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200 feet from my window the car-world comes to a furtive stop. Suggests something sinister, lurches forward and moves on. It is hypnotizing to watch traffic from Forget. We miss you. All of you who are gone and going. All of you who are not coming home. Our sisters. The people who think we do not remember them. Those of you we have hurt. We miss you all. In spirit and in body—KJB.


from Under Momma's Wings
by Edna Roberts

As I lay on my back gazing at the fluffy animal shapes in an otherwise perfect, blue sky, a weaving line of seagulls cross my vision on their endless quest for soft shelled clams and darting silver minnows. They dive and rise between the cresting waves and soar high above the rocky cliffs to claim their prize. Listening to the roar of the surf, I imagine a great storm has wiped out our sailing ship and left us marooned on this deserted beach. I look out to sea, see the rolling breakers approach with god-like fury and dissipate in little rivulets against the burning sand. A lazy bee drones by paying me no attention. Even the sand fleas are content to lie quiet beneath the sandy surface white now with salt from receding tides.

My father was drowned you know. As was my only brother. Terribly sad. Poor Mother. She gazes steadily out to sea. Sad at the loss of her son, yet at peace with God and nature. "Too much like his father he was, always knew he'd come to a bad end. They lie together now at the bottom of the sea".

She wipes a salty tear from her sun darkened cheek and smiles wistfully as the last bits of debris sink below the surface. Turning, she thanks God for the safe delivery of her daughters onto this friendly shore.

The wind blows off the land to bring the sweet scent of blueberries fat and moist in the dunes beyond. Summoning her children to follow, she heads across the sand, sun-baked crust crunching beneath her feet. She picks a lush dewy blueberry and slowly sucks its sweet juices as they dance across her tongue and caress her salty throat.

Holding hands we skip along - our toes barely touching the tops of swaying sand-hill grass. Our tanned bodies shining with sweat and white with salt. Our fingers blue from picking berries. Our tummies filled to bursting. We are four happy campers, my mother, my sisters, and me. All our wishes have come true in one foaming, swirling blast of nature. God bless Mother and God bless Mother Nature. She has delivered us from our enemies and filled our hearts with love.
A new flock of sea-gulls disturb my reverie, but not for long. I dream on - enjoying the wonderful peace of make believe. We camp beneath the stars fearing not the pending darkness. The night is warm, the branches soft upon our skin. The night sounds give way to quiet as the setting sun casts friendly shadows and staring owls stand watch. "Good night, sweet dreams my little ones" coos mother in her husky whisper as dwindling streaks of fiery sunset fall behind the misty horizon wall. And I fall asleep.

In dreams I race, sweat blinding me, heart pounding, leg muscles knotted in agonizing pain. Behind me they draw closer. The ones who drowned today. Father, his swollen dead fingers whirl the sling blade almost reaching, almost reaching, so close I feel its cold wind upon my neck. Joe, his sniveling bloated offspring takes up the cry. "Get them, Father. Send them to the cold bottom of the sea to take our places. Kill them now before they wake. Kill them now."

Screaming silently, I strive to wake before they kill me. Before they kill my precious mother. Somehow, I have to warn her. My legs won't move; my voice will not scream. The sticky stuff through which I run is unrelenting, bogging me down. I feel the blade upon my back and wake screaming into the night, my cries exploding through the still night air.

Above me I see them. This is not a dream. They are real. Back from the dead. The soul-sucking vampires feed upon me, upon my siblings, upon my sleeping mother. Again I try to scream choking on spit and fear. My dream mother lies her hand upon my thrashing shoulder and gently wakens me.

"Fear not child. They are gone. Sleep in peace."

Upon the beach, I awaken with terrible dread. Father is walking toward me. The razor strap wrapped around his big, brown hand. His face red with anger. The sun has set and still his inattentive children have not returned. Anger building with every step he reaches me; he grabs my hair and pulls me to my trembling feet. I don't beg for mercy. There is no purpose. The beating is as sure as the night is long. Only God can save me and he doesn't appear to be around much these days. The strap cuts into the flesh of my skinny legs; blood mixes with salt and sand as he lifts the strap to strike again, screaming obscenities and calling me "Child from Hell". I try not to cry, but I'm just a little kid. He's big and strong and cruel. I bite back the tears and wait for the next blow, and the next. One day, there will be a final beating; but not today. He turns his attention to where my sisters had been playing in the surf. There was no one there. They had fled in terror. No matter. He'd get them sooner or later and their punishment would be even more severe. He'd teach them to be cowards.

Frantic, driven by a terror beyond my years, I search through the painful corridors of my mind. Reality escapes me. Is this real? Am I awake, or is it just a horrible nightmare? I don't know. Awake, he stands above me strap in hand, Asleep still he stands. In and out of reality I drift, lost between two terrifying worlds. Where are you Momma? Oh, Momma, please help me. I promise I'll never be bad again.

I used to think my father had gone through life and died without contributing anything to his family. I have re-evaluated this thought, however, and now realize that he left his children with a special gift. We each got rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, hammer toes, and a predisposition to alcoholism. We have below normal self-esteem and an eternal fear that his character will somehow show up again in our children. It has already made itself well known in the abusive way in which my brother treats the ones who love him.

My brother's nasty streak started early. He was only a bit of a kid when he would go about the house smashing doors and walls. He abused everyone in our house often leaving us to face our school mates with bloodied mouths and black eyes. He'd strike his little dog, threaten to hit Momma and act exactly like his father. He was another gift we girls got from Father. A miserable little prick of a brother - chip of the old block you might say. We should have put him in the barrel with the old black cow and pickled him.

He hasn't changed much. He's old now and crippled with arthritis and short of breath from lung damage. He can't get around as fast or scream his abuse as loudly, but he still manages to verbally slap someone's face every day or two.

When I see all these heart wrenching reunions with long lost brothers on television, I have no idea what those people must be feeling. If they wanted a brother, I would gladly have given them mine and thrown in a father at no extra charge.

Edna Roberts is a friend of a friend.

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