Category: Childhood



A reoccurring dream I had between about 6-1/2 to 8 years old.  By this time I was used to Boy in Darknightmares.  I knew nothing else – no wish fulfillment dreams, no happy party dreams, or any of those types of dreams I learned later most folks have.  They didn’t, as a child, suffer from dreams of loss, war, horror, guts, you name it.  Not too many monsters or all that – just war, and loss – and this one which has nagged at me for the past few months.  I don’t know why so I am writing it down.  Maybe that’ll shake the demon loose.)


The Dream

You are standing in a white corridor about 50 feet long and it is about 10, maybe 12 foot wide.  Interspersed down both walls of the corridor are door with small windows; all of them are painted white as well. The doorknobs glow silver from the only light which emanates from a large but basic wood framed window.  (I know the type – its just like the windows used in the old wooden World War II barracks the Army used to use on its bases.)

The floor is tiled with what appear to be large white linoleum squares, and the ceiling is pretty plain – or else I’m not too concerned with it – because I am staring at the tiles while voices and hands from behind urge me forward.

“Take your time,” they are saying, “But step carefully.  Some of those tiles are booby-trapped.”

The voices, I know, belong to short dark haired guys in lab coats, and they are behind me urging to go on.

I take a step, fighting between the sense of urgency those coaxing voices give and hesitation, having had this dream before, knowing that there are traps that lay within the floor, pausing, examining the tiles for some clues. There are none, so I make my way as best I can – by hunch and intuition – trying to avoid the tiles that ‘feel wrong’.  I just want to get to the end where the window is.  If only I could look get there . . . perhaps I’d know something, what this was for.

Inevitably it happens.  As time progresses and I have the dream again and again I know it will, but I keep on trying not to step on that treacherous tile that will send me down to “them“.

But inevitably catches up with me, always.  Somewhere between 1/4 to 2/3rds of the way down the hall I step on a and it gives way below me, the hinge behind, and drop me on a curved half-pipe stainless steel or chromed slide with black stained sides, as if a thick lacquer, though I think it was mold, had been spilled along its edges.

The transition from the white airy hallway into dark, damp, dank, humid darkness was extreme, and abrupt.  I’d see the square of light above me shrink as I slide down the slide’s spiral, then it would snap shut as I slid to the end – a straighter section about six to eight feet long, and it ended at, or near a table.

The room – how can I describe it?  Murky, dark, it felt like an earthen cave.  To this day I still can kind of sense how rough and tumble were the walls.

And there were witches there, or at least that’s how I understood, or perceived them – shadowy figures dressed on cowled cloaks, faces hidden in the darkness under their hoods.  Most of the conversation I couldn’t follow – it was in whispers – but they’d remove me from the slide – usually three on a side – and lay me on the table.  Then they’d undress me.

I know I was a bit frightened and scared, especially when they’d start laying food on and all around me on the table.  I figured I was the main course, and I didn’t relish being eaten.  The light was dim, diffuse, mostly around the table, but I don’t know where it came from.  The atmosphere was cold, clammy, damp, almost fetid, and I’d hear the rustling and the feet – on dirt, it sounded like – as they’d go about their business of setting up this ‘feast’ of theirs.  And then they’d start eating – not as a group, but each one coming forth from the dark corners of the room-seeming-cave, selecting just a few items, and retreating back into the dark to eat them.  Then another one or two would come forward.

Sometimes they touched me, and through the fear there was something inherently sexual about it – but mostly fear sometimes, especially when they’d start to nibble on me – mostly my feet, it seemed, but I’ve got some nightmares I’ve blocked out that features me being much more giving, and them demanding.

And then it would black out.
And I’d awake to my normal childhood.


 

 

 

I can not positively attribute the above dream to my mother, who was a practicing witch.   However, I cannot see where she would have had the resources to do this at that place and time.  We were right next to a major Army base; I know I often went there.  She wasn’t Wicca nor, to the best of my knowledge, practiced the dark arts or rituals in a classic sense of potions and formulas, or cauldrons and dancing in the woods naked.  However, there were many who swore she had “powers” (other than power over her children), and she did teach us kids quite a few things such as “throwing hexes” (which actually seemed to work a couple of times!), how to make voodoo dolls, and the like.  Indeed, I wonder if she actually believed in magic, though she claimed to be able to see auras around trees, bushes, animals, and persons.

“It’s not a matter of whether YOU believe it or not,” she told us.  “What matters is that THEY believe it – and that you can do it.”  And she explained that if we wanted to be the male version of witches – warlocks – all we had to do was “claim it” – that is, when something happens for good or bad, set things up or at least make a statement that you “willed” it to being.

As far as potions and words – she believes in some of the herbal remedies, but ritual and words are, in her words, “to help you focus intent!”.  And given the results of the two times I made a curse – “threw a hex” – the first as a child of 7 – the guy’s car gave him bad trouble when it came back from what he was doing.

The 2nd time, not so many years ago – about a decade – the man’s otherwise healthy mother died in his arms 2 hours later.

