David Goggins aptly narrates his childhood experiences and the family environment in which he grew up. David was born in a good neighborhood in Williamsville, New York. Williamsville was a leafy suburb dotted with magnificent houses that provided accommodation to the rich. According to David, Williamsville was the place of residence of model citizens as it housed professionals with distinguished careers such as doctors, attorneys, steel plant executives, and even football players. Williamsville was the dream neighborhood for most Americans as it had clean and new streets, and epitomized the American dream. In this neighborhood, wives and children adoringly socialized and discussed of the endless opportunities that they had in their hands. Particularly, the Goggins lived in a beautifully designed four bedroom home that boasted of having the greenest garden in the neighborhood. At their disposal was a 1962 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, a 1980 Mercedes 450 SLC, and a sparkling new 1981 black Corvette. To show the excesses of their lives, they had more vehicles than their two-car garage could accommodate.
From an outsider’s perspective, the Goggins were a model family and were even adored by their neighbors. The Goggins had created an image of a happy and well-adjusted family. Though all the residents of Paradise Road lived a rich and comfortable life, they still considered the Goggins as the pinnacle of having a good life based on the appearances that they portrayed in public. In this regard, the author notes that appearances may be deceptive and succinctly narrates of the hell they where going through as a family at the behest of their father.
Trunnis Goggins, true to his deceptive character, always was immaculately dressed in tailored suits and a warm smile. This physical appearance and emphasis on grooming was a mere façade and totally divergent of Trunnis’ true character. On the other hand, Jackie – David’s mother – was a caring, sweet and humble lady who had fallen in love with the sly Trunnis when she was just nineteen years old. Jackie came from a very conservative middle-class family that had tried its best to shield her from the dangers of society. David painfully narrates how his father's plastic smile and deceptive charm immediately faded once they got into their house or were alone as a family. Trunnis's warm smile was immediately replaced with a scrawl as he barked orders to David, his brother Trunnis Jr, and his mother, Jane. According to Trunnis, his family was secondary to his needs, and he reduced them to his servants.
Further, Trunnis did not provide a conducive environment for his two children to grow. Instead, he subjected them to hard labour as he expected them to work in his businesses at night. At a tender age, David and Trunnis Jr. were forced to do tedious and risky jobs at their father’s insistence, which affected their performance at both academically and socially. At school, the two children suffered from the effects of sleep deprivation as it slowed their education. Particularly, David made it the norm to sleep in class and could not read by Grade Two like the rest of his peers. During recess and PE, David and Trunnis Jr. had to contend with hiding their bruises that had been inflicted by their father’s physical abuse. David recalls how arduous a task it was to keep the bruises hidden as he could neither wear shorts nor let his shirt slip. Moreover, the author was apprehensive that his father would beat him more if he accidentally showed the bruises in public.
Additionally, Trunnis was a pathetic father, as he did not care about the well-being of his children. The only motivating factor that he had in his life and pursued with zeal was making money. This selfish attribute led him to subject his children to physically demanding and unhealthy jobs. Particularly, David was expected to organize skates while his brother was expected to work on the concession stand. At the skate’s station, David had to use an aerosol deodorizer, which gravely affected him and irritated his eyes, but he could not dare stop for fear of a beating from his father. The children were also expected to mop and polish the floors under the strict supervision of their father. Worse off, after the night had closed, David and his brother were expected to unclog the toilets while handling the unhygienic wastes and unclogging the sewer system, which was blocked by used tampons. Despite their hard work, the boys were not even being paid a dime as Trunnis kept all the profit for himself.
With regards to physically abusing his children and wife, Trunnis made it a habit to physical assault his ‘loved ones’ in the name of instilling domestic discipline. Any action done by his family members that displeased him resulted in physical abuse. On one occasion, David’s father descended on his mother with blows, physically dragging her with her hair downstairs and whipping her with the buckle end of his belt. The ‘crime’ that Jane had committed was to show her displeasure and glare at him while he talked to a prostitute. When David tried to help his mother, Trunnis whipped the two of them senselessly as blood flowed from Jackie’s temple and split lips. As Trunnis beat David, Jackie got an opportunity to sound the alarm much to the disgust of Trunnis. When the police arrived at the house to respond to the alarm, they did not bother to interview Jackie who was clearly bruised and bloodied as Trunnis convinced them that he was just instilling some necessary domestic discipline. Later that night, Trunnis ‘disciplined’ his wife again.
