In the latest of an occasional series of interviews, Graham Bandage talks to abuse survivor Trevor Coyote.
GRAHAM BANDAGE: What is it like living with an obsessed and frequently thwarted parent? What if they take out their frustrations on you? What if they are violent? My guest today knows the answers all too well and has written a heartbreaking memoir about his childhood. Trevor Coyote, when did the abuse start?
TREVOR COYOTE: A year after I was born, so I was about seven.
GB: Ah, the dog calendar. I always meant to ask, do you have the same names for your months?
TC: No, as our years are so short, roughly two of your months, it’s a bit pointless having months.
GB: Fascinating. Carry on.
TC: So up till seven, everything was fine. Dad would come home with a couple of chickens he’d slaughtered. My mother would prepare them for us. Oh, and he had this brilliant trick he used to do. He’d run hell for leather, then stop dead in the air, just suspended there, and our species’ Latin name would appear beneath him.
GB: That’s astounding. He could have gone into the theatre.
TC: I think he tried. The trouble is, when you’ve done it once, where do you go from there? You can’t just keep repeating it for five minutes.
GB: I suppose not. Do you get seven birthday cards a year?
TC: No. We don’t celebrate birthdays.
GB: Too expensive, I suppose.
TC: No, we’re Jehovah’s Witnesses. So it was an idyllic childhood for a coyote. And then things went wrong. Dad became obsessed with this bird.
GB: What was so special about this bird?
TC: Well, first, it could do that stopping- in-the-air-Latin-name thing, just like dad. It really infuriated him, like the bird was mocking him. So he was determined to get this bird.
GB: Why didn’t he?
TC: Well, it was really fast.
GB: Well, if I know anything about coyotes it’s that you’ll concoct all manner of elaborate plans to catch your quarry, from stringing up a one ton weight over some bird seed, to constructing a massive bow and then using oneself as an arrow.
TC: Yes. Well, dad did all that. The old stand-by coyote tricks. But the bird was wise to it and kept escaping. Dad had to come up with even more preposterous schemes. And he’d get really badly hurt. I can’t tell you how many times he’d fall from a cliff or get squashed by a massive mallet.
GB: Crikey. I bet that was painful.
TC: I’m sure it was. But then he’d come home and he’d take it out on us. First me and mum, and then when mum left, it was just me.
GB: What did he do? Don’t spare the detail, as that is very much what we all want to hear about.
TC: Oh, it was awful…
GB: Good, good…
TC: I remember once he came home – this was after mum left – and he’d had a massive electric shock. You could still see his skeleton through his skin. Anyway, he had this baseball bat. And he fed me into this machine which forced me into the shape of a ball, stitching and everything, chucked me into the air and hit a home run.
GB: You poor, poor thing… Say more stuff.
TC: He fried me with some eggs then hit me with the frying pan. And that really hurts because it makes your face all big and round and flat. He gave a French skunk friend of his some Viagra and painted a white stripe down my back. He attached six strings to me, put me in an ACME time machine and sent me to Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Festival.
GB: The torture…
TC: But the most humiliating time was when he whacked me with a cactus and sent me to school. When I had my lunchtime drink, all the orange juice leaked out of the holes on my body and went all over the floor. All my classmates thought I’d wet myself.
GB: I bet they called you ‘I’ll Wee’ Coyote, didn’t they? Children can be so cruel.
TC: No, they didn’t.
GB: And did your dad ever catch the bird?
GB: What’s the title of your book?
TC: It’s “Please Don’t Make Me Eat The Anvil, Daddy. It Will Give Me A Huge Anvil-Shaped Lump In My Neck” and it’s available on ACME Press.
GB: Trevor Coyote, thank you.