He blamed me for that one.

hex


The Tinkertoy BoyTinkertoy Boy

The Tinkertoy Boy sits quietly playing with his toys.
The man walks in.
The boy falls into the parts his mind employs.

Part One slips into Tab A,

Part Two into the shadows,

Part Three is the one I call me,

Part Four becomes the gallows.

Toys.

The Tinkertoy Boy regathers himself,
broken parts and pieces,
slipping broken part A into torn slot B
putting them both into the gallows.
The rope is drawn, the fit is tight,
he can breath no air.
Part C struggles and
Part D can go nowhere.

The Tinkertoy Boy hangs himself surrounded by his toys.
Tab B tears free from Part C
hanging from the gallows.
Part D drops into the sea
of endless tears and sorrows.

And those parts swim to me,
deep within the shadows.
The Tinkertoy Boy sits amongst the shadows,
slipping parts together,
ripping apart the gallows.

What part fits where and why?
What part goes before?
And endless puzzle of parts and pieces behind a mind’s closed door.

Parts and pieces,
things in his mind
make him a Tinkertoy child.

Break him to pieces under the skin
and see what he’s compiled.

Fit Tab A to Slot B – oh – he’s meek and mild.
Put Part C in with D – he gets violent and wild.
Put Part A with G and E and you’ve got a fair and friendly child.
Put Part E with A and B – and see what a mess you’ve compiled.

The Tinkertoy Boy sits, waiting,
his eyes go round and round.
Inside brass gears are spinning
seamlessly without a sound.

Things go around in his mind.
Robot eyes watching,
A program stutters, finds it’s pace,
and stumbles across the earth.
Stiff legged joints stride clumsily,
unused to wider girth.

Change

comes in doses and waves

shattering parts to pieces

duly assigned to graves

and another one goes on . . .

Fitting parts to pieces

of a mind gone wrong.

Parts of pieces

that don’t fit or don’t belong

together

anymore.

Tinkertoy Parts

 

Skiing In the South


There’s not many days in my early childhood I can nail down to the date and time, but this is one of them.  I recalled the date not because I remembered it, but it was in the news, and made local history.  It was, as the Augusta Chronicle in Augusta Georgia reported:  “The largest-ever snowfall . . . a two-day event Feb. 9-10, 1973, with a combined accumulation of 14 inches.”   They even have a bunch of photos you can look at: http://chronicle.augusta.com/slideshow/2013-02-08/historic-photos-and-video-big-snow-1973#slide-1

I remember because it was soon after we’d come back from Germany.  We were prepared. We had snow suits, boots, gloves and mittens, sleds and skiing gear.  We even had ice skates! – but there was no pond around. I don’t think there was an ice rink in Georgia, unless you went to Omni in Atlanta,though I can’t be sure.

But there we were, surrounded by a “bunch of country hicks” as many might view them – friends of ours, left behind for a number of years, but some fast friends none the less.  They oohed and ahhhed over our equipment – tall blue skis outfitted with chrome clamps, the yellow lens glasses, the thick alpine gear.  We even broke our sled out – it was an old traditional German one, sturdy with wooden runners below a raised deck, and barely steerable.  But that was fine with our friends and all!  We let them borrow it, hauling it around – everyone was out tripping through the snow and throwing it around.  Meanwhile my brother and I got our skies on and began duckwalking up the shallow hill.  It was easy, far easier than some of the bunny hills I’d been on overseas, and I leaned on my poles, pushing forward – it was wet snow, unpacked, fresh as the day it’d been laid, with little to no crust at all – but my brother and I were determined to show them a little of what we’d done “over there”.

Like I said, it was an easy hill, but a lot of the residents gathered along the road as my brother and I slid down – assuming the correct position, though it was barely needed – bent kneed, leaning forward, poles tucked under the arms.  They applauded as we went by.  We got a lot of cheers despite our lack of talent or showmanship.  The fact was, we couldn’t get up enough speed for any slaloming or cutting fancy curves, throwing snow as high as our shoulder like we’d done in the Alpine resorts.  After all, it was a ‘fun’ neighborhood mostly, despite the fights that would occasionally break out, and a couple of neighbors getting drunk and punching their wives (or vis versa).  And we knew a lot of people there, even if we didn’t get along with all them.  We had changed. They had changed.  But a lot were our friends – old timers, people who’d been there from the very beginning.

But deep inside I knew.  It was like a dark forboding.  Our “Ice Age” was ending – no longer would we live in the Northern latitudes.  And “inside” an Ice Age was already beginning.  A sense of ‘separation’ within myself.  Again.  I could ‘feel’ an outside ‘me’ wry watching ‘me’ skiing, going down that hill, looking at the snow all around; feeling the heavy skies, the biting cold – and looking at my neighbors throwing snowballs around, listening to that sled creaking over the snow:

I knew it wouldn’t last. Not long. Not much longer than this snow.  A few of our friends joked that we’d brought a little Germany home, saying: “Hey! You returned and look what you brought back!  It’s good!”  I knew it was just stupid dumb luck, but I was glad to see it and glad to have it.

