It was morning. I was sitting by the window in Jacko’s room. I had slept in his room yesterday, and this time I hadn’t had to ask. I was thinking about yesterday.
“Dear me!!”, I mimicked Dandy Lizzy from school. “What disasters I can think up, huh!”
I laughed. God, really what had I dreamt up last night?! Twice I had woken up in the dark, with sweat on my brow and fear in my body. Like fever, I had been hot and afraid… afraid that I had dropped a glass jar on daddy’s head.And something about a knife? Geez, was I getting cocky or what!
When I woke up an hour ago, Jacko wasn’t in the room. He wasn’t in the bath, and he wasn’t sleeping. Wherever he had gone, he had locked me in. “Have been acting crazy to him too haven’t you, Jenny Hurricane Jackson?”
I laughed again. Something’s got to be wrong with my head. I felt like laughing so much.
‘Hurricane’ reminded me of mommy. Oh yeah, where was she? I mean, cool as she is, even she should be getting me off to school now, right? I distinctly remember it was Tuesday yesterday.
My head started aching again. Wait- again? Yeah…. yeah, I had this little ache in the night… yeah, I got up once with headache too. Oh boy! Getting up thrice in the night and having nightmares! That’s not like me!
I held my head in my hands. And I sat down and watched out of the window.
There he was! Jacko was coming down the road. Well that meant he wasn’t going to school too. That’s fun. He looked up. I waved. He didn’t wave back back but of course, he was just going to come in.
Within a minute, the lock turned from outside and Jacko pushed the door open.
And that was the end.
Back it all came. The dark. The knife. The cries, the shouts, the fight. The hatred. The fear. Mommy falling down. Daddy with the knife.
Jacko with the pan… Jacko on the floor….
The glass jar. Not like in a dream. No waking up.
The dark. Daddy with the knife.
Out went all the humour, all the laughter. There was nothing funny about Dandy Lizzy anymore. There was nothing happy about anything.
Jacko’s face filled with bruises and scratches…
“Jenny?” he asked.
“She’s still sleeping in your bed. I checked on her in the morning. She’s all right.”
“You lock her too?”
“Yeah. I had the key with me all night. You okay, Jenny?”
I looked at him. Okay? What’s okay?
“Of course. You’re not hurt, right?”
Hurt? What’s hurt?
“Okay. Do you want some breakfast?”
Breakfast? “I would like some breakfast.”
Breakfast? Were we really talking about breakfast?
“How will you make breakfast?”
“There’s some bread-”
“We don’t have a kitchen.”
“That’s my name. Jenny.”
“Yeah Jenny.. I’ll just go down to the kitchen that we have… in our house and-”
“Our house? We don’t have a house.”
“Jenny what are you saying! You’re on my room, see? My room is in our house. Our house which has a kitchen.”
It’s like Cinderella.”
“What’s like Cinderella?”
“It’s just like Cinderella. She has no family. She has a house but she has no family. And in the day she fights that Captain Kirk is really the hero of Start Trek but it’s all really a game. Because the evil stepmother will get to her. And it will all be over.”
“Whoa! That’s not quite how I remember Cinderella. Now you sit down there. I’ll go and get you a sandwich okay? And we’ll talk about this fine? Jenny?”
“That’s my name. Jenny.”
“Ya. Jenny Jackson.”
Jacko ran out quickly but he asked me one last question.
“You want me to fix you a glass? Want something to drink?”
“I don’t drink.”
And then he left.
Jacko came back a few minutes later with a vegetable sandwich on a plate and a ketchup smiley on top.
“There you go. Now we aren’t going to school today-”
“Jacko what happened?” I started crying. Hot tears were streaming down my cheeks. I realised things would never be the same again.
“Hey. It’s okay- Don’t cry. C’mon.” He settled in next to me.
“Jacko what happened yesterday?”
“Daddy came home very drunk, Jen and… there was a fight.”
“Did.. did daddy really throw a knife at me?”
“I think so.”
“Why did daddy hit mommy so hard?” I cried.
“He didn’t know what he was doing. He was too drunk.”
“You knew about this, didn’t you? How long has this been going on?”
“Some while… But come on, eat your-”
“Is that why they fight so much? Because daddy drinks?”
“Ya… most of the time.”
“And daddy hits mommy?” I could barely hold my voice.
“Ya. Sometimes he does.”
And then I wiped my tears. Because I really wanted to know something suddenly.
“Daddy doesn’t hit you too does he? He was just too drunk yesterday right?”
“Jenny come on-”
“He doesn’t right? Say it!”
