Home > Blood & Bones : Rev(2)

Blood & Bones : Rev(2)
Author: Jeanne St. James

His mouth moved as he followed along with the passage but not one word escaped. His eyes didn’t need to focus on the tiny print on the well-worn pages because he had been forced to read the bible so many times he knew the passage by heart.

Not that this particular scripture meant anything to him. It didn’t.

Because he was a sinner.

He was born one.

He would die one.

And in between, he planned on living a life full of sin.

Keeping his head tipped down to hide it, one corner of his upper lip pulled up into a sneer.

He would remain in the center of that circle surrounded by these women and their monotone voices until the elder, the one who looked like a walking corpse, decided he had atoned for his latest transgression.

In the meantime, if he dropped the bible, he’d get ten lashes. If he stood without permission, he’d get twenty. If he told them all to fuck off, he had no idea how many lashes he’d be blessed with, but a bar of soap would be forced into his mouth, and he’d be locked in his room without supper. To think about his inexcusable actions, he would have to sit in a wooden chair with his hands in his lap, his feet flat on the floor while he continued to pray and ask for forgiveness until his father came home.

His father would be the one to decide whether the prayer circle was enough punishment for his latest offense. If it wasn’t, he’d dole out whatever punishment he deemed worthy and wouldn’t stop until the man was satisfied Michael had learned his lesson. And, of course, Michael vowed to never do it again.

The thought of dealing with his father made him lock his joints and make sure his head didn’t wobble even the slightest bit.

He no longer believed in God. Because if there was one? He or she wouldn’t allow his parents to hurt him or Sarah the way they did.

In the churches his friends attended, they were told God was full of love and forgiveness. That Jesus died for their sins.

In his parents’ church, they were taught to fear God. That he was always watching. He would judge them and how they lived their lives before he decided if they were worthy to take that final walk through those pearly gates.

Michael knew if anyone was denied entrance to Heaven, it should be his parents. Not him. Not Sarah.

If his parents were welcomed into God’s embrace, then he wanted nothing to do with it.

Nothing at all.

But if he continued on his current path, he was told he wouldn’t be welcomed, anyway. That he would be locked out.

Because he was a sinner.

Last night he had committed what his mother told him was an egregious sin.

Today’s prayer circle had been formed because she caught him this morning in his sister Sarah’s bed.

This was a sin his father would never allow to go unpunished. The prayer circle would be a start, but it certainly wouldn’t be the end.

The gasps of his mother and then her screams had woken both him and Sarah from a deep sleep. He only saw a blur as she rushed over to the bed and grabbed handfuls of his hair, using it to yank him out of the bed and onto the floor.

Her face had been a mottled red, a mask of fury, when she tried to continue dragging him across the floor. He’d been too heavy and she hadn’t been strong enough. He’d also resisted by pressing his weight and his fingernails into the worn wood planks to prevent her from hauling him out of the room.

He’d only gotten a quick glance at his sister to see her sitting up in her bed, once again crying. Her shocked, pale face had become almost translucent. Her mouth gaped open and the words she screamed to stop their mother went ignored.

He had climbed into Sarah’s bed last night when he’d heard her crying through their shared wall. His only motive was to comfort her because no one else would. Eventually, she cried herself out and fell asleep. Unfortunately, so did he.

His first mistake was trying to comfort his sister. To chase away her pain and tears.

His second was holding her in her own bed.

The third was him falling asleep once she stopped crying and her steady breathing also lulled him into sleep.

The fourth was never waking up so he could return to his own bed before morning, like he normally did.

The fifth was him remaining asleep until his mother walked in to wake his sister.

His sixth was getting caught.

His mother automatically thought the worst. It hurt that his own mother didn’t trust him. She believed him guilty when his motives were completely innocent.

She refused to hear his excuses because she saw evidence she would not dismiss.

She noticed something a teen boy hadn’t been able to control.

Something he could never control.

His erection wasn’t from holding his five-year-old sister. It was because he was fourteen and didn’t know how to control it. It happened often when he least expected it. It also happened at the oddest times.

It happened enough to be embarrassing.

It happened in school. At the bus stop. While playing baseball. In the middle of the night. In the middle of the day.

Even during a long, boring sermon in church.

He wished it didn’t happen, but it did.

And his mother wouldn’t hear that it meant nothing.

All he’d wanted to do was comfort his sister from whatever their father had done to her last night. For whatever sin their father perceived his daughter had committed. Whatever reason he came up with to punish her. A made-up excuse to lock the door of her room with him inside.

The more he fought his mother to keep her from dragging him from Sarah’s room, the angrier and crazier she got. Spittle flew from her mouth and clung to her lips. Her hands curled into claws. Her words got harsher, louder and more hurtful.

All she was doing was upsetting Sarah. Michael didn’t want to upset his sister any more than she already was. So, he reluctantly climbed to his feet and allowed his mother to yank him from her room. He never once looked back.

He was forced into a tub of searing hot water and the brush she gave him to scrub his sins clean didn’t have soft bristles. They weren’t even firm. They were like a Brillo pad against his skin.

She stood over the tub and supervised him as he scrubbed every inch of his body until it was red and raw. She made him scrub his penis until the tender skin bled and the bristles left visible scratches behind.

“You scrub that filth off your skin. You scrub those sins free of your soul. You wash away those ugly, ugly, forbidden thoughts.”

When the water was pink and cold, when his mother’s anger had turned to exhaustion, she forced him to stand in the tub and turn in a circle to make sure he got every spot. Once she pulled the drain plug, she left him standing there shivering with his hands over his raw, burning privates.

He hadn’t cried. Not once.

Instead, he had taken himself elsewhere to a far-away place. Anywhere other than that bathroom. Because he couldn’t cry.

His father told him over and over real men don’t cry.

If he cried, it only made things worse.

But he wanted to cry. Not because of the burn of his skin but because his parents only saw what they wanted to see, they never listened to the truth.

They saw him as a wayward child who needed more discipline.

The same as Sarah.

Their goal was to teach her how to be a good and obedient wife for her future husband. How to be a good mother to her unborn children.

For Michael, it wasn’t the prayer circle, it wasn’t the scrub of the brush, it wasn’t his mother’s harsh words that he feared. It was what his father would do when he came home later.

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