An excerpt from Chapter 11 below the photo:
Her heart was a turmoil of mixed feelings, fraught with sadness and resentment towards her mother for not being braver to either divorce Frank or at least take them away from that desolate prison term. Although Joan sometimes tried to squeeze in a few moments of relief to inspire them, Allison nevertheless felt that she was too weak in her mind and spirit and overly ruled by fear.
The family woke up bright and early for Church on the Sunday morning. Frank’s pugnacious and unforgiving nature impelled him to start yet another argument. He carried a grudge, which had risen from his wounded pride the day before, resenting his wife for some past misdemeanours for which he could not bring himself to forgive her. Still, Frank was proudly professing to be a venerable deacon among the Church members.
Tolerating each other, the two would nonetheless, every night share the same bed. Joan repeatedly snored while her husband would demonstratively pass air, perhaps the only genuine exchange between them. To err is human and to forgive is divine, but while passing air is human, breathing in those gaseous fumes, was certainly far from divine. Luckily, they were living in a holey place, with ample amounts of fresh air seeping through the numerous cracks and gaps, diffusing the dulling effect of these obnoxious odours. Allison was unsure of what exactly had started the discord between them. They were arguing relentlessly for hours, until Frank’s intolerance had reached a climax.
‘You want me to cut off your damn head?!’ he blazed onto the veranda in a reckless rage, clenching the machete he had been sharpening on the steps to go check on his crops.
‘Come and cut my neck!’ Joan angrily shouted at him from inside the house.
‘Shut your mouth!’ he snarled.
‘Don’t tell me to shut my mouth!’ she stridently reversed his statement.
‘I said, shut up! Shut you’re…’ he raged, clenching his teeth and hurling himself towards Joan, as he grappled her blouse.
‘Let go off my clothes!’ she screamed, taken back at her husband’s aggressive behaviour.
‘Don’t kill mommy!’ Allison squealed out of terror, horrified to see her lunatic father threatening Joan.
Perhaps effectuated by seeing Allison crying her eyes out, he released Joan who receded on the veranda chair, shaking from nervousness as he left her on the veranda; Allison crying out of shock. Frank returned to the steps where he continued sharpening his machete. Soon after, he took Robert with him to check on the farm.
Frightened, Allison’s heart rapidly beat from the adrenalin build-up, caused by this terrible onslaught of domestic abuse. No words would suitably describe the way she felt about her devilish father, seemingly possessed by evil spirits. Affected with dolour and being only young with little experience, she was not able to pacify her chocked-up mother. On few occasions, she had seen her mother crying out of despair. Allison had therefore hoped Joan would muster the courage to take off with her and her brothers, leaving Frank behind in the house that he anyway claimed was his property alone.
The atmosphere was still tensed, as Joan gravely prepared everyone for Church, except herself and her deranged husband. Allison reluctantly got herself ready and left with Harry. Frank returned with Robert, demanding him to get washed off and dressed, to meet him later at Church. They arrived in time to hear the congregation singing and clapping, loudly declaring that Jesus is alive and well. A few younger heads were now attending Church, with a pastor from another district, preaching there from time to time. Looking calm and collected, as if nothing had happened that morning, Frank arrived soon after to join with the other members, absorbed in the morning programme. The singing died down, when he and a few other deacons sat on the altar.
Seated, Allison groused with Madeline, the neighbour and daughter of the old man who regularly played on his banjo and was rumoured to use the insect repellent as a deodorant. Allison became appalled to see her audacious father, getting off his seat with feigned humility. To her dismay, Frank announced that he would not only personally conduct this morning’s ceremony, but also was to present the harangue of the day.
She had hoped that he would not be so daring as to actually stand up and preach about the love of God to the whole congregation. Only a few moments ago, he had threatened to decapitate his own wife, failing to even offer her as much as an apology, let alone a few words of regret. The concept of repentance was not entirely foreign to him, yet to see him apply it in practical reality, seemed more unimaginable than an ostrich losing a race with a tortoise. At the crest of his hypocrisy, Frank proudly stepped up to the stand and began lecturing in length and breadth, how one should forgive a wrongdoer, seventy times seven.
Allison’s heart felt as if it had fallen from her chest and sunken into her belly. Having seen the power of a water hose in one of the cartoons at her aunt’s house, lucid thoughts at this moment raced through her mind, of that very instrument, forcefully blowing her deranged father off the pulpit and finally giving peace a chance.
‘Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead!’ Allison listened to her not so heavenly father, ranting and raving. She studied the image of the crucifix hanging on the wall behind him, supposedly that of Jesus Christ dying on the cross and pondered, that if Jesus has risen from the dead and is indeed alive and well, why then all this focus on him hanging there, dying on the cross?
Covertly blocking the ears with her fingers to avoid lending any further aural reception to her father’s hollow statements, Allison lowered herself into the seat behind a few members, to be out of the scope of his vision. Then and there, she concluded that a common tin of paint, which at least contains what the label says, would represent far more authenticity than her hypocritical father, who was not only emotionally unstable but indeed appeared to be qualifying for urgent medical attention and professional treatment, preferably in some far away lunatic asylum.
Frank received his communion, having ended the sermon on the mount of his sanctimonious self-deception, after which he made a show of giving his deeply personal testimony; his daughter showing her appreciation by the subtlety of her thumbnail clapping. Those who were baptised ate the flesh and drank the blood of Christ. Luckily, this sacrificial ritual was represented by broken pieces of yeasty bread and cheap red wine, the sought after ambrosia for those wishing to live a more sanctified life.
In the evening, one could have heard a pin drop, as the family ate in total silence. Allison went to bed that night, vying and praying to be released from that abject existence. The lifestyle of her father, too desperate to be adored, she felt was one to be definitively abhorred. Seeing Frank with his sharpened machete, chopping up his wife into small portions, in a final mad attack, Allison woke up from her nightmare. Neither able to go back to sleep, nor daring to reveal her terrified mind to anyone, she silently tolerated the effect of this horrible scene that left another vivid imprint on her memory…