The Tale of Josephine
Josephine was sad. She didn't feel like crying but she was sad all the same. It was a strange empty feeling that was new to her and thus it was much stronger by way of it's being new. All the other kids at school seemed so happy. No one liked her because they said she never smiled and sat by herself during playtime. Josephine thought it was stupid to smile when you didn't feel like it, and she never felt like smiling much.
Downstairs mom and dad were washing the dishes after supper. That was a bad time to be downstairs and so Josephine was upstairs in her room having a tea party with her dolls, even though there were monsters that lived in the dark spaces under her dresser and bed. They only really came out at night though and were only really dangerous if you let a part of your body hang over the sides of the bed. Her mom said they didn't exist when Josephine tried to explain it one day but she knew they did. She could hear them shuffling around on the floor and whispering to themselves in the dark, probably trying to think up ways to get at her, and watching to see if her arm would fall over the side so they could snatch it.
Josephine sighed. It was Saturday afternoon and the sun was just starting to sink in the sky. The birds were still chirping away in the tree outsider her window. Josephine liked birds. She had found one dead underneath the tree once, a baby one that had probably tried to fly too early. It had made her sad and she had buried it out past the backyard, just inside the woods by the creek. She told her doll Penny about it as she poured tea.
"Poor bird, it didn't even have all of it's feathers yet. Don't you think that's sad Penny?"
Penny's black button eyes stared back at her.
"Me too. Do you think it went to heaven? Oh Froggy, don't say that! There too is a heaven for animals! Just for that you don't get any cookies!"
She pulled a plate away from the small stuffed frog and frowned at it.
"I'd like to apologize to everyone for my friend Frogy, he can be a bit rude sometimes..."
Downstairs there was a large crash like several plates being dropped.
"OH YOU STUPID BITCH!"
"DON'T CALL ME THAT! I'VE TOLD YOU NOT TO CALL ME THAT!"
"DON'T TALK BACK TO ME WOMAN, NOW PICK THAT SHIT UP!"
The emptiness in Josephine's insides got larger and she felt tears welling up in her eyes.
There was another smaller crash.
"YOU DID THAT ON PURPOSE!"
"I DID NOT, YOU PUSHED ME!"
"I TOLD YOU NOT TO TALK BACK!"
Then her mother screamed and started to sob. Josephine turned away from her friends and quietly cried into her hands. After a bit she was able to grab onto the emptiness and push it way down into her stomach. It made her feel sick but she hated crying in front of her friends.
Shakily she poured more imaginary tea for Penny and Froggy and Mr. Brown Bear.
"Are you guys having fun at my party?" She asked and wiped the the tears from her face.
"I'm glad. What's that Mr. Bear? Oh, the cakes not done yet. You'll have to wait, would you like some more tea while you wait?"
Downstairs a TV turned on and the opening theme song for America's Funniest Home Videos could be heard.
At school on Monday Josephine sat by herself during playtime again and made a three piece family out of build-a-blocks. She had set them up around a table made of blocks and was trying to think of a name for them when Joey came over and kicked the whole thing to pieces. Josephine got mad and pushed him and he fell and hit his head and started to cry. Then she had to sit in time out. Mrs. Dempsey said that it was wrong to push people and Josephine should feel bad about what she had done. She didn't feel bad at all though. Later during coloring time, Francine told her that nobody liked her because her family was poor and her clothes were old. Josephine had never thought of that before. I guess they don't care if I smile or not, she thought as she painted a happy letter 'A' a nice shade of dark black, obliterating his face.
That night she lay in bed and talked quietly to Penny, telling her what had happened that day. Penny promised never to tell anyone, Penny was a good friend. She told her about what had happened with Joey and Penny agreed that he had deserved what he had gotten. Froggy thought that pushing him was mean but Josephine told him to be quiet or she'd feed him to the floor monsters. Mr. Brown Bear sang a funny song and Josephine went to sleep well before the floor creatures began their nightly prowl.
On Saturday morning Josephine got up like usual to watch cartoons. Walking quietly past her parents bedroom, she paused for a bit and tried to hear them breathing and then tiptoed down the stairs.
There wasn't much cereal left in the cupboards but she found a quarter full bag of Captain Loops hiding behind some large bowls. Not much milk in the fridge either, just enough so that she didn't have to eat dry cereal.
In front of the Josephine had set up Penny and Mr. Brown Bear on either side of her, because they liked cartoons too. Froggy was upstairs still asleep because he didn't like cartoons at all.
On the TV Bugs Bunny was tricking Yosemite Sam into blowing himself up with a rigged piano. Josephine laughed as she ate her cereal.
Outside past the old tree, a truck slowly pulled up into the driveway, swerving wildly into onto the yard and funny coming to rest after slamming into a telephone pole. Josephine grabbed her friends and ran to the window. Her dad climbed out of the truck, knelt over, and threw up on the lawn. Then he staggered up to the house. Josephine sat back down and watched cartoons, pretending that she didn't see anything.
The door slammed open hard enough to make her jump but Josephine kept her eyes glued to the TV. She could hear him run the some water in the sink and drink noisily.
"Josephine?" Came his voice from behind her. "Josephine, your daddies talking to you."
Josephine didn't move. She contemplated running upstairs quickly, even though there was no lock on her bedroom door but before she could act she was being lifted up in the air. Her father held her face close to his.
"Didn't you hear me girl?" She could smell alcohol on his breath and it made her feel sick. "When I tell you to come, you come!" Then he slapped her hard across the face.
Josephine could feel that empty feeling rising from her stomach, bringing tears with it but she shoved it back down and stared into her father's face impassively.
"Well what have you got to say for yourself girl?" Josephine said nothing, opening her mouth would risk letting the sadness come up.
"I said answer me!" He slapped her again.
She said nothing and her father threw her roughly onto the couch and then walked into the kitchen to look for food. It should have been a soft landing but she hit her head on a wooden part buried deep within the couches innards. Pain flowed from her head all through her body and broke the barrier that was keeping it in her stomach. Before he could see her cry she grabbed her friends and ran quickly to the side door and opened it.
"Hey!" Her father yelled. "Where do you think you're going!"
Josephine said the first thing that came to her mind.
"I hope you die." Her father stood still in shock. It was so cold sounding, it broke through his drunken haze.
"What did you say?"
"I hope you DIE!" Then Josephine burst into tears and ran out the door.
She spent all day in the woods talking to Penny and Mr. Brown Bear. She would have ran to her cousin's house but Mr. Brown Bear convinced her that she should head back home. Mr. Brown Bear was always the smart one.
When she got back, the house was empty and dark and quiet. Her bowl of cereal was still sitting by the TV, now all bloated and soggy and gross.
"What are we going to do now guys?" She asked her friends.
For once they were silent. She held them close to her body as she sat on a dining room chair. It was past dark and the floor monsters would be out already, so there was no going upstairs. Josephine sat and stared out the living room window and waited for headlights to pull up the drive. And tried not to cry.