The Damage Done

By Marc D. Goldfinger

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”—–‘William Shakespeare, The Tempest, act I, scene 2’

Sascha watched the sky as it began to darken. The powdery snow drifted in the wind. She pressed her hand against the window and scraped the ice on the glass with her fingernail. Sascha knew it was almost time for her father to arrive home and butterflies of fear danced in her stomach with their cleats on.

Her palms were damp and she rubbed them together to in a vain attempt to dry them. This was the worst time of day. Sascha felt hollow, cold, so empty inside. She put some tea water on the stove. She thought, maybe a cup of tea will fill the bottomless pit within her.

She looked out the window. Her father’s car hadn’t pulled in yet. Thank God. She sat and waited for the tea to boil. As she sat she thought about the events that had taken place at school today.

Sascha had been in art class with the other kids from the Special Ed group. She was lost in the drawing that she was working on. It was a picture of a beautiful black horse in a meadow. It reared up on its hind legs while its mane blew in the wind. It was so clear in her mind’s eye and her hand moved slowly, accurately, and the picture took shape on the paper.

“If only reading were so easy,” she thought to herself. Sascha always remembered what she heard in class. She had a vivid imagination. Her mind created pictures of things and then she committed them to a permanent place in her brain. The lessons were so easy. But the reading, the reading, she would stare at the page and the letters were there but they just did not make sense to her.

When they had referred her to Special Ed, Sascha knew what it meant. The taunts of retard, retard rang in her mind. Her classmates were moving on while she stood still. Her dad, upon hearing of her transfer, between his drinks, would call her stupid, the idiot child.

Peter would point his finger at her and shake it, his drink in his other hand, and he taunted her, calling her a stupid retard. The word rang loud in her brain, over and over again.

Then Peter would sit Sascha down for her reading lessons, his alcoholic breath drowning her, as soon as he got home from work. He would place the bottle of vodka on the table next to his glass and pour drink after drink for himself as he tried to force her to read. Every time she stumbled over a word he would curse at her, call her a little brainless bitch and punch her in the side of her head.

Suddenly the teapot began to whistle. Sascha got up, tears already running down her cheeks, and poured the water over the tea bag. She felt so cold inside and her hands shook slightly. She wrapped both hands around the hot cup and took a sip. At first it burned her lips but she didn’t care. She was desperate to fill that empty space inside her.

Her stomach hurt until the heat of the tea hit her gut and it loosened the tension she felt. Still the cold inside her remained. She wanted the tea to fill that cold emptiness but it failed. Her eyes blurred with tears and then her cheeks were soaked and her nose was running.

Her mind was running too. She remembered back to today in the art class. Sascha drew that beautiful horse. If only she could be so free, tossing her mane in the wind, rearing up with her spirit rising. She remembered feeling a gentle hand on her shoulder. She looked up into the eyes of her teacher. There was a man standing next to her teacher and they asked if she could come to the office.

Sascha thought she was in trouble and had started to cry. The teacher gave her a hug and told her everything was going to be all right. She leaned towards Sascha and held her arms gently as she spoke.

Sascha heard the words and understood all of them except one but she knew it was significant and held great meaning for her. They told her that her I.Q. had tested close to genius levels and they were going to transfer her to a special school for exceptional children who had dyslexia; dyslexia; dyslexia. The strange word rang a bell in her mind and echoed over and over again.

They told her that because of this dyslexia she saw letters differently than other people and they were going to train her to overcome her reading difficulties. The said they had made a mistake but the intricate quality of her art made them decide to test her and the tests had come back.

Sascha couldn’t believe it. But now she was home and she was going to have to face her father. She had the letter but she knew he would be already drunk and not pay attention to it. After all, he hit her mother all the time and she was very smart.

Sascha looked out the window. Her father’s car was pulling in and he parked slantwise, stopped the car, opened the door and stumbled out into the snow. He had a bottle in his hand and tipped it back, drained it, and then threw it into the snowbank.

The butterflies were doing de-construction in her stomach and she was filled with fear. Sascha ran out the back door as Peter came in the front door.

Sascha’s slippers made tiny prints in the snow and she ran and hid behind the horse barn. She couldn’t take another reading lesson and the wind whipped through her clothes. She thought of her father leaning over her, the alcohol on his breath choking her. She knew the words would not make sense and he would swear at her and punch her in the head just like he did with her mother.

Maybe the school was lying to her. Maybe they were just going to put her away and lock her up. Sascha had just turned eight years old and her whole life had been a nightmare.

Sascha heard her father’s voice yelling out the back door. “I know you’re out there, hiding; I’m going to find you.”

Dyslexia, dyslexia, dyslexia, the word kept running through her brain like it was some kind of curse. Why else had her life been so miserable? The snow fell all around her while her father stumbled out the back door. Suddenly her stomach cramped and she had uncontrollable diarrhea.

Sascha was so afraid. Her father came around the corner of the barn. “There you are, you stupid bitch,” he screamed as he hit her. He grabbed her by the ear and dragged her back into the house, hitting her again, again, and again.

This is a true story. The good news is that Sascha learned how to read. The bad news is that she never recovered from the emotional damage done to her as a child and died of a heroin overdose in 1998. Her father is in prison at this time for physical and emotional abuse of Sascha’s mother.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a formerly homeless vendor who is now housed. He can be reached at junkietroll@yahoo.com Marc also has books on www.smashwords.net that can be downloaded for $2.99.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.

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