Tag Archive: experiences

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.


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


Home.  “Home is where the heart is,” they say.

But what if you have no heart? What if it’s dead and buried?


“Home is where you are at; wherever you stand.”

That’s I learned moving around so much.  Home is where you hang your hat – whether it be a tent, a house, apartment, or truck.  ‘Home’ is where your stuff is.


It was early winter, 1973.  We’d finally arrived.  ‘Home’.  Back in the Good Ol’ U.S. of A.  Coming down the gangway stair from the jet to terra firma, solid ground, and not the four thousand miles of ocean we’d just covered . . .

As per custom and sworn duty, I got on my knees and kissed the dirty white tarmac, then looked up, wiping sand from my lips and spitting grit out.  My mom and dad scolded me for doing that as they attempted to herd us toward Customs in a low white hanger.  There wasn’t much – just long white stretches of concrete lined by pine forest, burned jet fuel’s acrid stench wrinkling your nostrils; the shrill scream then thunder of the distant jets laboring airborne, burning off precious gallons of fuel in dark swirls and leaving acrid  haze behind them . . .

My brother and I struggled across the open tarmac towards the building with our carry-on bags, our parents in embracing us like brackets.  I was 13; we’d just arrived from Germany, and the future was a big blank – just like the blank white wall in front me with the man-door.  The straggling line weaved towards it,  passengers in bunches and gathers, separated by social graces and grim tired faces – making a rather unsteady beeline for . . .

CUSTOMS” it said in plain black block letters over the door in English on a white sign.  Like everything military in which I’d spent the last three years of my life . . .


Customs were about to change, that was for sure.  My whole world was about to get different. And I knew it.

I had been briefed going in.  We weren’t going to be living in our own house anymore.  That had been sold. Rather, we were going to be living in our next door neighbor’s house – now a rental, and the one . . .

the one . . .

even then my mind had stumbled.  Those last days were a daze in the ‘hood – Mister W gone: dead. Sarge, his trusty sidekick and companion: gone, dead as well.  My entire family, life, and childhood had been upset in a rapid series of transitions.  Things that had gone wrong.  It has been like shock therapy to my mind.  Then the move . . . nearly four years gone . . .

The Hood.

Our car was waiting for us. A family friend – the people who lived across the street from us – had gone to pick it up from Customs.  She squealed her delight and gave me a good hug, Southern style.  She had always been like a second or third ‘mom’, only much more loving and kinder than my own – and also a lot more sympathetic.  Towards everything.

Then:  The Drive . . .

The change in scenery: we had been in winter, here it was like fall. The Southern pines were green and tall, the grass visible, though splotched brown.

Where was the snow?

I was calm, but also upset.  I had had this Dream . . .

The Hood.

The miles rolled under the tires like a tolling bell.  Not many, for the airport off Tobacco Road, not far from our former home.  The sand hills rolled by, decorated in scrub and barrens.  I saw the run down clapboard houses with shingle and metal roofs, a hunkering trailer park, roads lined with trash and weeds . . .

Not at all like the Germany where I’d been twenty-four hours before.

The Hood – the neighborhood I associate with my childhood (between 5 and 10). When I left, it was a single dirt road lined with a few tract houses sheathed in clapboard or siding, or, as with our former house, redwood. Only one had brick, and it was the envy the neighborhood. It was across from ours and belonged to the family which had befriended ours so many years ago.

As we made the turn, our family friend still chatting about the changes ahead, I tried to access what I knew.

Most of my friends (or former friends, anyway) were gone. The army family up the road – friends I had known for years – had followed us overseas, coming to visit us while on duty. They were still gone, would be for another two years. They were the “other Army family” in the ‘hood. The rest were civilian, having lived civilian lives, and would continue to live them for as long as they lived. Others were gone, teens grown up, moved out . . . scattered to the winds.

