CHAPTER THREE: A CONTEST OF WILL
As soon as Peter reaches the bottom of the back door steps he knows theres a fight going on. He can hear furniture being banged about, screaming and dishes or something breaking. At first he thinks his father Arnold must be back. He listens. Its Mom and Alex. He creeps up the stairs and through the back door window he sees Alex trying to keep the kitchen table between himself and Mom, whos trying to bat him with the old chair rung, her spanking stick. The kitchens in shambles with food, magazines and dishes strewn over the floor.
You aint gonna get me. Alex shouts and he feints Mom over to one side and makes a dash for the hall door, but he slips on a magazine. Mom grabs an ankle, bringing him down but a quick kick to the side of her head frees him and Alex retreats back behind the table.
Wait till I get you, you little sneak. Youre going, to get it like you never got before. Mom pushes the table slowly in front of her, maneuvering Alex into the corner by the fridge where hes trapped. How do you like that, you little thief?, she says as she starts swatting him with the rung again. Alex grabs the broom to protect himself, and they momentarily rest catching their breath.
Peters astounded, hes never seen Alex put up such a fight before. Usually he struggles and kicks a bit at first but then takes his spankings quietly. And Peter, if hes home, usually stays out of sight around the corner eagerly listening and counting the number of times Alex is smacked. He would get excited and smile to himself and maybe whistle a happy tune for Alex to hear. The most smacks Peter has ever counted is nine, that was the last time about three months ago. And hes always disappointed when they stop. Today he figures hell watch through the window.
Suddenly Alex has the other end of the rung, its a tug of war and when he lets go of it Mom falls over backwards. Alex seizes the chance scooting under the table, but Mom gets him around the neck and then they both slip in a puddle of milk with Mom landing on top of him. Cuntass. Alex screams as she flails away at his legs, but his squirming and kicking make her job difficult. Peters enjoying the show from his position of safety. Mom tries to turn Alex over while retaining her headlock, but a hard elbow to her ribs makes let go. Alex almost gets away again but she manages to grab him from behind and pull him down to the floor into a scissors grip around his hips. Wrestling is one of Moms favourites on TV, and Klondike Karl, whose specially is the flying scissors, is her favourite star. Somehow during the scuffle Mom loses the rung so she holds him across the chest with one band and tries pinching him with the other until Alex gets hold of some hair and yanks.
You beast! she screams and starts awkwardly punching, but Alex gets hold of her hand and bites hard on her wrist. So thats how you want to play. Well She digs her teeth into his neck.
Bitch! Alex grabs her hair with both hands this time and yanks, yanks, yanks as hard as he can and gets in some good elbow blows too. He partly frees himself as they roll over on the floor, smudges of blood appearing on their clothes, but she still has him in a scissors grip. Then during a lull Mom notices Peter watching through the door, and they both stop fighting and lie there panting heavily. Peter enters hesitantly.
After a moment Mom, somewhat embarrassed but making sure to retain her hold, says to Peter, You should see what the little monster did. I sent him to the store with two dollars for cigarettes and he tells me he doesnt have any change.
But you didnt tell me not to spend it and it was only forty cents. Alex protests.
But not just that, Moms voice begins to rise, hes been stealing the change I keep for the bus, over a dollar was missing from the jar. Peter still has three of the five quarters hed borrowed that morning in his pocket. And he lies, lies, lies.
But I didnt take your bus money. Alex insists.
Liar, thief. Mom shouts. I spoke to Mr. Cheung at the store and he says you were playing video games there.
But that was other money I had.
Thats what you say. And she starts batting him on the head with her free hand.
Bitch, cuntass, whore. Alex tries to ward off her blows. Dad says youre a real whore. Mom stops momentarily. And the way he talks theres something funny about Petey too. She resumes her labours and tries squeezing violently but mainly tires herself. Finally she gets Alex restrained so he cant do anything, but then neither can she. Fucking cuntass, let me go.
After a minute of inconclusive struggle Mom orders, Peter! Hold him. Grab his legs. I wont let him get away with this. Peter tries rather feebly, hes afraid of being kicked and he doesnt like touching people anyway, so when Alexs resistance makes him hold on tight it becomes too much and he has to loosen off. Forget it Peter, Mom breaks in, get the strapping tape, its in the second drawer down on the left where I keep the hammer and screwdriver. Peter dutifully fetches it and tries to give her the roll. No silly, start it, pull the end loose. Peter finds the end and pulls out an inch. No more lots more more still Now wrap it around his wrist. She manages to hold one arm still where Peter can reach it. No more than that Now the other and pull them together tight Thats it. And Peter follows instructions while Alex between curses, makes faces and sticks his tongue out at him. Peters glad its over, or so he thinks. Now his feet, Peter. She orders loosening up on her scissor grip. Alex kicks out, dangerously Peter feels, and he retreats. Peter, youre hopeless. Here, you just hold his head and chest, careful he doesnt butt you Thats right You take over, Ive got his legs now And just see he doesnt move around too much. Peter has to hold tight again. Feeling Alexs warm, sweaty, struggling body against his own would have been too much for Peter except
Youre Mummys little helper, arent you Petey boy? Alex sarcastically hisses in his ear. And for once Peters anger finds an outlet in power, and he holds on tight, even thinking of ways he could pinch or hurt Alex. And I bet you took the bus money, didnt you Petey? Peter retains his grip but is trying to think. Science class was interesting today. Its real neat the way amoebae multiply by dividing And dividing fractions is interesting because you divide them by turning them around and multiplying them And the Russians have launched a new manned space satellite and And Peter notices that Alex is getting real hair on his forearms too while he has none at all.
