Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Snippets 27

This is the conclusion of a short story. In the first part (last weeks snippet)Margot and her toddler Nikki suffered a brutal beating from Tod (husband/father)before he left for work. Later Nikki had offered to share a treat with his baby sister, Tina, and Margot wondered how long before 'Tina too' would share in the beatings.

Running In Circles
by Joy Renee

(Part two--continued from last week)

In the afternoon, Margot sat alone on the couch. This was her time of day. The babies who had fussed restlessly throughout the quiet morning, now slept calmly under a staccato of blows from Mr. Jamisen’s hammer up on the roof. For a brief time she could do as she chose and usually--in spite of dirty dishes piled in the sink, a sea of crumbs surrounding the highchair and the baby-clothes, rattles, bottles and slimy, half-gnawed teething biscuits jumbled with the blankets on the mattress--usually she chose to curl up on the couch with a magazine or to just lose herself into the view of Westlake High out the window, her private movie-screen, fantasyland, time-portal, where once upon a time she had been track star, cheerleader, honors student and Todd had been "Todd the Bod Taylor" district champion in the shot-put and hammer throw.

But today for the first time she felt her ties to the past sundered with a finality that left her whip-lashed mind whirling with the shreds of her sanity. The silence-shattering sound of Mr. Jamisen’s hammer up on the roof threatened to scatter them irretrievably. She began to focus on the individual blows, counting them with fierce concentration, breathing, in rhythm with them. In…two…three…out…two…three…

"It’s all in the breathing, Margot." The voice of Nikitrina Alvarez coached her with the hollow echo of memory. "Pain is just a barrier not a box. Float over it. Breath. In…out…in…out. That’s it. Thatta girl." Nikitrina--Nikita, her high school track coach, and twice in three years her Lamaze coach, was her taskmaster, conscience, friend and Godmother to both Nicky and Tina.

"Margot you have no idea what you’re doing. I’m telling you you’re Olympic material. With the right training you could be ready for 2004. Five years. Give me, give yourself these five years, and I swear you’ll make history. If you get married now what will you have in five years but three babies and a divorce."

"But you don’t understand. I’m not quitting school or the team. I’m marrying Todd so I can stay at this school--and on your team. I’m tired of being jerked around the country by Dad’s company. I’m tired of being jerked around by Dad. He’s already talking about forbidding me to run. Indecent behavior for a lady he says."

"The cost is too high Margot. Have you discussed birth control with Todd? I understand he’s from a devout Catholic family. Are you sure he’ll let you continue running beyond high school? It’s not an either or situation. There are alternatives. We could arrange a local foster home for you. You would be welcome to live with me."

"Dad would never go for that." she had laughed. "You? A divorced woman as guardian for a young impressionable girl? You just don’t know my Dad. Only marriage will get him off my back. And Todd loves me. We can make it work. I just know it."

"You think you’re going to do things differently from your parents but you’re doomed….

TOD: NO WIFE OF MINE…
NIKITA: …doomed to repeat…
TOD: (SLAP) IS GOING TO (SLAP)…
NIKITA: …repeat the cycle. And without intervention…
TOD: …(PUNCH) SPEAK TO ME (PUNCH)…
NIKITA: …the cycle remains unbroken…
TOD: …(KICK) IN THAT TONE (KICK)…
NIKITA: …the violence escalates. And it carries over…
TOD: …(CHOKE) I’M THE LAW IN THIS FAMILY (CHOKE)…
NIKITA: …to the next generation. You think your love will protect you. But, Honey, before it’s over it’s love you’re gonna need protection from."