My best “childhood friend” was gone – they’d moved soon after we’d left.  Their father was dead and I’d heard their mom had gotten a new husband soon after, and they’d went to live somewhere over in South Carolina.  We were going to be living in their house, renting it next door to our old one.   As we pulled in – on a paved road – I could see it.  Gone was the barn where my girlfriend and I had cuddled and kissed after getting ‘married‘ one day. Gone were the relationships. Gone were the ditches where we used to sink in cool sand while water ran in clear sheets around our knees. . .

So the isolation would remain.  The nearest store – a 7/11 – had been built about five miles away. There was a book mobile which would come around about once a month, but it was slim pickings compared to what I was used to – a real library, PX, and a whole lot of freedom.  Gone were the bus and train.  The only ones left – the only ones I played with as a former child – were the kids across the road.

Worst of all:

We were in HIS house – the same house – as the guy who had groomed and sexually abused us kids.  Sure, he was gone . . . but I remembered, him and his little brother,  my former best friend . . . still I didn’t know it was ‘abuse’, but the pain of his final rejection and betrayals still stung, that whole mess  near the end . . .

Gone – but unresolved.  It was still there.  Fresh, like a wound that bleeds that you can’t see.  And it was affecting everything I was, everything I felt, along with everything else I’d experienced.  As it would for years . . . all of it.

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:


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


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 . . .


The Temps


“Back in the U.S.S.R!”  But in my case it was “Back in the U.S. of A!”. For we were going home.  Finally and at last.

We’d moved into the “Temps” on the 5th floor of the German military (U.S. occupied) apartments that had been build for the German military back in “the War”.  These were a long string of single rooms, connected by a long hallway.  There were eight rooms on each side, each with it’s own door, and there were no doors on the end of the hallway.  They just ended there in the stairwell.  So while you were living there you were subject to have people walking through the ‘apartment’ that you lived in – whether you were taking a bath, cooking on a stove (in a separate kitchen, of course) – whatever you do.  Fortunately visitors – wanderers, actually – were rare.  Usually you’d just have a gang of kids pursuing one another – taking the forbidden fifth floor route instead of the one in the basement to cut from one long section of armored apartments to another.  We spent some time there – about one or two months, I reckon – living with those walls that sloped up (because you were near the roof) and with the dormer windows.

Gone were the apartments we had lived in below, with their long bay windows in the living room and balcony.  Man!  What can I say: those German soldiers lived nice compared to what I was used to.  And the walls – almost three foot thick, both to keep out the cold and exploding bombshells.  Everywhere: military. Everything green. O.D. was the color of my blood – or part of it.

The rest ran true red white and blue, though I had come to distrust some of the government.  I’d seen too much of it.  I’d lived under the burdens of this world.  I was looking forward to going back to the home of my childhood – if it still stood.

I’d had nightmares all my life, but I’d started to be plagued by this one.  In it I had gone back to the neighborhood, but everything had changed.  Everyone had changed in it; gone were some of the houses, and everyone would be looking at me strange.  As if I was an alien or Martian.  From another world.  Because it was another world, that rural world in Georgia, and this one . . . this all so foreign (and yet wonderfully strange; I wasn’t afraid to explore: I wanted to).  And the Army thing.

But I was ready to go. Gone past ready. It had to be November . . . that’s when dad always got his main orders (there were plenty of TDY’s, too.  And trips in the field.)  And this time we all were to go back home.

As I lay in my room staring at that sloped ceiling (when I wasn’t wandering the base, now stuck on foot, since almost everything we owned was packed up.  Luckily we were on a small one.  It was used to conduct spy missions on and over the border using Mohawks – planes like this one:

Mohawk w Electronics Pkg

They were used to spy on enemy and stuff.  I used to look at the photos some in the hangers.  There was a lot of neat stuff, but not my school.  THAT was over on/near Old Argonner, a base we used to live.  It was in Hanau, Germany, not real far (I think) from Stuttgart.  We wandered all over the place. Sometimes with the G.I.’s, sometimes in groups, sometimes with tours, often with our parents – or just alone.

