The Tale of the Cast-Iron Skillet

The year rolled along, as my tenth birthday came and went in September. Mom exasperatedly quit her job after a year of nightly accusations of adultery. The arguments heatedly inflamed until my mother gave up in sorrowful defeat. Our evening meals lightened to normal daily discussions. My grandparents bought us a half a beef for our deep freeze, we had a variety of menus to deliciously devour.

I hated my fifth grade school teacher. He taught language, science and history.

He was an ancient man, and constantly paced around our classroom, distractedly talking to himself. Mr. Travers brought no enthusiasm to his students and we often acted out our boredom in class. I went to school begrudgingly, and didn't enjoy the stultifying days under his droning senility. His whitened hair squirted out above his ears and he had a permanent shocked countenance.

His expression reminded me of Dr. Frankenstein exclaiming, "It's Alive! It's Alive," in the classic horror movie, I watched on 'Action Theater' Saturday afternoons.

I dodged my instructor's attention most of the year. I began to daydream about the adventure of Tom Sawyer and the world of Mark Twain I had discovered and failed to finish most of the lessons he monotonously spoke through..

One class I did enjoy was my reading period.

That year my grammar school began a new way of changing lessons.

The first two subjects that ritually began our day were Reading and Math, respectively. Instead of one teacher throughout the day like the previous years I attended the school, our teachers rotated to each class every hour for the first two lessons.

When I began the fifth grade our school gave us aptitude tests for reading and math.

I was astonished to learn from Mom that she was informed during a parent teacher conference, I had tested out of the grade school reading level. My fifth grade teacher told her I tested at a ninth grade Reading And Comprehension competence. I always had a book in my hand.

My favorite teacher was our reading instructor.

Mr. Sanchez was my favorite teacher that year. He spoke with feverish velocity and aplomb. He was a small Hispanic gentleman with a permanent mischievous grin. He once spun a tale about bullies when he attended school that I instantly identified with. Hooligans frequently, bothered me, and the biographical anecdote ensnared my imagination. He explained he wasn't a large child when he was young. The bullies would pick on him but as they walked away, he would chuck rocks at them, then, run as fast as he could for safety. He said he wasn't strong but he was fast and he was a razor sharp marksman with those rocks. After the troublemaking adolescents figured out they would be pelted with rocks, they left him alone.

I listened intently and laughed at the humorous tale when he finished.

I was a big white minority in a majority of Hispanic students. Everyone seemed to be related, having cousins, nephews, and brothers, at every street corner. My friends were the studious geeks. When, the bullies targeted me, I had no one to rescue me. I was a strong athletic boy and the miniature predators attacked in packs.

The two worst were the Ruiz Brothers.

I watched them beat a sixth grader for fifteen minutes while a prissy eighth grade teacher stood and screeched for them to stop. The other kids on the playground surrounded the fighting boys and she wouldn't push through the crowd and separate them. After the Ruiz Brothers were satisfied with the beating, I watched the sixth grader crying on the ground. He looked totally defeated, like I felt when Dad beat me. When he finally stood up, he looked at the prissy teacher and had the most hurt expression I had ever seen. It screamed 'where were you and why didn't you do something.'

I had my own trouble with the Ruiz Bros.

At the beginning of my fifth grade school year, it was a gloomy October day and I exited my classroom after we were dismissed for the day.

I walked to another fifth grade class to wait for a friend of mine. I stood outside the door waiting for Dennis. We walked home together everyday. He lived a block away from my house and his companionship made the mile long journey home from school a relatively short one.

The Ruiz brothers were in the same class as my timid friend.

Known for their brutality on the playground, I generally tried to stay away from them. For some unknown motive, they saw me outside their classroom and attacked.

I never learned why, they just decided I needed to be dealt with. They shoved me to a desolate place of schoolyard, out of the prying eyes of teachers. They both began to sock me in the stomach, taking turns holding my arms as the other punched me. When I was driven to the ground from the savage beating, they began to kick me. I tried my best to fight back but they were experienced playground bullies and gave me a fierce thrashing. They triumphantly laughed and giggled as I lay on the grass. I cried for a long time while they stood there laughing.

