Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 7

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 7 – told from a child’s point of view

Marcus makes up lies about everything. At first Mom doesn’t believe him, but he has a way of manipulating and convincing her that the sky is green, even though it’s blue. If she doesn’t believe him, they fight all night. It is a never-ending battle with him.

“See? See? That kid is making us fight again!” he tells her.

When I was eight years old, Marcus accused me of calling him a son of a bitch, which was a lie. He claimed he’d heard me say it when he was in his garbage truck one day when I was on my way to school with Rebekah. Passing him on our bikes and waving, we yelled, “Hi Marcus!”

But he ignored us. Instead, when I got home from school he claimed that one of the guys on the truck heard me call him a son of a bitch. No matter how much I swore that I never said that, and his story changed from one of the guys hearing it to hearing it himself, I was still in trouble. It didn’t matter what the truth was.

The truth was this: I hadn’t called him a son of a bitch at all; I actually called him an asshole, and it was under my breath so that no one could hear me. But I wasn’t about to tell him that.

* * * * *

I walk in from school and go to my room. I notice something on my bed – on my pillow. A gift? I am excited until I realize what it is.

“What is that on my pillow!?” I storm out of my room, down the steps.

I look at Mom.

“What’s on your pillow?” She is clueless.

“There’s a maxi pad on my pillow!” I yell.

Mom thinks it’s a joke, looks at Marcus.

“Did you put a pad on her pillow, Marcus?” Mom asks, puzzled.

“You left it on the bathroom floor. I stepped on it and blood came gushing out,” he lies. “I almost got sick.”

“You’re a liar!” I scream. “A big, disgusting liar! I hate you!”

I storm back to my room. He is the biggest liar I’ve ever known. There is no blood on it at all, but it doesn’t matter what the truth is even if the evidence is in plain view. I don’t think Mom believes him, either, because she knows I am not on my period. But instead of speaking up to him, she tells me not to worry about it.

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Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 6

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 6 – told from a child’s point of view

Other family gatherings involve being with Marcus’s weird family. His father (whom Mom secretly calls Hitler because he is a tyrant and has a dark mustache) refers to all children as “rotten little kids”. I am no exception, but the name-calling doesn’t end there. Marcus’s obedient mother, Rose, is nice most of the time and tries to keep the kids as far from her husband as possible – and he sees to it she does just that.

Just because it’s a holiday doesn’t exempt them from being freaks. Marcus still refers to me as “The Monster,” particularly in front of his own family members, as if to impress them. They laugh and joke about calling me names; even when the babies were born everyone laughed and said they looked like aliens. I guess they think it’s okay and normal to make fun of people, especially small children. Sometimes Mom secretly looks at me and rolls her eyes, because she knows they are stupid and immature. Mom never really says anything, though. I think she’s afraid, so she pretends to laugh along with them. Rose does the same. I hate being around them.

Hitler has never been nice – never one kind word or gesture – nor does he ever speak to me except to bark out a command or an insult. Because he wears dark eyeglasses that hide his eyes, no one knows what he is looking at. Hitler served time in a Florida prison for embezzling money when he worked for the city. On top of that, he is weird and creepy and always stinks because he doesn’t wear deodorant. He isn’t very nice to the babies, either. When we moved out of their trailer and into the new ugly house, Mom discovered a peephole in the bedroom wall. Hitler had been secretly watching her.

Marcus’s younger brother, Melvin, is the only one in their family who is remotely nice to me. He flirts with me, and everyone else seems to think it’s cute and funny – even though I am only in sixth grade. I think it’s weird. Melvin is married to a teenaged girl from his high school. They’re going to have a baby together. Melvin also went to jail for tying up and having sex with a girl the same age as me.

Marcus’s older brother, Arthur, is just as weird as the rest of them. Most of the time he keeps quiet, but when he speaks he says stupid things. And he smells like a troll. Every time Arthur holds the babies under his arms, Mom has to wash their heads because their uncle does not wear deodorant. No wonder he never has a girlfriend.

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Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 5

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 5 – told from a child’s point of view

Bianca has a way of making everyone believe her. She says she always cuts Daddy’s hair and her own, so I agree to let her cut mine after church. I look in the mirror a few times while she works on it, but I don’t like what I see. I think maybe she can fix it and allow her to keep cutting. But when I look in the mirror for the last time, I see that my beautiful, healthy, long dark hair has gone from being about eight inches below my shoulders to a shaggy, cropped mullet. I start crying, put on a painter’s hat, and run out the front door. At first I don’t know where I am going. Since it is only about two miles up the road, I decide to walk to Grandmaw’s.

The first person I see is Aunt Jackie.

“Oh hi, Susanna,” Aunt Jackie says. “I didn’t know that was you. I thought it was a boy walking down the road.”

I cry harder. I know Aunt Jackie doesn’t mean to hurt my feelings, but what she said is true. I do look like a boy. She hugs me, goes inside and tells Grandmaw about it.

“Why did she do that to your pretty hair, honey?” Grandmaw seems sad.

“She said she could cut it like I wanted it,” I tell her.

Uncle Charlie is shaking his head.

“That old bar whore can’t cut hair! She ain’t never went to school for that,” he speaks very loudly.

Grandmaw calls Daddy to come get me. Bianca gives him my things and makes Daddy drive me home alone.

“Your hair doesn’t look that bad,” he tells me.

I keep quiet the whole ride home. Mom is standing outside when we pull up to the house. I say goodbye to Daddy and he leaves.

“What did you do to your hair?” she looks horrified.

“Bianca cut it.”

“I don’t like it,” she frowns. “She should have left your hair alone. Why did you let her do it?”

“I don’t know,” I cry. “She told me she could cut hair. I thought she knew what she was doing.”

