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Mark M Lichterman

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Abused Child
By Mark M Lichterman
Posted: Sunday, September 30, 2012
Last edited: Tuesday, October 02, 2012
This short story is rated "G" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Mark M Lichterman
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· BK1:Becoming;1944#3
           >> View all 957
The boy took one step into the room… another… then, with as little sound as possible, closing the door behind him,
holding the latch, hardly breathing, standing perfectly still,hoping, "Oh, Lordy!" he prayed that Johnson would not awaken, but…

"Abused" is an excerpt from my novel, "The Climbing Boy" and can also be purchased as a Kindle Ebook @ $2.95

___________________________________________________________________

London, England

Christmas Eve, December 24, 1843

                          

A stinging, snow-driving blast of frigid wind forced tears

from the corners of the boy’s  eyes.

 

Tightening the grip on his hat, Zachariah pulled the collar

of his coat even tighter.

 

Closer to the shack!

 

Closer to Johnson!

 

“Lordy!”

 

Almost home!

 

  “Lordy!”

 

There it is! The little boy saw its squat, dim outline in the

darkness…

 

The shack.

 

His pace slowing, all else forgotten: candy, cold, anger

and hunger—all was forgotten.

 

Fear. All else was replaced with fear.

 

Approaching, his pace slowed even further.

 

He hesitated at the door.

 

His hand reached for the latch, came away,

reached again.

 

Slowly, quietly. As quietly as possible, Zachariah opened

the door an inch… another… a few inches.

 

Leaning his head through the narrow opening, he looked

inside, then, squeezing between the doorframe and the

door… his lips moving silently, “Lordy! Oh, Lordy!”

 

Johnson was home.

 

Sitting behind the table in front of the fireplace, sprawled

upon a straight-back chair, his neck bent to the rear, his

head hanging over the back of the chair, his mouth fully

open, Johnson was snoring. His legs spread from side to

side, one hand hung limply to the floor. In his other hand,

held on his lap, there was a half empty bottle of gin.

 

A poorly made fire smoldered in the fireplace.

 

Upon the mantel were two flickering candles and an

unopened bottle of gin.

 

On the table, with a knife sticking through the middle,

was a partially eaten loaf of bread, another candle and…

 

“Lordy!”

 

…Lying on its side, another gin bottle… an empty

gin bottle.

 

The boy took one step into the room… another… then,

with as little sound as possible, closing the door behind him,

holding the latch, hardly breathing, standing perfectly still,

hoping, Oh, Lordy! he prayed that Johnson would not

awaken, but…

 

The rumbling of his stomach, in his mind, echoed throughout

the shack and, afraid the sound might wake Johnson, covering

his middle, pressing his forearm  hard against his stomach, the

boy thought, If I can just get a piece’ a that bread an’ get into bed afore ‘e wakes.

 

He took one small, tentative step toward the table, then,

thinking he’d rather be hungry then beaten, turned to the

far side of the room, to his pallet.

 

One step…

 

Two steps…

 

A sputter and crackle as an overhanging bit of log burned

through and fell off the grate.

 

Another step.

 

Snoring… snorting loudly, choking on a bit of spittle,

coughing, Johnson lifted his head, opened his eyes, closed

them, then, as though the effort of holding his head upright

was far too great, letting the back of his head drape over the

back of the chair once again, he returned to his

drunken slumber.

 

Zachariah waited one… two… three… four heartbeats

before taking another step…

 

A floorboard creaked loudly and, stopping in mid-step,

his right foot inches off the floor, the boy did not breathe.

 

Johnson stirred… His head lifted off the back of the chair,

held upright… then slumped onto his chest.

 

Waiting… Waiting, standing perfectly still the boy waited

until, hearing Johnson snore…

 

On tiptoes, he took one step, another and…

 

The rough-hewn wood floor creaked again, and…

 

Johnson lifted his head.

 

The boy stood still… not breathing… not moving, his left

foot poised above the floor.

 

Johnson stared into the fire. He yawned. He coughed.

He closed his eyes… He opened his eyes and, lifting the

bottle to his mouth, took a long gurgling swallow. Catching

on his lips, the suction of the bottle popped when pulled

from his mouth.

 

Still… Still…

 

Again standing perfectly still, Don’t turn! The boy prayed

silently. Lordy, please don’t let him turn!

 

Johnson turned…

 

Looking at the boy, trying to focus his vision, “Uh…” his

words slow and slurred, “I been waitin’ on ya!” He stared at

the boy a moment, then took another long, lip-popping swig

from the bottle.

 

Knowing the drunker he was, the worse it’s going to be,

the boy’s eyes followed the bottle’s trip from the man’s lap

to his mouth… and back to his lap.

