Volume III (Summer 2008)
ISSN 1934-4324

Janet Grivois

Janet M. Grivois lives a quietly uneventful life in Northern Maine, with her soul mate, Julia. While she pursues her RN degree.


I Remember

“What do you remember?” asked the psychologist, his fingers tented in front of him as if in thoughtful prayer. This was session number six, and they always started out this way. I hated coming here every Friday after school, for this lovely jam session, that didn’t involve music.

“I don’t—” I said, steadfast in my repeated claims of vivid memory loss. The psychologist didn’t believe me – perhaps it was my eyes. The eyes of a 17-year-old that should have been enjoying life, not lashing out at it, but here I was, in all my chaotic glory, striking out and getting into trouble.

“How is school?” We were skipping past the usual five-step Foxtrot, and he was heading right to the get go. A new tactic. How interesting. Now he had me intrigued.

I worried the nail on my left thumb. “Same as always.”

“Have you had anymore…,” a pause for effect, “…incidents?”

“You mean, have I slammed a fellow student against the wall, smashed a knee into his groin, and almost thrown him down the stairwell? No.” Sarcasm was my natural defence.

“You realize,” his second thoughtful pause, “that if you don’t make any progress in our sessions that you may very well be charged with assault. You may be remanded into juvenile custody.”

Finally, the other shoe had dropped with a resounding thud on the awful shag carpet of the office. The thought of being held in some state facility wasn’t one that I relished. Leaving my sometimes-annoying sister and the little brother, who I spoiled relentlessly was not on my list of things to do. I leaned back in my chair, casting a wary eye towards him; I finally said the words he was waiting to hear: “I remember…”


I remember the heat of the room.

I remember the sharp cut of the glass on my flesh.

I remember the cold nipping air.

I remember the wind pushing me back upwards, floating, and falling at the same time.

I remember the snow exploding around me in a soft whoosh as I rushed into its arms.

I remember the welcoming darkness.



The darkness held me close, persuading me to stay hidden in its comforting arms. Voices drifted all around me, disconnected and urgent in their tone. No one spoke to me, speaking about me instead. The voices whirled around me as I struggled to stay in the shadows of my mind.

“…Is she…”

“… Did he…?”

“…I can’t answer…”

Instead of listening, I yielded to the beckoning arms of darkness and the melodic beeping sound around me, keeping pace of my inexplicably still beating heart.




I heard the beep of the intercom that connected the house to the garage. The beep always seemed to cut through the sounds of work, like the razor blades I used to clean away the overspray of paint on windshields. I looked up from my comfortable spot on the battered couch that graced the loft of my father’s garage, a large barn like structure, painted in a dark crimson with four stories of space. It was a vast place, with many corners to hide in, and I knew them all well.

I listened to my father answering the intercom. Soft swearing followed. He had been in an angry mood the last four days. Monday he’d taken in a Lincoln Continental that was more trouble than it was worth. The underside of the car was rotting away with rust and the owner was refusing to buy new panels, instead, we were welding and riveting sheet metal in place, putting body putty, or Bond-O, on the seams, letting it dry, and sanding it down until it matched the original contours of the car. It was a true hassle; the time spent on something that could have had an easy fix was instead becoming a pain.

On Tuesday evening, I had been helping him in the garage, cleaning one of the freshly painted cars while he was on the other end of the garage. I heard him moving around, paying little attention to what he was doing. I turned to ask him if I should finish removing the tape on the Dodge Charger. Just as I asked, he touched the end of the welding torch to the metal of the Lincoln, and I cried out in pain. Grabbing at my eyes against the blinding pain, I kept on screaming the whole ride to the hospital.

One ER visit later, he learned that his eight year old daughter had received a flash from the welding arc when the tip of the welder touched the metal. The harsh white light had forced the iris of my eyes wide open, and that made for a painful moment. The muscles of the eye had been violently stretched to their extreme, but the worst has yet to come. Any sort of light was like hot needles jabbing into my eyeballs. When I blinked, the undersides of my eyelids were like sandpaper on my eyeballs. The overwhelming urge to rub them gnawed at me, and being eight-years-old, I usually gave into the urge. I looked in the mirror and saw the red eyes of a vampire girl-child, which I thought was rather cool. My father, on the other hand, thought it was something avoidable. I couldn’t count the number of times he’d told me to not look at the welding arc.