We had spent a lot of time in the woods.  And in the bunkers doing military stuff.

but this last year had not been good.  First there’d been the fall of one good friend after another – falling away like leaves in the wind; there one day and gone in the next, until I was alone.  Nothing but new kids to play with; kids I didn’t wanna know.  I’d had enough. I was going home.  My last girlfriend has left 3 months ago.

I was ready, more than ready, to move on.

I’d had it with love and stuff.  I hurt inside.  I’d read a lot of grownup stuff.  I’d cruised the books in the libraries and read about everything I could get my hands on.  The administrators who gave tests all said I’d done really good, with a promising outlook.  One even called me a “lazy genius”.  I read and comprehended on a junior college level, and I wrote almost as well as I read, but I sucked in math.

I played the tuba and did art, but this year had been tough.  This year things were short – you won’t be there long enough’ – and they pulled me out some.  Early, it seems.  My heart wasn’t in it.

My heart wasn’t in anything anymore.

I felt burnt out.

And I lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling and wondered, had my doubts.

Everything is about to change which I’m afraid of, but I can’t stand this death I’m in.

The snow’s started.  It’s looking gray outside.  Inside I feel . . . cool.  Waiting and ready and nervous, and listening to the voices down the hall and staring at my room, with its blood red four square tiles, separated by mortar joints.

We’ll be outta here soon.

I hope and pray.

I look around at the bare room.

Its like my life.  Barren and empty except me.

Barren and empty like me.


A Pause for Station Identification

We’ve taken a long pause on this, our blog of our childhood – and beyond. Perhaps this become another’s story; perhaps it is our own – though I know in reality they are intertwined, for ‘I’ am DID and there’s a lot in my life I don’t understand.

This is about “13”, our alter, who more or less took over from the time we left Germany until we came back to the USA – and beyond.  It wasn’t supposed to be that way it appears . . .

This is where “we’ve” been stuck, and is part of the reason for this blog: to work our alters out of our woodwork; to understand our own life, its arc and path – ‘who’ became ‘what’, the reasons why . . .

And that’s why ‘we’ have been stuck for such a long time. We’d sit down to work on this blog – and draw a blank on emotions, memories sometimes. Oh some of them would be there, like glimpses through a fog – snapshots only.

But a few weeks ago we started experiencing a disturbing emotion . . . and it turned out to be “13” – the key to moving on.

So we’re going over what we’ve wrote over the past week . . . documenting 13’s journey, and the steps we – he – ‘they’ took . . .

In many ways this is another alter’s story; not my own, not “Mikie’s”, nor the alter ‘he’ sprang from – an entirely different viewpoint, way of looking at the world . . .

for ’13’ was born when we were 13, and had only a few months left ‘in-country’ before we would go over the the “Good Ol’ U.S. of A.” which we had left a few years earlier.  Change was in the air; our best friend was gone, our girlfriend was fast becoming a thing of history, clouds were on the near horizon – gray ones, whirling and thick in my mind . .


I am 13 and I was born over in Germany but I was fairly prepared.  Gone were a lot of the emotions and outlooks I’d had.  I’d read many books and seen a lot of things, but sex with a girl was on my mind – not that I’d had any, tho’ I’d come close with a cousin once, and then with another girl.

I’d had sex over here but it didn’t take – friends were a thing of the past. I was way more into science and writing and stuff.  I played in the band.  I’d learned not to make friends.

I had learned racism over here, due to a few incidents with some blacks. That’s okay. I’ve very nearly gotten over it, but statistics don’t lie, and the black mobs over there were cruel. Unruly. And ran around in mobs.

That reminds me; I’m supposed to write about dealing with racism over here. (germany – host entry – he’s still a bit lost over ‘here’ in the real world)

Not that that has anything to do with this story. Racism plays a part in my life, but just a little one. We didn’t know nuthin’ as a kid about racism. All were the same in my little kid’s mind. ‘We’ learned better later on.

My host is reminding me it’s time to go on. “How should I write this” he is saying.  Should I do it from first person viewpoint or ‘yours’ (his).  I should be writing a question to my (intended) audience.  I could do it like stories like my Boss wants me, or just cut to the chase. I don’t want to do it either way.

