I’ve been searching for clues about my past and I’ve come to the point where the internet might be the only receptacle to hold the answers. Maybe I’m crazy but I’m pretty positive that I’m not. I don’t want this to sound all “Conspiracy Theory” but it will probably sound that way to some, no matter what. In life, I’ve found that having fresh eyes take a look at your puzzle can sometimes yield the missing piece. So, here is my puzzle.
My name is Johanna (or Jo for short) and I have a sister. I had other siblings, too, but that’s not the point. When I was very young, there was me, my sister Marie, and my brother (we’ll call him Seth). We lived in a small town on the outskirts of a budding capital city. We had a property with some space to roam, dead end street so every neighbor kid was friends, horses and cows on some properties, and not enough people to notice when children were up to mischief. I’d like to tell you about the time we found the hidden tunnel in the basement of the house down the road, when it was for sale, but that’s another story.
This story, this puzzle, is about my sister Marie. We weren’t twins but we were both about five or six. I don’t remember when she was born or how old she was, exactly, but I know that I was older than her. Only by a bit but I was older. It’s one of my first memories. That would have made Seth somewhere around six or seven at the time. Our mom wasn’t married then but it seemed that she had been. It’s hard to say. There was a man that came around and I think he lived with us for a time. Regardless, how would a young mother (maybe 26) be able to buy a house without a college education, second income and working whatever job she could get her hands on? That’s not the point of this story, just a side note. So, since my mother worked all the time and was doing construction in a neighboring state, we had to have sitters. Anyone that could be found, it seemed.
As life would have it, someone was found. The house next door had been put up for rent. It was blue or maybe white, had a swimming pool in the backyard so it was the envy of a lot of the neighbor kids. It also had wild raspberries and planted grapevines growing in the backyard. I think it was late fall when the men moved in but I was too young to really pay that much attention to the weather. There had to have been maybe three or four bedrooms in this house and there were always men there. They all seemed adults to me but, now that I’m older, I can guess at their ages and I’d say they were early twenties; college aged men.
I don’t remember the name of the main guy but Jason seems fitting so we’ll go with that. Jason had become acquainted with my mother (since they were next door and all) and had introduced his friends. I don’t know if they all lived there or not but I do know that all the men were there multiple times. I distinctly remember my mother coming home one day to find that our VHS player had walked off. She asked where it was and we informed her that Jason had come over –knock, knock, knock- and said that she told him that he could borrow it. A VHS player doesn’t seem like much to anyone these days and certainly not to us kids since we were so young but they were, apparently, very expensive. Mother went over to Jason’s and retrieved the VHS player and we never heard of it, again, outside of telling people they’d have to wait for her to come home before taking anything.
I feel this is getting long and I should keep it short and to the point. If I just ramble, I doubt anyone would be able to help me out. A day came when Mother had to leave and Jason would be watching us. I was grateful that it wasn’t the dreadful Aunt Pearl because she would spank me for looking sideways at a window. There was the expected –knock, knock, knock-, announcing Jason’s arrival about an hour after Mother left. We let him in the house and attempted to regale him with our stories of school, friends, and “ooh, look what I did”.
For some reason, Jason was in a foul mood and Mother wouldn’t be back for several hours (or days, we just never knew) so we tried to mind our “company is amongst us” manners. Marie really liked Jason and especially his extremely tall friend, Paul. Paul was the tallest man we’d ever seen. He literally had to duck in doorways.
Anyway, this day, Jason was very angry. We were so bad but I can’t remember what we did. Finally, Jason got so upset with us that he decided it was punishment time. Mother always told people that watched us that they had free reign to spank us if we were behaving poorly. Instead of sending us to fetch Mother’s belt, Jason decided to use something else. First, he sent us to the kitchen and made us bend over while we were swatted with a wooden spoon. Marie and I cried out because that spoon hurt. Seth didn’t make a noise. We were each swatted in turn, with Marie and I crying but Seth making no sound, until the spoon broke. He made Marie, Seth, and I go down into the basement and stand in the storage room under the stairs.
Marie had received a pretend kitchen set for Christmas and it had come with a plastic broom. While we were standing in the storage room, Jason roamed the house and found Marie’s plastic broom in our shared bedroom. We all stood, silent, crying, and dreading our punishment in this little, single-bulb lit room under the stairs. We heard that familiar –knock, knock, knock- and in he came. Little plastic broom in hand and an odd smile on his face. This was no time for smiling but, yet, there he was.
He walked up to the three of us and had us bend over. Marie got a swat, then me, then Seth. Marie and I cried out because it hurt but Seth still didn’t make a noise. After all the swats we’d already received, Marie and I were afraid to beg for mercy but I was just about to ask Jason to stop when he took another swat- a full, baseball swing swat- at Seth and the little broom broke in half. Seth, still, made no noise.
After this, we were taken upstairs into our Mother’s office. We hated going in there because it was the worst for punishments. We all knew what had to be done but no one would move until we were told, again, what was required of us for our punishment. We all stood in a row, crying, trying to find something to look at. The bookshelf, the drawn curtain, the closed door that stifled our dread. And then it came.
-Knock, knock, knock- The door swung silently open and there was Jason with that smile. We hadn’t finished our punishment so now it was time. Jason told us to remove our pants and underwear and bend over; grabbing our ankles with our hands. No amount of crying, embarrassment, or pleading would dissuade him of enacting this punishment on myself and my sister in front of our brother. After the only amount of delay allowed before the punishment becomes increase, we did as we were told.
All I remember after that was waking up in my room to a knock on the bedroom door. Marie was still asleep; poor little puffy eyes still wet and her breathing ragged. I went to open the door and found Paul standing there. He seemed happy to see me and I was happy to see him. I always thought Paul was nice. The next time that I saw him, though, he was at his job at the local fuel and service station and he pretended that he didn’t know me. I never saw him again, after that.
Anyway, after Paul ducked his tall frame through my doorway, I never saw Marie again. Mother and Seth say that there were never college-aged guys living next door in the house with the grapevines and raspberries. They say that no one ever stole our VHS player and they say that I must have made everything up. I can swear to whatever I, you, or your religious leader hold holy: I did not make this up. I don’t know what happened after Paul came in the room. I asked him if he wanted to play house with me on Marie’s kitchen set but, the rest, afterward is a black spot in my memory. Do you ever feel your skin tingle when you hear the knock? I still do and I have many more puzzles to solve.