I knew it would be a long time before I’d have reason to be on skies again, if ever*.  That and all the snow gear we had.  But I was okay with that.  This it gave me a chance to say farewell to them, and embrace a new life again.  One in this ‘hood.  So I enjoyed it, but . . . it was a pathetic excuse for what I knew I’d miss.  That hill that wasn’t much of one . . . even for a bunny hill.


 

 

* It turned out I was wrong.  Later my parents would take me out to visit my Western relatives, who’d took us on a skiing trip to Colorado that year.

Prince – Part Two


Very shortly after we’d moved back to the ‘hood, I was out walking my dog on a leash.  He was a “Cockapoo” – a mixture of Cockerspanial and Poodle.  A black dog with curly silken fur, he weighed about thirty-five pounds.  I know because that’s the amount of weight I was required to lose in order to keep him. It was part of my parent’s requirement to ship him home.  He’d been trained in apartments, was good, though nervous or anxious sometimes.  I’d read a few books on animal psychology, including – and specializing in dogs.  (To this day some in the family call me “the dog whisperer”, and dogs and I tend to get along.)

Anyway, as I am walking along, here comes my old Nemesis.

Prince.

German Sheppard

Prince had been the big dog that had torn me up in my youth.  He’d clawed me from face to navel while the grownups had stood around – feeding us kids to him one-by-one.  They were intending on us making ‘friends’ with him.  Instead he had clawed us all to pieces.  He’d been restrained on a chain around a great big old pine tree – but there was no escaping. If you hung back they’d push you into that circle, swept clean of pinestraw and debrie’ by his constant running . . .

It had hurt.

This time, though, Prince was loose.  He lived with the neighbors across the road – good friends of mine.  Usually he ignored me and I him.  But this time he’d seen my dog.

Prince was a German Sheppard.  He probably weighed upwards of fifty pounds, if not more.  I greatly outweighed him – but he was as long as my body –

I didn’t have time to react as my dog, sensing immediate attack, immediately began to mount me, climbing towards my head.  I could almost read the thoughts in his eyes:  “Master! Save me!” –

and as he’s climbing, Prince, drawing closer, increases his speed.  He knows me.  I’m the puny human he’s dealt with before . . .

But here’s the thing.

I’m older now, by three and a half years.  I’m heavier, too.  And I’ve been trained. During my time “over there” I’d been trained to take on – and/or take out – dogs like him.  Yeah, I’m only thirteen – but he doesn’t scare me now.  Not a bit.

As I help my dog hoist himself over my shoulder, claws scratching as he tries to climb on my head and perch there, Prince launches himself up, full height, his paws going for my shoulders.

As I stood there, I took the weight of him awhile – about a millisecond – and then I stepped into him, throwing him back and down with my forearm in his now surprised mouth. Then I dropped down on him, throwing my own dog aside, embracing his body with my own, wrapping my legs around him, one arm levering his mouth and head back as the other cleared his throat of front paws.

And then I bit him.  And I bit him hard.  Not hard enough to break the skin, but hard enough to let him know who’s boss.  I had him outstretched in my arms, his body under me, his fur in my mouth.  It was thick and dusty.  I clamped down harder, on his larynx now – I had shifted from the jugular, where I had taken my first clamp.  He was whining now, and struggling to be let go.  I bore my weight down even harder, shaking my head and growling, pulling and grinding the double lapped thick skin in my teeth.  He whined, then cried out.  I held him there for several moments – huffing through my cheeks, teeth white gripped in his downy fur and hair – shaking him.  Letting him know who’s boss.

When I got up and let go of him – wow!  He took off out of there, looking behind out over his shoulder as if I was a demon standing there.  My own dog stood shaking and shivering beside me, pressing his body against my calf.  I looked down and smiled.

“Come on buddy,” I said.  “I just saved your ass.”

The End

13


 

 

Notes:
This was written and produced by one of my ‘alters’, #13.  He is rather proud of it.  One of the things he kept wanting stated as a ‘fact’ he learned about dogs (for it is true: I am somewhat of a “dog whisperer” – and a lazy dog trainer, too).  “Dogs,” he sez, “is different.  Some of them got fur; some of them got hair.  The ones with hair hate the ones with fur and viz versa.  Same goes with cats & some kinds of other animals.  So you always gotta be careful when you introduce a dog with fur to one with hair.  Dogs, them gonna hate one another.  Unless you’ve raised one with pup, that’s the way.  Otherwise you might tend to have a little trouble.”
 
And by the way?  That German Sheppard never bothered us again.  In fact, if he saw me on the road, he’d take off for his house, and we’d find him cowering and slinking away out back.  He was scared of me . . . (grin)

 

School Sux


The new school sux.  It’s huge, it’s large, it’s empty, and crowded at the same time.  I don’t know anyone there, for I am a fresh arrival from overseas . . .

The other kids avoid me like the plague. They don’t know me and I don’t know them.  I don’t like them, either. They are mean to me.

I am in the band.  I play a sousaphone.  I played one last year, only it was over in Germany and it was for an orchestra band.  This one is shitty, but at least it’s fiberglass.  I’m gonna be glad of that when I march in a parade.  Only the parades here suck. Their people are so undisciplined. They throw trash in my horn.

