Terry Ratner RN, BS, MFA - nurse, writer, educator - click to return home
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Run Tip Run

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Harrison, warns me to stop laughing. She glares at me over her rimless glasses, points her index finger as if it was a toy gun, then folds her arms squarely across her chest. I look at my best friend, Joanie, with her short red hair and cocoa colored freckles. She snickers as she covers her face with our first reading book, I See Tip; a story about a golden collie. I am learning verbs today, “run tip run” and I laugh with Joanie at the pictures of this large fluffy animal with a long pointed nose and a flurry of hair feathering down its neck, running alongside a small girl with blond hair and blue eyes.

My giggles disappear until I peek over at Joanie and she makes another funny face, wrinkling her nose and forcing her eyes into a squint as if she is blinded by sunlight. She contorts her face and her eyeballs look as if they might pop out of their sockets. My daddy’s eyes look like that when he’s upset; his nostrils widen while his face turns the color of beets.

I close my eyes trying to stop the laughter. Then I remember Daddy’s anger this morning when I refused to stop watching a cartoon on television. My arms still ache from his strong hands dragging me over to the couch as he positioned me face-down over his thighs. He tells me I’m bad and warns me that I’m about to receive a whipping. I close my eyes and pretend I'm hugging Tip—feeling the softness of his thick fur against the side of my face. I whisper to no one in particular, “run Tip run.”

I wear long sleeves to school today to hide the redness on my arms—lines that look like stringy roots of a plant. I squirm around in my chair trying to find a place where I don’t feel pain. Using a red and purple crayon, I draw a young girl, streaking the colors, leaving dark lines where I’m hurting. The white page disappears.

My laughter at school is loud like my screams when Daddy runs after me. We play a peek-a-boo game until he sweeps me up in his arms and orders me not to wiggle.” My flannel pajamas rip and I begin to feel the sting of leather against bare skin.

Joanie turns and looks at me. Her book is open to a picture of Tip sitting on green grass and she whispers a joke about a pickle factory. The teacher's chalk makes funny sounds as she scrapes it on the blackboard. I put my hands up to my ears to stop the noise. Joanie places two fingers in her gums and her mouth looks crooked while her lips grow fat and purple. I can't stop laughing.