the short story project


Marie Davidson


From his comfortable position on the thick green lawn, he watched as the clouds changed shape. Rabbits with lopsided ears, puppies, sad faces, clowns, he could make out so many objects in the fluffy white clouds, in the foreground of a brilliant blue sky.
What a beautiful day he thought to himself. The noise cancelling headphones even blocked what he knew would be the cacophony arising from the main house. For now at least he had some peace – It would be his sixteenth birthday on Saturday and his parents had told him to invite some friends over for a party.
Huh! Marcus thought… As if I’d invite any friends to this crazy house… Even if I had any to invite.
Marcus was a loner… The fewer people knew what went on within these walls the better, as far as he was concerned.
His attention drifted back to the cotton wool clouds and he swore that he could see Lucy Watson’s face… For a moment… Then it was gone.

Lucy was the love of his adolescent life. Not that he would ever approach her for a date. She was well out of his league and he knew it only too well.
One of the “Cool girls,” she had a gaggle of giggly fifteen year olds, who followed her every move. What pleased Marcus the most, was that she seemed to be unaware of her popularity. Kind, gentle and friendly, Lucy was the kind of girl that every boy in school wanted hanging on his arm.
She was a strawberry blonde with just one or two freckles on the bridge of her nose. Her skin was otherwise flawless, without the ubiquitous pimple or blemish usual at that age – Medium height with a tiny waist, and a body that was in the throes of emerging womanhood.
Quite simply she was a stunner, and according to Marcus, she grew more beautiful every day.
She would never, ever be interested in him, of that he was sure.
He blinked as a dragonfly hovered over his head then made a beeline straight for the pool. Marcus had spent the morning hosing off the deck and cleaning the pool. It was sparkling in the warm summer sunshine and inviting him to take a plunge.
He knew what would happen though… The same thing that always happened when he commenced a new activity. They would remember that they had a son and that it would be great to draw him into the heart of the argument.

He wished that his grandparents lived close by. They were the only “sane” people in his entire family. Uncles, Aunts, cousins… Were all as bad as each other. How his grandparents raised this group of malcontents he could never figure out. Occasionally his parents allowed him to catch the train from Sacramento to where his grandparents lived in San Jose. This would be to spend a few weeks with them in the school holidays. It was amazing, the nearest to a “normal” lifestyle he had ever known. He was hoping to visit them later in the year, and could hardly wait… Just to get away from this place would be a bonus.
What argument would he be drawn into? Well whatever battle his crazy parents were raging at this current point in time.
The “Snowman” had called this morning and they were still stinging from the effects of the Ice they had smoked after he had left. Ice was their latest craze and it had a shocking effect on them.
Their brains were fried after about twenty years as addicts and Marcus had no idea how his father managed to even hold down a job. They seemed to drift from the battle that raged immediately after they had “used,” into a half day of screaming and shouting at each other-Eyes bulging and spittle squirting from their ever open months, every time they made a new comment.
After about four hours of this, and after Marcus had been dragged into the arena more than once or twice, their fiery brains realised that they needed something to “bring them down.”
Then they would smoke or inject heroin or take a hefty dose of valium and crawl off to some corner of the house to sleep it off. They were as regular as clockwork in their behaviour.
Marcus hated it.
He hated drugs.
He detested the effect they had on people, particularly his parents, and he had no idea why they would deliberately punish their bodies and brains as they did. Moreover, he couldn’t figure out why they would submit him to the punishment they dished out.
As if on cue, his father appeared on the deck looming over him. His mouth was opening and closing like a fish, his red rimmed eyes bulged and he had adopted a threatening stance.
Marcus reluctantly removed his noise cancelling headphones. “Wahwah… Wah… Wah. .!” was all he could make out of his screaming fathers words. Tempted to put his headphones back on, he said
“Dad, I can’t understand you, you have to slow down and speak a little quieter…”
“Don’t be so bloody cheeky,” his father replied, although he lowered his voice a few decibels.
He’d obviously had enough arguing with his mother and now it was Marcus’s turn to have his brain overloaded.
“I thought I asked you to clean the pool.”
Spittle from his foamy mouth landed on Marcus’s eyelid. He resisted the urge to wipe it off. To raise his arm in front of his father whilst he was in this state was a mistake he’d made once in the past already. His septum was still slightly deviated and he had no intention of repeating the exercise.
“I did clean the pool Dad.”
Marcus spoke in a quiet voice hoping that his father would follow suit. He was disappointed.
“Well you didn’t do a very good job.” He complained.
“Look at the leaves and insects on the surface of the water.”
Marcus stood up, he was almost as tall as his father, and his father hated that. Actually, his father seemed to hate everything about him, especially when he was high on Ice!
“0K Dad, I’ll give it another go.” Marcus started walking over to the pool scoops… But it wasn’t going to cut it today. His father wanted a fight, he wanted to wind Marcus up so that he would react and then his father could justify the hiding that he wanted to give him. Marcus couldn’t win, either he allowed his father to wind him up and he’d got on hiding. Or he would refuse to react to his fathers aggression and he’d give him a hiding anyway.
He hadn’t cleaned the pool properly.
He hadn’t Washed the deck properly… He had breathed… That was about the size of it.
Marcus got on with his chores. He was doing them properly, taking extra care and working up a sweat… Or was he sweating because he knew what was about to…

