There was one evening, Doctor, that I remember in particular. I was heading towards the circus from the bakery where my mamma used to work. The night before, father had become furious at mamma because there was no chicken at home and father wanted to eat chicken, oh he so desperately did. Mamma said she’d prepare it the next afternoon, but father wanted it right then, no no he wouldn’t wait, oh no. He wanted it that very moment. That adamant jerk!
Mamma didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t raise her voice against him, oh no she couldn’t. She slowly and hesitantly walked towards me and asked me to run out to the neighbors and find out if anyone could give us chicken. I saw her shiver with fear and I at once rushed out, wanting so desperately to be back home, with the chicken, before my father would beat the life out of my mother.
I ran and ran, Doctor, door to door, like a crazy person, begging for just a little piece of meat. Begging for a ransom that would set my mamma free, temporarily, from the clutches of the wretched beast – my father!
Oh but the neighbors wouldn’t help me, no no they wouldn’t. They hated us…hated my father. We, the Napiers, were the noisy and the clumsy ones on the street. Mamma was always in tears and clad in ragged clothes and father was always drunk and brought many a filthy people home with him. Our home, home if you call it so, was repelled by all! Some pitied little Napier at the beginning and would help him keep fed when his mamma failed to do so or rather was incapacitated to think about his well-being because of the trauma render to her by his gracious father. However, this didn’t last for long. There came a fine day soon, the day when Napier’s father saw him eating at Mrs. Walter’s and grew all wild! The wretched beast entered Mrs. Walter’s home and he destroyed everything he could lay his eyes on. Wreckage, breakage, total damage! Chaos! The man lived and breathed for the destruction of order, for chaos!
Anyway, after running around for sometime, I came across a house on the Bakery Street. I called out to the owner of the house and I saw a really pretty woman walk out of the house. She looked at me, in a sense of “I know this boy” and asked, “You are Linda’s son, aren’t you? Your mamma works at this bakery, doesn’t she?” added she, pointing at the bakery that was right in front of the house.
‘Yes,’ I said, hoping that she’d help me and well, she did something more than just solve the chicken problem. She said, ‘Take me to your home, boy, and I will show you what you have to do when your father goes all ballistic again.’
Then, as she held my little hand and as she dragged me home, I saw that Joe was delightfully pretty. I saw her ponytail chase our each step and noticed that her pinkish face was bloodshot because of rage. I looked her, through the corner of my eye, not realizing why my heart was beating louder than usual.
Anyway, a few minutes later we came home and…and we were a bit too late. Father had cruelly belted mamma until she had bled. Her neck had turned black because of my wretched father’s fingers and she was curled up in a ball and was fighting real hard to breathe.
As little Jack saw her, he began to tremble. His eyes seemed to have been set on fire and he could feel his heart pound out of his cheat. ‘I am not going to spare him,’ little Jack said and hugged his mamma, as Joe crouched and brushed mamma’s hair, saying, ‘You will be beaten, you will be abused, you will be treated like a filthy old pig, you will squeal and you will face defeat over and over until the day you choose to fight back. It is okay if you don’t manage to defeat him, but you should never go down without a fight!’
I saw Joe utter those words and say much more, I really don’t recall everything, but anyway, I remember that she said what she said with such ferocity and well, I was completely captivated and intoxicated by her. On the one side, I saw my mother squeal, weak and frail, while on the other side, I saw Joe roar, strong and confident. I thought I’m not going to let father touch my mamma again. And if he does, I am going to fight him. Like Joe says, It is okay if he beats me. It is okay if he spills out his anger on me. Better me than my mamma.
As I thought that, I saw Joe looking at me, her raging eyes somehow soothing me. I felt all my troubles fade into oblivion. I felt confident. I had found my rock.
We had that connection, we communicated, we exchanged everything therein in that single eye contact. We picked up my mamma, cleaned her wounds, gave her some food and put her to bed. Then, as we heard my dad screaming at the corner of the street, picking yet another fight, Joe said, ‘Come and meet me at my place tomorrow, I will teach you what it is to be a survivor,’ and ran out of the house.
The next morning, father woke up, all dazed and sheepish. He quickly got all ready and forcefully took me with him to the quarry, so that he would get some extra bucks for his various vices!
I worked at the quarry all morning and then we came back home in the afternoon. Father had his precious chicken for lunch and then he had me massage his hands and legs as he fell asleep. The usual routine!
As evening fell, he went on his patrol and immediately, I ran to her house, delighted and all excited on the prospect of meeting Joe. I literally glided to Joe’s in less than a minute, feeling a rush on adrenaline. As I reached her house and caught my breathe, I knocked on the door, but none answered. I called her name out and the response was the same – nothing.
Then, I went to the baker athwart to the house and asked if he had seen Joe and learnt that she waited outside for me for quite sometime in the morning. Then again she had come out in the afternoon, but I wasn’t to be found. And in the evening, she had left. Upon probing him, I found out that she worked at the circus in the evening and I might most likely be able to find her there.
So I walked towards the Tent where Joe worked.
‘As what?’ asked Doctor D.
‘As a Joker.’