They are right there as soon as you open the door to your mother’s house, in an almost too close for comfort way. She says it’s a mudroom at the bottom of the stairs, but really, it’s just three pieces of wood on the floor, surrounded by clutter and disorganized laundry. You don’t want to walk up the stairs, because with each upward step, you feel your bones crumbling in fear. There’s nine deer heads cemented to the walls around the ‘mudroom’ and staircase, which is a constant reminder that your stepfather is not afraid of inflicting abuse, even death, on living creatures. Their beady, lifeless eyes pierce your skin. The bottom stair is harder than the rest, and there are nails sticking up through the wood.
The memory of your hand going through the nail on the corner will haunt you every time you see the stairs. You remember the horseshoe nail vividly, as if it’s still going through your lower palm. You can still feel the blood clotting inside of you, but nothing coming out. You go to your mother crying, begging her to hold your hand, because her touch makes everything better. She hates blood, it makes her queasy, and her go-to solution of a bandaid isn’t going to fix this one. Your head is starting to pound as your hand loses blood, but there’s no pain like your stepfather ripping the nail out of you, and seeing your own blood splatter the ceiling then drip back down onto your head.
Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip.
He is laughing an evil hyena laugh with the bloody nail in his hand, admiring it as if it’s a first place trophy. Your hand goes numb. It feels as lifeless as the deer on the wall, and you wonder if your tiny six-year old hand will be the next thing cemented in the mudroom.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
“Should we take her to the hospital?”
“She’s fine. Get tough or die.”
“I told you we had to fix those nails!”
“Mom, I can’t feel my arm. Please help.”
But she does not help you. She convinces herself a Band-Aid will fix this one. The memory of the drip, drip, drip of blood on your head will consume your brain for the rest of your life. They’ll never fix the nails, and the same thing will happen to both of your sisters. The stair is stained with three sister’s blood, but it’s not enough to make your mother help.
Nichole Decker is a recent graduate of the University of Maine at Farmington, with degrees in English and Creative Writing. She is now pursuing a Master’s Degree in Special Education Business Administration, and hopes to open programs in higher education settings for people with disabilities, focusing on writing as a creative outlet. Through her own experiences with mental illness, she wants to emphasize the power words can have and hopes to pass that on to others.