He was aggressive. Blood trickled down my face, temporarily blinding me as I limped away. He observed me without remorse, turning to the rest of the family with an air of smug superiority, daring any of us to question his authority.
I don’t think I ever liked my father.
He was lazy. Mother drooped with exhaustion while he lay around doing nothing. When she was away, we were left with father, and we always dreaded it. Playing chase, hide and seek, having mock battles with each other – whatever we did seemed to provide him with an excuse to cuff us around the head. We were young, we were only having fun, for God’s sake.
He was greedy. Our food was forever peppered with hunger as father demanded his meal before the rest of us, taking the best bits and leaving me and my siblings to squabble over the leftovers.
‘Why do you let him do that?’ we kept asking mother. But she just shook her head passively and said, ‘It’s the way we do things.’
But I was feisty. I was reaching the age when testosterone was beginning to fuel my internal fire. I decided to stand up to my father.
‘He’ll kill you!’ one of my brothers said.
‘He might kill us all!’ said another.
‘It won’t change him,’ said the third, a peacemaker. ‘Just try to accept it, like I do.’
But adrenalin was pulsating through my body. He was an arrogant, abusive bully. The next mealtime, I walked right up to my father, meeting his glare through a hormonal haze, not blinking, not flinching.
Don’t let him see me shaking.
I inhaled and paced my words carefully on the out breath. ‘It’s time you put us first for a change. We are the future.’
My defiant tone belied my fear.
Father jerked his head up like a puppet on a string. ‘Oh really? Well then, I will put you first – first in the queue for a beating.’
He lashed out with a vicious cuff to my head, causing an eruption of pain. I hit back as hard as I could, catching his lip and drawing blood. Then I was on my back as he leaped on top of me, while I, winded under his weight, kicked and bit as hard as I could.
‘Get him! Go for it! Teach him a lesson!’ chorused my brothers from a safe distance.
But I retreated bloodily. I was no match for him – not yet.
I soon would be.
My mane was starting to grow. One day, I would be King of the Jungle.
Yvonne Clarke has worked for several educational and business publishers as a copy editor, followed by twenty years of teaching ESL in Asia and the UK. She is now devoting much of her time to writing. She loves travel, non-human animals, cycling and recycling. She started writing flash fiction in 2019 and has had success in several flash and short story competitions, including runner up in 2020 LISP Short Story Prize and the 2020 Worcester Arts Festival Flash Fiction Competition.
Illustration by Martin Jones –email@example.com