VICTOR'S LUCK - (EARLY VERSION) SAMPLE 1986 – Pekin, IL The musty duplex was my castle. The front yard, a small square filled by an old oak tree, had patches of grass surrounded by sand and dirt that often caked on the side of my face and clothes. Inside, my castle was adorned with industrial tile, quite like a hospital. It smelled of body odor and mold. Dirty dishes filled the sink, and flies camped out in our small sliver of a kitchen. The doors were hard aluminum metal. Inside, my baby sister Daisy and I shared a room with a strip of masking tape dividing her side from my own. But calling it a room is generous; really it was a concrete box. The mood in the house was uneasy. There was always a palpable tension in the air. Luna was very volatile. Her fits of rage came without warning, and so I was careful to always be a good boy. I went to church and sang praises to our Lord and Savior. Luna believed that the devil was always after Daisy and me. Occasionally Luna would hear dogs barking and scratching at the window screens, trying to break in. She would huddle us onto her bed and dial 911 while she sang urgent praises to Jesus. Whenever Jesus was came up, the devil seemed to take issue with us. The police would arrive to search the area and find nothing. This would enrage Luna, who would question the officers about their status as Christians. Sometimes she would not open the door. She thought the officers might be devils in disguise. It was during such episodes that the police would have to force their way into our home. Luna had lost her past beauty. A stout woman, it usually took three officers to wrestle her to the ground. This caused fear to ignite within Daisy and me, as it seemed to us Luna was being unfairly picked on. We also thought everyone else was sick, or the devil, and out to get us. We lived in our own private paradise in an apartment provided by the government. We feasted on food baskets given by the church and local United Way partners. Our nourishment came from government assistance. When the police would come and touch off these bouts of wrestling, Daisy and I would be whisked away by some detective or other person dressed in fancy clothing. We would often end up in some office eating candy or crackers, to be later driven to a nicer house, with friendly people, who would keep us for a week or two. The nice people there would tell us that our mother was "sick." As for our father, he was nowhere to be found. Sometimes I would look out the window and hope he would return. Somehow I thought he would bring redemption with him. I felt a gaping hole in my life and had no way to understand where it came from. It was just there. And then there were Luna's male visitors. Daisy, a year and a half younger than me, would sleep with me in my bed. This did not stop the horrors that took place in that room. A man my mother brought home for sex would rape Daisy. He molested Daisy repeatedly and nothing happened. No one ever said anything about it, even my sister. Luna would rendezvous with her men at the mall, or along the side of the street. She would stop and invite them into the car take them to our duplex. Luna had the desire for carnal relations with derelicts, but no mind to guard her young children. Though in school we were told to be careful of strangers, Luna brought them into our home. They found their own way to the bed I shared with my sister. The men were not sated only by Luna, whose hair was knotted, and her body odor pronounced. At least two of the vagabonds would come over, at different times, and rub themselves on Daisy. I would lay in bed and pretend sleep as the smell of sweat, grease and days-old beer invaded our modest little bedroom. How could Luna be so vigilant of demons but allow these monsters into our room? I had run out of tears to cry. My chest would burn with rage. I had run out of prayers to say. I did not believe in God. I wanted to die at age five. I wanted to run away and never return. Our duplex was small enough that I expected Ann to hear the commotion and come to rescue Daisy, but she never did. This became a way of life for Daisy and me. We had no control over what was done to us. The abuse to Daisy took hold like a slowly festering cancer that would take years to become full blown. We couldn’t sense it then, but we were being scarred. Maybe the demons Luna imagined put paid to her guilt about those she let in to harm us. Luna was undeniably insane. We never knew what to expect from her. A few weeks would pass and “Mom”would get better. This would happen on and off for many years. Sometimes Luna would end up taking us to the hospital with her. She would disappear, leaving us alone in the waiting room for hours. Night would find us back in an office somewhere with our destination yet another foster home. Every now and then Faith would come to visit. She would take us to the zoo and around the town. While Luna only took us to church, Grandma took us to places that filled our minds with wonder. Grandma Faith would read us stories or take us to Aunt Maisie's home in Maroa, IL. Maisie lived on a big farm where there was always plenty of food, gifts were everywhere and we could play games and pet the horse. Maisie had nice shiny things and her home was set on ten thousand acres of land and was a mystery to my young mind. Maisie was a rotund woman, not very tall, who smelled very earthy. She wore nice silk clothing and spoke with a deep southern drawl. Her husband, who we called "Uncle Bud,” was very quiet and reserved. Bud was thin and his balding head of grey hair was closely cropped. He wore thick plastic glasses, and suspenders held his pants in place. Uncle Bud would show me his magic games and teach me to play croquet. It was perpetual bliss when Grandma Faith was around. This comfort and security was usually short lived. Luna was very stern with her family whenever they would make suggestions about her parenting. She would scream at Faith to not tell her how to raise her children, pushing Faith out whatever door was nearby and not letting her back in. On one occasion, Faith's clothing and suitcase remained at our house for months. Grandma would write me letters every week telling me about life on her beautiful piece of countryside. She spoke of the mountains and hills of Tennessee with as much reverence as the pastor described heaven. I would always feel bad for Grandma Faith, who only wanted to help Luna, would get thrown out of our house. Sometimes I would even pray that either Grandma Faith or Abandonar, my birth father, the man I'd seen in pictures, would save Daisy and me from our life with Luna. I did not know what was wrong, but I knew that things were not right. What would come next was anyone’s guess.
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