My mother was angry with my father. I was angry with my mother for being angry in the first place. The modest trailer we lived in had become a tense place to dwell in, in the last three days. It had been an accident. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It had just happened. It wasn’t as if I’d stood there, daring the welding arc to do its damage.

My mom’s family had money, so as a child, she’d never worked. I guess seeing the older of her two daughters playing in a dirty garage wasn’t the image of family life she was used to. Worse yet, this daughter seemed to enjoy it all, tramping around the house, fingernails dirty, paint clinging to my hair and clothes. I acted as if I were in heaven, instead of working, when I should have been playing.

Wednesday and Thursday had gone the same as always, save for the fact that I was home from school, which annoyed my father because one: I was lounging in the upstairs loft reading, and because two: because I wasn’t downstairs sanding or cleaning a car. My father hated seeing a child, especially his own, not working or doing something constructive. His own father had always made him work – up at dawn to clean the barn and continuing to work, right up until bedtime. My dad’s nickname around the garage was, after all, The Slave Driver.

I heard more swearing as I slid the Spiderman comic book back under the couch. My dad didn’t like the comic books; he thought they were childish. He seemed to forget that I was one. My father never spoke to me like a child; he always spoke to me like an adult. He’d taught me to read when I was four, using the Bangor Daily News as my learning guide. I didn’t always understand what I was reading, but I did enjoy the time I got to spend with my father.

I heard loud footsteps on the stairs that led to the loft. The loft was the attic area of the barn that my dad had converted into a garage, where he would fix cars, mostly doing auto body work and easy oil changes, and sometimes even full paint jobs. The boys who worked for my dad had lugged two battered couches, a rocking chair, and a Lazy Boy that tilted off to the left when you opened it up, into the vast room. Coffee tables with three legs, names carved into the tops, most painted in multi-colors also graced the room. I put the book I’d snatched from under the couch on one of those tables as my father’s head appeared.

“Are you okay up here for awhile?” my dad gruffly asked me. I nodded. “I have to go to Houlton.” He saw the look on my face; I hated riding in the antique Ford Pickup he drove. We’d literally lost a wheel, months earlier, while driving. Seat belted in the passenger’s seat, I’d pointed to the wheel bouncing along side of us. Realizing, only when the truck slammed into the pavement, that it had been our wheel racing along side of us. Since then, I’d blatantly refused to go anywhere in the truck.

“I can stay here,” I offered gallantly. I had at least six more comics stashed under the couch and a Hardy Boys book that I’d snuck up earlier in the day. The dog-eared book on the table was a book called Fire Starter, by some guy named Stephen King. I wasn’t sure I liked it yet. I could have very well stay there for the whole evening with all my hidden reading material. Reading was a luxury I wasn’t often afforded in the light of day. It was usually done under the covers, late at night, with a small flashlight lighting up the tented covers.

“Den is going to stick close. If I leave now, I can pick the part up before seven and be back before midnight.” My dad looked at me, his eyes that matched mine quickly turned from cold to warm. “How are your eyes?”

“S’okay, I just can’t rub ‘em. They hurt. They’re okay though,” I assured him with a smile. He nodded back. “I can make myself a sandwich for supper. Mom will be home at 11ish?” I asked as I sat up with a half smile. My mother was working the 3pm to 11pm shifts at the local perfume factory. She hated it, having to leave me with my dad, and my younger sister, whom I wanted them to send back to wherever she’d come from, was at my aunt’s house. I’d never gotten along with my younger sister, always thinking she was in the way, had invaded my private space. She had a habit of breaking my things and coloring my reading material with broken crayons.

“She should be here before midnight. You better not give Den a hard time,” he said in his always-gruff manner.

“I never do,” I assured him quietly.

“Don’t break anything.”

“Ok,” I said softly.


“Yup,” with that said, he disappeared down the stairs and I let out a soft sigh of relief. I was always on edge around my dad, feeling like I had to be better than the next kid was. He treated my sister differently than me; she was the girly-girl who wore dresses and I was the tomboy who would rather play touch football with the boys than play with dolls. I would sometimes joke with Dennis that my dad had a daughter and a tomboy, and all he needed was a son to complete the set.

