Meanwhile, Buford with a small groan got to his feet, feeling a bit sheepish that such a small man had taken him down so easily. He didn’t even see it coming and he had been expecting it. Jarrel glanced over. “I didn’t hurt you. Did I? I tried not to slam you into the ground too hard, but tai chi uses the opponent’s force against them, so I really had no control over how hard you hit the floor. You were swinging pretty hard.”
Buford nodded. “Well, the Doc said not to hold back. So, I didn’t, but it’s okay. I’m okay. Just took me by surprise is all.” Luke laughed. “He kicked your ass.” Buford scowled but then smiled a little. “Yeah, I guess he did. Guess it just goes to show you, you can’t judge a person by their size.”
Luke nodded, his face and voice serious. “That’s right. I’m small, but I’m like a wolverine. That’s what my Uncle Lloyd told me. I keep fighting and fighting until I’m unconscious or dead… or restrained in some way. He put me in a cage sometimes or on a chain, because he didn’t trust me on the loose when he couldn’t keep a close eye on me, and he was right not to because I wanted him dead. He didn’t suspect me to get off the chain that night I tried to kill him, but I been working at the bolt a long time until it finally came loose. If he was a drunk like our dad is, I would have killed him easy, but he’s a light sleeper and the floor squeaked. Even then I still went after him with the knife, hoping to kill him. That’s why he was going to kill me. He was really pissed and broke my wrist…”
Luke held up his wrist which was bruised and swollen. “But I was sick of it. I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted it to stop…” Luke sighed. “I figured sooner or later, he’d kill one of us. If not on purpose, then by accident. So, I figured there was nothing to lose in trying.” Luke gestured toward Wade with the hand that wasn’t broken. “Anyway. Get on with it.” The Doc, not having any response to what Luke had just revealed, simply nodded and got back to work examining and treating Wade.
Jarrel spoke as the doctor worked. “You and your brothers were very brave to have endured such abuse and still have your sanity. My father was abusive…” Jarrel suddenly blurted out. The doctor glanced over at the small man, not having known that. Jarrel continued, seemingly speaking more to himself than anyone in the room. “Even after I was grown. He just kept on. Always pushing me. Never satisfied. I never could be good enough for him. Jonathan too. He pushed us both, but Jonny was a billionaire by the age of twenty-eight. I was doing good too as a psychiatrist, or so I thought, but daddy didn’t think I was charging enough. I was doing charity work and working with needy children. He said the money was in treating adults, wealthy people with mental problems. He wasn’t like your Uncle Lloyd though. I don’t have any visible scars. Daddy was very conscious of public image. He’d beat us with a rubber hose or use other means to hurt us that didn’t leave any visible marks like a phone book, and he made us stand in painful positions for long periods of time. Things like that. Mostly he punished me. Jonny did what he was told. I was more of a rebel I guess…”
Jarrel was quiet for a long moment. “I guess I just had enough. I don’t know. I never told anyone about my father. Even at the mental hospital. We were taught not to air our dirty laundry outside the family. They say I’m insane, but I’m just safe now… I found the secret… a safe place where daddy can’t hurt me anymore.”
Buford interjected. “I thought your father passed away?” Jarrel startled out of his chatter. “Huh? Oh yeah. He did a few years ago. Now Jonathan takes care of me. Well, mostly I take care of myself, but he has legal custody of me and still tells me what I can and can’t do.” Jarrel paused again and spoke in somewhat of a faraway voice. “Jonathan’s a lot like daddy.”
The doctor frowned. “Does he hurt you, Jarrel?” Jarrel snapped out of his thoughts again. “What?” The Doc held Jarrel’s eyes. “Your brother. Does he hurt you like your father used to? You said he’s a lot like your father.”
Jarrel smiled. “Jonathan loves me. He wants the best for me.” Buford spoke in a gruff tone. “That doesn’t answer the Doc’s question, Jarrel.” Jarrel continued to smile, then put a finger to his lips. “Loose lips sink ships.” Buford looked over to the doctor with a worried expression, but the Doc gave him a subtle nod to simply drop it for the time being, which he did, but he did take note to mention it to his father for something to look into.
Luke was quiet for a long time watching the doctor take care of his little brother, but he finally whispered to Jarrel when the Doc and Buford were bathing Wade to clean his wounds. “Does your brother hurt you? Did your father drive you crazy? You said you found the secret to being safe? What’s the secret? Will you tell me? I want to be safe too.”
Jarrel looked over at Luke and spoke in a whispered tone as well. “My brother doesn’t always approve of what I do and sometimes he… corrects me, but it’s okay because I have found the secret like I said. After working for years with children, I came to realize that it’s the very young who are the most resilient. It’s innocence, Luke. We lose our innocence so early in life, but I got mine back. I reclaimed it. Now they call me insane, but I’m not insane. I just have regained my innocence. That’s all.”
Luke frowned not really understanding. “So, you’re like a little kid? Is that what you mean?” Jarrel smiled and nodded. “Yes.” Luke continued to frown in confusion. “But you can still be hurt. People can still hurt you.” Jarrel nodded. “Yes, but I don’t hold onto the pain or experience outside of the moment. I let it go. That’s what young children do. They might feel fear or sadness or anger, but it’s fleeting. They live moment to moment, but at some point, that changes as we grow older The fears set it and then you start living your life around those fears. I simply decided to stop being afraid anymore. I let go of expectations, all those inhibitions that we put on ourselves because we’re afraid to express who we are in the moment.”
Jarrel closed his eyes. “It’s a wonderful place to be.” He then sighed. “I just wish people could understand and see that I’m not insane. I’m just finally free.” He smiled over at Luke who wasn’t looking so sure of what Jarrel was saying. He was leaning more toward the “he’s nuts” scenario himself where it came to Jarrel, as it just didn’t seem possible to let go of that much anger. To simply let it go. To Luke it felt like all he was; was the anger, that without it, he’d cease to exist, he’d been carrying it for so long.
“Hey! What you doing?” Luke suddenly called out when he saw the doctor about to shave Wade’s head. Doc glanced over. “You boys all have head lice and your hair is so knotted and tangled, this is the easiest remedy. It’ll grow back, Luke.” Luke scowled not wanting his hair to be cut, but he didn’t argue. Pain and fatigue were finally starting to set in, despite his resolve to stay awake and fight if need be to protect his brothers. So, by the time the doctor was done with Wade, Luke was more than ready for the sedative, but only after Jarrel gave one last assurance that he would keep them all safe from harm.