Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Unsinkable Tara Gainey

This is group of short stories to explain to Tara Gainey to those who don't know her. This information will be important as other tales unfold where it seems Tara wasn't acting like a completely normal person. Tara was often on the sidelines watching stories unfold where she had enough sense to keep well clear of them. However, when she got dragged in she always stayed perfectly calm. She was unmoved by the insanity around her.

Tara's defining characteristic was that she was a Tom boy. She spent much of her time with her cousins, who were all boys. It was only natural that she would emulate them to a certain extent. She had an iron will and was completely inflexible at times. Generally this only caused a problem when she and I didn't agree. I too had an unbreakable will, plus I was two years older, a boy and bigger than her.

Now, a normal young girl would let the boy have his way or cry to get hers. Not Tara... No, she had to try and beat me on my own terms. Needless to say she was no match for me physically, so she rarely started a physical struggle between us. However, she knew that I was also very gentle (at least with her.) and so she could do whatever she wanted to stir me up with almost no repercussions.

However, her emotions were powerful at times. She seemed to have a real affinity for anger under certain circumstances as well. Once she was really mad it was hard to say what she would do. I remember one night Joshua and I were over at her house. I don't remember why we were there, but I remember what happened well. Tara was in a bad mood from the moment we arrived. For some reason she wanted us to go home. She was ten or so at the time and already had weird mood swings now and again.

She and I started getting into it immediately. As the argument escalated she pulled out an oyster shucker that someone had given her. She told me that if I didn't back off she would stab me. Now, ordinarily I would have ignored her or picked on her about having said that. However, that night was different, there was something in her eyes. I was almost certain that she wanted to stab me.

Well, I was a logical young man. I got up, went into the kitchen and told her mother (my cousin Ramona.) that I had been threatened. Ramona wasn't happy. I suspect Tara had been in a mood all day. Whatever the reason Ramona reacted swiftly. She took the oyster shucker from Tara and told her she couldn't have it back that night.

This chain of events revealed Tara's other side. She was a Tom boy and would pitch in with the rest of us no matter what we were doing. At times she would even get in on the fighting. Deep down though she was still a young girl. This was a defeat she couldn't overcome. At that moment she was abandoned to her two cousins without so much as a weapon to defend herself. It was too much. She was emotionally over loaded. She snapped!

She burst out crying as hard as I had ever seen anyone go into it. She almost went into hysterics. She screamed “Without my oyster shucker I'll die!” and almost collapsed on the floor. Ramona looked down at her and laughed. She said she didn't think Tara would die over it, but that time would tell.

I felt terrible... I had been the instrument of fate against this poor girl. I didn't want to upset her I just didn't want to get stabbed. It was a reminder to me that no matter how tough my little cousin was she was still a young girl. I thought in future it would be better to give her space. It was terrible to see her will so completely overwhelmed.

That was actually one of the last times she and I stood in such complete opposition. If point of fact it may have been the very last. It may seem that I was cruel to treat her as such an equal adversary, but she had done a lot to prove to me she could take it. There were very few times when she would ever give up and just let me have my way. She had convinced me that she could take whatever I could dish out.

I do remember one time when she decided that it would be safer to just let me have my way. She had picked up the phrase “not necessarily” from someone. I don't know who first said it in front of her, but I wish they had just kept their mouth shut. As soon as it sounded in her ears it stuck to her brain. For weeks no matter what you said her reply was “not necessarily”. I had started making statements like “The sky is often blue.” just to see what her reply would be. It was a faithful, constant and unwavering “not necessarily”.

After a while I had finally had enough. We were over at our Nana's house and she had just said “not necessarily” for the fiftieth time that day. That was it. I was filled to the brim. I knew that under normal circumstances Tara wouldn't do anything I told her just because I was the one telling her. She would have rather peed in her pants than go to the bathroom if I had been the one to tell her to do it. I knew that I had to drive my point home. There could be no misunderstanding. It was very necessary that “not necessarily” stop. Otherwise there would have to be repercussions.

I walked into the kitchen where she was and leaned over to her. I said “If you say not necessarily one more time and am going to knock your brains out. You can be sure that Nana will beat me, but not before I've finished with you.” She looked up into my face and saw in my eyes that I really was willing to get a beating over it. She also considered how much pain I was likely to give her before I was stopped. She was silent for a few heartbeats. (Now, I know what you are all expecting her to have said. However, you're not looking in my face at that moment. This time Tara took the course of patient wisdom. It's better to live to fight another day after all.) Her reply was a simple “Ah...” For the rest of the day things were no longer “not necessarily”. I felt a little bad for being a brute, but not nearly as bad as I would have had I had to sit there listening to “not necessarily” all day long.

Those of you who were never around the young Tara Gainey will no doubt think that was horrible of me. You may think I played the part of the bully. However, I can only say in my defense that had they been there the Pope would had held Tara down while Mother Teresa spanked her. Buddhist monks would have forsaken their vows to knock her up side the head sometimes. I was, generally, a very patient, loving young boy. Tara was a particular favorite of mine, but all things have a limit.

There were times, however, when Tara disregarded the warning signs and pushed me beyond the breaking point. I remember one day, we were again at Nana's, and Tara was yacking at me about something and had been for some time. Our cousin Chris was there as well and for this story it's only important to note that Chris was an “instigator”. I am certain you all know what I mean.

I was doing my best to just ignore Tara as she literally followed me around yacking at me non-stop. Chris decided that I really ought to do something about it. He was four years older than me, so he came at me from the point of view of the wizened old man of the world. “I don't think I'd take that, not from a ten year old girl anyway.” and then of course “Sounds like she needs put in her place. I guess you could do it if you were any kind of a man...”

I walked around in front of Nana's house with both of them pestering me and each of them ignoring the other. Tara was verbally attacking me, while Chris was telling me that I should do something about it. Finally I reached the end of my patience. I stopped walking, turned around and looked Tara squarely in the face. I told her that she better shut her mouth before I put my fist in it. She didn't bat an eye. She immediately told me something along the lines of “If you think you're man enough than go ahead!” Chris smiled “You gonna take that?”

No... That was my limit... That was enough... That was it... I drew back like a flash and punched her right in the face as if she had been a boy twice my size. She literally did a back flip and landed face down in the dirt. She didn't make a sound. Slowly she rose to her feet and began to dust herself off. She looked up at me with resolve as the hint of a smile began to run across her lips. She turned he head towards Nana's house as we all stood there in silence. Nana's shadow passed the window and Tara turned her face to me with a broad smile and sparkling eyes. That was just what she had hope to see.

She screamed like I was killing her and burst out crying. The door flew opened as if it was about to be torn off the hinges. Nana burst out with death in her eyes. Tara was bawling and quite truthfully accused me of punching her in the face. Fortunately Chris jumped in on my side to say that Tara had been begging for it. Nana began to scold me and comfort Tara, but she didn't take another step toward me. I couldn't believe it! I had gotten off with a warning! “You don't hit girls! I don't care what they say!”

I have to wonder how long Nana had been near that window and how much she had actually seen and heard. Tara and I both learned something that day. She learned that I struck people as innocent and that it was hard to prove that I should be punished even if you got me to confess. I learned that Tara was as wile as she was tough. I also learned that a woman will drive you up the wall until you snap and then try to punish you for that as well. All in all I came away from it with the knowledge that a man has to keep a cool head and ignore any other guys around when dealing with an aggravating woman!

As I said, this was just to let everyone know what Tara was like. It's a lot easier to understand how should could deal with all the things that went on around her once you know what she was like.

I hope you all got a laugh. I'll try to post another story soon.

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