A/N: Hi there! So this was originally only supposed to be a small bit for chpt. 2 of my other Frank Burns story, but I decided that it worked better as a one shot. Please leave a review if you have any thoughts/concerns!
Disclaimer: I do not own M*A*S*H. Also, this story deals with domestic abuse & bullying.
Frank Burns was only eight years old when his life was changed forever.
It was a typical fall day in Avon, Indiana. The leaves on the trees that lined the residencal streets were brilliant hues of oranges, reds, and yellows. He was walking his usual route to school, admiring the scenery around him in his neighbourhood when it all began.
There was a group of five boys in his class that always waited for him a corner two blocks before the school yard came into sight. Sometimes they would only give him a wedgie, or tell him to cough up his lunch money. When they were feeling especially barbarous, they'd shove him from behind onto the cement sidewalk (usually skinning his knees in the process), and would then proceed to punch him and kick him.
On this particularly humiliating day, when Frank approached the bullies corner he had a prominent gut feeling that he was in immediate danger. Sure enough, a few seconds later two of the boys jumped out from behind a large tree and jumped on his back. They proceeded to pin his arms and legs down onto the sidewalk while the other three boys tickled him until he was bawling. After what seemed like an eternity, Frank became horrified when the boys got off of him screaming that he had wet his pants. They stood and laughed, and pointed at Frank's petrified form laying on the ground for a minute or so, before finally leaving him alone and walking away.
Frank lay on the gritty, warm white concrete with his eyes shut tight until he couldn't hear his tormentors footsteps anymore. He then slowly got up, and dashed back to his house five blocks away. He was praying the entire time that he was running fast enough so that the various people on the sidewalks and streets wouldn't notice the damp triangle by his pelvic region.
After what seemed like a century, Frank finally made it back to his house on 95th Street. He bounded up the five steps leading up the wooden veranda on the front of the house and flung open the screen door so hard it almost fell off of its hinges. He screeched to a halt, though, when he saw that his Father was standing off to the side by the front closet, putting on his shoes to go to work.
The shame and the fear of what was about to happen, from standing in front of his Father with soiled pants and puffy red eyes from crying – made Frank feel like somebody had sucker-punched him in the gut.
The look of unadulterated disgust present in his Father's steely blue eyes, and the slight curl of his upper lip made Frank feel worse than the value of a German Mark.
His Father calmly set the pair of shined, brown leather shoes he was holding down on the floor before he walked up to Frank. In one swift, fluid movement; he swung his right hand up to the level of his face and delivered a stinging slap to the right side of his son's face.
The harsh crackling sound of his Father's hand making contact with his face, was one of the worst, most deafening sounds, Frank had ever heard in his life. In fact, his Father's blow was so hard that he managed to crack Frank's lower lip open somehow. Frank screeched out in pain before breaking out into tears for the second time that morning.
This, of course, alerted Frank's Mother of the situation who was not far away in the kitchen. Lifting up the long bottom of her dress, she came running to the front of the house. She arrived just in time to hear her husband tell her son, that he was embarrassed to have to call a cry baby who wet his pants, his son. Before could get a word in, her husband then told Frank that he would not put up with a tardy son either and told him to run back to school. He also added on that walking around with urine soaked trousers was a fit punishment for being a ninny.
Even at this young age, Frank knew to never disobey his Father's orders, unless he wanted to go to bed that night without supper and a few harsh lashes of the belt across his behind. So, Frank acted on fear induced adrenaline and did as he was told. Just as he set foot on the school grounds, the bell to start classes rang out. Just like any other teacher in 1922; Frank got a smack across the knuckles with a yardstick in front of the class and tardy slip to bring home to his parents at the end of the day.
So, he had to endure the rest of his day being taunted and teased, all while walking around with a bruised cheeked, damp underwear and trousers, a cracked lip and sore fingers.
When his day from hell had finally ended – the thought of going home and having to hand his Father, the tardy slip – terrified him. A part of Frank just wanted to never go back, and run away to join the circus or something. But he knew that that notion was childish and immature. If he really wanted to prove to his Father that he wasn't a ninny and worth of being called his son – he knew that facing his Father's punishment was the only choice he had.
Unlike in the morning, Frank took his time walking home that evening. Memories of all of the other times he was whipped with his Father's stupid leather belt played through his mind. By this point, it was the pain and bruises afterward which traumatized him so much. It was the way his Mother stood in the doorway of the kitchen and pleaded and begged for his Father to stop hurting Frank.