Cautiously I waited until they were out of sight to get up and walk to my house. It wasn't as bad as what my father did to me but I sure hurt on my way home.

I went home and cried as I explained to Mom why I was late.

Even though I begged her not to, she called and complained to my principle. He said they would be properly punished. I was targeted even worse from then on. Every chance they had the Ruiz bros. let me know I was marked for a beating.

I never forgot about the beating I received from Ruiz brothers. I quickly changed my habits and stayed away from them. Mom enrolled me in a self-defense class. I animatedly practiced in the backyard. I even practiced moves on my sisters and got into trouble a few times because I got too rough with them and made them cry.

After a few months, I began to grow confident.

One morning while I peed in the white urinal of our school's bathroom, I heard the door swing open.

I glanced over my shoulder to see one of the Ruiz brothers walk in. He was the bigger one about the same size I was but he had flunked fourth grade and he was a year older. He had the blackest hair I'd ever seen and wore it long in the back. He walked up beside me and slapped the back of my head, then unzipped and began to urinate.

I put myself away and zipped up my pants, and smiled when I grabbed the hair on back of his head.

I swung my arm with my hand balled into a fist and hit him on the bridge of his nose.

Blood erupted from his nostrils.

He fell to the floor and brought up his hands to his nose. I jumped up and with both of me feet landed on his stomach.

While taking to Karate lessons, I learned where the solar plexus was located. I bounced from the urine scented bathroom floor back up onto his stomach, aiming for the place to knock the wind out of his lungs.

When he turned over onto his side, I repeatedly kicked him while he rolled on the tile. When I had the opportunity, I stomped on his hands with my heel.

I was bestial in my unrelenting attack. I lost all control venting my angry frustration of being abused for my entire life.

After I realized he had begun a surrendering mewling I managed to restrain my fiendish assault. I heaved deeply as I witnessed him sobbing and cradling his right hand. The crimson gore flowing from his nose stained his shirt. Guilt started to creep into my conscience. I had lost total brutal control.

The school called my mother.

She wasn't happy sitting before my principle as he threatened her with a lawsuit.

In my fierce onslaught, I had broken the boy's nose and his right hand. I was ashamed to have lost my humanity in that attack. I was suspended for two weeks for the damage I inflicted.

My principle aggressively advised to start me in counseling.

Dad laughed at the suggestion and remarked with a flippant tone, "The kid deserved it!"

Furious Mom assigned me extra chores for a month.

The one I severely detested was washing the dishes. It was a tedious hour standing at the sink and washing the dinnerware. I always wanted to be in my room reading.

I stood scraping off the dried food when my father walked in from work through the backdoor.

Upon entering the kitchen, he viciously kicked a kitchen chair. It launched across the room, crashing into the wall. Both my mother and I looked at him with exasperated astonishment.

"I didn't get the fuckin raise!" He shouted.

"YOU DON"T HAVE TO COME IN ACTING LIKE THAT JIM! THAT"S NO REASON TO KICK THE FURNITURE ACROSS THE ROOM!" Mom admonished.

"All I asked for was a damn twenty cents! After nineteen years, I can't even get a twenty cent raise!" He shouted.

He continued to shout venting his rage at my mother.

I tried to look as inconspicuous as possible; I didn't want the fury directed at me.

I returned to washing the dishes silently and mentally shrank into a daydream. I was involved in a book about a sled dog in Alaska. I fantasized, I was camping in a desolated frozen valley, with my faithful white Alaskan Husky, Chief.

Mom said, "Jim, the lord will provide us everything we need, just have patience."

Mom often tried defusing Dad's tirades with comments about the faith of Christianity. Sometimes it would help, more often than not he ignored her, completely.

"I don't wanna hear that bullshit Mary! I needed that raise! They're paying Jo-Bill the same money as me. That's bullshit. I'm worth ten dollars more than that asshole."

Dad spewed the words in his explosive manner.

Dad worked in the repair shop, fixing diesel Caterpillar tractors.

He started working on the ranch, nineteen years before as an irrigation laborer. In the time he was employed there, he was regularly promoted into his current position in the mechanic's shop.