 

“Where ya been?” Waiting a moment for an answer…

receiving none, awkwardly pulling himself off the chair,

swaying backwards, straightening, planting the base of the

bottle on the table, leaning into the table, supporting himself

by the knuckles of one fist and with the throat of the bottle

held tightly in the other, “Where-ya-been?” Johnson

repeated slowly.

 

“I, uh, lost me way.”

 

“Imbecile!” Stumbling around the table, attempting to

intimidate the boy—which he most certainly did—standing

directly in front and above him, “Me money!” Johnson

demanded, holding his hand forward.

 

The boy did not move.

 

“I says, ‘me money,’ if ya please!”

 

His mouth suddenly dry, Zachariah could not speak.

 

“Boy, I says to ya once more,” bending forward, speaking

directly into his face, bringing his open hand under

Zachariah’s nose, “Gi’me’ me money!”

 

The boy did not move.

 

Staring ominously at the boy, Johnson then looked to

the floor near the door. “An’ the ‘quipment?” Bringing his

face even closer to the boy’s face, causing him to step

backward. Bellowing, “Where’s the ‘ell’s me ‘quipment?”

he grabbed Zachariah by the lapels of his coat.

 

Finding his voice, “Please! I didn’t do nothin’!”

 

Holding him by the material in his clenched fist, lifting

him till only the tips of his toes touched the floor, “Wad’a’ya

mean ya didn’t do nothin’?” Johnson screamed in the boy’s

face. “What the ‘ell ‘appened? Everythin’ was well enough

when I left ya! I tol’ ya not to get the ol’ bastard mad!

What’j’ya do? An’,” pointing at the bent, dented top hat atop

Zachariah’s head, “what the ‘ell’s this?” He began to cough,

and doubling over, released Zachariah.

 

Backing away, “Master Johnson, Sir,” he stammered. “It

weren’t my fault! Ol’ ‘obbins, ‘e wouldn’t pay me! ‘e said we

got dirt on one’a his settees! But I didn’t do it! I weren’t

nowhere near it! An’ all’s it was anyways was a little

smudgin’a soot an’ I told ‘im I’d’a been able to clean it, but

‘e wouldn’t let me, an’ ‘e threw me outta the ‘ouse without

the ‘quipment, an’ I begged ‘im for the payment, an’ ‘e

slammed the door shut an’ wouldn’t even gi’me back the

‘quipment!” Stopping, taking a breath, the boy went on

quickly. “An’ then these two ladies an’ men came by an’ even

they tried to tell ‘obbins to gi’me me payment an’ ‘quipment,

but the ol’ bastard wouldn’t listen to ‘em, too, an’ ‘e tol’ ‘em

‘e’d call a copper if’n they didn’t go, an’ one’a the gentlemen

felt bad, it bein’ so cold an’ all, an’ gim’me this ‘ere ‘at.”

 

Catching his breath, Johnson knew—even through the

alcoholic fog in his brain—that it was not the fault of the

boy. Johnson knew if he’d stayed on the job and not gone off

drinking Hobbins would have paid him. But, once again,

having only this means of venting his anger and frustration,

and being drunk as he was, he again attacked the boy.

 

Repeating, “All was well ‘nough when I left ya!” Taking a

step forward, once again grabbing Zachariah by the lapels

of his coat, twisting the material in his fist, he viciously pulled

the boy’s face to his.

 

Smelling the foul odor, feeling the heat of Johnson’s

breath and the spray of his spittle, “Don’t ‘urt me!” the boy

begged. “‘obbins threw me out an’ ‘e slammed the door an’

it weren’t my fault!”

 

“I left ya to do the work an’ get me money!” Frenzied,

“An’ what did ya do?” His drunken fury having no bounds,

he shook Zachariah till the boy’s head whipped back and

forth, till the hat shook from his head, fell to the floor and

rolled between their feet. “Ya lost me money, that’s what ya

did! An’ ya also lost me me oldest customer! That’s what ya

did!” Consumed by anger, swinging him by the material of

his coat, Johnson made two full circles.

 

On the first rotation the boy’s feet left the floor and, with

a loud crack, his ankle connected with one of the straight

back chairs, knocking it onto its side. On the conclusion of

the second rotation Johnson let go of the coat and, his arms

flailing as he went through the air, his head thudding against

the frame, smashing into the door, Zachariah slumped to 

the floor.

                          


Web Site: mmlichterman.com  

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Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 10/4/2012
Excellent story, Mark; well done!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Texas, Karen Lynn. :D
Reviewed by Annabel Sheila 10/1/2012
I LOVE this story, Mark, and since I purchased my own autographed copy I've read it a few times....I'll be reading it again this Christmas....truly a classic! You're best work!!!!! Anyone in the Den looking for a deeply touching story....READ "The Climbing Boy"...if you think you've read all the classics....you haven't until you've read this one....

Your pal,
Anna


Books by
Mark M Lichterman



For Better or Worse

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The Climbing Boy

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Becoming

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