This happened to me one day when I was very young:
I tuck my chin to my chest, and the familiar fur of a stuffed animal yields there. The flesh of my face is smooth and it feels every tip of soft fur dancing across it. This is how I like to hold him, and his spongy head is okay with being pinned. His fur is always touching me. He never moves and he is always where I want him.
The slats of the swing are wide and firm under me. I am pulled toward the earth in its most comfortable embrace of gravity. I lay on my side and hover. I can look through and see the floor of the porch below me. The world sways back and forth.
I fall asleep just as I do in my bed, with the small fabric animal pinned to my upper chest. The world slips and there is peace.
The lack-of-me continues for some short forever. There is quiet nothing.
Something smashes into my face. My hands shoot up to catch it.
My belly goes tight from a blow. My hands whip down in reflex.
Bleary light as my eyes try to… my face turns into pain again before I see. My eyes grip shut and my arms try to wrap my head.
My ears are open wide:
“Kill the honky!”
I try to open my eyes. To see a honky whatever it is. Pain smashes my face and my hands try to catch it again.
The world rocks and turns. Fireworks of pain burst against my side. I tumble downward and slam. I hear the wood thud as the porch catches me.
The world inside is pain.
The world outside is only this: “Kill the honky!”
Then, somewhere out there, I hear metal jingle and scrape.
Something cuts a searing red line across my leg. It burns.
The red line cuts across my ribs. I open my eyes.
They are over me, left and right and standing all around me. One has a chain.
“Kill the honky!”
A shoe stretches across my vision and my eyes squeeze shut and I clutch everything.
My hands choose to protect my eyes instead of my body. My knees try to find my forehead. What I am becomes smaller, tighter. Pain from my back joins my side and my belly and my leg and it all sings together with my head and hands.
Bright sharp lines cut my legs. My side. My back.
“Kill the honky! Kill the honky!”
Everything is pain that pulses. A swell, retreat.
Then, somewhere, a new sound.
A worse sound.
It is an animal howl.
The howl rises.
The howl of the animal is cold and still rising and something in my ears begins to rattle with it. It is the most terrifying sound I have ever heard.
I open my eyes.
It is my mother.
My eyes are pulled to her open mouth. Her lips wobble as a force cuts through her and makes its way out. Her head quivers with this force. Her body shakes as the force pushes through.
The boys above me all look and look at her. There is no way not to look at the source of this sound. It cuts through us all. They are transfixed. Fists uncurl.
My mother’s arms shoot straight up and she holds a broom high above her head. It is a battle axe. She swings it down. The boys jump left and right.
The broomhandle cuts the air. Sneakers whip white lines through the night. Flat rubber soles fling over the brick porch and disappear.
It is quiet on the porch.
A small fabric animal lays on the wood with its arms spread wide.
Everything is tight and closed in me.