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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Excerpt from 'The Journals of Jacob and Hyde' by Randall J. Morris

*Sci-Fi/Action Adventure 18+*

My father was a drunk. I say “was” only because I don’t know if he’s alive or dead. I vehemently hope that it’s the latter. He wasn’t the kind of drunk that you hoped would get better because that would be wasted energy. He was just a useless drunk who lost all of my family’s money to booze and drugs. My mother worked double shifts as a waitress to keep the family functional. I guess functional is too optimistic of a word, but there were a few happy times in my life as a child.
Every day I got to go to school and learn. Most kids don’t like going to school. I loved it… anything to get away from my crazy asshole of a father. I loved learning too because if I continued to learn and improve myself, I’d never turn into a white-trash drunk who beat his son and wife. My teachers picked up on the fact that I loved working hard in class but our school was poor and they had a limited amount of resources to give me. I don’t fault them. They allowed me to improve all that I could with the resources the school had. Some of my teachers even lent me books from their own personal collections. I made sure I was very grateful whenever I received such a treasured item and I always returned it as promptly as I could with a sincere “thank you.”
My books were my escape from reality. In my books I could remove myself to places where my father didn’t exist. He caught me reading on several occasions and I’m convinced that the only reason that he didn’t burn my books was that I learned to run fast and hide. My father plays into this memory again but I’d rather not talk about him if it can be avoided. I still have so many reasons to hate him.
On to a brighter subject: my mother. I’m convinced that my mother was what made all the difference in my life. She was the angel that kept me safe from the fires of hell. I’ve already told you that she would read me stories. I looked forward to our trips to the bookstore more than I looked forward to school. Every month my mother saved up a few dollars that she was able to keep out of my father’s hands and she would take me to buy a used book from the bookstore a few blocks from our house. I still remember the first time we went. I had just turned seven.
“Go pick out a book and I’ll read it to you when we get home,” Mom said as she smiled down at me.
Seeing all those books on the endless shelves was wonderful. I wished I could live in the bookstore and just read until I got tired every night. As I started to explore the shelves, looking for a book that I wanted, Mom smiled.
“The children’s books are over here, Jacob,” Mom said pointing at the picture book section.
“Please, Mom, I know what I’m doing. I can get myself a big person book,” I replied.
I searched the shelves until I found a large leather-bound book that caught my attention. I had to get a stool to stand on in order to get it down. It was old and many of the pages were torn. The cover had a layer of dust that I had to brush away to read the title. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I had read books that mentioned Holmes at school. I really wanted this book. I returned to my mother and held it out for her to see.
“Jacob, honey, this book will be too hard for you to understand,” Mom explained kindly.
“No, I’ll be fine. I want this one. I want to learn about Sherlock Holmes.”
“Jacob you won’t be able to understand all the words.”
Big words wouldn’t deter me. As my mom went to go put the book back, I went in search of the book that would convince my mom that I was serious about reading Sherlock Holmes. It took me twenty minutes to find. I returned to my mother with an old copy of Webster’s Dictionary. I handed it to her for her approval.
“If you read me the words in this one, I can understand Sherlock Holmes. We can come back and get it then,” I reasoned. I thought for a moment longer. “Actually, I think I better go hide Sherlock Holmes so no one else buys it.”
You should have seen my mom smile. She was so proud of my little plan to conquer Sherlock Holmes. As we returned to the shelf so that I could hide the book, my mom grabbed it from the shelf.
“We’ll go ahead and buy it now, Jacob, so you don’t have to hide it.”
“You don’t need to, Mom. I’m good at hiding books. I hide books from Dad all the time.”
“I have enough money, sweetheart. Let’s get both books now.”
My mom let me carry both books to the cash register. I was ecstatic. Two new books. I didn’t care how old or broken they were. They were my very own books. I didn’t have to give them back to a teacher and I could read them as many times as I wanted. Of course I would need my mom’s help, but I couldn’t wait to read all of the adventures in my Sherlock Holmes book.
Forgive me for dwelling in that memory for as long as I did. I don’t have very many specific memories of being that happy. I hope you allow me to occasionally reminisce in the past like that. The Sherlock Holmes book played a significant role in my life.
Mom and I worked out a system. She read Sherlock Holmes to me at night before bedtime and I would sit on my bed with my copy of Webster’s dictionary. When we came across a word that I didn’t understand, I would stop her and look it up in the dictionary. If it still didn’t make sense, I asked Mom what it meant. She had a surprisingly large vocabulary for a waitress.
When we first started Sherlock Holmes, I stopped Mom a lot to look up words. The pauses in her reading became more and more infrequent as time moved on. We eventually finished Sherlock Holmes and moved on to Frankenstein, Dracula, and other mystery and horror classics. I began to read and study history on my own. In addition to the books my mother got for me monthly, I would save up little coins I found in the street or on the playground at school and was able to occasionally buy myself a book. Josephus. Aristotle. St. Augustine. I made it through them slowly, making sure that I comprehended everything that was being presented. Sherlock Holmes was still my favorite and I had read through the whole book several times.
