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What Peace There May Be in Silence


Jon Harding

Would you like some more tea, Dolly? 

Yes, please, Wendy.  How nice of you to ask. 

There you are.  Would you like a biscuit as well? 

Oh yes.  How thoughtful of you. 

How was your morning, Dolly? 

Oh, it was simply wonderful, dear.  I went for a walk in the park and fed the birds beside the fountain.  The sun was shining and the grass was green.  Itís such a beautiful day. 

It sounds wonderful.  Did you see Mrs. Smith? 

Yes, indeed.  She was walking her dog and pushing her new babyís carriage.  She looked very beautiful.  She said to tell you hello. 

How nice of her.  Is the new baby cute? 

Oh yes.  He has bright green eyes, just like his daddy. 

I feel the door slam shut.  Daddyís home (H-O-M-E).  After a few seconds, I can smell the bad smell from him.  Sometimes he comes home smelling that way.  I donít like it. 

I can feel his footsteps in the floor Iím sitting on.  His black boots make the floor shake.  I can feel Mommyís chair (C-H-A-I-R) scraping on the floor as she gets up. 

I donít hear them Ďcause I canít.  Mommy says itís because Iím deaf (D-E-A-F).  She says Iíve been like that since I was born.  Iíll tell you a secret, though.  I donít really want to hear things.  Mommy, and Daddy can hear each other, and all they do is yell.  I like just hearing things in my head, because then I know thereís no bad stuff about them.  I make my dolls talk to me in my head, and theyíre never mean to me and they never yell at me. 

Sometimes Daddy yells at me, especially when he has that bad smell.  But when he yells his face changes and I canít watch his mouth (M-O-U-T-H) to see what he says.  Itís too hard.  That just makes him madder, though.  I donít really know why, it just does. 

Dolly, how was your ballet lesson today? 

It was fine, Wendy.  Soon Iíll be able to stand up on my toes. 

I wish I could take ballet lessons.  I want to be a ballerina when I grow up. 

Someday youíll be a ballerina, dear.  Youíll be the best ballerina ever. 

Why thank you Dolly.  How sweet of you to say.  Mommy said we couldnít afford lessons. 

Itís all right, dear.  Someday youíll be able to afford them.  And youíll wear the most beautiful ballet slippers




Daddy and Mommy are yelling at each other again.  I know because thatís what they always do when Daddy comes home with the bad smell.  Iím not really sure why they do.  Mommy never really told me what the bad smell means.  But when Daddy comes home smelling like that they always yell at each other. 

Daddy doesnít smell like that when he goes to work in the morning.  He looks nice in his blue work suit.  He has a shiny badge that he pins on his chest.  He wears a hat (H-A-T) and he has a big belt with something black hanging from it.  He told me Iím never to touch that black thing.  He says itís very, very dangerous and it could hurt me very much.  It doesnít look very dangerous, though. 

But sometimes when Daddy comes home he has the bad smell, and then they always yell at each other.  I donít know what Daddy does at his job that makes him smell like that. 

Daddy says his job is to protect people from the bad people.  He says that there are a lot of bad people out there.  He says that the world is a bad place, and itís going to hell in a handbasket.  I donít really know what that means, either, but when Daddy says things like that I know heís mad. 

But sometimes Mommy shows me books (B-O-O-K-S) with beautiful pictures in them.  She says theyíre pictures of places far away.  There are pictures of castles, and knights (N-I-T-E-S), and ladies wearing the most beautiful dresses Iíve ever seen.  Mommy says the ladies are princesses.  Sometimes she calls me her princess. 

Daddy calls me his princess too, but itís different when he says it.  His face does different things than Mommyís.  Sometimes I think that Daddy doesnít really mean it when he says that.  I donít know what he means.  But I guess Iíll understand when Iím older.  Mommy says Iíll understand a lot more things when Iím older.  She says that a lot.  She says that I shouldnít worry too much about things I donít understand because Iíll understand them when Iím older.  She says I should just worry about being a little girl for now, and when itís time for me to understand these things Iíll understand them. 

I wish I was older now. 

Youíve finished your biscuit, Dolly.  Would you like another? 

Certainly, Wendy.  Thank you very much. 

I baked them this afternoon.  I hope theyíre good.  Iíve never used this recipe before. 

Theyíre delicious, dear.  Youíre a wonderful cook. 

Why thank you, Dolly.  How nice of you to say.  Would you like some sugar in your tea? 

Oh, no thank you.  I have enough, I think. 

Was little Billy in the park today? 

Yes, dear.  He was playing with his new puppy.  He looked very happy. 

