. I wondered if that had any meaning or somehow related to my real life when the rose turned into a cell phone and a tumbleweed rolled past.

The vest I was wearing had a gold watch chain that hung loosely across it. My hand brushed the Colt Peacemaker that was holstered low on my right hip. It easily slipped out and I admired its weight and balance. The dark blued steel contrasted with the ivory grips and all six chambers were loaded.

A harmonica started to play sadly and the mother reappeared with the little girl trying to pull her away. She was arguing with a threatening man wearing all black. Their voices were loud, and I could hear them clearly from where I stood at the other end of the street. I wanted to wake up, but convinced myself that it was only a nightmare and decided to make it entertaining.

"What are you looking at, sodbuster?" the man in black said after turning to face me.

I spit a plug of tobacco onto the street-actually, it looked more like pink bubblegum-and swaggered toward the ominous figure. As he drew his gun, I was able to put a slug square in the center of his chest. He called me a dirty polecat and complained that he must have had some mud in his eye, before dropping dead on the street among the hoof prints and occasional mound of steaming horse dung.

I walked over to a crumpled heap that was the man I had just shot, and the gun in my hand turned into a modern automatic that somehow seemed familiar. Then, the crumpled heap rose up on one arm like a cross between Wyatt Earp and Lazareth. His mouth formed a big O of surprise and he said, "Every couple argues, don't they?"

That made no sense at all to me, then I started to awake from this disjoint fantasy while the voice of my fallen nemesis called out, "Good luck, partner . . . you may need it."

When the morning sun broke my light sleep, I could only move one of my legs. Also, my right eye was swollen shut and it's reflection from the mirror across the room was the color of raw liver.

There was a soft knock at my door that caused a bomb to explode in my head.

"Hello, are you awake?"

"Come on in," I said, happy to hear a friendly voice. The door opened and she walked in, stopping at the foot of my bed. "Oh my god, you look offal! Are you okay?

"Well, I'm still alive."

"Don told me how you fell down the stairs last night after you got home. He said that he had to help you to your room."

"Yep, he's the reason I'm here."

Where did you go last night? We were worried sick."

"I went to a concert; I needed to get out."

"Hmmm, well I brought you some food," she said and set a breakfast tray beside him.

I could smell the aroma of hot coffee and a freshly baked croissant. There was a cup of fresh fruit in a bowl of ice. It all looked so good, but caused my stomach to clench and feel nauseous although it was empty. "Thank you very much, it looks and smells great. I'll eat it a little later when I wake up." As I rolled over to reach for the coffee cup, my hip exploded in pain and I winced.

"What was that? Are you okay?" she asked, her smile fading to concern.

"It's nothing; I think I hurt my hip a little bit."

"Nothing! It doesn't look like nothing! Can you move your leg?"

I tried to move my leg and it only quivered. Pain shot through my body with each spasm. My face contorted, although I tried to hold it back.

"This is not right; you need to go to the hospital." She gently took my hand between her's. "I don't like to see you like this. You know I love you, Dad, and I want what's best for you, even though it may not seem like it sometimes. You need to take better care of yourself if you want to recover from that stroke." She kissed me on the forehead. "I'll get Don's help."

"Princess, maybe it's not a good idea to talk to Don about this."

She gave me that "Aw come on, Dad" smile she used every time I called her princess since she was a little girl. "Why not talk to Don?" she asked and left the room before I could answer.

Things seemed to be going bad and I needed help. I grabbed the cellphone from my nightstand drawer and pushed 911. As I spoke my address to the operator, Don burst into my room and closed the door behind him. "What the fuck did you tell her?" he asked while ripping the cellphone from my hand and smashing it on the floor.

Billows of smoke burst from the small phone as it struck the brocade carpet.

