The day I had the devil beat out of me: A sore tale



That Sinking Feeling

            Water sprung from our bathroom wall like a sinking ship, flooding the black and white checkered floor which turned the unraveled toilet paper on the ground into a soggy nightmare. The toilet too, overflowed adding to the small pond which had already formed. Sitting in the middle of the floor was our sink, having been removed accidentally from its traditional resting place of on the wall. And standing in the doorway, gazing at the mayhem we caused, stood my best friend and I.

            Standing at three feet tall and at the age of five, with blue saucers for eyes and usually wearing a one piece suit my mom so kindly dressed me in, I was a good kid for the most part… I was, and still am, what you’d call a “goodie two shoes,” more of a follower than a protagonist, except when I was with my best friend, John Moeller. He didn’t look like trouble, sporting a bowl cut, a face spotted with freckles, and thick glasses, yet when combined with me the results were terrifying. Previously, while playing hide-and-go-seek, John had managed to scare our pet bird, Jasmine, into a permanent sleep. Overwhelmed with the excitement of the game, John let out as booming a yell as his little body could, hoping Jasmine would send a tweet back. Unfortunately, she instead reacted by having a fatal heart attack.

             On this particular day we were, as usual, under the supervision of Johnny Hardy. Nonny, as we had dubbed her because I had not yet mastered the “J” sound, was our big teddy bear. She had caramel skin, an ever present smile, and a body built to give the best hugs. Her hair sat slightly higher than shoulder length and she managed to smell of the freshest bouquet of flowers at all hours of the day. Born on a farm in north Louisiana, she wasn’t college educated, but she was about to teach us one of the many life lessons she taught us over the years.

            John and I had momentarily ran out of ideas; playing Power Rangers had lost its appeal. Now, we moved on to mystery. Creeping through the hallways and corridors of the tiny two bedroom house, searching for witches and goblins, we ended up in the bathroom.  It had the basics, consisting of a bath, toilet, and sink- all attempting to be white but in reality more of an ivory from age.  Perched in the corner above the doorway was an unnecessary, but thoughtfully indulgent gift my father had given for my mother, was a staggering thirteen inch pure white television to which almost always featured cartoons (at least, while I was bathing anyway.) Quickly, we both flew into the room. For reasons unknown to me, John then proceeded to fill the toilet with as much Charmin as possible while simultaneously flushing the toilet. I had to respond so, thinking on my feet, which fit comfortably into my light up sneakers, I grabbed my own roll and began decorating the bathroom. As I rapidly ran out of TP, the toilet began spewing like Old Faithful. Terrified, we continued to flush the toilet, pleading with it to stop. The water level was rising, so seeking refuge I leaped upon the sink. John, too, then joined me, but the combination of our collective mass had sealed our fate. The sound of cracking reverberated from beneath and before we could flee, the sink crashed to the checkered floor sending an explosion of sound through the walls of my house. Stunned from the fall and drenched from toilet water, we dragged ourselves free of the disaster zone to the protection of the hallway, but then came the sound which John and I dreaded the most. Nonny was coming; she must have heard the crash. The old floor boards in the kitchen sent us warning signals, telling us each step as she grew close, begging us to run, but we were trapped. John had overcome his awe and made a move, which at the time seemed cunning. He leaped to the left, switching off the hallway lights, and we scrambled to the far corner, but even this couldn’t save our behinds (Literally). BAM! The door swung open as if it were a drug bust and we honestly would rather have seen cops. Standing in the doorway with beams of light poking out from all around her, she looked like an angel sent by God to punish us. From there she loomed upon us, our executioner.

“What in heaven’s name are ya’ll doin’ in there?”

No response. We were still counting on not being seen.

“Oh my gawt! You two get over here right now!”

She had seen the bathroom and now had she seen us, but how when we were hiding so well?  Maybe she’s guessing, neither of us moved.

“I said, ‘Get over here!’”

The stalemate could go on no longer. I got up first, guilt tearing me apart, and made the longest walk of my life (approximately 6 feet.)  What once was a hallway had transformed into death row, and I knew what punishment was imminent. Gravity began weighing down on me, I had the chills, and my eyes burned, but I wasn’t going to cry. Not until John was gone. The next two phrases, especially in sequence, shattered whatever bravery John and I had somehow retained. “Ya’ll both getting a spanking for this. Wait ‘til Mr. John comes home.” Mr. John was my dad, the family law enforcer, but the spanking was her department. If there wasn’t enough water in the hallway by now, our tears surely added a few gallons. John went first, and took his punishment emotionlessly; immune to the pain from previous experience (He was spanked often.)  I was next. I wasn’t even offered a final cigarette before she began! It took what seemed a lifetime for Nonny to raise her hand, and as she did so it grew. By the time it reached its peak it must have been three baseball mitts wide. At five, standing hunched over soaking wet in the hallway, the most petrifying event of any child’s life was occurring, a Spanking. Then, at light speed, it descended upon me. WHAM! The pain started at my feet then crept up until it enveloped my entire body, but the tears had stopped. Nonny had spanked my tear ducts closed, along with separating the ideas of all future mischief. I am positive that through the hand of Nonny, all evil was expelled from my body.  Breaking the sink was immediately added to the list of not-to-do’s, right next to getting sick. Why not get sick? Nonny had been bred on home remedies, and unless you wanted raw bacon on your feet with salt water and vinegar in your mouth you didn’t let out the slightest sniffle.

            Before you judge Nonny for the red bottom she gave John and I, let me explain the relationship which exists between us now and then. I’d classify her as my grandmother, based on her age, mannerism, and the amount I love her, the latter being the primary rationale. The lesson of that particular day was one needed, and immediately understood, at least for myself.  Thinking before acting is a concept very distant to the youthful mind, but learning it at such a ripe age was a blessing. When put in a situation of questionable moral standards, Nonny involuntarily comes to mind, hand raised and disapproval written across her brow. To be truthful, this wasn’t the first time John and I had found ourselves with our backs against the wall. Left in our past was a graveyard of broken windows, baseball in the house was probably not our best idea, and one dead rattle snake. As a child, I tried to be Steve Irwin, but bare hand-catching a rattler ended my run to fame. Nonny had enough of that “nonsense.”  So whether I found myself drenched, clenching the remnants of a bathroom sink or playing with a deadly reptile, I had my guardian angel in spirit, Johnny Hardy, at my side.






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