FanStory.com - Dumb Questionsby S. Pumpkin
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Valerie gets rebuked when she asks a question
A Leaf on the Wind
: Dumb Questions by S. Pumpkin
Short but necessary chapter that shows Valerie's continued emotional deterioration and low self-esteem.

Background
Valerie is a sexually abused child who shows signs of physical and psychological damage. She is confused by the love-hate relationships she has with her father. She is jeaous of how well Teresa and

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naïve forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”

Thomas Szasz
 
Daddy had the gift of the gab. As a child, I found his oratory skills amazing. Just listening to him tell a story or relate an incident he had seen was a profound experience and I often wondered how he had mastered the ability to communicate so well.

On one occasion, I recall my father's vivid and colorful description of the terrifying Mongol ruler, Genghis Kahn. As he spoke, vivid images of the legendary ruler filled my head.

"It is not exactly clear when Temujin Kahn was born," Daddy said in his captivating voice.
 
"Some say 1155, others say 1165. The date does not really matter. The important thing to remember is that Temujin became Genghis Kahn, the most feared Asian warlord in history. When he died, he was buried in an unmarked grave to discourage grave robbers. In fact, anyone who saw the funeral procession was killed to prevent them from ever disclosing the location of the grave."

I lay on the couch with my eyes closed listening to Daddy tell Teresa about Genghis Kahn's childhood, his rise to power, and how he swept across Asia destroying everyone and everything that stood in his way. I could listen to Daddy talk for hours. His ability to talk about anything often left me speechless. I couldn't comprehend how he could remember so many dates, people, and events when,  I could not even remember how to spell a word five minutes after looking it up in the dictionary.

"His grandson, Kublai Kahn, was the fifth and last Kahn of the Mongol Empire and fifty years after Genghis Kahn's death, Kublai Kahn became emperor of China and founded the Yuan dynasty."

I got up from the couch and walked over to the dining room table where Daddy and Teresa were sitting.

"Daddy, I am a little confused," I said. "Who came first, Kubla Kahn or Genghis Kahn?"

Teresa laughed and Daddy shook his head.

"For God's sake, Valerie, don't you know anything? Kubla Kahn is a famous poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. If you don't know what we are taking about, I suggest you stay out of the conversation and not embarrass yourself by asking stupid questions."

Both Teresa and Daddy burst into laughter. I tried to hide my shame and embarrassment with a smile. As I walked down the hall I could still hear them laughing at me.

My love, hate relationship with my father confused me. I loved Daddy because he was my father, but I also hated him for the way he treated me.  Most of the time, I was able to push the ugly memories of the previous night from my mind the moment the sun rose.  Morning always brought the false hope that today would be better.  

I envied the father-daughter style of conversations he had with Teresa.  The type he never had with me.  I was sure if I could get him to love me as much as he loved Teresa, he would not want to hurt me any more. However, no matter how hard I tried, I was never good enough.

Teresa was smart and I was stupid; Teresa was pretty and I was ugly.  That's the way things were. Daddy was always ready to help Teresa with her homework but he ignored me when I asked for help. Daddy once spent two days carving an Aztec ruin out of beeswax for Teresa's art class. She got an A. I got a C- on my science project because the windmill did not spin.

I foolishly thought if I asked questions I could learn from Daddy. But, the lesson I learned wasn't what I expected; asking Daddy foolish questions only showed him how stupid I really was. That day I made a decision.  I would never make that mistake again. I stopped asking questions.

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Author Notes
Valerie is convinced she is ugly and stupid. She is confused by her conflicting feelings for her father. She is jealous of his preference for her sister, Teresa.

     

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