The distraught woman’s hair was dirty and unkempt. The few teeth she had were overlapped or rotten. She reeked of cigarette smoke and despair. The library seemed an unlikely place for her to be exiting while pushing a stroller.
The vacant face of the toddler was plastered with sticky looking exudate mixed with whatever sugar concoction had been supplied to keep him busy and quiet. A little girl tagged along behind with her shirt pulled up over her head in an obvious effort to appear invisible.
“You stupid, stupid idiot,”the woman screamed, “Didn’t I tell you to be quiet when we was in the li-berry?”
The small girl’s body seemed to shudder ever so slightly as the angry adult jerked the thin arm of the five year old and yelled louder.
“Git that thang off yer ugly face. I’m gonna teach you a lesson or two about behavin’, you nasty little brat!”
My mother was in the process of returning some books when she witnessed this abhorrent scene. She heard the woman spew vulgarities and hate and saw her grab the child’s hand and begin slapping the top of it repeatedly. The frightened girl started to whimper. My stunned parent made a decision.
“Hey!” She barked with the authority of a Christian mother and grandmother and woman of wisdom, “Aren’t you a tough grown-up, hitting a little child who cannot defend herself?” She was furious with righteous indignation at such blatant mistreatment of a youngster.
“I ain’t hittin’ her… and besides, you nosey old bat, it ain’t none of your blankety-blank business.”
That was the wrong thing to say to my red-haired mother who brooks no nonsense from abusers of any kind. If the ignorant offender only knew the powerful lessons she was teaching, she might not have been so quick with pitiful excuses for her inappropriate actions and language.
The incensed redhead pointed her finger at the contentious perpetrator and spoke in as controlled a voice as she could manage. “Now you listen to me, Missy. Any time I observe the obvious abuse of a child or an animal, I don’t care who you are, it IS my business, and the business of any decent citizen with good sense.”
The dazed and unsteady woman took a step backwards as Mother stopped and knelt down by the child and cooed. “Hi honey. I’m not going to hurt you, dear. May I see your hand for just a second?”
The precious child seemed to sense she had a momentary friend. She slowly extended a tiny fist that she unfolded, one finger at a time. The small hand was bright red and already swollen to twice its normal size.
Mother simply looked up at the beater and glared. No words were spoken. The ignorant woman lit a cigarette and made a great display of affecting a disgusted pose.
My bold parent reached into her purse and calmly withdrew her cell phone. The pusher of a stroller and hitter of a waif of a little girl wheeled around and dashed for the bus stop. The reluctant child ambled several feet behind the fleeing woman while making a valiant attempt not to sob. She walked with her shirt over her head, peeking out every few seconds to see which way she was going.
Mother marched into the library and asked to speak to someone in charge. That person said she had heard the little girl being berated for acting “bad” but she could not call the police unless something illegal had happened. The other workers agreed the sweet, curious child seemed to be happy and excited to ”read” at a little table just her size. She was such a tender and teachable age.
Others who had witnessed the attack were not willing to say anything, but admitted they were thankful someone at least tried to help. One man said he had seen the mommy dearest near where he lived and thought the law had been called before when she beat her kids -- or for drugs or something. He wasn’t sure. He did not want to get involved.
My tenderhearted mother still thinks about those cruel, brain-searing words heard in front of our stately, brick, public library that’s filled with knowledge and is free to everyone. You just wait, you rotten kid. I’m gonna teach you a lesson you won’t never fergit!
Sadly, that’s exactly what will happen.
*Based on a true event
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