The Scapegoat 
by C. Martinez

Elliot began torturing me the day after Mom left. Mutilated stuffed
animals, and pinches in church to make me scream became something
common for me. When Mom emailed Dad and told him she wasn’t coming
back, Elliot killed my goldfish. I cried and Dad took his belt to my
brother’s back.

I cried harder when I saw the resulting welts.

“Stop it,” Dad said as he scowled. “You look like your mother when you cry.”

Nightly, Elliot crawled into my bed to hold his hand over my mouth
until I stopped struggling, and then he would twist pinches on my arms
until I near peed from the pain. I gnawed my lips and refused to cry.

I got sick easily, just like Mom. I had difficulty remembering simple
things, exactly like Mom, and I often crossed my legs at the ankles
while standing, and looked like her in the process.

Dad took the scissors to my waist length, auburn braid so that my hair
wouldn’t remind him of her. Tears fell as I stared at my shining hair
on the floor, and he told me to stop blubbering.

I took the scissors to the cherry paint of his car that night.

I stood at the top of the staircase the next morning, cold and stiff,
and transfixed by the sight of Dad as he slowly ascended, one heavy
step at a time, his fingers worrying his belt buckle loose.