The Day my Parents Killed the Pedophile
When I around 12 years old, my parents killed a man and burned his body to destroy the evidence.
I remember like it was yesterday. The old man used to come to my house every Sunday and bring me presents. Pearl earrings, quite often. That’s why I don’t care much for pearls and never have. Sometimes there were rubies or sapphires or diamond chips or emeralds or 18-kt gold. Occasionally opals. And he’d bring me expensive clothes from a nice store 25 miles away, near where he lived. He didn’t know my size so he’d ask a sales clerk about my size to help him figure out what nice clothes and jewelry his pre-teen niece might like. I still wonder what that sales clerk thought or if she thought about it all.
But I digress. I remember like it was yesterday. The old man used to come to my house every Sunday and visit with my parents for a little while and then want me to walk him to his car, alone. Over the course of many visits, his attention on me went from a hug to a kiss on the cheeks to a sticky, thick, emphasemiac tongue shoved down my throat, to a hand down my pants. All while my parents urged me to walk my uncle to the car and seemed just fine with my uncle’s suggestions of “going for a ride to town” alone with him. And I owed him a hug and kiss for all the nice things he’d brought me. My uncle had already reprimanded me for being at a friend’s house during his visits, something I had tried more and more to do to escape his attention. I knew it was just a matter of time and I was praying hard that something—anything—would keep my uncle from getting me alone in a car.
But I digress again. I remember like it was yesterday. My uncle used to come to my house every Sunday and on this particular day, he got up from the living room seat to take his leave and told Daddy that I’d walk him out to the car. I tried to think of different reasons not to—homework, a phone call to my best friend, not feeling well, playing with the dog, not hearing….. But nothing worked. I had to show our guest out, particularly after he’d been so generous with gifts.
I walked as slowly as I could all the way out to his car, trying to prolong what I knew was coming. But this time was different. This time, when we reached the car and he grabbed me, hauling me close to his smoke-smelling wheezes and fumbling to get his gnarled hand down past the elastic band of my pants….
That’s when my mom hit him from behind with the shovel.
She was screaming at him to stay away from her daughter, punctuating my name with kick after kick in his balls as he doubled over, writhing on the ground, twisting to get away from her vicious foot.
That’s when my dad took over, calling my uncle a “dad-burned pedophile.” Daddy never cussed, being a Baptist deacon and all that, but he didn’t realize that “dad-burned” and “dad-blamed” were slang for “goddamned.” He picked up the shovel where Mama had dropped it and bashed in the back of the man’s skull, threw down the shovel, and brushed his palms as if to say, “All done!” or “Good riddance!”
I stood watching, just watching. And hoping that no cars happened to drive by about then on our dirt road out in the country. And wondering how we’d hide the bloodstains on the grass or if the rain would wash them away.
Daddy drove the old red pickup around to where the man sprawled on the grass, and he and Mama pitched him into the truck bed like a bale of hay and then drove down into the field to near the pond and a burn-pile next to it. We’d lost a big, black cow—I forget what disease she had—the day before and Daddy, distraught, had wrapped a chain around her body, attached it to the tractor, and hauled her carcass to the site for burning because, he told me, that was the best way to dispose of a dead sick cow. I rode with him to the burn-pile, and he rolled my uncle’s bloody body onto the wood next to the black cow’s swollen remains. He lit the fire, and I watched silently as smoke rolled upward and Daddy promised he’d never let anyone hurt me again.
Mama, meanwhile, went back into the house and called all our neighbors to let them know not to worry if they saw black smoke coming from our farm because we’d lost a cow but Daddy was taking care of the arduous task of disposing of the carcass, so please don’t worry and no need to come help because we were all pretty upset to lose one of the herd. Then she called all the family, close and distant, and let them know about our terrible loss. She didn’t worry about family members coming to snoop around because, if there was work to be done on the farm and they knew it, they’d keep their distance.
Hours later, Mama drove the old man’s car down to the pond where we often fished and she and Daddy rolled it into the deeper water, muddy and capable of hiding most anything. We watched it sink as the last of the smoke from the burn-pile faded from roiling black to light gray to nothing.
If you’re still reading and wonder how it is that my parents never spent any time in jail for murder, it’s because this entire scene never happened. This version of the story was an exercise suggested to rewrite angry and helpless memories into the memory we wish had really happened.
For those of you who have read my blogs for a long time, you know the real story. You know that my parents—and no one in my entire family, as this man was a known pedophile among my other female teenage cousins’ families—did anything at all to keep him away from his next victim. My parents not only made it easy; so worried about strangers but oblivious to their own slimy relatives, they pushed me toward him. In the real story, no one defended me and I couldn’t defend myself. In the real story, my parents didn’t bash in his head and burn the evidence discreetly on the farm. In the real story, the pedophile died of a heart attack that week, just before he was to come back for what would have been an inevitable trip to town alone with him.
And if this story, told here at Halloween, seems particularly violent, so be it. This is the memory I prefer.