Secular Ethos

As a child, like most children of single parents I saw my mother as a hero. Like the goddess Artemis , she was the huntress, protector of the foundlings, a great hero of childish myth. Growing older, I began to see through the stories I told myself. The childish fantasies lost their magic as I began to see that the prey of this huntress were any that could be taken advantage of. And her armor, her children, she held up like a mighty aegis to guard her from true responsibility. On the surface a struggling single mother, in truth a woman using her children as a paycheck. But more than that really, her sharp mind found that children make great emotional trump cards. I was at times presented rather than introduced, but introduced just the same if it met the ends I was to be the means for. When my mere existence became an anathema to a particular end I was discarded or left in solace. Only to be retrieved again when the money tree needed a shake.

What evils befell this once heralded Artemis to break her heroic visage? Did she grow weary of the battle and fall to tears at the feet of her father? Was it her mother to blame for her woes? There is none left to blame, and the battle continues. So what of the battle, or the fallen prey of the all too human once thought of as a hero? This is were allegory fails and life is more tragic than myth. The fallen prey to the huntress is my father, or stepfather number…(I lost count.) As a child of eight years, my recollection of events is shaped by the stories I was told or taught to tell myself.

The story begins much further back than I wish to go through at this moment so I will skip to the climax of the story. One night late returning from an event( I don’t fully recall what the event was.. possibly something to do with the band my stepfather played in. ), an argument broke out in the car. It was my mother and stepfather. They were arguing more heated than usual. The pale brown land yacht began to feel more like a phone booth. It got to the point were my stepfather struck my mother several times while the car was still in motion. At that moment the dark unlit country road felt much brighter. As If there were several spotlights on us. I felt like the whole world was watching, and not one person wanted to do something. Yet, in the midst of this all the situation quickly turned. Somehow my mother managed to stop the vehicle and she grabbed me, and we began walking home. My child mind saw the huntress heroically leap over this flailing beast, striking it off balance as she with great focus drew back her bow fired a shot across the beasts crested brow. The huntress then takes advantage of the beasts’ now unbalanced throws to parry and reposte with a quick kick to its side rendering it incapable of defending the cherished brake peddle. The details from this point to the next are unclear to me. (maybe even blocked out by my sub-conscience.) All I can recall is getting out of the car some distance away from home, and then sitting in a field by our trailer. For an indeterminate amount of time, we sat in the field. I recall my heart pounding in my chest, it was nearly painful. Like my heart was made of jagged stone fiercely beating against the walls of my breastplate. My chest spasmed as I tried to catch my breath from what must have been a brisk walk there. Then suddenly a car approached, it was my stepfather. He drove up with the passenger door open, his right hand out stretched as if pleading for us to take it. It reminded me of those action movies, where the reluctant hero tries to catch someone as they were falling or dangling over an abyss. His face was full of conviction as he spoke. I only recall silence as the words came out. It was as if I were watching TV with the voices muted. I heard only the background noises of the car, the whispering wind, and the unintelligible music from the radio.

The details of the next few moments are gone from me as well. However, the next scene takes me from sitting by the car, to all three of us standing in the middle of the gravel road that passes through the trailer park. This scene was like being in a play, everything was dark with only us illuminated in pale yellow by the filthy street light above. This time I can hear the voices, but the words are coming through jumbled. I am standing close enough to hear, only a few feet away, but still my brain only holding on to the context and missing the content. It was like sitting in a crowded auditorium where everyone is having their own conversation in loud whispers. Suddenly, as if waking from a lucid dream, the words come through and I am being told to look for either my stepfather or my mothers wedding ring. I am unsure which one, but it appears as though my stepfather threw one of them in the gravel. For the next few moments I only remember searching the gravel for the ring. The arguing has stopped and there is only the pseudo serene silence of the night. After a few more moments of searching, the silence is broken. There is a loud crash like the sound of an old aluminum screen door slamming. Followed by the sound of a bag of potatoes being dropped on a hard wood floor. I was shocked, and overcome with full-body “pins and needles” . It was like standing up too quickly after rapid breathing. I was driven by loud screams and sobbing into the trailer. Where I see my stepfather on the floor with blood pouring out onto the floor from his now opened skull. He made sounds I can only describe as a labored snoring. His limbs twitched slightly. I was overcome with a stunned numbness. I stared at this scene unflinchingly. My mother clutching his neck like the huntress Artemis clutching the knees of Zeus. She was reduced from the warrior daughter of the king of gods, to a weeping child overcome from the pangs of battle. In a desperate plea, I was instructed to wake the manager of the trailer park. I also stopped by my friends trailer for support. Or maybe it was for a tether, since reality at this moment is fleeting. I knew it was actually happening, but how much can an eight year old comprehend this collection of events. As an adult, I still find myself unable to fully understand what happened.

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