That House In Shamrock

by Robert A. Mitchell


Now that I’m standing here, I cannot remember the last time I laid eyes on my parent’s house. Of course now that I’m back in Shamrock, I’m not sure it much matters. I’ve spent most of life trying to put as much distance between me and this tiny panhandle town as possible. Staring at the front door the arguments and the alcohol on my father’s breath come rushing back. I have been sitting in the rental car for a half an hour trying to muster up the strength to unlock the front door and step foot into a past I have spent my entire life avoiding.

It was my Aunt Linda that informed me that my mother passed away in a nursing home she was placed in five years ago. However Linda tracked down my phone number I’ll never know.  I could have let the lawyer and the real estate agent handle everything, but from the second I hung up the phone a force much greater then me propelled me from Chicago to Texas. Nine hundred and sixty miles, brought me here, ten feet away, and I cannot step foot onto the front yard.

It takes a lot of will power to not turn the key in the ignition and drive off to never look back. It takes even more courage to open the car door and place my foot on the asphalt in front of house 120. My heart begins racing and my hands begin to sweat. I stand looking into the windows. The drawn blinds almost acting as a way to shelter the street from the horrors that happened inside. The hot Texas sun feels as though my father is standing behind me, breathing down my neck, every hot breath urging me to defy him.

The walk to the front door takes five seconds. It feels as though it was five hours. I fumble in the front pocket of my jeans and procure a set of keys. Inserting the key into  the lock is difficult as I cannot keep my hands from shaking. Somewhere down the street a child yells out to a friend. I jump. I turn the key in the lock and hear the lock click. I grab ahold of the handle. Everything inside me is screaming to just turn around and drive off. Drive farther than Chicago. Drive forever. I turn the door knob.

I’m not prepared for that stale, musky air that envelopes me. It was five years since my Mother was put into the long-term care facility. The house sat empty and untouched since then. Large waves of dust can be seen gently floating in the rays of sunlight filtering through the slender spaces between the curtains.

The second I step foot onto the mustard colored carpet my mind reels back to the last time I stood on it. I was fifteen. My Father had wandered back from whatever dive bar he was holding court in. He must have lost a fair amount of money at poker that night because his anger felt as though it was another entity in the living room. I was sitting on the couch with a notepad writing a story. My Mother had retired to her bedroom hours ago. The living room was shrouded in enough darkness because Frank didn’t notice me. He stumbled towards the back of the house. Towards the bedroom. Towards Mother. About halfway there he started yelling.

“Mary Anne. Where the fuck are you?!?!?!”

The closer he stumbled towards the bedroom, I realized he was only infused with the worst of intentions. Ugly cannot begin to describe it. The yelling suddenly stopped. My Mother’s voice rang shrill into the night. Pleading, begging, crying for Frank to relent. To stop. I stood up. I walked to my bedroom and behind the door was my wooden Slugger baseball bat. I grabbed the bat. The pine tar still thick and sticky on the handle. I had hit forty-seven hits this season. This was the first person I was going to hit.

I marched down the hallway to the awaiting bedroom door that was ajar. Frank was on top of my Mother. She was yelling and kicking. He had both of her delicate arms in one giant hand. The other hand was bawled up into a fist and was slowly and powerfully punching her. I did not breath. I just swung. As hard as I could. The first swing grazed Frank. A foul ball. He didn’t even notice. The second swing I was mustering up every fiber of strength in my being. I hit him square and hard in the back of the head. A home run. The bat broke. Hitting a game winning run in the World Series would not have felt anywhere near as good as that swing. That good feeling was soon replaced with sheer pain. Frank bolted off of Mother and begin hitting me rapidly, all over my face and body. It was a miracle he did not drop me to the ground immediately. I stumbled back through the bedroom door. As the stars swirled around my head I tried to keep my composure and awareness of my surroundings. The first thing I grabbed was a picture frame with a picture of our trip to the Grand Canyon. I pulled the frame off of the wall and flung it towards the monster. A corner of the frame hit the monster under his eye. I continued to stumble away from the darkened blob of rage before me. Once I got into the kitchen I grabbed everything that wasn’t bolted down. Ceramic mugs, plates, glasses. Silverware, knives. Forks. A cutting board. The glass coffee maker. I threw it all.

It was all a blur of ceramic, glass and blood. I managed to get to the front door. Once outside I got into Frank’s pickup and somehow managed to back it up onto to the street and drive away from house 120. I ditched the pickup. Then I ditched my life.

My first job was picking cotton. Then I worked at a slaughter-house near Hereford. Every job, every dollar took me farther and farther away from Shamrock. I changed my name. I changed my story. Many times.

I had no idea what became of my father or mother until a week ago when Linda called me to inform me that my mother had passed away.

I walked though the house. On edge, thinking Frank was just around the corner waiting to pounce on me. Once I got to the bedroom I noticed the bed was made. The pillow cases and sheets had faded pink roses along the outer trim. I opened and rummaged through the drawers and closet. On a tiny bookshelf sat the seven books I had published under my pen name.  Upon opening my Mother’s night table I spotted my notebook from that long ago ill-fated night. I thumbed through it and stopped at the last thing I wrote.

“Through the endless night comes the brightest light.”

I sat on my Mother’s bed and cried.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.