“No. He doesn’t.”
“You’re lying!” I shouted. “That- that sprain- when you didn’t play the school game… it wasn’t because of daddy…”
Jacko looked at me. He moved the sandwich away.
“Look here kiddo. I know you’re very shaken right now. And my face isn’t helping- I mean I probably look like the joker right now but… see…”
And Jacko explained it was all right. He said we’d just get on with our lives and go to school and play baseball and forget all about daddy.
“I mean, we can’t forget about him but we won’t pay much attention.”
And then he stopped talking.
“Mommy and daddy don’t love each other anymore.”
“I don’t know.”
“We’re not a family.”
“Jenny. Just Jenny. We’re not Jacksons anymore.”
“Just like Cinderella.”
Jacko turned towards me.
“Cinderella didn’t have a last name.”
Jacko hugged me tight, and I hugged him back.
Jacko has a funny habit. If he needs to make a quick visit to a room, say- go in, switch on the light, take what he wants, and switch the light off- he just can’t do it. He has no problem with shutting a light off. He just can’t switch it on. There is no reason behind it. He just can’t. Not that he’s lazy. You can tell him to run fifteen times to a shop and get a new thing every time, and irritate him at that, but he won’t get tired.
And he could switch on lights. But when he was staying for long. Like, if he was going to sit for even ten minutes, he’d happily switch the light on himself. Without any quirks.But if it was for less time, his hand would suddenly repulse from the switchboard, and his smile droop down.
He tried many things. He tried finding his things in the dark, but often came out with the wrong thing, of similar shape/size/feel… and had to run back in so many times, he even tried a flashlight. But he kept dropping it.
He tried asking me to go ahead of him and switch on the light… Like this one time when he came running to get a baseball bat, but stood fidgeting and frowning near the front entrance, waiting for me to get the light. And just as he saw the light shine on the barrister, off he fled up the stairs and threw himself at his bat and was ready to return. In fact, he had come so quick I hadn’t even moved away from the switchboard. As a result, both of us came down the stairs together. It was too much action.
Finally, it was settled, much to the comfort of both of us, that these flying visits would be made solely by me. That is, he would tell me what to bring and I would get it. It wasn’t easy at first. I knew little of the layout of Jacko’s room, despite the amount of time I spent there.
So he’d tell me to get the Checker’s board, and I would take hours to find it, even when all his games I knew were supposed to be on the bottom shelf. Okay, not hours, his room isn’t that big, but that’s what he would groan and say. The price of which was, often, refusal to play anymore. So after I had finally found the board and brought it down, I had to go back up and keep it back. The deal wasn’t very nice any more. It was soon to be changed.
It was Baseball day. Wednesday. All the most serious games of the neighborhood happened on Wednesday. Last Wednesday, Jacko had got a strike three. This Wednesday, he wasn’t playing.
However much his team, or me, persuaded him, he just kept saying no. Why? “I got work to do. I won’t come to play.” was all he kept saying. So they all finally left,and I followed Jacko to his room. Just what work did he have to do, I wanted to see. But Jacko didn’t do anything. He just picked up his book, and sat down reading it.
“Jacko!! Why are you reading?”
“Because I can?” he snorted.
“But why are you reading now?”
He didn’t answer. So I went and checked his calender next to the window. He didn’t have any test coming. Why was he reading then?
“Jacko. Is this the work you said you had to do?”I suddenly asked.
“Yes Jenny. Now are you done being an itch with all your endless questions?”
“I’m just asking because Fat Joe was coming to play at the other side today. You missed on a good game.” I said, very concerned.
Jacko flushed. He turned to his book quickly.
“Hey! What’s wrong!”
I coaxed. I pried. I snatched the book away. I was about to use the blaster ‘Jacko-do-you-know-why-mummy-and-daddy-fight’ emotional blackmail, when finally, finally, Jacko said,
“Oh get off it! I don’t want to play Fat Joe. That’s why I didn’t go, okay!” And he snatched the book back.
Ohhh. Serious thing.
“Why not, Jacko?”
“Jennnnnnyyyy!”He said in an unusually thick tone.
“Yes Jacko?” I honestly didn’t understand.
“Oh God! I’m scared okay! So STOP IT NOW!!!” He burst out, stamped his foot on the bed (which didn’t make much effect) and stomped out of the room.
I was stunned. Jacko was afraid of playing Fat Joe.
It was evening. Daddy would be getting home soon. I was playing with Buzz, in my room.
“Hey Jen?” I turned to see Jacko at the door, hands behind his back.
“Ye-ah?” I said.