"I didn't tell her anything." I said, looking at the smashed phone. Eventually, I became jaded to being screamed at, and although still feeling faint, I fixed my focus eyes on him. "Crappy iPhone . . . you know that cell you smashed cost $120, pay up." I enjoyed the instant look of surprise that posed on his face as his jaw dropped. A dark loathing welled up from the decay of his true being and set in his face with a stone-like rigor. I tried to ignore the fear I felt when I looked at that monster who dealt so much misery.

He clenched my shoulders in his fists and placed his ghoulish face inches from mine. "Listen here you fossilized fart, I have everything in my name. You now own nothing and you will do what I say."

"Well, that's not entirely true. I had my lawyer change the will and it has been signed off by a judge."

He bellowed a cynical laugh that was followed by another string of scorching expletives while the spit again sprayed from his snarling lips and yellow teeth. "It will never holdup in court. You own nothing, old man. It's all in my name. Now I have to get rid of you."

I must admit that I have never seen so much malignant hatred gush out of just one person.

Marge called from the hall, "Don, could I talk with you for a minute please."

He let go of me and waked toward the door. He looked over his shoulder while leaving the room and said, "We will discuss this later."

The sounds of their voices were getting louder and louder. I have heard my daughter argue with her husband many times before and tried to not get involved; but that time, it seemed different. Of course, she would need me at a time when I could not help . . . hell, I couldn't even get out of bed.

The shouts turned to screams and then came the sounds of things breaking. It was going too far, and I had to do something to protect my daughter. My adrenaline began to flow and I dropped into a mode I had not felt since Nam. While trying to twist my body to lower myself onto the floor, I managed to knock over my food tray and scatter my breakfast across all over my room. That really pissed me off. I tried again and just fell to the floor. Pain radiated through my entire body. It was as if molten metal was being poured into my hip joint. I crawled to my walker, picking up a piece of silverware along the way to use as perfection. It did not make me feel very tough. Using the walker to hoist myself into a standing position, I lumbered into the hallway. Her screams were earsplitting and then seemed be choked off.

He had her against the wall with his forearm pressed across her throat and her face was turning blue. I worked my way to where they were standing and he didn't seem to notice the clank my walker made with each step. I switched my grip from my walker to his shoulder and threw a punch into his face with all the power I could muster. It missed and I fell hopelessly back to the floor.

He threw my daughter to the side like a ragdoll and proceeded to kick and punch my already beaten body.

Marge was able to recover enough to select a nine iron from my golf bag. She screamed what sounded like a war cry and swung the club in a perfect ark between Don's legs, connecting with his groin.

"You bitch!" he said while doubling over, but he was still able to knock her to the floor with a cross-body block. He straddled her and his blows caused her blood to spray across the room. To further humiliate her, with a mocking sneer, he ripped her shirt from her body exposing her breasts. I dug my fingers into the carpet and fought for every inch that brought me closer to him.

I was able to get up on one knee. Grabbing his hair and pulling back his head, I jammed the tines of my breakfast fork into his left eye. He rolled onto his back and his screams were deafening as his hands covered his face. I grasped my walker and again used it to climb to a standing position. I was overcome with abhorrence for this man and I can only remember how the cartilage of his larynx felt under the heel of my bare foot as I crushed it with all my weight.

I felt no remorse at the man's passing. He had tortured me and could not let him bring violence to my daughter. I enjoyed killing this man to protect my family and would do it again without hesitation.

They removed us before the body, and I thanked the cop for being gentle with my daughter. He actually apologized for the agony my son-in-law had caused, then said, "Hang in there, sir, there are still a lot of people that have respect for their elders." I clasped his hand while trying to hide the tears that swelled from my eyes.

As they wheeled us to the ambulances, my daughter looked at me as if offering an apology. I tried not to stare at her blackened eye and swollen nose that leaned to the left on a face dark with shame. Our beds were side by side and she tried to comfort me during every waking moment. Our new bond did more to help me recover than any medication those child doctors, "Doogies" I called them, could prescribe.

The End
"Comming of Age" protrays the pain and struggles of hostle family conditions and mastering conflict