Sunday, October 18, 2015

I'm Goin' Away

*trigger warning--child sexual abuse
I reckoned Daddy would be mad.

I sat in the bathroom on the edge of the tub, lookin’ at the shiny door handle. The little ridge in the middle pointed sideways. That made me feel funny, weak-like and soggy. My fingers itched to turn it back upright. I just stared and kept my hands in my lap. The old house creaked while it settled, and I thought how thankful I’d be not to hear those sounds no more. I reckoned there was a heap of things I’d be thankful to miss.


We lived on Apple Lane, and our creaky house set down by the tracks. That was silly, ‘cause there weren’t no apple trees on our street, only peaches. I lay in bed at night, listenin’ to the trains. They’d scream afore they got to the crossin’. They’d chug and clang past the house, rattlin’ the wavy glass in the window frames. It took them forever to get by, car after car filled with black dusty coal. Teacher said coal turns into diamonds, but I didn’t believe her. I never found no diamonds.

I hated them trains. Their screams reminded me of the orange cat Daddy caught shittin’ under the porch.

“Cats is about as handy as a woman. All they’s good at is naggin’ and shittin’ and fuckin’,” he said. Daddy had lots of ideas ‘bout women.

He took its tail and swung it round and round, laughin’ at the way its hair puffed up. It screamed, the sound windin’ up and fadin’ out. Just like them trains. Acourse, they wasn’t that much alike, specially not when the cat stopped sudden-like against the tree. The bones are still out back, behind Daddy’s old Ford. They turned white and then gray, and I checked every week to make sure they was still there.

After that, I always pictured that cat wailin’ and swingin’ when the trains screamed. It gave me goose pimples, and I had to shut my hands over my ears.


As I sat in the bathroom, another creak killed the quiet, and I closed my eyes. Mayhap the wind was comin’ up. I held my breath, so’s I could hear the wind, but it wasn’t howlin’. I opened my eyes and checked the door handle again. It still pointed sideways. I reached out and tried to turn it, real gentle-like. Smooth, cold, slippery. It wouldn’t turn. Down on the floor, the strip of light under the door stayed solid, no shadows breakin’ it up.

Creak. I shut my hands over my ears, closed my eyes again.


We wasn’t allowed to lock doors. I don’t mean the front door—that one we locked, acourse. But unless you wanted Daddy to tell you to fetch a switch, and make your butt burn and throb and turn red, you sure didn’t lock no other doors.

Daddy said, “Locked doors mean you don’t trust folks. I reckon you ought trust your family.” He talked ‘bout family a lot.

So we left ‘em open. That’s how Sugarman got in.

At night, after the train screamed, the door swung open real slow. I lay in bed with my ears shut but my eyes open, tryin’ to see who it was. I couldn’t see nothin’ but dark, just like I had my eyes closed. Then a weight come down, makin’ the mattress sag so’s I’d start slidin’ to the edge. Sugarman’s hands caught me, holdin’ me round my belly. I tried to lock my legs together and stayed real still. Acourse, that didn’t help none. Sugarman was real strong.

“Gimme some sugar,” he said. He always wanted sugar.

His breath covered me, sour and sweet, like when the peaches fell off the tree in the backyard and rotted into the black dirt. I hated that smell almost as much as I hated them trains. When the wind was just right, it came in my window with the screamin’ of the trains, so thick I could almost see it.

Sugarman put his slick lips on my mouth. I tried my best to keep my lips shut, but he squeezed my cheeks hard. It made my teeth dig into ‘em, and I had to open. His fat tongue filled my mouth, and it tasted even worse than the peaches smelled. I wished my mind would go away. I wanted to shut my ears and my eyes and everything else. I didn’t want to taste that tongue, or feel the draft on my legs when he pushed my nightdress up. If my mind could’ve gone away, it wouldn’t have mattered what Sugarman did.


