Martha Lorraine Smith never got mad. Not ever. That’s what she told the woman sitting in front of her.
“In my whole life,” her voice low and soft, “I never got mad one day in it. Not ever.”
She said it with a small curled smile of pride on thin red lips. The counsellor tapped a pencil against the side of her notepad and listened.
“Never had a reason to. Besides,” she went on. “We’re not supposed to. It’s not good for us.” And folded blue lined hands on her lap in front of her, feet crossed at the ankles just barely showing under a long polyester brown skirt.
Martha Lorraine Smith was seventy six years old. She had always been seventy six years old. That’s what her mother told her. “Martha, I declare,” her mother would stare into her slate grey eyes to watch for a reaction. “Are you in there at all?”
“I’ve had lots of practice,” she continued speaking to the woman, never looking up. “Not getting mad. I never got mad when Bernard Stumbley made faces behind my back in school. He didn’t know I knew, but I did. I knew when the others did too.” Her face lit up, like a martyr ready to enter the lions’ den of death, and showing no fear.
“So,” the other woman said. “Was there ever a time you felt the anger and actually did something to express it, in a bad way?”
“Just once,” Martha Lorraine whispered. “Just once, and never again. Cause he died you know. He died cause I got mad. I yelled at him, loud, and over and over again. Even when I saw his face turn white, and his eyes stare at me. I can sometimes still see the eyes if I close mine.”
“How old were you?” The woman continued.
“I guess I was eleven, maybe twelve. He was getting ready to hit me for something. I can’t remember what I did, but it must have been bad. Really bad. He didn’t even say anything to me. Just raised his hand in a fist, a growl coming from the bottom of his throat.”
“Go on.” the woman prompted after a few moments of silence.”
“Do you know that dogs growl really deep when they’re getting ready to attack. Well, that’s what he was getting ready to do. But he had every right.”
“No one has a right to be violent Martha . There are no reasons for violence. You know that don’t you?”
“Well,” Martha uncrossed her legs, knees pressed together now showing skinny bumps under the skirt. “I annoyed him. I made him mad. So I vowed, after he died, I would never make anyone mad ever again.”
“So you stop showing anger towards anyone who upsets you, is that how you do it?” The woman lay the notebook on her lap now. “Was this man your father?”
“I guess he was. Though he said I wasn’t his kid, and he was glad of that. He just had to take care of me, and it was getting to be more than he could handle.”
The woman tried again. “What happened to the man Martha? Heart attack?”
Martha sat still, no movement, no emotion. Just the pale of her cheeks gathering red in small blotches. The slate grey eyes misted for a moment, then she blinked them till they cleared.
“I don’t know. He didn’t die really. He just went away. He never did hit me. Momma says that’s why he went away, so he wouldn’t hurt anybody anymore, not just me. But it felt like just me.”
The clock on the woman’s desk pointed to the end of the hour. “Okay Martha,” she closed the notebook. “We’ll stop now and pick this up next week.
Martha winced when the notebook snapped shut. She was just starting to open up. She felt the woman was upset with her now, and that’s why she ended the session, why she closed the notebook with an angry sounding snap.
Martha walked out of the room, her eyes following the design on the carpet.
“You need to book for next week,” the receptionist at the counter smiled at Martha, the calendar in front of her.
“That’s okay,” Martha answered. “I think I’m okay now. I’ll call if I need to.”
With that she left the building, a wide sweet smile on her face, and a tiny inaudible “grrr” coming from the base of her throat.
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