“She cuts your father’s hair and look at his!” She is mad. “She doesn’t know what she’s doing! That bitch!”

Mom stomps off to call Bianca and give her a piece of her mind, which usually means saying a few four letter words and mentioning Jesus Christ or God’s hamlet, even though I don’t think they have anything to do with it.

I want to go to school tomorrow, except that I don’t want anyone to see my hair. I pick at my arms, pondering what to do about it and decide that putting it up in pigtails will be the easiest way to hide the awful cut.

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Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 4

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – told from a child’s point of view

I liked visiting Nana, but I didn’t like Grampa because he was grouchy and said weird things and repeated himself. Every time I saw him, his funny white fuzzy hair on top of his head looked like he just woke up. He wore plaid shorts and either a white t-shirt or a button up collared shirt if he were going somewhere, and he always had a glass of beer in his hand. I don’t think he liked kids much, either, because he yelled at me a lot.

“He’s a drunken jerk,” Gramma said.

He wasn’t her real father. She never knew her real father.

On our way back from Nana’s, Gramma took me to visit my Great Aunt Gabby. She owned a neurotic poodle that always jumped up and scratched my legs, barked incessantly, and peed on the floor. She was a very intelligent woman that enjoyed crossword puzzles and playing her piano, but she was always nervous and she seemed to shake a lot. Gramma said Aunt Gabby never left the house after dark because she was afraid of getting raped.

Aunt Gabby seemed very tall compared to Gramma, and she always wore white flat old lady shoes and flowery dresses that looked like nightgowns. I thought she might be pregnant because her belly stuck out even though she was skinny everywhere else.

“Is Aunt Gabby going to have a baby?” I asked Gramma.

Gramma laughed, “Noooo….”

“Why does her belly stick out like that?”

“That’s what happens when you get old.”

I overheard that one time Aunt Gabby had a baby and lost it, and I figured maybe that was why her belly still stuck out. It was lost somewhere in her belly.

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Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 3

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – as told from a child’s point of view:

Grandmaw got Daddy to go to a big church called Calvary where Aunt Marylou went, and he became born again. That meant that he loved Jesus, who was the only person to show him how Daddy was getting to Heaven. They told me I should be born again too, but I decided that I would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The spirit part scared me, because I thought that God’s son was a ghost. One night I was baptized in a big bathtub at the big Calvary church in front of a big audience. That’s when they handed me a microphone and I told them I love Jesus, even though I wasn’t sure I trusted Him, because I was afraid that I wouldn’t go to Heaven with the rest of my family if I didn’t do exactly as He said in the Bible. I think that water must have been dirty because I got sick a few days later. Maybe it was because my sins were still washing away.

I wasn’t sure I liked the Calvary church because it was boring and they made us read like they did in school instead of color and do crafts like some of the other churches we went to. Besides, they made me feel stupid when I didn’t know what some of the Bible meant.

I stopped liking the Sunday school after they asked us what we knew about Abraham. I raised my hand. I knew all about Abraham from school.

“Abraham was the sixteenth president of the United States!” I proudly announced.

“No,” the teacher scrunched up his face. “We’re talking about Abraham from the Bible.”

I guess he thought I was a dumb kid because he never called on me again. I liked the story about the president Abraham better anyway because he freed the slaves.

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Excerpt from Unheard: A Memoir – Chapter 2

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – as told from a childhood point of view…

I had a lot of friends near my house. Jessica and Sammy lived with their mom a few streets away in an apartment just like ours, but theirs was dirty and had fleas. Mommy said they were nice girls but dirty kids. They said that their mom left their dad a long time ago, because he beat her up. Sammy was Jessica’s older sister; she talked a lot and told us jokes with a lot of bad words in them. Their mom had a big book in her bedroom closet all about sex with pictures of naked people that Jessica showed me when we were alone. They didn’t have much food at their house, so I hated spending the night because there wasn’t anything to eat. When their water got turned off, we scraped ice off of the top of the freezer to drink. If she wasn’t at work, Jessica and Sammy said their mom was out drinking. One day they had to move because they couldn’t pay rent.

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Chapter 1 – Excerpt from Unheard: A Memoir

Excerpt from UNHEARD: A Memoir

As soon as I hear the weight of his body touch the first step, I silently but quickly scamper back to my bed, crawl under the covers, and pretend to be asleep. My heart pounding in my chest like a jackhammer, I pray he doesn’t hear me or open my door. I hear his foot reach the third step from the top, the one that annoyingly creaks when anyone touches it, and my body tenses even more. It is difficult to breathe noiselessly, but by now I am used to trying my best to be unheard.

The split second it takes him to reach the top of the stairs and make his way to the bathroom seems like an eternity. I hear the bathroom door shut and feel a sigh of relief; I can breathe again, at least for a short time. I lay watching the second-hand of my electric clock rotate its face. I listen to the clink of the toilet seat hit the cover, the waterfall of beer-urine hitting the toilet water, and the old pipes sucking it all up when the toilet flushes.

Then I hear the elephant. The elephant, as I call it, is the loud air in the old pipes when the sink or shower water runs to the second floor. The elephant stops, and I tense again, knowing he will be coming back out and wondering if he will go back downstairs. Or will he do what he often does and stand in front of my door listening for me to make a wrong move?

The bathroom door opens so quickly it startles me, and I almost gasp for air loud enough to be heard. I watch for his feet near my door, listening intently to determine where he is going. I don’t think he knows I can feel his negative presence on the other side of my door – nor does he realize that I can see the reflection of his feet on the wooden floor. Although they are mostly unexpected, I am aware of his games, and I am not about to let him beat me. I have to be sure that in order to survive his mind games, I need to be two steps ahead of him.

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