It all started a few days before Christmas with an Agatha Christie mystery, but I remember nothing until the middle of the next semester in high school.
I don’t remember much of that night. I don’t remember being unconscious for several hours — my mother called it a coma. Whatever. I don’t remember my science teacher coming to help my mother. I don’t remember waking up. I don’t remember many days, maybe weeks of my life. I don’t remember Momma feeding me runny Malt-O-Meal — still can’t stand it.
I don’t remember a lot of what happened that night but I do remember his hairy hands, jerking the book from my hands, then ripping the paperback book in half — The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. My horror wasn’t about me or the brutal attack but that my father destroyed a book belonging to the school library.
I should have known better than to read at home.
I thought I could get away with reading while watching after my siblings while my parents went to a Christmas party in the town nearby. They weren’t due home until after ten.
Still. I shouldn’t have been reading a book — unless it was the Bible.
They came home early.
My father, a Nazarene minister in Oklahoma, tossed the destroyed book aside, bellowed about my wickedness, then grabbed the front of my dress and started twisting the cloth. I don’t know how it didn’t tear, but it didn’t — at least not soon enough.
He twisted and twisted and twisted. I struggled to breathe. My head felt like a balloon ready to pop. Then nothing. Nothing for months other than the watery nutrition my mother gave me.
Finally, I was able to eat small bites of soft food like mashed potatoes. It hurt to swallow but I could swallow. Through it all, my greatest horror was that I’d been silly enough to put that paperback book in harm’s way. And, of course, I wanted to finish the story. What happened to Roger Ackroyd?
But it was years before I remembered again I wanted to finish the story.
Life went on, I finished high school, moved from my parent's home, married, and had children. Then one day, while walking through an antique store, I saw a stack of books. There in the pile was The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. It was ratty and smelled of mildew, but it was a first edition hardback book that held the answer to the ending of that story.
I paid ten cents for the book. I still love that book and love reading murder mysteries. Many years later it burned in a house fire and it was okay and seemed a proper ending. Nearly twenty years after the house fire, my mother finally told me and my sister, the whole story of my father strangling me. The true story was even worse than the story I remembered.
I lived and the old creep is finally dead and buried and I got to finish the book and now I write books — stories of my own creation — my father be damned.