He was born mechanically inclined and quickly learned from an experienced older mechanic named Alvie. I don't remember much about my father's mentor but I do recall he was white haired and bald. He had an inch width of hair wrapped around the back of his head starting just above his ears.

Jo-Bill was the shop supervisor's worthless son-in-law.

He was hygienically challenged. He never bathed and wore filthy clothes.

Thin, short, and longhaired, with a beard that grew in patches, he reminded me of paintings of Jesus, Mom had hung around the walls of our living room.

Dad detested this individual.

He constantly complained about Jo-Bill's body odor. Dad would wrinkle his nose with contemptuous disgust when he ridiculed him at the dinner table. He bitched about Jo-Bill borrowing his tools. Dad's stinking co-worker never purchased the necessary instruments of his trade. Dad often suspected Jo-Bill of stealing his tools and bought an engraver to ensure he could eventually prove the fact. As far as I know, he never did provide proof of his suspicions.

Dad went ballistic when the supervisor gave his son-in-law a raise to Dad's wage.

My father boasted of a vast variety of tools and that was reason enough to elicit more money from his employer. He was confident, when he left for work that morning, his supervisor would surely agree with him.

Witnessing the temper tantrum in the kitchen, he was obviously mistaken.

Dad exited the kitchen grumbling under his breath.

Mom and I glanced at each other incredulously.

After I finished washing the dinnerware, I walked to my bedroom.

I desired to retreat into my new world I had found in Alaska with my faithful, Chief.

I listened to the sinister thumping of Dad's footsteps, as he approached my room.

I laid my tablet down on the bed and watched the doorway.

I thought, 'Oh, great here he comes. What'd I do now?'

I dreaded to learn what I was about to happen.

He exploded into my room.

His threatening demeanor accentuated by his purposeful strut.

I cringed as he stalked towards me, his hazel eyes squinted an intimidating glare.

"What'd I do? What'd I do?" I said.

I tried unsuccessfully to keep from panicking. I was frightened of the terrifying silence emanating from my father.

He didn't say a word as he gripped my ankle and pulled me off my bed.

I tried to resist against his powerful hold on my leg but he was just too strong. My head bounced off the floor as my body struck the carpet, ebony spots danced before my eyes. He continued mutely dragging me out of my room and into the hallway. My shirt rolled up under my armpits, my unprotected back skimmed along the carpet. The friction of being drug began burning my back. I tried to sit up to relieve the carpet-burn but my father cruelly jerked my leg to ensure no relief.

As the fire worsened, I attempted to kick my leg out of his grasp but his steadfast fingers dug into my ankle.

With me helplessly dragging behind him, he nonchalantly walked to the kitchen.

When he stood before the sink, he released my ankle, purposefully casting my foot at the cabinet door under the sink. My shoeless heel painfully rebounded off the wooden cabinet.

I was too terrified to speak. I looked at him expecting the worst.

Wordlessly, he reached down and clutched the hair on top of my head.

I screeched as he lifted me up and stood me on my feet.

He shouted, "I Found Dried Milk On The Bottom Of A Glass You Just Washed! How Many Times Have I Told you To Be Careful Washing The Dishes? Huh?"

He stuck his face in mine, his nose an inch away from mine as he shouted at me.

"How Many Times, Brad? Now Do All Of Them Again!"

He jerked my head back and forth to punctuate his sentences before he finally released my hair.

I looked around the kitchen countertop, observing all the dishes we owned strewn about on the Formica. All the cabinet doors stood open, the shelves empty of our dinnerware.

Unbelievingly, I asked him, "You want me to wash of all them again?"

My voice was a questioning whisper.

"Yeah! And If You Give Me Any Lip, I'll Backhand You!" He said.

Then he whipped around and left the kitchen.

I waited until he was out of the kitchen to sob my terrified tears. Thoughts of revenge simmered in my mind as I began to wash the dishes again.

I burned with hatred as I heard him release the footrest of his recliner.

I continued to practice the Karate lessons and advanced in rank from white to orange to red. I was getting much better and the sensei started to have me fight with other students of my rank.

From the abuse of dear old Dad, I had a tolerance of pain built up and after a few bouts of experience I became the best red belt in the class.