I am marching for miles.  A long parade – Easter down in Augusta, Georgia.  The weather is cold and damp and there’s a cold mist blowing.  We march over a bridge.

I haven’t seen so many black faces in my lives.  There are so many of them.  They throw trash as I march by.  Every once and awhile I dip my huge sousaphone, dumping it out.

They are scum.  So is my life.

I am a quite bitter child.  And I understand this.

I hate my life and I am at school.  I work in the lunchroom for chow, saving my cents for purchases of “Ludens Throat Lozenges” – Wild Cherry Flavored – when I have time and walk by the little room they have in a hallway for just this sort of thing and school supplies . . .

I palm my 3 or 4 salisbury steaks under my tray after working the line. They serve them on Tuesday. They are my favorite food here, but they are dry and breaded and thin.  I can feel my fat growing and wish I was thin.

There is a boy in my Sociology class.  He is a boor.  He’s black and he walks around like he’s proud, and he’s the class clown. He’s obnoxious and loud and disrupts everything.  The teach cannot control him; she is afraid and she knows it.  He snatches up my book for no reason, my notes – everything.

I spend my time studying him, making notes of my own.  My dad has started me on my psychology lessons, on big books about Freud and Maslow and more.  Abnormal psych is ahead, as well as some sociology lessons on my own, of my own.  This boy – this ‘class clown’ – is one of them.

I hate him and express it in my notes there.

I hate this class and I hate this school.  Despite testing out with college level reading & comprehension skills, I’ve been placed in a remedial class.  “Dick runs.  See Jane.” That kinda shit.  When I’ve been reading adult level material now for three or four years, including my favorite novel of all time, the “Lord of the Flies”.

How I began to wish I was on that Island.  And I would, one day . . .

tho’ it was just in my mind.

They’ve also put me into advanced math class.  Me! – who cannot divide a fraction to save his life, who doesn’t know anything – I’m missing “math” from the 5th grade on and now they are wanting me to do calculus . . . I’m serious; I can NOT turn a fraction into a decimal or go the other way . . .

My parents suck.

So much was lost during delivery, too – that’s when our “goods” came in: all the stuff we’d entrusted the Army to put into storage during the three years we were gone.  So much is missing!  Most all of my toys, my mom’s Corningware – that kind of stuff.  Even now the adult in me misses my G.I. Joes and the original Apollo ship I’d stole during my North Carolina visit up North . . .

they’d be worth so much money.

My mom says such stuff happens; movers stealing stuff.  But it ain’t right and I don’t like it.

I’m all alone.

Coming in in the middle of school always sux.  But this one is different.

I’ve been going to the Army schools the last three years of my life.  These are much less successful, much more riotous.  Their crowds are so unruly, and they have “teams” and everything – and a gym!  The only one I’d known was on post, and it was open to the G.I.’s.  But this ones different.  For one thing, they have no weight room.  And they have no known organization.  Once a month or so they gather there for something called a “Pep Rally”.  I find it noisy, needless, confusing, a useless waste of time.

I wanna go to the library but they keep kids outta there.  And since so I am so new I’m not allowed to check out books.  Nor later.

But the book mobile comes by our neighborhood every 30 days or so.

That sux, too.

This school sucks

and

my clearest memory of the whole thing is standing outside that great big gray brick building, in the field down low on the hill, staring up; the building surrounded by gray twilight and swirling clouds, and a few students scuttling about

and I hate it.

and I can hate it so thoroughly I want to throw up.

and I hate my life as well.

(back then . . . news from “13”)

 


Soon after we’d moved into the rental back in the ‘hood it became rather apparent that the old house – a slab floored stick-frame clapboard construction, which was quite weird, given the former and now deceased owner had been a mason.  The toilets kept backing up, vomiting the contents of their bowels and ours across the loose linoleum floors like bad memories of meals once eaten.*

So my dad did what he does best: he called someone in.

And here they come in their big white truck with a tanker behind – and a long, long hose for sucking the sewage up . . .

They park it behind the house, and after poking around with some shovels (I could’ve told ’em where it was at) they found the septic tank.

Digging at it most carefully, they outline the profile; then bringing in a backhoe, they go at it awhile, their ancient machine puffing and chugging like a dinosaur or dragon with a sting tail – lifting buckets of dirt, dumping them aside . . .

And then, finishing the job with the shovels, the expose the concrete lid.  It wasn’t as far down as I expected – but there they were, the workmen (or country bumpkins, from the look of it) – hooking big rusty chains with big rusty hooks to the rusty steel loops set in the concrete . . . then to the backhoe’s bucket . . .

The workmen stood back, and I, who had wisely placed himself in the bedroom, stood looking along with my tiresome brother – protection from the stench which would appear as soon as they lifted the lid.  I was quite sure my protection was futile, given the shallow aluminum framed windows and condition of the house.

Then the lid came up, looming and awesome as the backhoe’s engine gave a big chug and belched smoke, choking down as they gave it the throttle . . .