I waited a long time before pushing my small feet into my hand-me-down sneakers. Trudging down the stairs, I barged into the garage to find Dennis, Jerry, Tim and Buddy all pretending to work. Green glass bottles of Coke were sitting on the counter tops, bags of chips were open, and the boys were talking about the latest girlfriend of one of their older brothers. Jerry was making movements with his hip, while the other boys roared in laughter.

I put my hands to my hips, narrowing my eyes and barking, “HEY! Am I paying you bunch of no-good teenagers to sit around and drink soda all day? I didn’t think so!” I said in a tone that matched my father’s almost perfectly. Not only did I sound like my father, I looked like a female version of him. I often joked that all I needed was short hair, and a mustache, and no one would be able to tell us apart. “Didn’t I tell you guys to finish this car up yesterday? This isn’t your personal playground!”

Den laughed a hardy, joyful sound that, to this day, reminds me of a child’s laugh. “Sure, Lil Wal,” he said.

The others laughed as well.

“I’m going to make sandwiches and then I’m going back upstairs,” I announced, they waved me away absently. None of the “boys”, as my dad called them, bothered me.

Dennis was the big brother I never had, dark eyes that were always smiling, and he was a giant in my eyes. His favorite past time was lifting me to the ceiling of the trailer and putting my back against it, watching me kick, and beg for mercy. Den knew I was scared of heights, but he also knew he’d never let anything bad happen to me.

Tim was the joker; I called him Sir Sandpaper, because it always seemed as if my dad was making him sand something instead of doing anything else. Tim also owned my car, at least, what I wanted to be my car – a ’67 Mustang with black racing stripes, painted Grabber Green a few months earlier. It was the first car I had ever driven, sitting on Tim’s lap, driving up and down what is now called Rue d’Notre Dame. It was the first time I’d ever recalled feeling free.

Jerry didn’t actually work for my dad, he just usually hung out, supplied the soda, food, and whatever other party favors the boys enjoyed. Jerry was a hulk of a guy with bulging muscles from working on his dad’s potato farm. Jerry liked riding his motorbikes, popping wheelies, and staring at every woman he could lay eyes on.

Buddy was new to the fold, a foster care boarder at a neighbor’s house. Tall and lanky, stringy blonde hair, and peach fuzz on his chin, he never seemed to stay still for very long. I didn’t know much about Buddy, but he always made me uncomfortable. He had shifty eyes… always looking at me from the corner of those always moving eyes.

I made my way through the snow and into our small trailer. It wasn’t as warm as it was in the garage, because my parents always turned the heat down to conserve heating oil. It didn’t matter; I wasn’t going to stay very long. I would rather be in the loft instead of in the trailer. I opened the small closet and pulled out the battered cooler my dad used when he worked construction. I put two bottles of cold soda into it before emptying the ice trays into the bottom of the cooler, watching as the cubes bounced over the soda bottles. I then went to work on the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, combining the cheap peanut butter and my grandmother’s raspberry jam on Wonder Bread before wrapping them clumsily in plastic wrap. I shrugged my jacket back on, not bothering to zip it; I’d be where it was warm soon enough.

I raced back to the garage, banging up the stairs and sounding like a herd of elephants instead of an eight-year-old, who weighed all of 50 lbs. soaking wet. Dropping the cooler by the couch in a thud, and letting my jacket fall onto the floor in a pool of wet material because of the falling snow outside, I jumped on the couch. The boys had put on some music; the sounds of what I would call later in life early 80’s pop dribble, pulsed through Den’s stereo.

Jumping up and down on the couch, tossing my head back and forth, I sang along to someone named Pat Benatar. I reached back and pulled the elastics from the two braids my mother insisted I wear. I swore on many days she wished I was half-pint on Little House on the Prairie. Maybe she wanted a little girl instead of a garage rat that I knew I was. Shaking my hair free, the long mass, wavy from the braids, fell just above my lower back. I didn’t remember ever cutting my straw colored hair. My long hair was the one thing reminded everyone that I was really a girl and not a boy, even though I acted like one.

“Quit your jumping up there!” I heard Tim yell at me, and then more laughing. I wrinkled my nose as a new smell came wafting up the stairs, cutting through the usual smell of paint thinner, sand paper, burnt rubber, bond-O, and oil.

