I spent my eleventh Christmas in Memphis. With Daddy and Cheri. Cheri had a son, Casey Joe, who was in between me and Little Randy’s age. We got along ok, but we were never friends. He was a trouble maker on purpose. I mean, me and Little Randy got in trouble all the th’ time, but we were just kids doing kid stuff. We never wanted to hurt anyone, or make anyone mad at us. Casey Joe was different. Casey liked it when people got hurt, or mad. He liked to think of things that would make people mad, and then do them. I always felt bad if someone was mad at me. But not Casey, he loved that he had th’ power to make people mad.
On Christmas eve Cheri went shopping. Daddy was at work and we were home alone. We did everything kids between the ages of six and eleven could think of to do. As Cheri was walking out th’ door she told us not to go through our stockings. I thought it was such a strange thing to say. Why would we go through our stockings? It’s not a thing we’d ever do. Ten minutes after she left Casey Joe said Hey, let’s look in our stockings. I said No. He said What’s th’ matter, you chicken? I said No, I want to open my stocking on Christmas. Besides, your mom told us not to. She’s not here, she’ll never know, he said. Little Randy said he’d tell on him, and that solved th’ problem, temporarily.
Cheri had been gone awhile, and we were all getting bored. Casey Joe was jumping on th’ couch, th’ one with th’ stockings hanging over it. One of th’ stockings fell down. It was mine. It was totally an accident, but Casey smiled like it was th’ best idea he’d ever had. It landed upside down, spilling most of th’ candy and batteries and all that. But the orange stayed in th’ tow. I didn’t see the orange. I put everything back in th’ stocking, trying to put everything back in the order it came out. Casey bounced on th’ couch and laughed and said You’re gonna get in trouble, You’re gonna get in trouble, over and over. I pushed him off th’ couch and as I was reaching up to hang my stocking back on th’ wall Cheri walked in th’ door. I froze. Her face turned red as a beet. I told you not to do that, she said. I tried to tell her that Casey Joe was bouncing on th’ couch and knocked it off, and I was just hanging it back up. Likely story, she said, then she got mad at me for blaming her son. Little Randy tried to tell her it was true, but she was so mad she wasn’t listening to us. She sent me to our room and came in with a wooden spoon and started spanking me with it, hard. It hurt but I was way too mad to cry. She kept telling me to apologize but I wouldn’t, and each time she hit me I said I said I didn’t do it, which just made her madder and madder. She called me a liar and then she got mad at me for not crying. She kept whacking me harder and harder and saying Cry goddammit cry!
Finally th’ spoon broke, and everything got still for a moment. I looked over and saw Casey standing in th’ doorway, watching us. Cheri saw him too. I don’t ever want you to be like him, she yelled at him, he doesn’t show any emotion! He doesn’t care about anything! She threw down th’ broken spoon and left th’ room. I do care, I remember thinking, I do.
A few days later I told my dad what happened. My brother vouched for me. Him and Cheri got into a big fight. He threatened to kick her out. I was really proud of him for that because I thought maybe he’d be mad at me too- thought that maybe he’d believe Cheri over me.
He stormed out th’ front door. Me and Little Randy followed. We didn’t want to be left alone with th’ stepmom from hell. He picked up a baseball off th’ ground and threw it at his truck so hard it left a dent in th’ door. Then he looked at us and said Come here. We did, cautiously. But he grabbed us both in a big ole hug and said he loved us, and he was really sorry Cheri did that, and that if she ever touched either one of us again, to tell her because he would kick her ass out of th’ house so fast she wouldn’t know what hit her.
To me that was th’ best Christmas present I could’ve gotten. I don’t even remember what else we got for Christmas, but knowing that my dad cared was enough for me.