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|The One Million Stories Creative Writing
We were in trouble. Again. A shopkeeper across Clarendon Avenue showed up at our apartment. He told my mom we had stolen candy.
She said she would handle it with the proverbial cliché, “Wait till their father gets home.” My three siblings and I waited for his arrival. My
two brothers joked around and wrestled with each other; my sister tried to win Mom over. She wasn’t having it. I sat, holding my teddy
bear, Mr. Bodine, wondering what would happen and thinking I would be sick.
Dad arrived at his regular time. Mom met him at the door and told him what happened. He blew up, shouting and hollering as he made his
way down the hallway to our bedrooms. For once, my sister Ruth was being nice to me. She held my hand and whispered not to cry –
emphasis on not. I had failed at that most of the day.
“You lousy kids! Get out here now!” Dad bellowed. My sister and I waited for our brothers to go first. They were older – and bigger. We
heard their door open and shuffling of feet. Dad flung our door open. Ruth squeezed my hand.
“Shhh,” she said.
Dad glared at both of us. He had a look that could make all body functions stop.
“GET OUT HERE!” he hollered. We got up and walked after him, following our brothers to the dining room. We lined up, oldest to
“What the hell do you damn kids think you’re doing?!” Dad screamed. “How stupid are you?! Stealing?! You know what happens to
thieves?! Do you?!” He jabbed his finger at my brothers’ chests.
“We didn’t steal-“Pat, the second oldest brother started. Dad backhanded him.
“Don’t you lie to me! You expect me to believe you over the shop owner?! You’re all nothing but a group of juvenile delinquents! Do you
know where I can send you?! Where I will send you for this?” Dad worked himself up into a proper rage. Get downstairs in the car – now!”
Mom came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands with a dish towel. “Paul, I think –“
“Shut up! You don’t know how to raise these kids?! I’ll show you how it’s done!” Dad wasn’t allowing any softening.
He was on a roll. We shuffled through the kitchen and downstairs to the garage where he kept his black Buick sedan. No one fought for
the window seat this time.
Dad slid in, started the car and backed it out of the garage. We left our neighborhood and he drove down one of the busier Chicago
streets. He kept looking in his rearview mirror to watch us. I hadn’t considered jumping out at some intersection. Possibly my other
We approached a police station. He pulled in front and stopped the car, turning off the ignition.
“Get out,” he snarled. I started crying. We really were going to the reform school he always threatened us with. This
was it. We piled out of the car and he dragged each kid into the police station one by one, oldest to youngest. I was left standing in front of
the station crying, hoping someone would take me away like in the movies when Shirley
Temple was in trouble. People looked but no one stopped. Dad came stomping back down the steps. He grabbed my arm.
“Are you ready?” he snapped and started dragging me up the steps. “You’re being put in jail here. The rest are already in.”
I began wailing as loud as I could. I hadn’t even brought Mr. Bodine. I think people began looking because Dad then shook me in an effort
to quiet me down. It didn’t work.
“I-I c-can’t even c-cross t-the street! I-I didn’t do anything!!” I sobbed as he shook me.
“Sure you didn’t help them? You’re all a bunch of liars, sticking up for each other,” Dad said. “Which one did it?!”
“No one! None of us did!” I was in near hysterics. Why didn’t he believe me – or us?
“You wait here,” he ordered. He went back in the police station. My siblings came out a while later, signs of crying on their faces. We
climbed back into the car and headed home. When we arrived it was obvious we weren’t the only ones upset. Mom’s eyes were red when
we came in through the kitchen. She kissed each of us, told us to go to bed – no supper.
I crawled into bed with Mr. Bodine, promising him we would never, ever be apart again. From now on he would go everywhere I went.
Mom and Dad were arguing in the front room. It wouldn’t go well for Mom. Dad was very proud of his temper and liked to show it
“Hey, remember when I took you kids to the police station that day?” he asked.
I gulped. It wasn’t a memory that I dwell on. I hesitated.
“You know, when the shop owner came over and said you kids had stolen some candy from him? Do you remember that?” Dad pressed.
“Uhhh. Yeah, I do,” I said. What could he possibly want – why would he even bring that up?
Dad chuckled away, entertained with his memories.
“You were really little. You just came to live with us again. You had moved back from Joliet. I bet you weren’t more than six or seven,” he
“Seven,” I said briefly. “I remember.”
“Do you,” - Dad was close to outright laughing – “remember me taking you all down to the police station? How I told you all they were
going to put you in jail and send you to reform school? Ha ha ha ha! Remember that?”
“Yep,” I said. Then, since I couldn’t resist – “Who would forget something like that?”
Dad burst out laughing. “That’s right! Boy, I had you kids scared! Even Rich and Pat cried! I dragged them right to the sergeants’ desk
and told them they would be assigned a cell for the night.”
I let him get his laughing done. He’s quite old and I have no reason in a world where there is already so much unjustness to hurt one more
person. He hurt enough people I love; no peace will be gained by being vindictive or
cruel to him. He finally recovers.
“You kids were really a handful. I could see your mother couldn’t handle you. That’s why I had to step in and make you all see who was in
charge. Never hurts to have your kids afraid of you a bit,” Dad mused. “Kids need to respect you.”
“I guess,” I said, eying the clock. Could I end our conversation soon? My hands were clenched when I wasn’t running one of them over my
“No, no, there’s no guesswork about it,” Dad protested. “You can’t let your kids run over you. That’s what’s wrong with the country today.
These kids running around, being disrespectful. Most of them are from women that can’t handle them. You know what I mean. You kids
turned out good because I was there.”
His voice dropped a bit, almost a whisper.
“Of course, your mom didn’t always agree with what I did with you kids. She thought I was too tough on you.
Sometimes she would say I needed to lighten up.” Dad sighed. “She knew though, that we always had to be united against you guys.
Neither of us could be soft.”
“I would never say you were soft, Dad,” I stated.
“Well, you know, your mom would feel bad after I gave you the belt and she would come to me and say, “That didn’t need to happen.” If I
didn’t do it, who would? Your mom wouldn’t touch you guys. Someone had to step in and I told her that. She didn’t always agree,” Dad
So she didn’t try to save us, I thought silently. Or couldn’t.
“Hey, Dad, I need to get going here. Got some stuff around the house I need to get done,” I said.
“Oh. Okay, hon. Well, thanks for calling. Quite the trip down memory lane, hey?” he asked. “How are the kids doing?”
“It was quite the trip. Kids are good. Travis is teaching in a new school this year and he likes it. Mickey is teaching yoga now,” I said,
relieved to be on a new topic.
“Sad that Travis didn’t go out for professional basketball.”
“Dad, the guy is six feet tall. He’s too short.”
“Ohhh I don’t know about that,” Dad argued. “Mickey should teach Pilates instead. Lots of money in that.”
“She likes yoga,” I state. In Dad’s view everyone should always be in stretch mode, doing more, being more, earning more.
“Okay, okay. Well, kiddo, good talking to you. Take care,” he says.
“Same here, Dad. Love you.”
“Love you too. Bye.”
© Kathy Doherty
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