Peter. Peter are you listening? I said get down there and sit on his legs. Mom has finished taping his feet and ankles together. She rolls Alex over and half sits on his shoulders. Peter nervously squats down on his ankles. Hit your mother will you? and kick and bite? And look at the mess you made and my Wedgewood plate! Im going to teach you a lesson, you lying little thief, that you wont forget.
I didnt do it. It wasnt me, Alex pleads. Mom picks up the rung. Fucker, cuntass fucking whore.
You watch your tongue young man. She prepares to strike.
Fucking Whore, thats what you are. Alex makes it rhyme.
Mom trembles to strike but hesitates, and then with a look of spiteful determination says, Were going to do this properly - the way it should be done. Peter. Pull down his jeans.
Do I have to?
Peter. I am in no mood for impertinence from you or anyone else.
Peter Do as I say. Hes not too old to have his pants pulled down.
Peter tugs half heartedly at Alexs jeans. I cant Mom.
Well undo them Silly.
Peter reaches under and starts fumbling, Alexs wriggling doesnt make it any easier. Peteys a fairy, a faggy little fairy. Alex begins to chant. Mom slaps his head to stop him and Peter finally has some success.
No. Right down to his knees.
Peter resumes his efforts. Having fun Sissypants? Alex comments and Mom slaps him again. At last theyre down and Peter notices that Alex has fine golden hairs almost up to his buttocks. He leans back on his brothers bound ankles and can feel him squirming beneath.
Mom glares down at the helplessly exposed Alex. If you ever behave like this again Ill REALLY give you a beating This is for your own good. she adds solemnly, and slowly but forcefully begins thrashing his buttocks with the rung as Alex swears, curses and struggles futilely. Peter feels some relief at last. And then with each blow Peter feels tingly and presses himself down harder to feel it better. Like riding a horse maybe? He watches in fascination and sees, inches before his eyes, welts redden and rise, from the soft white skin. But it goes on and on, Peter never thinks to count. Specks of blood appear and splatter and Peter sees the Wall with the pink paint and the ruddy brown taking over. Alexs curses and struggles cease but Mom keeps on beating him grimly, almost mechanically. Purplish blotches expand where the welts overlap again and again.
Cant we stop Mom? Peter pleads. His excitement has turned to fear, and a growing terror. Please Mom. He removes some of his weight from the limp body.
Not until Im finished Peter. She gives him four more blows on the thighs which she has neglected. There, looking at Peter, that should do it.
Peter blankly gazes at the bloody mess in front of him with a mixture of not only fear, shame and some pangs of guilt, but also envy for Alexs fortitude and perhaps some pity. He can hear Alex whimpering quietly, he leans over trying to find the ends of the tape and says, Sorry.
Fuck off. Its partly a plea.
I was only trying to help. Peter apologizes.
Mom returns with the scissors and cuts him loose. Now go to your room Alex.
Peter dejectedly sneaks out the back door. He feels the remaining coins in his pocket and takes them out. He looks at them briefly and decides to throw them away, but the first one lands in a pile of old lumber where it would be difficult to find later so he changes his mind. Peter hides himself in the old garage by the lane, sits down and cries. And he cries and he cries. Why did Mom beat him so much? And he knows it was mainly because of the bus money and he cries some more. Faggy fairy. Im no fairy. But then he remembers the funny smooth skinned man that hed seen at the Theatre Coffee Shop whom somebody had said was a homofrodite. He checks his forearms and legs for any real hair and then buries his head in his hands and cries some more.
Perhaps an hour later Alex walks into the garage. What are you doing here? he demands. The bruises on his head and neck are darker now, but otherwise he seems his usual if surly self.
Nothing. Peter mumbles.
Well GET OUT. Tom and me are gonna fix it up for a bike workshop. And we dont want no sissies around or thieves either. Peter leaves quietly and looks for another place to sit and cry.
Eventually Peter wanders up to the highway and disposes of the remaining two quarters in the Asteroid machine at the 7-Eleven. He gets his lowest scores ever. Its as if the machine is rejecting him too and he leaves before any kids might see him and the tears begin to flow again. And then he sees Balbir walking towards him and he has to turn around and take the long route home. He manages to control his sobs by the time he gets there. Barely nodding at Mom and Alex who are watching TV and sharing a big bag of taco chips he shuts himself in his room.
