Professional Writing and Editing

Novel

By Mucheru Njaga, with Patti McKenna

Patch, Based on a Screenplay by Mucheru Njaga

If I told you about Patch,

You would call me a liar.

That may be true,

Not because of what I told you

But because nobody talks about Patch.

Chapter One

Detroit, Michigan

1985

The squeaky hinge of the screen door, followed by the familiar fumbled attempts to unlock the front door pulled five-year-old Gabriel out of his slumber. Sliding out from the warm cocoon of his blue blankets and sheets, he quickly padded across the room to lock his bedroom door. Without missing a beat, he grabbed a framed photograph from the top of his dresser and clutched it tightly to his chest. Then, he tucked himself into the farthest corner of his room and quietly waited. It was a drill he performed often, increasing in frequency at the same rate as his father’s drinking.

            Gabriel, Sr., had lived in this suburban Detroit home for twelve years. A blue collar worker in his late forties, his habits were predictable, even for his five-year-old son. Going through the motions of life, he got up every morning and drove into the Motor City and his job at the steel plant. When the afternoon whistle blew, signaling quitting time, Gabriel, Sr., made his usual stop downtown at the corner tavern, where he’d drown his unknown problems and sorrows until well past dark. Then, he’d finally head home to the outskirts of town and their two-bedroom bungalow, sufficiently filled with enough liquid courage to take on the world and one little boy.

            Tonight was no different. It was almost ten o’clock when he noisily sauntered into the house. His body fell against the inside of the door as he used his body to push it shut, then Gabriel heard him wobble across the living room, mumbling something about not being able to see anything—who had turned all the lights off, anyway? Reaching up to turn on the ceiling fan light, he missed the switch, stumbled and landed on top of a toy Transformer action figure.

            The anger which always seemed to be sizzling inside his father surfaced. The forgotten toy on the floor gave him a place to direct it.  

            “Gabriel! Gabriel! Where the hell are you, boy?”

            Afraid his father could hear him breathing, Gabriel, Jr. sat motionless, hoping his dad would think he was sleeping. If he was quiet enough, his dad might even forget that he was mad and go to bed. Listening intently, though, he could hear the march of his dad’s heavy, uneven footsteps as he stumbled down the hall, stopping right outside his bedroom door.

            Young Gabe held his breath as the door knob turned once, then twice, to no avail. The locked door further ignited his father’s fury, and the sound of his dominating demands echoed throughout the house.

            “Open this door, damn it! What did I tell you about locking this door? Open the door, Gabriel, right now!” he bellowed, turning the handle over and over again.

            Receiving no response, Gabriel’s father smashed the door open with his steel-toed boot, causing such an explosion that the boy winced and retreated even further into the corner, where his father spotted him cowering in his red pajamas.

             “What did I tell you about leaving your toys on the floor?” he boomed.

            Trying not to cry, young Gabriel’s shaky voice meekly apologized. “I—I’m s-s-sorry, Dad.”

            “Sorry! You’re sorry?” Attacking his son with every word, Gabriel Sr. unleashed his pent up anger toward his son. “Is that all you can say, you little idiot? I can’t count on you for anything. You’re just like your mother!”

            Young Gabriel watched in horror as his father unbuckled his belt, yanking it from his pants with one swift pull. Gulping back silent sobs, he hugged both arms around his mother’s picture, holding it even more closely to his chest. It was the only security blanket he knew.

            “I’m sorry, Dad. Really, I am. I won’t do it again. I’ll remember next time,” he pleaded, hoping that something he said would appease his father and save him from another beating.

             “This is what useless people understand,” his dad said, as the leather strap struck the first time.

            “You’re useless! You’re nothing! Do you hear me…You’re nothing to me!” Gabriel Sr. screamed as the leather strap continued to lash his son over and over again.

            “Stop! Please stop!” Gabriel sobbed, covering his face with his hands as he endured his father’s unrelenting punishment. But he knew that his dad wouldn’t stop. He was at his father’s mercy, with nothing but his own fear to protect himself.

            For young Gabriel, fear was nothing new. Defending himself wasn’t something he was capable of doing—not yet, anyway.

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