It starts on the landing at the top of the stairs in the Rectory. I have done something bad, something terrible.
Have I pulled my sister’s hair again? Have been disobedient in some way?
No matter, my father is now in a terrible rage. He is wearing his black clerical cassock, and the skirts go flying as he chases behind me, down the long corridor that leads past the bathroom to the spare bedroom.
Once there, I stumble across the first of the two, twin beds, the ones with orange and yellow striped counterpanes.
My father towers over me, livid. He loosens the silver buckle of the narrow black belt that cinches his cassock at the waist and raises the strap high above his head. I cower away from him, terrified, crying…
I’m saved by my mother. “Harry!” she screams, running after us. “No!”
And suddenly all the anger drains out from my father’s face. Suddenly, it’s as if he realizes what he was about to do. I see his shame replace the anger.
For a long while, there’s silence. Then he tells me, gently, “You don’t have to be afraid of me. Not ever again. I promise I will never hit you in anger. Not ever again.”
And he never did. But I think I never entirely lost the fear.