After an initial outburst he doesnt cry very long. Soothed by the warmth of his bed and the affection of his pillow, his mind is mercifully liberated by fantasy. If you had asked Peter what it was all about he would have said: Its about this new starship I designed, and its bigger than the Enterprise and it has all these new weapons and is capable of annihilating whole planets and we could use it to repel alien invaders and destroy their evil galactic empires. The present episode contains certain small but interesting details. And I could invent a melt down ray gun. Instead of getting blasted theyd just turn to jelly, and shrink and get distorted and end up as a puddle like in that movie on TV, only there it was some organism from outer space that did it. And, if you could stop it half way and they turned solid, you could keep them as little sculptures. Theyd look like modern art, especially the aliens. And I could do it to those kids at school, maybe not Balbir, and the store boys. And I bet old man Hicks would look good done half way. Peter toys briefly with an earlier invention of his - miniaturizing ray gun. Deep in his heart or some pedantic recess of his mind he feels the idea is not very scientific but he still likes it, because for people, think of all the things you could do to them and the fun you could have.
His current favourite however, which has starred in several recent episodes, is his shield piercing, anti-metal matter beam, at least that is what it had been up to the time they had to defeat the sinister Silicon Civilization of the sun planet Evilon, where it had to be reprogrammed to dematerialize all matter except living, carbon based organisms. It would leave the crews of the enemy spaceships floating naked in space to freeze to death. His mind gets caught up in a vision of space populated with orbiting, naked, frozen corpses. And theres sure to be enemy spacewomen too. And if you could thaw them out and reprogram them But he sees too many possibilities to concentrate on any one.
When Mom comes in later he tries to explain his designs to her, leaving out the naked business.
Why I think you are very imaginative Peter. Maybe someday youll be an astronaut. Theyre planning to send up a Canadian you know.
Yeah I know. Sometimes Peter wishes hed been born an American or even a Russian, because then youd have a better chance. But then he remembers all the training and that, You dont get a chance to zap anybody, and he becomes resigned to his nationality.
And when it happens well probably all get to watch it on TV. Mom continues after a pause.
Thatll be interesting, a Canadian and all that. Peter feels twinges of patriotism for the first time in months.
I hear theyre already looking for candidates but they have to be over thirty. she adds teasing.
I dont really want to be an astronaut. He tries to sound confiding - there are times he really likes his mom. I dont want to be anything right now. Peter almost says, I just want to be. but it doesnt seem to make any sense to him.
You dont have to worry about things like that yet anyway. Im sure youll find something, probably a profession. Youre so clever at so many things. Youre the only one with any brains, and you dont cause the trouble the others do Sometimes I just dont know how I can keep going on, Peter. Shes becoming emotional and sits down on the bed beside Peter, who dutifully responds with a look of concern. Mom takes his hand, forcing a smile on her face. Im so glad I came in to talk to you Peter. You dont know what a trying day Ive had with all thats happened. she sobs.
You mean Alex? Peter doesnt want to bring up the subject.
I just dont know what to do. I try, and I try. I try to be a good mother to all of them. But its hard trying to do everything. It didnt matter with Arnold at first, I didnt know where all the money was coming from then. It was all fancy restaurants and home deliveries, and even maid service a lot of the time. I never even had any pots and pans until after Arnolds first bust. Nobody appreciates it when I try to cook, although I must say Peter you like some of the things I make. And to try to be like a father to Alex - Ive given up on Tom - to be firm and to have to discipline him. I dont know, I just dont know, I certainly dont enjoy having to do that.
But Mom, why do you have to beat him so hard?
Do you think I wanted to? I had to force myself to do it, I always do. And today it had to be enough, it was like my last chance, I can hardly manage him anymore. Oh Peter, do you think I wanted to hurt him? You think I want him turning out like Tom? or Arnold?
But it made me feel bad. Peter sobs. The tears are mostly of shame and self pity but Mom sees genuine concern.
I know you feel sorry for Alex, he is your brother but hes so stubborn and willful If only hed just cry or scream. Like it isnt done right if hes still fighting you and you can tell he isnt sorry. I sometimes think you could thrash him all day and it wouldnt make much difference. Hes not sensitive like you are Peter. And hes been a very well behaved boy, we had quite a pleasant evening.
But all he did was spend the change.
THAT, is stealing, and youre forgetting about my bus money.
But it was still only stealing. Peter wants to minimize his own offense.
Isnt that enough? And from his mother? And he lies, lies, lies . And you saw what he tried to do to me, kicking and biting and all that foul language.
But Mom, you steal.
Peter, thats different, I have a family to support. I dont know how Welfare expects us to survive on seven hundred dollars a month And think of all the nice things Ive got for you, and the colour TV I bought. If we didnt save in other ways, we couldnt have afforded it.
I understand sort of.
Goodnight Peter. She kisses him on the forehead. You are such a sensitive child.
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