And then there it stood! it all its awesome and hideous glory: the thing we had been waiting to see: the staring open eye of the pit . . . only instead of there being sewage on top . . .

there was this thick, pink, undulating skin.  Ugly, mottled, smooth, it heaved like a living thing.

Immediately the workmen standing beyond the pit began chuckling, some of them chortling and slapping their knees and giving knowing looks at the house where my parents stood in embarrassed confusion, then comprehension . . .

And as I stood looking at that milky pinky white cloud floating in the museum of past bowel movements and desire, I realized what I was looking at:

the entire pool of the septic tank was covered in a thick floating layer . . . of condoms!

Huge it was.  In more ways than one.

And the workmen apparently thought so, too.  My brother began gagging as the stench oozed into the house despite the closed windows (the seals were no good) – and ran from the room into the interior . . .

while I stood alone, thinking.

Thinking about what HE did and our times together.

He never used a condom for that! I recall thinking.  He always rode me ‘bareback’, down on the dirt, face down in the grit . . .

But there they were: obvious evidence of the previous owners.  Maybe after too many children and not enough family or dollars to support it, they’d gotten a clue.  ‘Or,’ (the thought had occurred to me) – ‘this was from renters before, though after we’d left.’  I don’t know why I a) found it so disgusting, b) it bothered me so much, or c) it kept disturbing ‘me’ (and still does to some extant) so much later on.

But they were certainly gone, and I was here.

As I stood looking – and looking up (I remember looking at the sky a lot – so refreshing, though it was more an overcast blue and gray.)  Smelling that stench.  Reflecting on my past and theirs while relishing somewhat my mid-Western and prudish parent’s embarrassment – yet knowing they the ones, for we had just gotten there.

And yet all those facts didn’t matter, because it didn’t change anything.  My parents were still there and so was my brother (shudder).  Nothing was different.  That’s what we dealt each other.  Outside lay other lives; ones we were imitating, but not quite perfect.  We tried – and tried again.

But it was no use.

It was like I was something foreign here.  Or had come to a foreign land.  Again.

I saw my old best friend once.  I was standing in the sand driveway of the home across the street when he came riding on a motorcycle.  He stopped in front of me and we stared at each other.  I had grown fat, wore glasses – not the kid he knew.  Not a good match for his memories.  And as for him – his curly hair was wild from the wind (he wasn’t wearing any helmet) and his eyes wilder.  Like a feral cat.***

And I knew as soon as I saw him we’d have nothing in common, nothing to do together. We were no longer friends. I no longer knew him, nor he me.  He gave me a long look, a few words, and took off . . .

I saw him again, some thirty years later.  He owns a shop. He’s poor and rash. And he has (or had) a young boy. One of several . . .

and he hangs with his brother, his bigger brother, the one who ‘did’ me (and his little sister when she was four – and he 14 or so).

That thought’s kinda scary . . . but kinda sad.

The End.

(’13’)


Host Notes:
* Some part of me kept trying to connect the ‘vomiting toilets’ with the memories I kept having, only ‘I’ refused to do it (it made the sentences too long) – and it wasn’t the ‘memories’ which were bothering ‘me’ at the age of 13, it was the emotions connected with them – that along with the problems at school
** As a matter-of-fact the description of Jeff’s eyes in the when Matthew first see’s him in the book “The Boy” from when I saw him.  Feral, like a wild cat.

Back In the ‘Hood . . .


So we’d finally come back from my dad’s overseas tour with the military, arriving in our new (old) neighborhood in style.  We were the envy of the ‘town’ – albeit it be just the dozen or so houses that made up the majority of “the ‘hood” – because we were fresh arrivals from a place that was all but unknown – a figure on a map, a name in their geography books.  Yet we lived in a house that was poor as dirt, and the living conditions weren’t a lot better – not what I’d been used to ‘over there’ (meaning in Germany and the adjacent countries).

Yet I managed to get along just fine – and yet not.  All my old friends were gone.  I was okay with them not being there, yet I longed for my old friend, B.W.  I had my homosexual urges; I took them out on the boy next door.  That was okay, too, for awhile, then he grew tired of me.  That was okay, too . . .

Yet the house I lived in seemed haunted – haunted by ghosts gone past, years gone past.  There was always a particular ‘haunting’ in the room I had – the ‘guest’ room in days gone past, and Sarge’s room, too, I’d rather suspect – but he was killed, dead, by a wheelbarrow coming into the back of his head at high speed.  “Broken neck,” is what they say killed him.

At the very least the house was ‘haunted’ by Mr. M.  And his father, the fat man, who had such great arms he could gather four or five of us kids in his one embrace and lift us all to the ceiling.  A great big fat rolling man, he earned his living laying bricks & building block. His son (Mr. M. I’m gonna keep on calling him) had been my ‘abuser’ at one time, teaching us boys of the ‘hood about sex and things.  I still find it quite shocking he was doing ‘it’ with his younger sister; she was only about four at the time – the time I met her and could have “did it”, too, but didn’t.

