My Nightmare as a Child
by Anthony Sewell
My Friend in the Stairwell
My worst moments as a child was when my father locked me up under the stairwell which was dark and damp. I must have been about six at the time. My mother wanted me to come out but father was the strong dominant type and he insisted I stayed there "Until you have come to your senses!" This was a little
like that scene in the Harry Potter movie.
My "punishment" was for opening his brandy bottle, pouring it over a Halloween figure I had made, then igniting it. Unfortunately it was close to his greenhouse and shattered several sheets of glass. When he came home he didn't notice it at first until later that evening when he watered the seedlings. On seeing the broken glass he went into one of his rages and yelled so loud the neighbors came around to see what the fuss was about. I was hiding in the bushes near the house and went into some sort of spasm with the total fear of what he would do to me.
My worst punishment before that was his lashings across my backside but this seemed to me to be much worse judging by his rage. He then asked one of my sisters where I was hiding and of course she had to tell him - otherwise she'd get a lashing.
He then grabbed me by my hair which was painful in itself and threw me into the stairwell screaming that I will never come to any good and I had "the devil in me". I used to think for some time afterward that I was the devil incarnate and I could never do anything at all to please my father. My sisters use to chide me with "Child of the Devil" and "See those horns he's growing".
My mother was so upset which made me feel worse so she let me out of the stairwell for short periods when father was in town. He came back unexpectedly one afternoon and saw me playing in the back yard. Then he came for me and I guess he knew mother had let me out. He yelled at me to get back where I belong and to stay there for another week!
What upset me was my mother crying almost endlessly as she could not see a way out of this. I balled my eyes out in the darkness of the stairwell until I eventually feel asleep. I recall waking up startled to hear my father yelling at my mother in a threatening tone. I do not mind my punishment, I thought, but nobody must abuse my mother.
This whole emotional scene had an impact on my body and I could not eat at all. When I drank water I violently threw up. What made it worse was the smell of my own vomit in the stairwell. Then everything went dizzy and I Iost consciousness.
When I awoke I discovered I was in hospital and a nurse had put a thermometer in my mouth. Apparently I was going to live another day if I behaved myself.
The sad part of this story is my father did not speak to me for three years! To me it was an awful long time in my life at that age and I desperately wanted to be his friend. My mother told me there was a brief court case and my father must not touch me in any way again. I guess he didn't but I wish it had been so different.