It’s 1973 and Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ is burning up the radio.
I hide in a hall closet filled with my late mother’s clothes so that PennyGrabber can’t find me. He’d never open this closet door filled with her things, as if the dresses and suits would point an empty armhole in his direction declaring him an unfit step parent, so it’s safe here. I hear his giant key ring rattling like a jailer’s.
I ask God, “Please make me invisible.”
In the night, I hear screaming, crying and tortured pleads of “No, don’t.” During the day, the sun barely pierces the dark, but I can see the light cutting underneath the door.
Our kitchen is a cruel joke. A butler’s pantry, devoid of food except for a bag of flour. The refrigerator hosts a gelatinous bowl of goo, a volunteer science experiment, and the last pieces of uncovered, dried boloney. There’s a picnic table that has never held a piece of food, but teases my growling stomach with its Brady Bunch promise of a wholesome meal. The ‘Grabber’ once sat there with ashes threatening to drip from his lit cigarette as he iced a cake with pink, Pepto-Bismal colored frosting for a school bake sale.
He had all the single mothers and teachers fooled at my elementary school with his single step-parent, sad story of raising kids. Who’d ever heard of a predator selling baked goods at a school fundraiser? But in just a few years we would learn of a clown that killed. I suppose that’s why I cried when they took me to a McDonald’s, meet Ronald gathering. I sat upon the knee of an actor dressed as the famous burger pitchman and peed my pants. I cried, not because his hair was flaming red, or his face covered in makeup, but because his burgers were used to lure me out of the closet, and into the Grabber’s car. I clutched the paper bag holding the uneaten burgers as the Grabber drove us underneath a bleacher at Fun Town, where my silent screams went unanswered but the amusement park’s commercial jingled through my brain:
Fun Town, fun town for the kid’s and you. 96th and Stony Island Avenue. Fun Town!
Copyright © 2011 Kimberly Yarbrough Carpenter
Music suggestion: Up the Ladder to the Roof, by the Supremes