In his pocket, there was a lego man. He turned it over and over in his small, sweaty hand. He could close his eyes and picture it perfectly, detail provided by memory and tactile exploration. He knew she was about to hit him, but he didn't know why. He never knew why. And that was the part that woke him up, sometimes, scream lodged in his throat. He closed his eyes, but he could still smell the sweat and cheap perfume.
Every kid in the neighborhood caught a whuppin' sometimes. It wasn't that he thought it was unfair, he could just never find a connection. When Bobby had stolen the stop sign by the school, he'd gotten a whuppin' everyone heard, but he shouldn't have stolen the stop sign. When Agnes lied and told her dad that someone took her bike - lock still wrapped around the seat post - she'd come the school the next day and sat fidgeting. Everyone knew it hurt to sit.
When Jimmy's mom whupped on him...he pretended to be the lego man, plastic and mindless. Stiff. Face frozen.
Sometimes there was a reason, but rarely. Jimmy tread carefully. She was like a crazy person. Her moods switched on and off like the streetlight no one could ever hit with a big enough rock. One minute she'd be huggin' on him, smiling, telling him he was getting so big. Then, her whole face would change. She'd hit him. Sometimes it was a swat or two. Sometimes it was...more. And he never knew why. And by the time he'd stopped crying and come out of his room, it would be like it never happened. It was doing something to him. He always lost when the boys played 'flinch' now. He was never hungry. He had wet the bed the other night. That hadn't happened in years. That whuppin' had been bad, but he'd had it coming. That's what he told himself while he watched the sheets, giant white flags, flitting in the breeze.