With the voices of Nikita and Todd circling their well-worn tracks in her mind, Margot slipped into an exhausted sleep where other voices joined them until they blurred into the sound of a crowd cheering. And she was running the track, her feet as light as her heart. Oh the joy of it! To feel the power in her pumping heart and pistonning legs, to take in lungful after lungful of air and let the laughter well within her, as she passed up other runners. The sense of freedom gave her heart wings. The cheers of the crowd encompassed her, held her in their buoyant grasp, seeming to negate the laws of gravity so that she soared around the track. For this crowd, for the exhilaration its cheering imparted to her, she ran. She ran for them. Won for them. She kicked into the homestretch, pulling on her reserves, giving her all to the roar of the crowd. But something was wrong here. Where was the finish line? She must have misjudged. There was still a lap left to run.. There was Todd on the sidelines rooting for her, holding his lead shot above his head in a victory signal. There was coach Nikita holding high the Olympic torch. She ran on with no diminution of power. But when she came around again, still there was no finish line. And Todd threw his shot at her which became the newborn Nicky as she caught it. Still she ran but slower now as Nicky grew in her arms, a time-lapse film with substance and weight. The roar of the crowd coalesced into a single voice. Todd’s. And she turned to see him running behind her waving his hammer menacingly above his head. She screamed.

She sat up on the couch, trembling, her breath harsh in her throat. The sound of her own scream echoed in her head. She got up to check on the babies in an effort to reassure herself of reality. But in the doorway to their room she choked back another scream. The crib was empty.. She ran to the cradle where she found Tina under a pile of Nicky’s blankets and stuffed toys. She was OK.

"Nicky!" Margot called as she rushed around the room looking under, in and behind everything. In the closet she found a litter of kittens but no Nicky. She turned to see a mother cat jumping from the sill of the opened window, to a chair and then to the floor, another kitten in her mouth. The chair! Nicky had climbed out the window. She grabbed Tina and ran.

Outside she ran frantically around the entire block of cottages. No sign of Nicky. She called up to Mr. Jamisen who was perched like a vulture on the roof. "My Nicky climbed out the window. Did you see which way he went?"

"Ain’t no place of mine to mind your kid." he said without missing a beat with the hammer.

Across the highway at the track a commotion caught her attention. Baseball and track teams were mingling in a crowd around some attraction. Wild with hope she ran toward them. And as she approached they parted to allow her into the center where an unclothed Nicky stood, sporting the bruises from his morning ordeal and fresh scratches on his chest. Beside him stood coach Nikita holding the limp form of a kitten.

"They found him in the field over there. He beat this kitten senseless for scratching him." she paused as she cast a glance over Margot and Tina, taking in her bruised face and assuring herself that the baby was fine. "It could just as well have been Tina. Next time it might be." The two women’s eyes met in a long, silent exchange. The determination in Nikitrina’s eyes filled Margot with both trepidation and confidence. Here was a formidable opponent but also a strong ally.

"The cycle must be broken now Margot. It won’t stop by itself. If you don’t put a stop to it, I will. By naming me Godmother you gave me that right. You made me as responsible for their welfare as you are."

Margot looked back at the Lambing Sheds through a blur of tears and heat-shimmer, and they seemed to be fading in and out as if about to disappear altogether. "Yes coach." she sighed. "I’m tired. So tired. Tired to death of running in circles."

5 tell me a story:

IanT 1/18/2008 1:39 AM  

Again, wow.

I really liked the Tod/Nikita voices in the middle in the middle.

IanT 1/18/2008 1:39 AM  

Uh... too many middles, for some reason. You know what I mean!

cherylp 1/18/2008 11:13 AM  

I certainly agree with your sentiment. Violence begets violence. It's a spiraling cycle. The more violence you do, the more you're capable of doing. Sometimes it takes a miraculous intervention to prevent that downward spiral. Great job!

Ray M. Solberg 1/18/2008 1:49 PM  

Collectively and individually both parts combine into very strong work. Your imagery is excellent - I'm able to read visualize the scenes, hear the voices and feel the tension throughout. I also like your juxtaposition of abuse with Nikki's information of how the abuse cycle works, the progression of violence to her and her children.

Really enjoyed reading this.

Joely Sue Burkhart 1/18/2008 1:53 PM  

Very, very powerful story, Joy! Thank you for sharing it -- and for talking me into a Friday Snippet, too. *g*

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