Mama died a year ago. She stayed in bed for months afore she went. She said she had the cancer. It made her get real skinny. I wanted to sit with her but hated lookin’ at her, so I scrunched my eyes into little slits so only a strip of light come through my eyelashes. She was just a pale blur against the blue flowered sheets. It reminded me of the time we went on a picnic, and she chased me through the field until we fell down and lay on the blossoms, laughin’ in the sun ‘til we couldn’t breathe. But she wasn’t laughin’ in her bed. She hadn’t laughed in a real long time.

“I’m gonna die, Punkin,” she said.

“What’s that like, Mama? What happens when you die?”

“Your mind just goes away, like sleepin’, but you don’t wake up. It makes the pain go away.” She smiled, a blurry, tired smile.

I wanted to know more but was scared to ask. I hoped the goin’ away was like when I turned the TV off and the light shrunk to a bright dot and winked out. Or maybe like water swirlin’ down a drain, without the creepy gurgle sound. I hoped it wasn’t a slow thing, like the peaches rottin’ in the yard, wrinkled and crawlin’ with bugs. Anything but that.

She went to sleep after that, and I reckon her mind went away.


I thought a heap about makin’ my mind go away once Sugarman started comin’ in. I knew how to make it go away, ‘cause I saw ‘em do the hogs and chickens. They screamed, too, but without the fadin’. Their screams turned to hissin’ gurgles. I wondered if they had pain and if it went away. They didn’t have much mind, but I reckoned it went away just the same.

I'd took the butcher knife out the shed and went to the bathroom with it.

I'd locked the door and sat lookin’ at the knife for a spell. My reflection stared back at me. I didn’t like that—it made a big lump in my throat—so I stopped lookin’ and left the blade in my lap. Instead, I watched the door handle, listenin’ and waitin’, with the cold porcelain sendin’ chills deep into my bones. I thought about Daddy and everything looked red of a sudden. It got me awful riled up. I reckoned it was Daddy’s fault that Sugarman got in. If Daddy woulda let me lock the door, Sugarman wouldn’t have come, and I wouldn’t need to make my mind go away.


The strip of light under the door grew brighter as the sun fell. It was gettin’ to be time. Time’s a funny thing, too. It goes faster just when a body wants it to slow down.

I breathed deep, tryin’ to make my heart quit thumpin’. It sounded funny with my ears shut, like the wind got in my head while a horse thundered in my chest. I took my hands off my ears and picked up the knife. It was heavier and more real, like it might come alive. My fingers held it real tight as I slid down to the floor and waited.


When the front door slammed, I took the knife to my neck, just like they did with the hogs.

Everything turned red for real.

Daddy called my name. Footsteps rumbled down the hall. The strip of light under the door broke up and disappeared like when the sun goes behind clouds. The door handle jiggled. I dropped the knife.

“Why’s this damn door locked? You in there, Punkin?”

The red squirted and dripped. Daddy banged on the wood, but it sounded far-off, a rumble in my bones more than my ears. In between the poundin’, a train screamed. I wished my mind would go away afore Daddy got in. He hit the door harder, and it flew open. His eyes opened big, as if he seen a ghost.

“No more Sugarman, Daddy.” My voice sounded funny and made me want to laugh.

But when Daddy leaned over me, I smelled Sugarman’s breath. My laugh came out a whistlin’ scream, like the trains, windin’ up and fadin’ away.

*This piece is not intended to endorse or condone suicide. It was written as a cathartic, therapeutic piece of fiction. If you need someone to listen, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-Talk (8255) or visit

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at


  1. Wow, this is incredibly powerful. Realizing that the narrator's abuser is her father and she's left alone with him after her mother's death made me tear up. Beautifully done and I hope it was cathartic.

    1. Thank you very much, EJ. It was a difficult piece to write, but I tend to think one of the best ways to heal and help others heal is to talk about the things we don't want to talk about. Thank you for reading.

  2. This must've been very hard to write. I hope it helped you and will help others heal.

    1. Yes, I believe so. Thank you for reading, Cathleen.