But don’t get the wrong idea.  “He” (Mr. M) was about – I dunno – 14? 15? – when we met him the first time.  13 maybe.  But he was our babysitter at one time – I was about 7?  More than once, actually.  He took care of a lot of the kids in the ‘hood.  In more ways than one, if you know what I’m meaning (wink! wink!). Ugh.

We had just moved in and everything was going fine.  (Okay, not school, but I’m saving that for a very different kind of story.)  The house was falling apart – slab floors, the linoleum tiles loosening from the floor every here and there and you had to watch where you stepped or suddenly you’d find yourself scooting on a loose one and sliding across the floor – taking you down with it.  The house was clammy and cold, and it was ‘fall’ – or late fall in the South.  There were baseboard heaters and that was it.

It was weird, looking out the back window into the next yard.  “Mine” I kept on thinking, looking at it.  We had lived there, in that redwood house, for so long, but it was no longer ours.  Now we were renting our neighbors (for that’s how I kept thinking of them – and it).  And I was living in it.  And the house was falling apart – like the neighborhood I’d lived in for so long seemed to be doing.

There across the now-paved once pristine white sandy road lay my ‘friends’ house.  Only there were several of my ‘friends’ living over there, as well as one awesome mother.  She was to be ‘my best friend’ for life; still is.  Just hear from her now and again; not much.  But she’s changed, too . . .

As have her kids.  The youngest one – he’s quite a bit of a daredevil.  The other one, more my age, is built like a brick mansion.  His arms are strong and he lifts weights all day long . . . and apparently he’s begun smoking (or at least his parents – and my mom – are saying so) – and they want me, who is smoking right now (but I’m only 13) – clandestine, of course, but they know – they want me to go and advise him on quitting!

Can you imagine that one.

So I go over there, talk to him one night while he’s lifting weights out in the yard, and he starts – we start – arguing.  He doesn’t believe I’ve been smoking for over a year now, and he isn’t smoking anyway – and he’s angry at me.

We make back up, but there’s always that ‘thing’, some distance between us, as if we’d discovered some deep division between us – a cliff that had formed.  His stepdad was very abusive; I know that hurt and haunted him; their entire family suffered.

I got to watch that, too.

~ 13

Return To The Hood


GermanflagIt was a wet, rainy afternoon at the Frankfort International  Airport. I stood in front of the big wide windows looking at the big jets on the tarmac.  I had lost the required thirty-five pounds (in three months, no less) to get my dog shipped home with me; there was a piece of carry-on luggage, and my family behind me . . .

I was ready to go. I had lost my best friend ever, and was aware that I was going into a great unknown. Sure, my parents had told me we were ‘going home’ – but I just knew everything had changed. It had to . . .

After all, I had changed.  I was heavier – fatter – and I wore glasses now.  I had learned a little something of the world.  I had taken up smoking – a heavier smoker, now, though a pack would still last me a week or two or three . . .

and I’d heard (and met) my old compatriot from the U.S. Army back home – a kid up the street who’s family was Army as well.  They’d come over when we were two years into our tour, and weren’t going to be back home until much later . . .

and things had been in such an uproar when we’d left The Hood before . . . with the death of my best friend (and lover) and his abuser’s (and mine – sexually, that is) dad . . . their family breaking up, poor as dirt mice . . . all that was gone; had to be different, much different . . . but how?

I stared out at a jet, wondering if it was hijacked.  It had been sitting there a long time.  A lot of hijackings were happening about then (it was November, 1973, I am sure of it).  Wondering what lay ahead . . .

I can barely remember my family getting on.  But it was a Lufthansa jet.  Wonderful airline.  I can remember the dinner – filet mignon, chunked roast potatoes, some kind of cheese, and a nice fresh salad – and I gotta beer.  My parents allowed me – almost as a celebration of what we were leaving: Germany, going home, going to the Promised Land where we had been once before, a place where you could drink water out of faucets and there weren’t men peeing publicly (and sometimes the women as well) . . .

I didn’t think about it – and I guess I didn’t know . . . but what lay before me was a tremendous change:

AmericaTown

Going from military schools to civilian ones,
Getting away from the military bases, PX’s, cafeterias, AFEES & more . . .
No more sitting with the G.I.’s outside marching, or singing, while dinner went on . .
No more post theater, library system, reasonable source of transportation, or the rules and regulations that went along with living on a military base overseas during the Cold War – and a military base that dealt in secrets, and secret technology as well . .

Instead I would be arriving in a rural environment, just a few miles from Tobacco Road (of novelist & Southern fame – or infamy).  It was a poor area, poorer than most – even poorer than that of the Tobacco Road crowd – and far from everything – a dirt road last I met it, with a scattering of Craftsman style slab houses (plus a few old farmhouses, mostly falling down) – around it . . .

A place of dirt and poor, ignorance and poorly read, with nary a library – not even a store

Dirtroad

and all my old friends? None of them left?

How was I to know?

I don’t know.

So I ate my meal, my bag stored overhead – and enjoyed it.  It was quite good, and Lufthansa seemed to put on a special flight just for me – until the kid behind me threw up in his seat . . .

and so I had to ride with the smell of vomit in my nose, a decent steak setting in my abdomen, and the silver clouds drifting by below as the moonlight – the moon was riding full and bright – with the occasional dark glimpse of the ocean . . .

and we arrived.

