The book flies through the air like a cannon missile and as it strikes, my head exploding in a mixture of shock and fear and pain, all I can hear above my mothers anger is my own voice screaming “but its my BIRTHDAAAYYYY!” silently in righteous outrage.
My fourth, to be precise. A very important day. Birthdays just are, its the rule.
It was my fault. I’d left the book in my parents bedroom, and it was probably Saturday – my mother always “did the housework” on Saturdays – all the chores she loathed doggedly discharged with the foulest of temper in a single day, and if you were smart you kept clear and quiet. I was neither smart not clear or quiet on any day, and even though it was my birthday, I can’t remember now why I went in the bedroom at all, much less why I would brave an approach with such inauspicious timing. But there it was, sitting on top of the ottoman like a torch to vexation – and then landing with a thwack in my face, and the words I thought I’d thought had actually come out of my mouth and and finally my legs unfroze and I ran from the torrent I had unleashed.
I have no idea where, probably my bedroom. I say my – at four, I expect I still shared it with my two-year-old brother. Though that wouldn’t have been so smart, maybe I went right down to the bottom of the garden to the shed where we kept the hay and stuff for the rabbits and guineapigs. There were big spiders there but at that moment they would have been the least of my worries. Not that I was in a very smart mood, as we’ve already seen.
My memory works mostly in pictures – snapshots, often with gaps the size of the stride of a giant between them, strides so wide he might be running from the devil. My four-year-old self is forever frozen just inside the doorway, the book launched, landing smack on target, and childhood shatters right along with birthday euphoria in a roar of anger and misery.
What I didn’t know for about another forty-odd years was just how miserable my mother had been.