“Quit lighting up down there!” I yelled back. More giggling from the boys downstairs, I shook my head; they were down there getting stoned. Great babysitters those guys made. I looked over to the big thermometer that they had hung inside the loft. It was edging toward 85 degrees. “Don’t put any more wood in the stove!” I added.

I opened the cooler and settled into reading my book, eating the sandwich, and sipping the cola. I heard the heavy iron door of the wood stove clanging shut. Jerks, they had put more wood into the iron horse my dad had installed as a furnace. It was going to be 100 degrees up here before long. I tugged off my red and black sweater, kicked off my shoes, which were wet anyway, and stripped off the only new pair of jeans I owned. Finally throwing the white socks on top of the mess of clothes, I thought, this was the life; sitting in a very warm loft with a good book, food, and music. I tugged the sheet that was at the end of the couch up over my body and got comfortable. Fifteen pages into the Hardy Boys book I’d chosen to read, my eyes started to get heavy and before long I has fallen asleep to the voices of the boys downstairs and the music thumping in my ears.


More voices hovering around me as I lay in my comfortable darkness. I didn’t want to wake up. I didn’t need to wake up. I was safe in my sleep. After all, my last waking moments had turned into a nightmare. It made sense that if I stayed asleep, the nightmare would never happen again or perhaps it hadn’t really happened. I had convinced myself of it with ease on the fall down to the snow bank. It had taken just a moment to make my mind believe it had just been a dream.

I squeezed them shut, knowing I wasn’t moving really. Quiet urging from the voices, I refused them again, running back into my shadows. I heard more voices again, then something wet and cold against my lips.


I felt something against my lips, my hand slapping it away in annoyance. My book fell to the floor with a soft bang at my quick movement. I rubbed my lips with the back of my hand, my mind taking a mental inventory of my body, but something didn’t seem quite right. I didn’t know what it was; I just wanted to be lulled back into my peaceful slumber.

“Shhhh,” suddenly there were fingers prying my legs open, but I resisted. The hand became more insistent. I opened one eye, only to find that all the lights in the loft were turned off. My mouth was thick from sleep and the hefty dose of peanut butter from my sandwiches. The sheet was no longer around me and I felt the hot air of the room on my exposed skin. Pushing up with my right arm, which was numb from my having slept on it, I blinked my sore eyes.

“Who…?” I began. A hand quickly clasped over my mouth. Wide-awake now, I frantically kicked and fought, but to no avail. A large hand held me down with ease as I started to panic. Who was here in my little sanctuary away from home? I opened my mouth to scream, but the hand held fast. I heard him mumbling.

“Tease, half dressed… asking for it.”

I clamped down on the flesh that was covering my mouth, my teeth sinking into the meaty palm. Tasting the hot flow of copper into my mouth, the hand pulled back quickly, a yelp of pain and surprise echoed through the room.

Flailing hands and legs, I pushed against the back of the couch, sending it tumbling backwards, knocking the lamp that was directly behind the couch onto the floor next to me, the bulb flashed brightly before breaking. The sudden light made my eyes water, blinking, and unable to see, the panic began rising again. Clawing at my eyes in pain, I clambered to my knees, feeling the splinters from the floor sliding into my skin, but not caring. I didn’t know what was going on, but I certainly knew it was bad. There was a wetness between my legs, and I felt oddly violated. My head swam with all the things that were happening at a haphazard pace.

“Get over here!” he yelled, and I ran, not knowing where I was going to go, how I was going to escape. All I saw was his silhouette against the light that filtered up from the staircase. The music was louder now than it had been before, the smell of marijuana was stronger.

“DENNIS!” I screamed. Come on where are you? The big teenager that had always been like my big brother, 330 lbs of teddy bear, where are you? I screamed again and the figured darted at me, telling me in a dark voice that I should be quiet. I scurried up against the wall, the cool windowpane at my back under the sheer shirt I was wearing. “Fuck you,” I spat to him, a phrase I had heard Den use hundreds of times, my father always reprimanding him for talking like a sailor in front of me.

“You little bitch,” the figure said, and I heard someone on the stairs.

“DEN!” I yelled again, rushing toward the stairs, but the figure grabbed me. With one hard push, he sent me flying off my feet. I’m sure that he figured I’d slam into the wall, instead, I felt the window give at my back.