As I explained before, my mom told me the story of Jekyll and Hyde one night without a book. I didn’t think we were actually descendants of Jekyll; I assumed Mom was trying to make the story more interesting. There was no way that Mom’s story was right. It was like telling me that I was a vampire. I wouldn’t come to believe her story for a few more years.
I was twelve. Let me start by saying that I had successfully hidden my books inside a small hole under a loose floorboard in my room since I was seven. That’s five years that my dad had no idea. I clearly remember the day that he found them. It was raining and I was drenched by the time I made it home. My father was sitting by the fireplace in his armchair. He had been drinking; I could smell it as soon as I entered the house. On the small table next to his chair rested the loose floorboard where I hid my books. I must have left it slightly off after reading the night before. There was only one book sitting on the table and from its old leather-bound exterior, I knew it was my Sherlock Holmes book.
It took me a few seconds to clue in to what had happened. I saw all my other books. They were in the fireplace, fueling the fire. All the books I had saved up for and collected with my mother for five years. This stupid asshole of a man had thrown them in the fire. He stood from his armchair and yelled across the room at me.
“Books are good for nothin, Jake, and I don’t want you to have any! How dare you waste money on all of this shit! This is my house and you won’t be doing any more reading here!”
I lost it. I had been driven to the end of what a twelve year old boy can tolerate. I had three loves in my life: my books, my mother, and school. This stupid bastard had burned my books and beaten my mother. As he lifted Sherlock Holmes to throw it in the fire, my rage got the better of me.
“You stupid white-trash bastard! You had better take my book and put it back down on the table or I swear to God I will beat the living shit out of you!”
Drunks aren’t known for backing down from challenges. My father was no different. My favorite book, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, was tossed in the fire.
I was across the room by the time my book hit the flames. I didn’t care that my father was bigger than I was. He needed to be taught a lesson. Two quick punches to his nose started a torrent of bleeding. My father was already angry and those two punches were as far as I got. He hit me hard twice across the face, lifted me up into the air, and threw me through the wooden table in the center of the room. I remained conscious, but I didn’t get up. Through my blurry vision, I saw the front door open. My mother had walked into the room. She looked at my father, then at the fireplace, and then saw me lying in the middle of a broken table. When her gaze settled on me, her eyes started to change from their normal green to dark red and I saw her fingernails grow and sharpen into claws. The changes only remained for a moment and then she shook it off. My mom, returned to her normal state, walked to where I was and lifted me into her arms. She took me outside and set me down on the steps of our front porch.
“Don’t come back in the house until I come to get you, honey. I need you to stay right there. Okay?”
“Okay… Mom.”
I saw the red return to her eyes as she closed the door. I imagine the rest of her transformation didn’t take much longer. There were some ear-piercing screams as soon as she closed the door and I was tempted to go back inside, convinced my father was hurting her. He wasn’t. Changing into Hyde can be a horrible process. Before my hand reached the doorknob, I heard my father yell and scream. I decided I’d better do what my mom said and stay outside. I can’t describe to you the horrible sounds I heard coming from inside the house. They all came from my father. I sat back down on the steps to our porch, tried to catch my breath, and mingled my tears with the rain.
The beating my mom gave my dad lasted around ten minutes. Well… I assume it was about ten minutes. It felt longer but it’s hard to keep track of time when sitting out in the rain and recovering from being thrown through a table. Eventually I heard the noise inside stop and my mother walked outside. She was my mother again by that point. The Hyde creature was gone. She looked like a bloodied up mess but I knew the blood wasn’t hers. She handed me my Sherlock Holmes book. It was pretty severely singed but the pages seemed to have been protected from the fire by the leather cover. I imagine my mother grabbed it from the fire before she unleashed hell on my father.
Once the book was in my arms, she hugged me. I could tell she was relieved.
“Are you okay, Jacob?”
“Yes, Mom. Is Dad dead?”
“I’m not sure, honey. He will be if he ever tries to touch my baby again.”
“Mom, I’m sorry. He was burning my books and…”
“It’s okay, Jacob. It’s okay. We’re going to leave this place. Can you walk?”
I stood and my mom took me by the hand. She started walking away. I stood where I was for a moment longer.
She stopped and turned around.
“Yes, honey?”
“Thank you for saving my life.”
My mom hung her head and I could tell that she had started to cry. When she looked up at me, she was smiling through her tears.
“Jacob, I won’t ever let anything hurt you. You’re my little sweetheart. Just try to forget about tonight.”
           My mom took us to a hotel and paid for a room. The next day we got on a bus and left the city. I tried to forget that night like my mother had asked me to. I recounted it here to show the one redeemable quality of the Hyde creature. Let me modify that, it shows that my mother was able to control it to a certain point. Fueled by my mother’s love for me, Hyde had saved my life. I know it doesn’t balance out the horrible things we’ve all done as Hyde monsters. Nothing can. On the few occasions that I’ve told this story, it still brings a smile to my face. I don’t focus on the horrifying details; I focus instead on how much my mother loved me. She was my guardian angel and, though she’s passed on, I know she always will be.
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