Iím glad.  He wanted one for so long.  What did he name it? 

Sparky, I think.  Such a nice boy, Billy.  Iíll tell him you said hello next time I see him

Daddy and Mommy are still yelling at each other.  I know because I can feel the shaking when Daddy slams his hand down on the table.  He only does that when heís really mad.  I donít know what Mommy says to him that makes him so mad, but I know that he only does it when he has the bad smell.  I can feel his black boots through the floor, too. 

I know whatís going to happen next. 

I donít turn around because I donít like to see it. 

Itís scary when Daddy hits Mommy. 

Sometimes, when Daddyís really, really mad, he hits Mommy.  Mommy told me that whenever he does I shouldnít watch because itís scary.  She doesnít want me to be scared (S-K-A-R-E-D) because she says that Daddy doesnít really mean it when heÖ does that.  I donít know why he does it, but I know he only does it when he has the bad smell.  I think the bad smell makes him do it. 

One time I did watch it.  Daddy was hitting Mommy in her face.  He kept yelling something but I couldnít see what it was because his face was different.  His face was more different than any time Iíve ever seen.  He didnít even look like Daddy anymore.  It was scary. 

Mommy was holding her arms up to stop Daddyís hands from hitting her, but sometimes they still did.  Mommy was crying, and there was red (R-E-D) stuff on her mouth.  Every time Daddy hit Mommy, I could feel it in the air and in the wall (W-A-L-L).  Then Daddy pushed her backwards and her back hit the wall, and I felt that too.  That was when I stopped watching, and I never watched it again.  Itís too scary. 

        Afterwards Mommy always comes and hugs me.  I hug her back because I know it hurts when somebody hits you.  One time at pre-school one of the other kids hit me on the shoulder and it made me cry.  I had a bruise (B-R-O-S-E) on my shoulder for a while.  Sometimes Mommy has bruises on her face and arms from Daddyís hands. 

Mommy says that I canít tell anyone about when Daddy hits her.  She says itís no one elseís business (thatís a big word I canít spell it) what happens in our house.  I donít really understand when she says that, but I donít tell anyone because she told me not to.  Itís still scary, though. 

I wish Daddy didnít hit Mommy. 

Did you see anyone else in the park today, Dolly? 

Yes, dear.  I saw Mr. Jones sitting on the bench reading his newspaper.  He reads it there every single day and eats his lunch. 

Why does he do that, Dolly? 

Well, he says itís because he loves to feed the birds.  He gives them popcorn that he buys from a man in the park.  Sometimes the birds even come right up to him and eat from his hand. 

Thatís wonderful.  Mr. Jones is such a kind man. 

Yes, dear, he is.  Heís been quite lonely since his wife died, though. 

It seems like so long ago. 

Yes, but he has a good heart.  He always has a smile on his face

I can feel Daddy hitting Mommy through the air and through the floor.  I donít turn around. 

I donít want to see.  Itís too scary. 

I can feel it again and again.  I can feel Mommy moving around, trying to stop Daddyís hands.  I know Mommy is crying.  I know thereís red stuff on her mouth.  I think it looks the same every time as the time I watched it.  Every time it happens it makes me remember. 

I donít want to remember it. 

I feel a big shake and then a lot of little ones.  That means that somethingís broken (B-R-O-K-E-N).  I donít know what it is.  I stay in the corner because I know that itís dangerous when things are broken.  I could get a cut. 

I think more things are breaking.  Itís hard to tell when there are so many things happening. 

Daddy is still hitting Mommy. 


and again

and again. 


What was that? 

Iíve never felt a shake like that before. 

It was harder than anything Iíve felt before.  It felt like something hit me on my back.  But I know nothing did.  It came through the air just like the other ones. 

The other ones have stopped.  Daddyís not hitting Mommy anymore.  Whatever that big shake was, it must have been a good thing. 

I can feel Mommyís feet coming closer to me on the floor.  Her feet donít make big shakes like Daddyís black boots, but I can still feel them.  Now she sits down next to me and I look at her.  Her face has funny shapes on it, and there is red stuff all over her.  I know she will have bruises tomorrow.  Sheís crying. 

She puts something down on the floor (F-L-O-R) and hugs me.  I hug her back and give her a kiss on the cheek.  I look down at the floor and thereís Daddyís black thing that he told me never to touch.  Thereís something grey coming out of one side of it, something that goes up and disappears.  It smells funny.  Mommy is shaking. 

I donít know what happened. 

Dolly, what happened? 

Donít worry too much about it, dear. 

Youíll understand when youíre older.

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