I was a child . . . when a bee bit me on the leg and I ran from the side yard to the front porch in tears and my father caught me in his arms, heard my tale of woe and took a Camel cigarette, tore it open, spit into the tobacco and rubbed the brown goo on the bite.
I was a child . . . when I saw the look of disappointment in Daddy's eyes as he discovered yet again that the scratch marks on my twin brother's arms and the red marks around my neck had come from yet another fight between us.
I was a child . . . when on our way to the dentist's office he stopped at the local beer joint to conduct some "business" and I worried that Momma would find out and that we'd all be in trouble.
I was a child . . . when he told the family to get in the truck and we rode down to the bottom and he cut cane poles from the river bank and tied the red and white bobs to the fishing line, baited the hook and made me stand in the mosquito-laden heat for what seemed like hours so we could have a family fishing outing.
I was a child . . . when he taught my brothers how to scale a fish and then fried crappy and hush puppies in a long cast iron pot that rested on two eyes on the stove top and demanded that we clean our plates because he'd spent hours "over the old hot stove."
I was a child . . . when he threw the pocket knives that he had given my brothers as gifts as far into the woods as he could throw them after he learned that they had drawn the knives on each other in a wrestling match that turned ugly.
I was a child . . . when he took my sister to the back room to punish her with his belt and she cried out in terror that didn't quite sound terrified and then returned to the table with almost a smile because in fact, he'd hit the bed, not her, and they laughed rather than cried.
I was a child . . . when Mother cried out on the eve of Christmas eve for my sister to come quickly and call the doctor, and uncles and aunts came and got me from my bed and took me to my grandmother's house and eventually told me that Daddy had gone to heaven.
I was a child . . . and then I wasn't.