Trunnis had developed a torturous way of punishing his children — a protocol that ensure that he inflicted maximum psychological and physical pain. In compliance with this painful punishment protocol, the author notes how he was required to strip naked, walk down the hall to his father’s room, close the door behind him, turn off the lights, lay across the bed with his legs dangling, his torso stretch out in front of him and his ass exposed. According to David, the most difficult part was the psychological trauma that he underwent waiting for his father to come up and beat him senseless. Trunnis being an accomplished ‘disciplinarian’ took his time before coming up to whip David mercilessly to let him go through the psychological torment as well. On one particular day, David notes that he decided that he was not going to give his father the satisfaction he craved for in beating him so he lay on the bed and endured the beating without crying at all. His hatred for his father gave him the courage to persevere the beating and once Trunnis was done David looked at him straight in the eye like the Devil that he was and limped to his room.
In addition to the physical abuse, Trunnis did not care about the wellbeing of his family in general. He refused to allow Jackie to take David to join the Cub Scouts, which David really adored and wished to join. Instead, he commanded them to accompany him to the housing tracks where he gambled away his money. Trunnis set a bad example for his children as he irresponsibly gambled, chain smoked, drank scotch, and shouted himself silly each time he would lose a bet. Thereafter, on their way home, David questioned the essence of going to the Batavia Downs only to be promised some whipping upon reaching home. This happened after his father tried to grab him from the seat belt, which led him to swerve on the road thereby putting his entire family's lives at risk. David notes that the hate that he had for his father was so strong that it took away the fear of the ‘devil' from him.
As a husband, Trunnis showered Jackie with anything but love. Trunnis made sure that he did not marry Jackie thus ensuring that she could not get anything from him upon divorce. In addition, Trunnis ensured that he registered everything that he owned in his name and Jackie actually owned nothing, not even a bank account. This made Jackie fully dependent on Trunnis for all her financial needs, as she was not even paid a dime for working tirelessly in Trunnis businesses.
Trunnis was not faithful to Jackie and would sleep with prostitutes. Worse still, Jackie had once caught Trunnis having sex with a prostitute on the Skateland's office sofa, the very same sofa that Jackie tucked their children into sleep at night. But Trunnis was not bothered by that fact at all. He simply shrugged while the prostitute smiled at Jackie. According to the author, Trunnis treated his prostitutes better than the mother of his children. He despised Jackie for coming from a solid middle-class family and being of a virtuous character.
As a businessman, Trunnis engaged in various shady deals and had numerous business enemies. The nature of his business transactions made him constantly paranoid and he would keep his home alarm activated all day. Trunnis believed that the alarm would go off and warn him of his enemies’ imminent attack, hence he would be ready at any moment to shoot them down. Also, Trunnis walked around and constantly brandished his gun even to his children thereby exposing them to more psychological attack and distress. In this regard, he carelessly kept his gun, and the author notes that at one point, he even kept in under the sofa that his children slept on at Skateland.
Eventually, Jackie had enough of Trunnis's violent behavior and decided to leave and go back to his parents. She was fed up with Trunnis and had numerously figured how she would one day take Trunnis .38 pistol and brutally kill him. It took an intervention by her brothers to talk her out of it, but they cautioned her to do something about her mistreatment, or she would be the one lying dead in the street. Jackie turned to her friend Betty, a wise lady, who advised her to plan her escape weeks in advance to be successful. As part of their intricate plan, Jackie was to ensure that she had a credit card. As part of the plan, Jackie obeyed all of Trunnis's commands and became the ‘ideal’ wife, thus convincing him into signing the credit line forms that would enable Jackie get her own credit card.
