The giblets of a turkey never got me worked up. Thoughts of stuffing, long-necked turkey soup, or even giblet gravy didn’t dance in my head. Instead, my mouth would water when Mama breaded and fried up those turkey gizzards, yummy!
Our menu included lots of small lobster tails with the usual seafood trimmings. Sides included deep-fat fried hushpuppies with hot green chili peppers and onion, coleslaw made from homegrown cabbage, baked potatoes, and sweet potato pies. Unlike other families, we celebrated Christmas a week before the twenty-fifth of December.
It was best to keep Christmas about staying thankful for what I had and maintaining a low profile. There would be no wild capers from our house on Christmas day because we celebrated it early. The moon was shining, and I was enjoying our meal, thinking this was one dinner I would never forget. There was a genuine sense of family love while my parents soberly ate a meal together with me.
The moment was perfect till a vulgar BLAST shattered the quiet.
It sounded like a shotgun, and I thought I would choke on my lobster tail. The sound had come from next door. Our neighbors to the left were a postman about to retire in a month’s time and his wife, a battered alcoholic. The thing that was impossible for me to digest was that she used Lysol to disguise the smell of alcohol.
Christina, “the Lysol woman”, often came over to talk to my mom. Her husband Reginald was a talented pianist, but a monster in disguise. Christina always had black eyes and bruises covering her arms and legs. She called the police often but did not file charges because he told her he would kill her if she did.
Just when I thought everything was going to be alright, there was another loud blast. Mom and Dad looked at each other like it was nothing and continued to enjoy Mom’s pie.
Suddenly, someone started banging on the door. I opened it to find a dazed and sobbing Christina with blood oozing from her leg like a stuck pig. Walking out onto the stoop, I put my arm around her and began to reassure her.
Mom immediately got a bunch of towels and placed them on a big stool. She proceeded to put the bleeding leg on top of it. Christina was shaking and quivering severely. Mom poured a juice glass full of rum, and told her to drink it, which she quickly did.
I felt helpless, and then I remembered a bottle of Lysol under the sink used to clean the bathroom. I went and got it and brought it to her. Mom gave me a cross look, and I prepared myself for a slap when Christina thanked me. She immediately put the aerosol container of Lysol to her mouth, and with all the quivering it was hit and miss. I counted silently, and she sprayed for ten seconds straight. It was on her face, nose, and all over her sweater, leaving Christina smelling like her usual self.
With the precision of a doctor Mom got a fresh packet of yellow cleaning gloves. Moving the cooking pots out of the way, she boiled water and two pairs of tweezers. When I returned from taking a pee, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Christina was eating some of mom’s pie and sipping coffee.
She was still drunk but no longer shaking. Mom had a bowl of boiling water, sterilized tweezers on some gauze, and a bottle of rubbing alcohol we used for cuts and scrapes. She was beginning to remove pieces of bloody metal. She washed the entry area with warm water and rinsed it with alcohol. She then put a layer of petroleum jelly on the laceration and used band-aids to close the wound.
We saw a police car, ambulance, and fire truck headed towards Christina’s house. Mom later talked to her when they were both sober and obtained most of the details. It took a week to acquire the full story.
Exactly one month after Reginald’s retirement party, he had beat her up the worst he ever had, and they had both been drinking. Then Reginald sat down at the piano and began to play his favorite piece, “A Little Night Music,” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Records would show that Christina called her daughter on the upstairs phone, and they talked for fifteen minutes. Whatever they talked about, Mom said we would never know. The police spoke with Christina for a couple of hours that same night.
Mom later learned that Christina gave a statement, and they took pictures of all her injuries at the police station. Then they brought her back home. The police told her in confidence it was apparent that she had shot her husband twice in the back with a small, licensed handgun she purchased years ago. The police told her with the hundreds of calls from her address reporting abuse that she had endured over the last ten years, no one in their right mind would arrest her.
Christina had told Mom she always wanted a white Cadillac, and we saw one parked in her driveway about a month later. She told Mom she might go on a trip with all the pension money. Mom told me Christina wasn’t worried about anything and was feeling safe.
She never showed up while we lived there again, and Mom and I were glad she got away alive. Nobody felt bad for old Reginald, especially the police. An officer that my dad knew, told him that at every police Christmas party, some drunk officer would toast the end of Reginald, the twice retired postal worker.
Joni’s blog is Rum and Robots, where she has published poetry, photography, and short stories. Take a look at Joni’s work in Spillwords Press NYC, Vita Brevis Press, The Finest Example, The Tiny Seed Literary Journal, I Write Her – The Short of it, and MasticadoresUSA. Joni’s work was included in the following anthologies: The Sound of Brilliance (The Short of It Publishing, Volume 1 2020), Inner Eye (Poets Choice, 2021), and It’s Not Easy (Poets Choice 2021). Her blog is an effort to give back – she is a surviving Adult Child of Alcoholics. Joni is a retired nurse and paralegal.
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