The heat of the room clung to me as the cold of the outside bit at me with icy teeth. Arms spread out against the air that couldn’t or wouldn’t hold me; the ground rushed towards me as I looked up at the cold sky, the northern lights dancing their green and blue salsa across the night sky. Then the hard jolt as my body collided with the snow bank below the four-story barn. The snow jumped as I disturbed it from its resting place, billowing around me, in a halo of white powder. My eyes fluttered closed, the moon the last image burned into my mind as my sandpaper eyelids closed for what should have been the last time.


Holding my eyes closed tight as my waking moment beckoned me, I didn’t want to face the light; I didn’t want to face anyone. Why couldn’t they simply leave me alone?

“Wake up,” the deep voice at my left begged me. I felt a large warm hand clasping mine, heard apologies muttered, and then something wet and warm on the back of my hand. Welcoming hands pushed back my straw-colored hair, begging me to open my eyes, to come back again. Saying that everything was okay. It really was. Come on…


“Come on!” Den yelled at me as I lay in the cold snow. The wind was chilling me, turning my pale skin blue. “Ok, ok. Do this. Get that fucker…” Den yelled at Tim, his hands on my small chest. My arms spread wide, as if I were ready to make a snow angel instead of embracing death. Den’s meaty hands on my chest again, pushing down, repeating “Come on, come on…”

“Den…” I felt the name ripped from my throat with my first breath.


“Den…,” I wrenched my eyes open to the harsh light of the room. Den reached out and pushed away my hair, my blue eyes painful. I instantly saw the look in Dennis’s eyes, filled with concern. I knew what he wanted to know. I also knew I wasn’t going to tell him, I wasn’t going to tell anyone.

“Are you…?”

I nodded, now wise beyond my years; the world just wasn’t as innocent to me anymore. My innocence had be left in the loft of the garage. It was a memory that I would attempt to wipe away with time.

“Tim beat the…,” began Den and I shook my head.

My mom and dad rushed into the room, obviously not angry at each other anymore. I gave Den the same steely glare that my dad sometimes gave me when he was reprimanding me. I didn’t want, or need to talk about it.

“I’m okay, Den. S’okay. I just want to go home,” reaching out to him; I grabbed his hand, and held on tightly.


We never really spoke about that day or night. As if an unspoken rule had now been evoked, that the day had ceased to exist in our minds, it only existed in my nightmares. The dreams that woke me from my slumber most nights, found me with muted screams on my lips, my arms always spread to my sides waiting for the moon again.

We moved not long after that day. Spring came and we went with the winter, miles away from the ghost of a day that never happened. Moving to a different town, with a new garage, a new house, and soon a new sibling in the form of my brother, who had arrived in November much to my and my sister’s chagrin.

My father shunned all my attempts to help at the garage, urging me to enjoy my childhood, buying me books, anything to keep my attention away from playing at the garage. A recluse was born. My childhood was already gone, but I humored him, I didn’t have the heart not to. I would go only when my Dad was at work to see Dennis, and sometimes Tim, in the one room garage my father had purchased. It had once been the town’s fire station, and I got great delight in climbing the tower when my dad wasn’t around. Sometimes, I’d climb the ladder and sit on the flat top roof of the old fire station, reading the books that comforted me into my teen years.

A year later, I sat across the street as the new owners of our former home tore down the red barn. Buildings change, memories fade, people move on, yet the scars remain as a reminder of our fragile humanity.


Silence filled the room. I sat, nibbling my thumbnail carelessly. The psychologist watched me with a careful eye. I thought, perhaps, he was sizing me up again, as he did at the beginning of each session.

“How does revealing that truth feel?” he asked me. My gaze drifted up to the small clock that hung over my head.

“Isn’t that funny, our time is up for today,” I said, batting my eyes. I stood from my comfortable place, my hands finding a comfortable home in my worn jean pockets as I straightened.

“Next week, the same time,” spoke the psychologist.

“Same bat station,” I gleefully said, he didn’t get the joke, so I added, “No.”

“No?” He sat up in his chair, eyes meeting mine.

“No, I won’t be coming back. You want to send me off to juvie? Please, feel free. You have all the ammunition you need. I’m not coming back. You’ve gotten what you wanted. You’ve dug out the truth of the matter; found the root of my hostility; exposed the nerves long gone dead. Now, I’m the one saying no.” I left the office, closed the door softly, leaving behind the past, even though I still remember.