Time passed and the seasons changed. It was May and it was warm in the classroom. I daydreamed constantly and thought about the stories I've written. Thankfully the final bell sounded and we were excused from class.

I knew that my friend Dennis was sick and I passed his class as the students were leaving.

The Ruiz brothers had stayed away from me since the incident in the bathroom. I guess that day they had grown brave enough to deal with me again because as I passed the classroom the grabbed my arms and dragged me to their favorite desolate spot behind the library. That's where they liked to do their tag-team bullying.

I wasn't scared this time though. I actually wanted not to be seen. They had the same routine as the last beating they gave me. Eddie, the small one held my arms while Oscar, who had a permanent bump on the bridge of his nose from my punch, reared back to pummel my stomach.

I kicked Oscar in the balls.

It was a beautiful front-kick that I had been practicing for the entire school year. Oscar doubled over and his gasped. His entire face became red.

I tilted my head forward and thrust it back.

I heard the crunch of Eddie's nose break.

I turned around in a circle looking at both of them to make sure I wouldn't be blindsided. I saw that they were both done for.

As I walked away, I was happy I hadn't lost it. I didn't hurt them more than to protect myself and kept my cool. I was glad my mother had enrolled me in the Karate class. It had brought out a sense of self-confidence, I never would have learned if she hadn't.

At home was a different story.

Dad was beginning to get rough on my sisters.

About a month into my summer vacation, my sister Karen was five years old.

She had made friends with a boy her age two houses down from ours. They became great friends and had a little crush on each other. They were always together playing tag or hide and seek. I was five years older than them but even I joined in letting them beat me back to the safe spot a few times.

My father's work truck was a flatbed Ford that had large toolboxes bolted to the bed. And one welded underneath the bed on the passenger side. It left a little cubbyhole large enough for two five year olds to hide in together.

When Dad parked his truck in the driveway he always reversed the truck in so he wouldn't have to back out in the morning. The cubbyhole was right next to a wooden fence and it made a very private hideout.

Karen and her friend disappeared and I went into the house to get ready for Karate class.

Because we couldn't afford a gee(note don't know how to spell the Karate clothes just know how to say it I looked it up in the dictionary and couldn't find it can you help with this one Andrew) I had to dress in a T-shirt and sweatpants.

As I tied my tennis shoes, I heard Karen start screaming.

I sprinted for the front door as fast as I could. The closer I got I heard my father shouting at her.

I thought, 'Oh No! He started on her now!'

As opened the front door Dad was standing there holding my sister up by the hair. Her feet weren't even touching the ground. His expression was the worst I'd ever seen on his face, a combination of malice and rage.

He shoved me out of the way and stomped into the living room.

Mom came rushing out of her bedroom.

"WHAT'S WRONG BRAD? WHAT HAPPENED? PUT HER DOWN!" Mom shouted at him.

"I Caught Her Under My Truck Kissing That Messcin!" He shouted.

I tried a running kick at him to make him drop her but I just bounced off and fell down. I realized I was no match for him.

He turned to me still holding my sister by the hair.

Karen was screeching by now and it was deafening.

Dad spit a threat at me.

"After I'm done with her, I'll deal with you Karate boy!"

He began to strike my sister on the butt while she was suspended in mid air.

I had to watch this happen and knew I was next.

I saw my mother enter the living room. My eyes grew large when I saw what she had in her hand. I almost began to giggle but the situation was a dangerous one.

My mother held the largest cast-iron skillet, some call it a Dutchoven, in her hand.

My father had his back to her as she approached. Mom raised the skillet over her head and hit him as hard as she could.

He crumpled to the floor. Blood ran all over the living room rug.

Mom pointed her finger at him and calmly said, "Why don't you try somebody your size?"

She waited there for him to get up. He didn't though.

Karen and I ran to her bedroom. She had calmed down considerably and was almost laughing at what we had seen. I was rolling on her bed, laughing so hard tears were coming out of my eyes .

To see the king slain, was as comical a thing we had experienced.

And by a woman that was so overweight she could barely walk.

It was a night to remember.

Karen still owns that cast-iron skillet, twenty years later.

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