“Umm- could we talk for a minute?” He took a step forward.
“Oh sure! Come on in!” I jumped onto my bed, and invited him to join me. He seemed to breathe more.
“Hey, I just wanted to ask you- if, you know, you won’t tell anyone about what I told you today.” He said.
“Uhh okay, but- what did you tell me?”
“You know- about Fat Joe-”
“Oh that. Cool. I’ll say you shut your door and I couldn’t see what work you were doing.”
“Thanks.” Jacko smiled. He got up to leave.
“But I want something in return.” I remembered suddenly.
“We’ll take turns at bringing your stuff down. And when I bring a game down from your room, you will play it.”
“I can’t take turns.”
“Fine, just promise to play.”
And that’s how my problem was solved.
Mommy tells me every day that I am a hurricane. Jacko has long declared me stupid. Daddy has not yet given me a name, but I’m sure he will have one for me just as soon as he has the time to call me that.
So, it was only a matter of time till I justified their feelings COMPLETELY.
I tapped a kitchen knife between my fingers in a challenge. I cut the base of my thumb. I justified their feelings COMPLETELY.
Bloody and fainting, I lay comfortably in Mandy Carter’s room. Next to Alison. And on top of us, stood a very frightened, and very pale Mandy. To call our parents, specially mine, would simply be The End. But NOT calling… would be confessing to guilt. Mandy was in a fix. Her brother got her out of it.
“Yo Mand I’m like-” He came around to tell us he was going out for a while, ‘like a stroll or something’ as he always said, but never did really get to it, that day. What with two unconscious girls in his younger sister’s bedroom, a bloody hand and a knife nearby, a ‘stroll’ would only be slightly inappropriate.
“Holy shit.” were his next words.
He did what any scared teen would do in such unlikely circumstances. Call HIS parents. And they came running. (Or driving.)
Mandy told me all this. And quite a lot of this is her words really, so give her credit for it, by the way.
So they came, and they got scared too and then THEY did what any scared parents would do in such unlikely circumstances, and called OUR parents. “Please just come over sir/ma’am” they said.
My mom came. Alison’s dad did.
They sat in the Carter drawing room, wondering the cause for this weird gathering. Upstairs, Mandy and her brother bit their nails and Mandy cried. I feel the need to mention here that Mandy’s brother, Kevin, is older than Jacko, but not once have I seen him treat Mandy out the way Jacko does me. Just mentioning.
So they broke the news. Two hysterical parents came running. Alison’s daddy and Mandy’s.
Mommy, Mandy said, was such a lady, she didn’t let worry once cross her eyes. Such a lady.
Next I know, I am in my own bed, tucked well in, and it’s night.
My hand is in a thick bandage, which is slipping off at quite some places, out of its right position, but I guess it’s just me tossing and turning in bed. I am feeling all right. Just a little sting at the base of my thumb, at the trough between the forefinger and thumb, like some wet thing burning the gash.
Anyways, I fall back in a sleep again. And the next time I wake up, mommy is changing the dressing, and it’s the middle of the day.
Now I am frightened. Such an abrupt confrontation I am NOT prepared for. But then, I am not awake, right! I shut my eyes again…
…but too late.
“How ya feeling?” Mommy says.
“Alright I guess.” I whimper.
And then I burst out. “I’m sorry mommy, I am. I shouldn’t have played the game, I know. But I just didn’t want to say no to a dare and there was Alison and she was going to tell the whole school about it and Mandy is such a show-off and I couldn’t let her say I backed out. They would call me chicken and-”
“Aright. Go to sleep.” And mommy waked out of the room. I was stunned.
I had let her down. Oh shitty shit.
I banged my head into my pillow, and cursed myself. Why did I have to be such a nut?
Jacko. No, man. Not him too. I peeked. He seemed okay.
“What you doing banging your head?”
“Jacko, I’m junk.” I confided in him.
Jacko didn’t say anything.
“Hey! You think I’m junk!”
“I didn’t say it.” He shrugged. I went back to burying my head in the pillow.
“Okay. Why do think you are junk, Jen?”
“Because I let mommy down.”
“WHY did you let mommy down?”
“She challenged me Jacko! Alison would tell the whole school!”
Jacko nodded. That’s why I told him things. He didn’t attack me with shoulds and shouldn’ts.
“Did you think about violence Jen? He said suddenly.
“Then you ain’t junk. End of story.”
Jacko said goodbye, and he left.
I liked that too.
I swore never to let Jacko down, whatever happens. Because then, no doubt, I would be REAL junk.