Smash!… his fathers open hand came down on the back of his head. Marcus almost collapsed, feeling lightheaded at the strength behind the blow. The next one sent him to his knees.
Then the final blow, which saw him sprawled out, far down on the deck. He saw black spots before his eyes before blacking out altogether.
Marcus woke up some time later, ten minutes… Half an hour… He didn’t know,
His father had just beaten him senseless and walked away leaving him unconscious and bleeding on the back deck.
How could he treat him like that? He was his son, his only child. Marcus had had enough.
Having no other responsible relatives locally, meant that he’d been reluctant before now to report his parents for their abuse and neglect.
This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Marcus grabbed a cloth and applied pressure to the cut on his forehead… Stumbling down the driveway, he made his way to the bus stop and plonked his weight down on the seat to wait for the bus.
He closed his eyes and began to sob. Once he started he couldn’t stop, and all of the frustrations of the entire sixteen years of his life came pouring out.

Since he was a toddler Marcus remembered all of the drugs, alcohol and violence in his life.
Enough was enough…
The bus arrived and Marcus gingerly stood up and boarded the bus. It was only half a dozen bus stops to the hospital… And this time he was definitely going to the hospital. The staff would notify the police and his father would finally be arrested and charged with the abuse he had dished out, for all of the 16 years of Marcus’s miserable life.
The bus slowly pulled into the shelter just outside the hospital entrance. Marcus alighted and stood, rooted to the spot. He knew he should just go inside and “they” would just take over. But what if they didn’t believe him? What if they thought he was just a brat rebelling against his parents?
He was very confused and still a little fuzzy from the blows to the head. He was about to walk away when suddenly everything went black, noises echoing around him. Marcus felt that he had fallen down a deep hole.
When he came around, he was on a hospital gurney… He felt pressure and a bandage around his head. He must have needed stitches…
“Nice one dad!”

As he opened his eyes and tried to sit up, a young nurse jumped up from her seat, a few feet away, gently pushing him back into the pillows. She smiled at him and introduced herself as Lena.
She had dark hair and the most beautiful deep chocolate eyes that Marcus had ever seen. Despite the injuries he had sustained and the thumping headache he was struggling with, he fell instantly in love and attempted a smile in return.

“Ow that hurt” Marcus complained; as pain radiated from his nose, jaw and left ear.
Now that he came to think of it, he couldn’t hear out of the left ear.
Lena, took his pulse and pulled the blanket up under Marcus’s chin.

“The doctor will be here soon.” she explained to Marcus.“Then he will tell you what treatment you require.”
“What happened to you Marcus?’ his head jerked up as he realized that she knew his name.
“I… Erm… I… don’t remember.” he lied, ducking his head so that she couldn’t see the tears in his eyes.
Nurse Lena had cared for abused children before. She could never understand why they protected their abusers,
“It’s okay Marcus. Sometimes the people who are supposed to take care of us don’t. The people who are supposed to show us love and kindness confuse us. Sometimes they seem to love us, and then they hurt us when we least expect it. Sometimes the hurt is physical… ” She pointed to the cut on his head.
“Some times it is verbal, they call us cruel names and say bad things to us and about us. Other times they hurt us sexually Marcus. Do you know what that means?”
He shook his head vigorously, then nodded.., then shook his head, he was scared and confused. He knew though that he hadn’t been sexually abused… Thank God!
“It’s okay Marcus,” Nurse Lena held up a hand to slow down his thoughts.
“I understand… You haven’t been sexually abused. But someone has hurt you haven’t they?
Marcus’ head hung low on his chest. He felt ashamed but wasn’t sure why. He certainlydidn’t ask his father to beat him. Nor did he ask both of his parents to shout and swear at him, tell him how stupid and useless he was…
All of a sudden something broke inside him and all of the years of neglect and abuse came flooding into his brain… He feet a silent, lonely tear leak from his left eye and trickle down his cheek.
Rubbing it away, angrily with his fist, the next wave of anguish came forth and he started to sob.
Once he started, he could not stop. His head was throbbing and his pounding heart felt that it would burst out of his chest… And still, the tears kept falling.
He cried for every-time his parents locked him in his room as a young child and left him there crying whilst they went out to score Ice.
He cried for every cigarette burn on his tender young skin. When his father used him as an ashtray, laughing as Marcus shrieked with pain. Marcus had been thrown down stairs and broke his femur, twice. Locked outside in the freezing cold all right, because… He couldn’t remember why!