But (sighing) I suppose I should fill in the racism blank. And a few other things over there.  But it was hard.

(Bosses Viewpoint):

Okay here I gotta step in (teen attending).  13 is a highly intelligent kid; apart somewhat from “the system”, although very important.  We’d always kind of ignored him – ‘he’ was like an engine running in the background, quiet, but doing his job . . .

then he began to ‘choke’ a bit last week.  Funny how what you took for granted can suddenly misbehave.  But that’s good. We’re gonna get some work done on this blog.

He’s all alone in his own way.  “We” had stripped him/it from certain aspects of ‘his’ personality.  He read.  He was well traveled.  He’d seen Berlin, Spain, whatnot . . . and plowed through every book he could get his hands on.  Fluent in English, he had gained a junior college vocabulary and reading comprehension skill level – he was tested for that – and wrote quite a bit (mostly poems).  And he was shy – painfully so. But at the same time big, quite strong, a bit flabby in the middle, but close mouthed and HARD.  He’d lie to you in a heartbeat, smoke a cigarette in the restroom – give a blowjob there – and go on to steal tank parts (or the bullets that go in them) at night.

He knew about nuclear bombs and nuclear missiles; about girls and boys – knew enough about the biology to make a woman happy; the seven erogenous zones (on a woman, anyway) – knew how to drink and hold it, used his bike like a car; was at home in a German atmosphere as the home one, tho’ sometimes ‘he’ would retreat inside while the child was being punished, sparing himself some pain . . .

He’d read “Everything a Boy Needs to Know About Sex” – and the girls version, too – just to be safe.  He’d seen a dog jacked off; done it on his own as his abuser had taught him to do, had loved and lost and loved again – and had lost

until he’d sworn off of it.

“Never again,” he was saying in the back of his mind. “No more pain.”

But ‘he’ didn’t know that, not yet . . .

that still laid ahead in his future . . .

and he was a pretty tough kid.


War Games: The European Theater

“They’re over there,” we said, squatting around the small campfire the G.I.’s had built to warm themselves and their rations. The woods were gray with snow, and the sky overcast. Tanks and APC’s (armored personnel carriers) sat around grumbling. Us kids eagerly spooned up pink slabs of greasy meat and yellow morsels of pound cake from the ubiquitous green C-ration cans, our bicycles parked in the brush at one side. Our ages ranged from twelve to an over-the-hill fourteen.

“What’d you see?” an officer asked, generously offering more C-rat cans. Most of the food we was older than us – you could tell by the packing date – but it was there, and we were more than willing to be bribed. The G.I.’s ate the same fair, though not with as much interest and gusto as us military kids. I reckon that comes with eating the same thing morning, noon and night for weeks. We’d be going home to our warm suppers and beds that night; they wouldn’t.

“There were about three tanks,” I lied, pointing to a thick tree line on the opposite side of the long field. “And a couple of those – .” I pointed at the APC’s. “With about thirty guys eating lunch.”

The officer’s eyebrows arched with interest as he turned, contemplating the far line. The G.I.’s had been separated into opposing groups, both given tanks and guns to ‘fight’ with. And us kids – dissemblers of misinformation, sometimes mixing a bit of reality with imaginative spice, were regarded as a source of military intelligence. How little they knew we often had a devious plan, and were playing a game within the game.

We weren’t the innocent young boys we pretended to be. We had wandered the woods extensively, passing through enemy and friendly lines with impunity. Such was the life of an overseas Army brat – mixing with the G.I.’s on maneuvers, and generally spreading chaos among the groups of training troops. It was what we called “entertaining ourselves” and it was a game we loved. Making plans in the woods or while listening to officers, we would go from camp to camp, spreading intentionally twisted versions of the truth, or the truth on a silver platter. We often attempted to mix up both sides, sending them charging in the wrong direction, or sometimes pitting one under-classed outfit against a well-armed ‘foe’. Sometimes it we succeeded. Sometimes we did not. Sometimes we just didn’t know if the results were just a typical military screwup, or the results of our disinformation to our foe. But we played a game within the game, entertaining ourselves, and playing with our “friends”. Everyone knew we weren’t supposed to be there, ourselves included. The regulation was something like “Dependents WILL NOT fraternize with Troops in the Field” and if you found yourself in a zone where the troops were training, you were supposed to get out. But us kids sought them out, relishing the sight of tanks and guns, rubbing shoulders with the troops in the field, and most of all, doing something we wanted to do – knew to do. And that was to train for war.

