the old country

Painting by Roberta Coni

The Old Country

Crazy Aunt Stella. The moment the family car pulled out of the driveway she started screaming around the house like she wasn’t aware you were there. But then she looked right at you, and her eyes got big. “You!” she said. “You! You! You! You come here! Right this minute! Bad boy!” she said. “Bad! Bad! Bad!

Repetition seemed to bolster her conviction. Then the chase was on, and once she had hold of you she stopped screaming. She grabbed you by the hair from behind and with her free hand twisted your ear. This seemed to infuriate her all the more, it wasn’t enough, it gave no release, and she twirled you around and deliver a series of resounding slaps, first one cheek, then the other. Your ears rang and the room went red. Then she punched you in the stomach. You doubled up and fell to the floor. She stood over you, a tightly-laced black shoe on either side of your head. “Bad boy,” she said, but softly this time. You lay perfectly still with your eyes closed. Then she began kicking you until you went unconscious.

You came to as she was pulling you to your feet. She pushed you along toward the bathroom, gently at first, but then she began pounding on your back with her fists. She pushed you down on the tile floor, kicked you a few times, and began ripping your clothes off.

Look!” she said. “Look at that ugly thing! Bad boy! Bad, bad bad!” She yanked you to your feet and grabbed hold of your genitals, twisting and squeezing until you cried out. This made her laugh, a lilting little girl’s laugh. Then she took a hinged wooden clothespin from her apron pocket and clipped it to your penis. She clapped her hands and laughed again. She seemed happy.

When the happiness wore off she sat on the edge of the tub and held you to her breast and wept. When she’d finished weeping she sat you on the toilet seat while she filled the tub with warm water. She placed you in the water and washed you tenderly with a facecloth and a bar of Ivory soap, softly singing children’s songs that she’d brought over with her from the old country.

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