He had suffered two broken fingers when his father called him a thieving bastard, that and a liar after $20 went missing. He bent Marcus’s fingers back until his ring and index finger both cracked, leaving him unable to write at school for six weeks.
Broken nose, fractured elbow, jaw and even two vertebrae after his father struck him in the back with a baseball bat.
The feeling of shame was changing to one of anger and betrayal, as he watched Nurse Lena peruse his medical records. The look in her eyes must have given her away when she noted each injury that Marcus had received treatment far.
She was almost certain that there were many more injuries that the hospital never knew about.
All of a sudden, Marcus was flung back into the past. He could smell popcorn and taste Lemonade.
It was his fourth birthday and his grandmother was throwing a party for him.
The sights, smells and sounds were so vivid, that it was as though he had travelled back in time. He had a navy blue scarf over his eyes, so that he couldn’t see the donkey he was trying to pin the twin onto.
He was laughing and trying to feel his way… When all of a sudden, his head exploded and he found himself on the floor.
“Grandma, grandma… “ He cried, didn’t even think to pull the blindfold off! “Stop!” Yelled his grandmother as she pulled Marcus to her and ripped off the blindfold.
His father had obviously found out that he was having a party and had come around to spoil the fun. Well it worked. Marcus had a ruptured eardrum as confirmed by the registrar at The Emergency Department.
All of the guests had drifted off quickly to avoid contact with Marcus’s father.
His first and last birthday party. All of this flashed through his mind in seconds and when he looked up at Nurse Lana the confusion, fear and sadness etched on his face gave her the clue.

