It wasn't her fault. She just never seemed to get anything right.
Take her marriage.
Red Fred she loved and was to have married, but he took to beating her, and it wasn't once or twice, either, it was more times than twice, too many times for her to count. Still she might have stayed with him, after all it was not with his fists like some fellows do, only with those great flat heavy hands of his, and sometimes his big leather belt, and only after he'd been drinking. But he also took to telling jokes when they were with his buddies – or when they were alone together, like after he'd just beaten her and she was standing there crying and not knowing whether to hold her bottom or pretend it didn't hurt, and he said, "Hey, you heard this one?' and proceeded to tell her the one about a dumb blonde, two guys and two parachutes in a plane that's about to crash.
'Well, I guess it's ladies first, ' says the blonde, checks her hair in her mirror and steps out of the plane.
'Hey!' they both yell.
The two guys look at each other, shrug, put on the parachutes, and jump out after her.
'Bye, boys!' he chortled to himself, every time he saw her for days after that.
She'd about decided she'd had it with him when, one morning, sobbing and nursing her latest beating, she bumped into an old admirer of hers. Mr Church was a devout evangelical Christian, and she'd considered him a boring stay-at-home until she started going out with Fred.
She dropped Fred, got engaged to Mr Church.
Mr Church turned out to be a member of a Christian Family Discipline group. Not that that meant anything to her. Did she mind? he asked. 'Oh, no! Of course not!' After Red Fred anything would be an improvement. Would she agree to it? Accept it? Sign a release note saying so? Of course she would, she'd be delighted. She'd do anything for him, anything at all.
Only after they married did she discover that believing in Christian Discipline meant he believed he had the right to beat her whenever he felt like it – on her bottom only, not her face and ears and legs like Red Fred used to, but with a hard cane thing he called his rod till she could hardly sit down, and walked – as Mr Church put it – in an even sillier way than usual.
She tried – tried so hard! – to be good, but nothing worked. There was always something she hadn't done. And when at last she did everything, he said something hadn't been done properly. Then when finally she got the hang of it and showed him proudly that everything had been done properly, he punished her for pride (a grievous sin), beat humility into her who was so humble she quite believed his dog should sleep in the other armchair while she stood or knelt on the floor, and who would never have dreamt of saying which programme she wanted to watch.
Still, she never seemed to understand what he wanted, always did the wrong thing (out of fear rather than stupidity – but he had no way of knowing that, and would not have considered the difference significant anyway), so he took to telling her, sarcastically, to do the direct opposite of what he actually wanted her to do. 'Kick the dog off that chair and leave the dishes till tomorrow, ' she had no trouble with, it was obvious what he really wanted. But 'Don't cook me steak for dinner tomorrow'??
In the end she cooked him a lovely steak.
'Didn't I tell you today's a fast, for charity? But you wouldn't understand that!' And he beat her till she howled and struggled, she couldn't help it, though she knew he hated it when she didn't stay still and be good, and always beat her more. 'If I don't want steak I have to tell you to cook me steak, right? I forgot.' Another dozen strokes with his rod, till at last he was satisfied.
'Don't clean the bathroom, it's not filthy.'
She cleaned it.
'Rearrange everything on my desk when you don't dust it.'
That was difficult, but she worked it out. She wasn't stupid.
'We're not having a prayer meeting here this evening so you needn't dress properly.'
She was demurely dressed and standing eyes cast down with everything ready when they arrived. The "brothers" ignored her. Some of the "sisters" gave her patronising smiles; others – two fo them – gave her nervous sympathetic glances: the two who were, like her, kept under the rod, she guessed.