Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 874
David was almost eleven years old. He had become adept at guessing what Catherine’s punishments would be, and he tried to stay alert to avoid them. He reports that “food was little more than a fantasy” by this time.
Now, Catherine insisted that David sit on his hands “in a ‘prisoner of war’ position” while the family ate. One evening, he fell asleep sitting in this position, which made her angry; she gave him twenty minutes to clear the table and do the dishes or he would not eat. David noted his brother Russell’s cold eyes watching him; he had become “Mother’s ‘Little Nazi,’ watching my every move, making sure I didn’t steal any food.” Russell sometimes made up stories so David would be punished.
David began to hate his little brother, even though he understood that Catherine had brainwashed her youngest child. Russell stared at David and rocked back and forth on Catherine’s lap as she chastised David. Seizing a knife, Catherine threatened to kill David; he was unaffected, because she had threatened him many times in the past week. Suddenly, because of Russell’s rocking and Catherine’s intoxication, she lost her balance. The knife flew out of her hand, hitting David in the stomach.
After losing consciousness a couple of times, David awoke to feel blood gushing from his wound. He noticed that Catherine was performing first aid on him while Russell chanted that David would die. David felt confident that this accident would end his slavery, because there was no lie that his mother could tell people to cover it. Because Catherine had once wanted to become a nurse, she knew the proper way to care for his wound. Whenever there had been an accident in the past, Catherine had taken control. David anticipated going to the hospital and being saved. He wanted to tell his mother that he forgave her and knew it was an accident, but he was unable to speak from weakness.
He was shocked when Catherine did not take him to the hospital, and he recognized that she felt no remorse for her action. Emotionlessly, she gave David thirty minutes to finish the dishes. Unable to take a deep breath, and with blood leaking through his shirt, David appealed to his father for help. Stephen merely yelled at David for not obeying his mother and told him to finish the dishes before Catherine became angry again. Stephen feared Catherine’s wrath on him, causing David to become angrier with his father than with his mother. In severe pain, blood still dripping from his wound, David washed the dishes. He was determined not to let Catherine win, and he vowed that she could only beat him in death.
The pain was intense, and David continued bleeding. Soon, though, he felt his father’s hands holding him. Stephen told David to change his shirt while he put the dishes away. His mother removed his shirt and dressed him. Falling against her in his weakness, David was afraid Catherine would hit him; instead, she let him rest for a minute. Then she brought him a glass of water and said she would feed him later when he felt better. David noted that she still showed no emotion.
Catherine told David to go outside to play with his brothers, and she gave him a sparkler to hold, prompting David to wonder if he was part of the family again. He felt close to his brothers, a feeling he hadn’t had in a long time. Mother gave him more water and a little food before he went to bed, and she cared for him during the night. An exhausted David fell asleep but awakened several times from nightmares. His mother was there placing a cold washcloth on his forehead to fight his fever. He felt safe because his mother was nearby to help him. David dreamed of red, bloody rain covering him. He tried to wipe the blood off, but it always returned. When he woke up in the morning, his hands and face were covered in dried blood, and his shirt was completely red. His mother walked in and instructed him to clean up and do his chores.
Three days later, David still did not feel well. Afraid to ask his mother for help, he decided to take care of himself. Upon seeing that the wound had opened up, he considered going to Catherine but decided against it. David knew some first aid; he noticed that the wound was infected, so he found a clean rag and washed it out carefully. He needed to bite on a rag to stop himself from screaming in pain, but he continued cleaning out the wound. He refused to give Catherine any kind of control over him and thought,
I don’t need that bitch’s help.
Crying as he cleaned the pus from the wound, he blocked out the extreme pain.
When he finished, he took his assigned seat on the stairs before his mother discovered he was not there. He imagined himself as a comic book character overcoming a problem. David was proud of himself and later dreamed that he was Superman flying through the air.