There was nothing in the world that he loved more than his dear, sweet Mother. So naturally, hearing his Mother in distress was heartbreaking to him. It also made him feel more ashamed because the only reason she had to feel the way was because Frank was such retarded weakling and a screw-up.
Ultimately though, at the end of the day, no matter how hard he tried to be good at home and at school – his efforts were never good enough to please his Father.
When Frank entered his house, he was physically shaking with fear as he took his overcoat and shoes and put them away in their place in the front closet. He took a deep breath before slowly making his way down the hall and into his Father's study. Once standing in the doorway of the room; he wasn't at all surprised to find his Father sitting stiffly erect in his black leather armchair, reading the Bible.
Frank gulped in fear as he knocked gently on the cherry oak door frame to alert his Father of his presence.
Like a robot, his Father looked up his Bible frowned in revulsion and disappointment at the small, blue paper slip in his son's hand. He then picked up the blue ribbon sitting on the round end table beside the chair, marked his place, and forcefully snapped the book shut. After setting placing is aside onto the end table, he got up and walked up to Frank; who was already struggling to fight back the stinging tears which were welling in the corner of his eyes.
His Father told Frank to hand him the paper. When he read the note from Frank's teacher, he pointed across the hall to the kitchen and told Frank that he knows what to do.
Like clockwork, they walked into the kitchen. Frank undid his trousers and underwear, letting them fall to down to his ankles. Frank grasped the edge of the back of a chair to steady himself while he bent over like deer ready to charge. His Father on the other hand undid his belt and wrapped it around his right palm a few times, so that he could control the direction and intensity of his blows easier.
Frank's Mother was standing off to the side with a hand on her chest; horrified by the grim interruption of her supper preparations.
After her husband had sent Frank back to school that morning, they erupted into an enormous fight about how she wishes that he'd let up on Frank. Being bullied by the neighbourhood kids wasn't Frank's fault at all.
She rarely challenged her husband, because she knew just how quickly his temper could snap. More than once during their ten years of marriage, she had been on the receiving end of one of his harsh blows. That morning though, was the most upset she had ever seen her son.
There was no way in hell that she could have held her tongue.
Mrs. Burns closed her eyes and listened in horror as her husband asked Frank if he know what the punishment was for receiving a tardy slip, not following his commands, and not standing up for himself as man against other boys.
The innocent but of terrified squeak of, "two lashes for each offense, Sir." from Frank's mouth was enough for her to lose her strength and she fell onto her knees. A strangled cry of despair erupted from her throat as she hit cold, white tile of her kitchen floor.
Her body visibly tensed in pain as the sound the taught leather belt made contact and dug into Frank's behind. Frank's pain was her pain.
A voice in her head that started after the fight she had with her husband in the morning. As she listened to each crack of the belt, the voice inside of her head became so loud that something snapped inside of her.
Just as Frank's Father was winding back to deliver the fourth blow, she sprang to her feet and with all her strength she charged like a mad bull at her husband. She ended up catching him by surprise, and therefore was successful in tackling him down to the floor.
Frank's Father was so unprepared for his wife's reaction, so he fell over like a blade of grass. It only took a second, though, for him to regain his wits. Being at least a fifty pounds and a whole foot taller; he quickly overpowered his wife and began to beat on her in return.
The fight only lasted about a minute – but to Frank – it lasted longer than a millennium. He had quickly pulled up his pants the second his dad stopped lashing him and fled to the corner in the back of the kitchen. He crouched down so that he was minuscule and crossed his arms across his chest. The contents of his stomach were swirling around like a Kansas twister, and thick, salty tears poured from his eyes. The sound of the only person in the world that really cared about him, crying and screaming out in pain was unbearable.
More than anything in the world, Frank wanted to jump on his Father's back scratch out his eyes… but he was frozen in terror.
It was surreal to Frank. He was almost certain that God had slowed down time for that one horrific minute, as a way to punish him for being such a failure in life.
After his Father had stopped hitting his wife he fled the house. The second Frank heard the front door slam shut, he leapt into action and ran over to his Mother. His first instinct was to start spewing out apologies for being such a disappointment, and that Father never would have hurt her if he wasn't such a weakling. However, Frank found himself rendered speechless when he saw just how brutal his Father's beating had been.
