Terrified of his dad's violent anger, Skippy hides in a coal bin, where coal tumbled down.
Skippy d. 1954
The green aluminum tumbler rattled on the Formica tabletop. With raised eyebrows Ralph looked at Mary. On signal, Mary leaped from her chair and hurried to the refrigerator. Milk bottle in hand, she dutifully returned and refilled his tumbler.
Ralph, still in the boxer shorts and sleeveless wife-beater shirt he slept in, scratched his crotch as if no one else was in the room. Next, he shook loose a Camel straight from its pack and looked around for a light. His lighter was not on the dining table, not on a counter nearby, nowhere in sight. Damn it!
"Aw crap-shit! Mary where is my goddamn lighter?" As if it was her job to keep track of his things. Truth was, Mary knew well that she would catch hell if that lighter was lost.
"Maybe it's in the car," she said weakly. "Oh, Skippy. Please go to the car and find Pop's cigarette lighter." Her fear showed through a tight-lipped smile as she looked at Ralph.
"OK." Whatever you do, don't upset Pop. Skip ran out through the kitchen door leading to a driveway. Their grey/green four-door Studebaker sat baking in the hot September sun. He opened the door and was greeted by a wave of heat. On reflex he shut his eyes. Upon opening them, there it was on the floor--the cigarette lighter. He grabbed it stuffed it into his Levi's.
Head spinning with summer heat, Skip wandered back toward the house. In a daze he didn't see an upturned garden rake with rigid prongs laying in tall grasses. His right shoe landed in the rigid rake teeth. Powerful leverage pulled the stiff wooden handle straight up, landing on his right temple.
Damn but it hurt! He was pissed! Skip knew the way to express angry emotions. Ralph directed violent anger at Mary or his stepson Skippy almost daily. If I'm really mad about something, I know how to express it, like Pop does.
Feeling confident on how to best tell his mother and Ralph about his anger, he trotted into the kitchen and announced, "I stepped on that damn rake and it hit me!"
Ralph gave him a cold as stone look, "What did you just say?"
"It was that damn rake..." Skippy put his hand on his forehead where it hurt.
"What! You will not use such language here, God dammit!" Ralph pounded a fist on the table and reached out to grab Skippy's tee shirt but, he was just out of reach.
"But, you say that stuff. I don't understand why..." Whoops. The words simply spilled out of his mouth. Skip was in for it now.
"You better watch that goddam smart mouth of yours. I'm gonna get my belt and teach you a lesson. You're gettin' it now Skip!" Ralph was in a rage. He stood up and raced to the bedroom.
"Where's my goddam belt?"
Skip knew better than to wait for the consequences, remembering the feeling of Ralph's fist on his face numerous times. He could hear objects being tossed around in the bedroom as he ran out of the kitchen. Ralph would soon come out with his belt!
Where to? He looked at the door leading to the basement. As quietly as possible he tiptoed to the door and opened it. A slight squeak emitted. He could still hear Ralph down the hall cursing and pounding. That was always so scary. The sound of pounding footsteps always meant that Ralph was chasing his mom around the house.
Skip closed the basement door and carefully crept down to the basement.
I gotta hide! Looking quickly left to right, there it was-- the coal box. Fear can result in extraordinary feats of strength and Skip was no exception. His small fingers found purchase on the wood slats that were to contain thousands of coal chunks, destined to heat Hoyt House. He monkeyed over the six-foot wall and landed on nearly bare concrete.
Skip figured that the coal bin would be an ideal place to hide. Who needs a coal delivery mid-summer? He covered his face with hands blackened with coal dust. He began to shake, filled with terrifying memories of being face slapped by Ralph's callused hands. I must sit and be totally quiet. Do not breathe. Do not squirm. Do not cry.... Otherwise, Pop might hear me.
Even though it was July, unless directed by the customer, coal was delivered by truck on the second Tuesday of every third month, Today.
He heard a truck pull into the driveway with its squeaky brakes. Shortly after hearing two door slams, he watched a basement window directly across from him open. He backed away as far as he could from it, watching a long wooden chute extend halfway into the coal bin.
If I scream, Pop will find me! In horror, he watched coal chunks tumble and spill in and around him. Back dust filled the air. The coal soon crushed his nine year-old body.
Don't cry, Skip. Hold your breath. At least Pop can't find me again. His body was discovered days later.