The Words of Judith K. Witherow  
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We had just finished eating dinner when the first call came in. My family numbers many so we are used to receiving phone calls on various subjects. Sometimes it’s burdensome; other times it’s rewarding.

The call we received that summer night was from one of my younger sisters. She usually keeps her life private, but this night she was asking for help in whispered tones. Before she could finish telling me what had happened, I heard her boyfriend, Mike, demand that she hang up the friggin’ phone.

When I hung up I told Sue and our sons about the conversation. We discussed whether we should go over to her apartment or wait for her to call again. Her boyfriend has a serious drinking problem. Like many with this addiction, he becomes abusive after enough alcohol coats his cowardice.

Before the dinner dishes were washed, the phone rang again. It was my sister and she was still whispering. Not because her boyfriend might overhear her talking, but because he had choked her, damaging her vocal cords. Her three littlest ones were crying in the background. To gain time to think, I asked to speak to her teenage son. He told me that Mike had "gone off" and hurt his mother. He was told to barricade the apartment door and not let that man back inside. I assured him that we’d be there shortly.

Sue and I with two of the boys drove to my sister's apartment. We could see a struggle had taken place. I asked where the children were. Three little heads came up from behind the living room couch where they were hiding. "Hi Aunt Judy. Hi, Aunt Sue," they said. The relief that showed on their faces fueled our rage. I asked where Mike was. “He’s probably at one of the bars where he hangs out,” she said. We nodded, and handed her a baseball bat to use for protection.

After leaving my sister and her kids, we started cruising the parking lots of neighborhood dives. At the second bar we saw Mike’s pickup truck parked in the middle of the lot. Adrenaline started seeping out of every one of my pores. Our one piece of luck was finding an empty parking space next to his truck. Sue pulled into the slot and turned off the ignition.

We discussed disabling his vehicle so he couldn't get away before we “chatted” him up. Our first idea was to remove the distributor cap. On closer inspection we noted that the hood of his truck was chained and padlocked. Those two items had to be worth more than his entire vehicle.

With that plan thwarted we decided to flatten one of the tires. Sue asked if I had my pocketknife with me. My knife is like that credit card commercial--I don't leave home without it. I handed her the knife.

She quietly opened the car door and leaned down beside his truck. Without missing a beat she stuck the knife blade in up to the handle. I’d never tried this before and didn’t have a clue as to whether the tire would explode or what else might unexpectedly occur. The unknown, and a few health problems, kept me inside the car. Someone needed to be the lookout.

Cutting the tire went so smoothly that we decided to puncture another one. This gave us insurance in case he had a spare tire. We wanted to slow his chance of following us if we were observed. Sue said, "I'm cutting the tire high up on the whitewall so it can’t be fixed." Nice touch! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways, my woman.

Now what? It was tempting to leave, but there was our entire family member’s back at the apartment counting on us. We walked slowly to the front of the bar. It was decided that Sue and Steve would go inside and tell Mike's cronies what kind of a friend they had. Marky and I would wait outside as lookouts. Marky was too young to even go in bars and we didn’t want him to witness any violence that might occur.

We peered inside the darkened glass front door and spotted him right away. He was seated on a stool in the foyer talking on the pay phone. The length of the bar could be seen through the doorway behind him. Sue pulled the door open, and as she did we heard him threatening to hurt my sister and the children again.

From there on it was like watching a surreal movie. Sue looked like she was walking in slow motion as she crossed the floor in three long strides. She wrapped both of her hands around Mike’s throat. The phone dropped. I watched it swing back and forth like a pendulum. Sue beat his head against the plate glass window without loosening her grip on his neck. With each head bang she said, "How do you like it? How do you like it?" His tongue had little trouble touching the bottom of his chin. His eyes looked like twin eight balls racked.

The thought that she might kill him was a serious one. I’d never seen her like this. My plan of staying outside ended. I couldn’t allow her to get into trouble because of him. When I loosened her hold he was barely able to stand.

A woman who was tending bar came out and announced that she had called the police. I told her what had inspired the incident. She didn't care. We were to leave. His compadres continued their drinking.

The pause gave Mike enough time to catch his breath, and regain his boozy bravado. He started making threats about what he was going to do. He had nearly been killed, and yet he still acted like he had won.

Without a thought I walked over and stuck my forefinger in under his sternum. I said, "I'm going to cut your fucking heart out. Your days of tormenting my sister and her children are over." He thought my finger was a knife, and his life had to flash before him for a second time. Meanwhile, the bartender was parroting "The police are on their way, the police are on their way." Steve, who was sixteen, wanted to drag him outside. His anger at the damage that this man had done was understandable. We had raised him and his brothers to respect women.

To add to the moment, my sister had stayed on the phone listening to what was happening. Amidst the chaos no one had bothered to hang up the phone dangling by its cord.

True to the barmaids word she had called the cops. We heard a faint wail of sirens. "Time to go," I said. We exited the bar and ran to our car. As we were pulling out the police drove by us and parked in the spot we had vacated. We waved at the officers like the good law abiding citizens that we were.

That night, while we were reviewing the bar scene with my sister, Mike called. I told him to come pack up his crap and vacate the apartment. He had the audacity to accuse us of slicing his tires, and threatened to press charges. I suggested a convenient place he could stick any legal papers.

I wish I could say that it was the end of his presence in my sister's life. He made another appearance six months later--insisting that he was moving back. She had her oldest son call us while she kept him busy.

We arrived and escorted him and his belongings outside. I waited in the open doorway to make sure he left. He swaggered to his truck and pulled a .12 gauge shotgun out of the gun rack. If he was dumb enough to try and shoot me, I figured I could fall backwards into the apartment before he could get a shot off. He laid the gun in the front seat beside him. Big tough man! As someone who has always owned a gun or two his bravado impressed only himself. Only a fool would carry a loaded gun around. Whenever I talk about weapons with Sue, and my disgust at what people do with them, she always looks at me with a knowing look.

One time she asked me since I felt the way I did why did I stay heavily armed? Damn, I thought she understood that they were just an extension of my femininity.

In the future I hope Mike remembers it was he who that kept showing up uninvited and the ensuing result. He needed a gun. The Dyke Disposal Unit only needed to hear the plea of a woman in trouble.


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