“Marcus that was a flashback … Many people who’ve been abused have flashbacks. It’s like you are back there where the pain began. It can last seconds, minutes or can occur over and over for hours, It’s an uninvited visitor, and is almost as painful as the actual abuse, with help from a good psychiatrist, you can learn to control, the frequency and the severity of these attacks. Okay?
Marcus took a deep breath and nodded his head. He was exhausted. “Marcus we need to examine you fully to see the extent of your injuries. Would that be okay?” He nodded his assent and as he was asked, he removed his shirt so that the doctor would note the damage.
His poor young body was a myriad of scars, of all shapes and sizes, cigarette burns and bruises both old an new. This abuse had been going on all of his life. The doctor wondered why no one had reported it to date.
“We need to call the police Marcus.” Nurse Lena explained gently.
“Are you crazy, he will kill me.” Exclaimed Marcus.
“No he won’t, the police will lock him up and he won’t be able to hurt anyone ever again.”
“Yeah sure, I’ve heard that one before.”
“Please Marcus, you need to trust us, we’ve done this many times before…”
Marcus’s head snapped up, his eyes a wide with fury, his fists balled up in fists of rage… “What?.. Who to.” He was confused.
Nurse Lena realised that he thought they meant other children that had been abused by his father.
“No, not by your father. I’m trying to explain that other children have been abused before, by parents, relatives, even strangers.”
Marcus pondered… I thought that I was the only disgusting piece of garbage who deserved to be treated in this manner.
Nurse Lena recognised the expression on his face and reassured him that what had happened to him, had sadly happened to countless children before him. The police would be here any minute and they would need to take a statement.
“Is that all right with you, Marcus?”
“Yes.” Almost a whisper… A welcome relief.
At that, two officers entered the cubicle and gently began asking questions. After almost an hour they said that Marcus needed a break and said they would come next back the next day.
“Would that be okay?” The officers asked Marcus. “We have enough to arrest them and charge them.”
Marcus’s head snapped upward. “What? My Mum? She didn’t do it. It was all him”
The Officer spoke quietly. “She could have done something to make him stop. Instead she became an enabler. They both deserve to be locked up. Marcus, they aren’t fit to be taking care of themselves, let alone you.”
“But if you take them both, who will I live with? I have Aunts and Uncles but they are all “Ice heads.” I couldn’t stand anyone else taking their frustrations out on me.” Marcus was despondent. Sure they could arrest his useless parents but he could end up in a foster home far worse than his own. He’d heard the stories of physical and sexual abuse. It terrified him… He’d rather die!
“What about your grandparents Marcus? How do you get on with them?”
Marcus smiled for the first time that day. “My Grandparents are the only people who’ve ever loved me.” He felt his eyes welling up again and brushed the tears away. “I’m supposed to be spending time with them in the school holidays, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Nurse Lena saw the Police Officers out of the room and turned back to Marcus.
“Marcus, there are no guarantees in life and it may not be possible for your grandparents to care for you, but I think under the circumstances we should at least try them. Do you mind if I ask the Social Worker to come down to see you? Her name is Molly and she can call them and talk about them becoming your foster parents at least in the interim period. How does that sound to you?”
“Wow, yeah… Amazing,” Marcus declared. “That would be really fantastic, thanks Nurse Lena.”
Lena walked off to arrange for Molly to visit Marcus, leaving him to imagine what life would be like, without being beaten and abused on a daily basis. It sounded like heaven. Marcus drifted off to sleep with dreams of a “normal” life running through his head.
Half an hour later, Marcus woke up screaming… “No, don’t do it, I’ll be good, I’ll do more chores, I’ll do whatever you want. Just don’t … “
At that very moment Molly the Social Worker arrived on the scene. “Hi Marcus, Nurse Lena sent me in. That sounded like a powerful dream you were having just then.”
Marcus was embarrassed and didn’t want to talk about the fact that in his dream, his father was about to chop off his hand!
“Well Marcus, I need to ask a few questions before I can apply to your grandparents to act as Foster Carers to you. You’re almost 18 so that’s a good thing. Some relatives will only commit to short term Foster Care. Tell me about your Grandparents.”
“Well,” started Marcus, who’d recovered from his nightmare. “I only have one set of grandparents, my Mum’s parents died when she was young, in some sort of accident. My father’s parents live in San Jose and are the best grandparents ever. They are kind, loving and good fun. When I visit we often go camping, or just do day trips. There always seems to be something interesting to see or do.”
Marcus’s eyes sparkled when he talked about his grandparents. This would obviously be the best option for him. School holidays are one thing though and long term care was another. She would give it her best shot. She told Marcus that she would call his grandparents and would call back later with the response. She left him smiling at least.
The phone conversation with Marcus’s grandparents couldn’t have gone better and Molly needed to share the good news with him. Stopping on the way to talk to Nurse Lena, they both walked in to Marcus’s cubicle at the same time.
“Well… What did they say?” Marcus was clearly anxious to know the outcome of their conversation. Deep down he felt so demoralised that he thought that no one would want him, ever.
“It’s good news Marcus, your grandparents have been talking about this for some time now. They knew you were being abused but didn’t know how to approach the situation without you being placed into care and alienated from them too. They would love to be your foster parents and they are packing the car, this very minute to come up and take you home.” Molly stated.
“You are so lucky Marcus your grandparents love you to bits and both of them were crying when I told them what had happened to you this time. I think you will be much happier and safer in San Jose, don’t you.”
Marcus briefly thought about Lucy Watson… But only for a moment… “Yep, I sure do!”
That night, Marcus slept all night without nightmares and woke in the morning feeling refreshed and relieved. He shook his head and shuddered… And to think two weeks ago I was contemplating ending it all, because I couldn’t see any respite from the violence. How many other young people actually follow through with it because they can’t see a way out?
Marcus thought he might like to be a Social Worker when he grew up!

Two years later…
From his comfortable position on the thick green lawn, he watched as the clouds changed shape. Rabbits with lopsided ears, puppies, sad faces, clowns, he could make out so many objects in the fluffy white clouds, in the foreground of a brilliant blue sky.
What a beautiful day he thought to himself. It had been a long time since he needed noise cancelling headphones to escape domestic violence. He lived in peace that he had never known before, these days.
It would be his eighteenth birthday on Saturday and his grandparents had asked him to invite some friends over for a party.
That sounded like a really nice idea. They would all be leaving for College soon and it would probably be a while before he saw some of them again.
Marcus had enrolled for College but decided to go to the local San Jose City College. He wasn’t ready to leave home just yet. He was doing really well and the flashbacks were nowhere near as frequent, but when they came he still needed to know that his amazing grandparents were not too far away. All of his support mechanisms were here in San Jose.
His parents were still in jail and would be angry with him when they were finally released. He never once visited them. Why would he put himself through that sort of anguish? He attended the trial with his grandparents and gave evidence compelling enough to put them away for seven years.
Marcus’s grandparents had applied to adopt him and given the circumstances they were granted approval. He still called them Grandma and Grandpa but thought of them as his parents. He wanted nothing to do with his birth parents… Ever!
Marcus was still a bit of a loner, but this was improving … The planned birthday party was a good indication that his confidence was growing.
His attention drifted back to the cotton wool clouds and he swore that he could see Peta Simpson’s face… For a moment… Then it was gone. He laughed as he remembered having the same thoughts about… What was her name? How could he possibly have forgotten her name… He was head-over-heels in love with her!
He laughed again… My, how time changes everything!




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