The fateful day came when Jackie overheard Trunnis talking shit about her to one of his friends on the phone, and that was enough to trigger her. She decided to leave him. She went to the table where he was having breakfast and told her kids that she was leaving their father and they had the option to come along or remain with him. Unsurprisingly, David and Trunnis Jr. both rushed to their rooms and packed their belongings in trash bins ready to leave. Filled with contempt and still in shock, Trunnis abused Jackie telling her that she was nothing without him, had no money and would be a prostitute within a year. His children were not spared either, and he hurled insults at them telling them that they would grow up to be faggots. Jackie was undeterred and packed as little as possible from her past leaving behind the mink coats and diamond rings that Trunnis bragged to people about for buying her. Instead of driving into the interstate, she drove the Volvo down a dirt construction road to Betty’s house. Betty was already waiting with her garage door open.
True to their fear, Trunnis followed them, but he did not know of the dirt construction road hence he went straight to the interstate. Jackie and her two sons waited until dusk when they were sure that Trunnis was at Skateland and they left for Jackie’s parents’ home. Trunnis was never going to miss a chance of making money even if it meant losing his family. Unfortunately, just ninety miles outside of Buffalo, the old Volvo started experiencing mechanical technicalities. Jackie was forced to pull over at a gas station and made a call to Betty who advised that she book the children and herself into a hotel for the night and take the Volvo to a dealership the following morning. Jackie dutifully followed this piece of advice, but upon arriving at the only available hotel in town, she was informed that they were fully booked. The night manager sympathizing with their condition and offered them accommodation on rollaway beds in the conference room. After tucking the two boys to sleep, Jackie proceed to a nearby coffee joint to watch over the children’s bikes overnight. In the morning, she proceeded to repair the car and drove to her parents’ home in Brazil, Indiana.
David notes that their arrival at his grandparents' house in Brazil was a breath of fresh air in their lives. They had managed to escape from the devil but had to adjust to their new environment. Adjusting to life in Brazil was not easy, and the whole family faced numerous challenges. The family stayed with their grandparents for the next six months, and David enrolled to the second grade despite being eight years old. His learning experience was anything but rosy as he was the oldest in the class yet he could barely read. It took the intervention of his teacher, Sister Katherine, to help him circumvent his learning disabilities and emotional problems. Soon, Sister Katherine realized that all David needed was repetition in order to grasp various concepts and she dutifully took her time and repeated various concepts to David, which enabled him to learn. Sister Katherine was the opposite of Davi’s father with regards to personality and public demeanor. Trunnis always wore a smile but did not care about his children, whereas Sister Katherine looked grumpy but cared a lot about David’s well being and education. From this experience, the author notes that he no longer trusts a smile or judges a scowl.
In Grade Three, David’s educational experience changed as his teacher Ms. D was impatient with him. Ms. D emphasized productivity and if students could not keep up with her lessons, the only option was for them to leave her class. David’s academic weaknesses surfaced as he failed in the standardized test the students were expected to take upon joining the class. As such, Ms. D was hellbent on kicking David out of a class to a special school. The school management eventually agreed with her decision after taking a few compromise positions. As a result, David was required to be seen by a speech therapist and a psychologist. The visit to the psychologist’s office was a bad experience and instead of helping David, his social anxiety problems spiked, his stutter became out of control, his hair started falling out, and white splotches bloomed on his dark skin. He was suffering from toxic stress.
David’s experiences at the psychologist’s office led him to decide that he was not going back there regardless of the cost. So David decided to cheat his way through school and Ms. D was happy with his ‘progress.’ Trunnis Jr. experienced his own challenges and could not adjust to the new environment. In a few months’ time, he returned to Skateland to the tedious and physically abusive regime of scrubbing toilets and cleaning the floor. Trunnis Jr’s return saddened Jackie as he missed him so much. Additionally, Jackie also had her own share of problems to deal with. After six months of living with her parents, Jackie moved to a two-bedroomed house where she had to pay rent of $7 a month. Trunnis, from the thousands he earned every night, sent her only $25 a month for child care and she earned a further few hundred dollars from her job at a departmental store. These amounts were not enough to adequately provide for herself and David. Jackie was forced to apply for the $123 a month welfare fund but it was still not enough. Jackie enrolled for courses at Indiana State University and this increased her financial burden. She was barely surviving as bill compounded on her.