Both of her cheeks were red and swollen. A dark brown circle was already beginning to form around her right eye, which would inevitably turn black by morning. Her lower lip was split as oozing crimson blood in three separate places.
Her physical injuries were not what really shook up Frank – it was the look pure fear in her usually calm, blue eyes.
Frank snapped out of his daze once he realized that standing there staring at his broken Mother wasn't doing neither him nor her, any good. So, he knelt down, wrapped his arms around his Mother's abdomen and helped her to stand up. After guiding her to the pulled out chair that he was leaned against only moments earlier; he didn't know what to do next. Still petrified with fear, he just stood, staring at his Mother in disbelief.
His Mother – despite the amount of physical and psychological pain she was in – did not let herself fall apart in front of Frank. Instead, she told him in the calmest, most subsink manner she could muster that his Father's actions were by no means his fault.
After confirming that Frank understood, she instructed him to go across the street and knock on Mrs. Reading's door and tell her that his Mom was hurt and needed her to call 911 right away. Meanwhile, Frank was to explain what had happened to Mr. Reading, so that he could help Frank explain to the police who had hurt his Mom.
Even though Frank was more terrified than he had ever been in his life – he did as he was told. The Readings immediately told their own three boys to go to their rooms and lock the door, once little Frank had shown up on their front porch. He didn't even have to utter a word of what had happened – Frank's expression told it all.
Moreover, the Reading's – as well as the rest of the street – knew that the Burns' home was less than ideal. They often heard Mr. Burns yelling at his wife and son. The Reading's had had their suspicions that Mr. Burns did more than just verbally abuse his family behind closed doors. They never said anything though, because they didn't have any proof. That was though, until that horrific night.
Mrs. Reading grabbed Frank's hand and led him back across the street to his own house. She wanted him to go and stay with their children inside – but Frank was adamant about wanting to stay by his Mother's side.
Mr. Reading ran downstairs to his basement and grabbed his double barrel shot gun before also heading over the Burns' house. He stood on the front porch, armed and ready if Frank's Father decided to return to the scene of his crime.
Meanwhile inside, Mrs. Reading called 911 and while she was on the phone, she instructed Frank on how to help to control the bleeding from the cuts on his Mother's face and how to clean her up a bit before the paramedics arrived.
Frank followed the instructions to a tee, and when the paramedics and police did arrive – he was astonished by what he was told.
For the first time in his life, male adult figures told him that he was a smart, brave, and resourceful young man. In a passing comment, one of the police officers said that he was so good with his Mother – that he should become a Doctor when he grows up.
That single comment ignited a fire within Frank that did not burn out.
After that horrific day – Frank's Father was arrested and sent to jail for several years. His Mother was granted a divorce by the court and full custody of her son.
Everybody in the town knew what had happened eventually through word of mouth. Sadly, many people began to look down upon and even publicly heckle Frank and his Mother. Divorcing was a thing that few men did back then, and even fewer women, so, it wasn't a surprise when the small community and the church they attended turned their backs on the single Mother.
Frank's mother had no choice but to pack up hers and Frank's belongings and move to Fort Wayne, where her family was.
Through the church, his Mother met a widower when Frank was eleven years old. Five months later, they were married and Frank once again had a father figure in his life. Frank was proud to call him his Dad, and in fact, lied that his step Father was in fact his biological Father. Though very religious and stern at times – Frank's step Father cared about his stepson as much as his Mother did.
With the encouragement of his parents, Frank tried to ignore the bullying he endured through his school and college the best he knew how. Even though he knew he was neurotic, and not well liked at all – Frank really didn't care. He only wished that people would have left him alone. At the end of the day all Frank really cared about was showing his Father that he was wrong – Frank was worthwhile. The way to show him off was to become a surgeon.
Exactly twenty one years after the worst day of his life; Frank found himself thinking in a congratulatory handshake with the head of surgery, at Fort Wayne's hospital.
A smile of pure pride was plastered across his face. After years of torment and hard work, he had finally accomplished his dreams – something he was always told he would never be able to do.
He couldn't help but to think to himself that sometimes, the darkest moments of life sometimes turn out to be the brightest.
If it wasn't for the abuse he endured from his Father – Frank was one hundred percent certain that he wouldn't have been as successful as he was.