Paul would normally huddle up and be ready for whatever his father dished out. This time, he stood up and tried to shove his father. However, the man caught each of Paul’s arms. The next thing Paul knew, something snapped and he was launched into the air. He slammed into the wall that divided the kitchen from the living room.
Silence. Pain. Paul opened his eyes, and he wasn’t sure how much time had passed. His right arm and left leg felt wrong. His arm didn’t look any different, but his left leg looked like it had two knees.
His mother screamed. Paul squeezed his eyes shut, trying to shake the pain out of his body and the fuzziness out of his mind. He stood to fight! Wasn’t that courageous? Wasn’t it strong to stand up to the man trying to hurt his mother? What was the point of all those words in the Bible if they didn’t make him strong enough to defend his mom?
Paul opened his eyes only to see his father shove his mother down to the ground.
“Everyone here thinks they’re so much better than I am!” His father unleashed a kick that caused his mother to rise from the ground a little. She let out a strange coughing sound. She couldn’t breathe!
Paul tried to get up, but the moment he put any weight on his arm, he fell in pain. He tried to pull himself up, reaching for the nearby kitchen table. His left arm pulled him to a seated position, but that leg seemed to scream. Paul let go and held his injured limb. Something clattered to the floor. His mother’s cell phone.
His mother had said they’d lose his father if he told anyone. She said the family couldn’t survive without the money he earns. She said she loved him.
Paul didn’t have the strength to physically fight his father, but did he have the strength to do what nobody, not just the man who visited but no one Paul knew, had the strength and courage to do?
“I slave away, working like a dog for this family, and this is the thanks I get?” Paul’s dad screamed as he lifted his mother up only to punch her down to the ground. She bounced off the floor and stopped moving.
Paul stared at the phone. It was less than an inch from his head, but it seemed so far away. What would happen to his family if he called the police? What would happen if he didn’t? Would his mom hate him?
A part of Paul thought it would be easier to die fighting his father. Touching the phone seemed strangely more horrifying and difficult than fighting a man twice his size and weight.
“Get up!” His father screamed. “You brought this on yourself!” He lifted Paul’s unconscious mother off the ground, but she still wasn’t moving.
Be strong and courageous.
Help me! Paul thought.
He reached out, activated the phone, and pressed the emergency button. He heard a soft ringing tone and then a voice he couldn’t quite make out. His head still felt like it was spinning.
“1009 Centurion Way,” Paul whispered. “If you don’t show up soon, I think he’ll kill us both.”
Paul muttered the same thing a few times, but a loud smack drew his attention. His father didn’t care that his wife was unconscious. He slapped her again and again. Each blow sounded like the crack of a whip.
“Leave her alone!” Paul screamed. He used his left elbow to slide his body toward his father. “Put her down!”
His father slowly turned his head toward him. “You haven’t quite learned your lesson have you?”
“Actually,” Paul said, “I think I did.” He wasn’t ever able to fight his father, and the man would kill Paul long before he ever got strong enough to fight. What he needed was the strength to do what he desperately wanted someone else, anyone else, to do.
Paul’s father stomped over to him and grabbed him by the front of his shirt. Paul rose high into the air. His leg felt like it was on fire. Something kept poking out of the skin of his calf. Lifted up like that, he actually had to look down his father’s arm and into his eyes.
“What makes you think you could take me on?” Paul’s father was always so loud. The neighbors or even someone down the block had to hear it. No one did anything. Not until tonight.
“Why do you feel so weak around us?” Paul asked. The question just sort of popped into his head, but it made sense even as he asked it.
He was a huge man who’d spent ten years working in a factory. He would always challenge his drinking buddies to arm wrestling matches and even full-on wrestling matches. He did everything he could to show people how strong he was. Why would he do that unless he was afraid they thought he was weak?
His father eyes widened, and his face melted into one of pure rage. He reached back a large right hand. Something blasted Paul in the face. Darkness took him before he could make sense of anything, but Paul thought he heard a siren.
… the end of Chapter 2 …