There was a lumbering viciousness about the man. Even during the frisky, early days of the marriage, there were times when their playful antics dissolved into hot arguments and face-to-face shouting matches. He was extremely jealous. As the months went by, he tried to assert complete control over her life. He even accused Agnes of “causing trouble” and ordered my mother to cut off ties with her old friend.
My mother started fighting back.The white-knuckle mood around our flat became one of growing turmoil. The constant bickering became mean and ugly. Several times, I noticed my mother hiding bruise marks on her face and neck with pancake makeup. At the time, she didn’t want to talk with me about it. When I came home each night from my paper route, however, as soon as I walked into our flat, I could feel the visceral tension in my gut.
One night, I came home late from the route. As I climbed up the backsteps, I could hear loud arguing even before I opened the door into the kitchen.
Once inside, I could hear them in their bedroom. Something banged against the wall. A chair. A scuffle. What sounded like a body hitting the floor. Loud curses from Wentworth. And my mother screamed, “Get out of here, you sonofabitch.”
“Get out… get out,” she sobbed.
I ran down the hall towards their room, shouting, “Hey, leave her alone.”
The door flung open. Wentworth came bursting through. He saw me … grabbed me by the arm … whirled me around … slammed me up against the wall, holding me by the throat as he spit out his words, “And don’t you try and give me any crap, either, ya little shitheel.”
Shoving me aside, he lurched on down the hall to the back door. Opening the door wide, he paused, turned back towards me and snarled, “Ya little bastard, yer not even Della’s kid. Ya got that? Yer nuthin’ but a fuckin’ orphan.”
Then he turned and headed out into the night.
His words still echo in my mind. It took a few moments, but the words sunk in … deep. I stood there bewildered. My mind spinning.
With questioning eyes, I turned to my mother, who by now was sitting on the couch with her head in her hands, crying softly.
She lifted her head slowly and looked up at me. Her cheek was bruised, her lips were puffy. Tears ran down her face. Her left eye was swollen almost shut.