I couldn’t tell you much about that – the brief kiss (custom) – when getting off the gangplank – where you get down on your knees and with much gratitude and love kiss the ground you are thankfully! – finally! – soundly!  on . . . then marching over to Customs to make your “I don’t declare anything” declarations, the open bags; the searching & rifling through, the hand passing you on . . .

gathering your things . . . into the airport, a new beginning, a rental car . . .

and we are going home.

In twenty-four hours my life had changed from what I’d known . . . into something new. Something alien and different again, only in a big way.

And I’d be living here for a very long time . . .

I sighed, shouldering my suitcase across my back, and heading for the taxi cab . . . hoping this ride would be fun . . . and filled with dread . . .

For we were going back to my old neighborhood . . . and would not be living in our old house.

Instead we were renting the house next door.

The house my abuser had lived in.  My friend, my lover and betrayer, and the one who had hurt me so much in the end . . .

Escape


While we were overseas, there was very little to do in life during the evenings. We had our old black & white TV which offered up two channels – in German. There was nothing like watching Hoss from Ponderosa ride up on his horse exclaiming: “Vas is los!”.  And I like how they packed all their commercials at the end, and like sweets, sprinkled a little cartoon between them.

But what really saved us was Armed Forces Radio – and a reel-to-reel tape player that my dad had gotten in Thailand to record missionary spiels on.  In that collection of endlessly boring and droning voices was a tape of Bill Cosby’s earlier shows, the ones he’d done while he was young, and, I guess, touring for the G.I.’s on duty over there.

By this time – the time we’d found the tape – I was suffering from some pretty bad depression.  Shifting from base to base, living on American military bases in a foreign nation; no friends I could count, nobody to know me – or I them, and no time to do it anyway before we’d be separated, yanked apart . . .

I read books, I counted time till “the end” when we would return to Stateside (and I wasn’t the only kid doing this!) – usually bored nearly out of my mind, especially during the winter months when night started earlier – we’d sit and listen to those tapes, their contents unwinding from one reel to another, laughing at Bill Cosby’s outrageous stories of Fat Albert, Suicide Hill, and the Chicken Heart.  How I loved that tape!  It was double sided, and long.  We’d get lost inside those stories, watching the cop’s cuff’s slide off those kids signs, imagining rubber baby wheels gone, and home-built carts with those wheels.

He saved me.

There were times when, despite being 13, I had developed a cynical mind. I’d seen too much already: I knew about sex and gunfire, I had squatted and eaten with the  G.I.’s.  I’d ridden tanks and learned to fire machine guns; I’d learned survival.  I was reading ten to twenty novels a week, and could march 20 kilometers at a time.

I was hurt inside by the loss of my friends, and being stuck in a foreign land.  I had withstood school bomb threats (new to my experience), grown tired of the racism (something I couldn’t understand, but which had recently occurred to me).  My family – a shattered one at best, each individual plodding along as best they could, nobody for someone else.  You were expected to make it on your best bet, your best decision.  Your emotions were up to you, and it was up to you to control them – or at the very least, not express them to anyone . . .

In three years I had gone from an open, happy-go-lucky kind of child (“Gregorius”, my mom had called it) to a silent kid.  I’m sure I appeared sullen some of the time, but it was merely watching, mixed with a growing depression.  I kept on having nightmares all the time – not just the ‘normal’ ones (I had nightmares for 48 years) – but nightmares about what I feared was coming. A returning to something new with everything I had known gone.  The ‘end’ was approaching, our tour was fast running down.  And I knew it.

And I wanted to kill myself before the end.

And I can kinda blame Bill Cosby for reversing that when I’d get desperate,  feeling so bad . . . I’d kinda want to go bury myself in a road and let some tank run over me, take one of those .30 caliber rounds and set it off pointed at my head – do something stupid, something to get rid . . . of me.  End a deepening misery I could not understand nor articulate.  I guess I didn’t know anything was wrong – but felt it.  Hell, I was just a kid.    I suppose Debbie kinda helped me with that, in the end.

But nothing helped like putting that old Bill Cosby tape on and listening, doubling up with laughter again.  Interspersing it with some Armed Forces radio shows (“Suspense”, “The Shadow”, etc) we’d find ourselves coming back to that long reel-to-reel in the end.  It helped settle some of the violence in me that was struggling to come out, easing my on-coming rage issues (both inside and out), helped keep the depression and that tearing sense of loneliness – one that was growing every day – ever since I’d lost my best friend over there even worse . . .

and I had forgotten how to cry anymore.

I had done that when I was 13 – once.

After that it was all kept bottled inside.  For over forty-five years plus.


It was freezing night, a silver sliver of a moon showing through scattered rents in the racing clouds.  Streetlights threw yellow rays across slushy streets, and stark trees threw spidery silhouettes across the road.  We were walking the deserted streets from dependent’s housing section to the base’s amenities area, my family and I, surrounded by the impersonal military buildings, each with an identifying number, and some by symbols on the signs they wore.  We were on our way to see a movie.

