All Awful’n’Nice

by Simon Graham

“Gimme it!”

“No way Lorraine.”

“Why the hell not?” She kicks woodchips at me.

“Because it’s heavy. You’ll cut your damn finger off and I’ll get the blame.”

I take a step back from her, “I ain’t coppin’ another beatin’ ‘cause o’ you.”

“Horseshit. You’re just worryin’ that your little sis gon’ be better than you at swingin’ an axe.”

“An axe? It’s a hatchet you lil’ shit. You use an axe with two hands, hatchet with one. How the fuck you gon’ use it if you don’t even know what it is?”

“Well… well…”

“See, you don’t know shit. Listen to your brother sometimes. I’ll teach you how to use it if you just get off my damn back for once.”

“You’re never gonna teach nobody nothin’,” she mumbles.

“What’d ya say?” I swing the hatchet towards her and then kick woodchips at her face.

She cowers and turns away. And then she’s got tears in her eyes.

“Come on Lorraine, don’t be shitty,” I say, but she don’t listen. She starts runnin’ back through the trees to the house.

“Goddammit Lorraine!” I yell, but I know I gon’ too far. Pa is home and he’s gon’ see her crying and I’m gon’ get another beatin’. She ain’t even in the house yet and I can hear his belt snappin’.

My butt’s ain’t even healed yet from the last one. The skin still pink and raw. Been havin’ to sleep on my damn stomach.

She’s the little rat that should be gettin’ the belt. If I had tried to take Pa’s tools at her age without askin’, I’d have gotten knocked round the head. Why is she different? Thinkin’ she can just take a hatchet or an axe or a mallet and swing it round like it’s a damn toy. Fuck her.

The beatin’ ain’t that bad really. I’ve got used to ‘em. The worst of it is thinkin’ about Lorraine and that damn little smug face she always pulls when we’re fightin’ and Pa gives me the corporal treatment. I swear the hits wouldn’t even hurt if she wasn’t there smilin’, sitting on the couch, all Daddy’s little girl. The little shit.  Lookin’ like she watchin’ Pa rustle my hair, not beatin’ me black and blue.

Then she always complains when I can’t get to sleep ‘cause of the welts. Says I make too much noise rollin’ ’round and ’round.

“Stop bein’ a little baby,” she says.

I always have to fight the urge to go smack her a few.

“See how it feel, see how it feel!” I imagine saying, slappin’ her again and again.

I don’t do it though. I normally just say, “You got no fuckin’ idea Lorraine,” but that’s when she starts bitchin’ and moanin’.

She’s start on about how I got it easy, talkin’ ‘bout how hittin’ ain’t nothin’ compared to what she gets. ‘Bout how I don’t see what happens when I ain’t there. And then, even though I’ve heard it damn nearly a hundred times now and don’t wanna hear no more, she tells me all about how he gets in her bed all cuddly and puts his hands down her lil’ pajamas.

Then she cries and cries and I feel awful inside. I have to get out of my bed and sit on hers and rub her back and say, “Everythin’ will be alright. You jus’ wait Lorraine, you jus’ wait.”

I get a few moments of peace before Pa comes out yellin’.

“Come ‘ere boy! You really done it this time.” The words echo through the trees. He stands by the front door, a glass of whisky in one hand, with Lorraine there all red-faced, leanin’ up on Pa’s truck.

“Fuck off,” I yell back. I know I’m gettin’ the beatin’ but I don’t want it just yet. I throw the hatchet in his direction then pick up one of the axes. Then I start runnin’ away from ‘em. Pa never follows me. He’s a lazy stinkin’ ass.

I run, and run off into the trees, swingin’ the axe by my side. “La, la, la,” I sing, runnin’ and runnin’. I don’t stop ‘til I get to the big redwood.

It’s a hundred feet high, tallest tree I sure have ever seen. The base is full o’ my hack marks.

I take a step back, close my eyes and start hackin’. Hack, hack,hack. Then I start singin’. La, la, la.

Each time the hatchet hits the wood, it sends a tingle up my arm and jolts my shoulder. It feels god damn great.

I wish that with each hack, blood would spurt out and splash my face. That’d be awful nice.

I hack until my arms are weak and my shoulders are sore as hell. I drop the axe and open my eyes. I run my hand ‘cross the cuts I’ve made.

I push against the bark, just above the cuts. I’m tired but I push as hard as I can. The tree doesn’t wobble. It doesn’t even budge.

But one day it’s gon’ fall over. One day I’m gon’ cut right through the damn thing. One day it’s gon’ come topplin’ down with a great big bad BOOM. The birds are gon’ fly away and the animals are gon’ run away. And Pa is gon’ be sittin’ there, drinkin’ his damn whisky. And the sound is gon’ shoot through him and he’s gon’ jump. He’s gon’ jump and spill his drink all over himself.

All over his pants.

All over the carpet.

All over his cigarettes.

And he’s gon’ scream.

And Lorraine is gon’ laugh.

And I’m gon’ smile.

La, la, la.

One god damn day.


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