What movie, I can’t recall.  It was on Fleigerhorst, a small military base.  It had it’s own little PX, an old theater, and a cafeteria for enlisted soldiers and people like me: dependents, brought with their father as part of his own army while he served the one we all worked for – in one way or another.  All part of earning a paycheck and doing duty to God, Country, and more . . . a tradition we’d been steeped in since I’d been born.

There wasn’t much to do – no internet, no TV, and only one radio station – but we still found things to do.  I ‘played’ with the G.I.’s, was in Scouts; we met in bunkers, and school dragged on, albeit on a different base.  I commuted on one of those old green shuttle buses, slugging through the crunch snow in the morning, coming back in slush in the afternoon . . . and god forbid you were too late for the last bus. It was a long walk from one base to another, though they had plenty of biking paths.

I had already gotten into trouble once about the theater by going to see “The Yellow Submarine”.  My parents had forbidden it.  They hated the  Beetles, didn’t like rock and roll, and were very conservative.  The only music they listened to was “Mystic Moods” (easy listening) and Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass Band.  I had gotten beaten for going to the movie but I didn’t care.  I’d been beaten so much it didn’t matter.  I was tough, used to them.  It was just another in a long string of ‘spankings’ – all my life.  It seemed normal.  I was used to having my ass pounded.  The trick was hiding it all.  My sense of self. The things I’d done – and was still doing.  And the crimes I’d committed, whatever they were (or were perceived to be) at the time.

But it didn’t matter.  During the “Yellow Submarine” the theater had caught fire.  It was a matinee so the G.I’s weren’t there – they were at work, which is how I managed to get there without my father knowing.  Us kids were sitting there in the semi-darkness when smoke began to billowing out from the bottom corner of the screen, and there were low red flickers behind it.  Us kids shifted restlessly; we were waiting for the movie.  Then a voice came on the PA saying “Stay in your seats! There is no cause for alarm.  The theater is on fire and we have it under control.”

I wasn’t dumb.  I sat there thinking this is a classic nightmare (I’d read enough books to know) – where the theater actually was on fire! – and here all us kids were just calmly sitting eating our popcorn and watching the smoke pour around the screen while the red glow grew brighter.  No panic, no popcorn throwing – just rows of quiet kids watching the scene.  Only in the Army would you see that.  In the civilian world there’d been a riot, people trampling each other as they raced to the doors . . .

But not us.  We were Army kids. We wanted our seventy-five cents worth.  We wouldn’t run until we saw the flames were higher than us.  But . . . true to their word they got the fire put out, we watched the Beetle movie, smelling acrid smoke.  I was happy, but puzzled.  I could not figure out why this movie was forbidden.  It didn’t make sense – the ban, not the cartoon, though the cartoon made little sense either.  However, I came home smelling of smoke and talking about the fire. Bad news: my parents knew what was showing, so I got my beaten and restricted again.  Another few days in my room. (sighing)

But this time it was an ‘approved’ movie.  The whole family was going.

We trudged through the snow and slush to the theater . . . saw some movie . . . and then when we came out I rushed over to the cafeteria and spent some of my own hard earned money for an ice cream.  Walking out to the sidewalk in front of the cafeteria I encountered my dad.  He stood there staring at me.  Then he walked up and with a scornful look snatched the cone from me and dashed it into the trash.

“If you can’t buy enough for everyone you can’t have one,” he said as I looked with horror at the pristine, brand new ice cream planted upside down in the garbage.

And I broke down and cried.

Because here’s the thing:

I had been taught and trained – it had been enforced and beaten into me over and over again: you don’t waste food. Not ever! – not a single crumb.  It’s an issue still for me, big time.  I have a hard time controlling myself when someone wastes food.  Why?

Well, when dad went to Vietnam, or overseas, or TDY, we’d go from thick to thin in a hurry.  Food was . . . hard to come by.  Hunger was an issue.  Money was thin.  I had to work for every dime I had, hauling trash and such.  Why?  Because he would give all his money away! – to missionaries to look good, and whores when he thought they weren’t looking.  With the former he was trying to feed his ego; with the second his selfish self wants – while we went without and he knew it.  Lord knows my mom knew how to complain (and we got the brunt of it, him not being there).  We were not with him.  We were a thousand miles, if not half a world away and more.

Why should he care? Except in a most superficial, distant way . . . the way he often cared for us when he was home – or not ‘disciplining’ us according to his needs . . .

As a result my mom always – always – fought to make ends meat, and barely succeeded. He would fight about her getting more education, fought about it when she had a job.  He wasted money at every turn of a dime.  It go so bad when he was away that sometimes our neighbors would come just to make sure we had food.

Meanwhile dad ate steaks – sometimes in front of us – and ate good.  He never knew a day of hunger and he kept his sweet tooth fed.  Sometimes he would eat steak while the rest of us had plain boiled hotdogs. No buns. Boiled in thin tomato soup, served up on noodles.

And that night that was cold as a freezing moon I ‘felt’ something ‘in me’ change . . . harden a little bit more.