It wasn’t uncommon to be riding through the woods and come across G.I.’s infiltrating an area. You’d see their helmets and rifles moving through the brush, their packs bobbing across the landscape. And us being American kids, the G.I.’s often welcomed us into their camps, sharing their food and sometimes giving us a tour or ride in their vehicles in exchange for some conversation. They always seemed interested in what we knew about “the other side” – and we hoped that by controlling the information, we could control their direction, giving them unexpected results. The officers especially seemed interested in what we had to say, since this spared them (and their troops) the effort of collecting the information themselves. And what can I say? It was fun “playing” spy-counterspy with the soldiers .

I remember us kids sitting on our bicycles at the edge of a field. There was the rumbling of tanks to the left, rumbling to the right. There had been opposing companies parked on each side; we had run back and forth, telling each one where the other was. From the way they had talked and had acted surprised, neither knew of the other’s existence. In what we hoped was a stroke of luck or our own devious design, both sides had decided to attack the other’s position. I had enjoyed watching all the soldiers rushing towards their machines, climbing the tanks and starting them up. That’s when we had left.

The tanks to the left burst with a clanking roar from the woods, spraying leaves and crushing bushes on each side. A moment later another row of tanks burst from the other side. Sharing thrilled grins, we watched the huge metal dinosaurs lumbered towards each other, shaking the ground beneath our feet. Suddenly a tank on the right lurched to a stop, smoke billowing from its engine vents. The other tanks kept on coming. A second and a third tank lumbered to a stop – one throwing a tread, it’s sprockets spinning uselessly. Another began spouting thick smoke from its exhaust. I was amazed at how many of the mechanical beasts simply broke down under the effort. Some, I’m sure, were intentional – surely their operators had been informed that they were “dead” and had turned on their smoke generators to signify the fact. But others – ones such as the one with the thrown track – were pure mechanical breakdown.

The tanks roared past each other, turrets swiveling like long snouts, then continued on, attacking each others position. Men began yelling in the far woods; there was the rapid snap “ratatatat” of small arms and the bang!-bang!-bang! of heavy weapons – .30 caliber and .50 cows kicking in. Us kids, satisfied by the mayhem, watched as a couple tank crews emerged and wrestling with their hoods, began working on and cursing their machines. One stood by his tank’s side and futility kicked its sprocket, spouting curses, then taking a piss. Mounting our bikes once again, we faded into the woods, knowing our job was done. We had once more fouled up someone’s battle plan. Now it was time to look for some more victims – and some more fun.

A World Unto Itself

A World Unto Itself

Living on a military base in Cold War Germany in the late ’60’s and start of the 1970’s was weird for a child raised in civilian ways. For despite having been born an Army brat, we had almost always lived among civilians, in a civilian neighborhood, with civilian friends. I guess that was my parent’s attempt at giving us kids a “sense of normality”. But that was in the U.S.A. In Germany we had no choice – we had to live on a military base. And living on a military base in a foreign land is an experience unto itself – even if you never leave the base. For it is a world unto itself, and it is ruled by an iron hand. And that hand is the base commander (the C.O., or commanding officer). He comes first, the military second, and though it is his responsibility to pass on the military’s rules, he can make exceptions. Usually those exceptions come in the form of more rules (directives, they are called) – ones specific to the base he commands. Next comes “country” (the U.S.A.), then, perhaps if there is room for it, religion.

For us kids you could add even another layer: our parents. Those fit somewhere between “duty to country” and God. They could not supersede the military’s commands, nor could they buck the base commander. They, like you, were expected to follow the rules handed down by the military. You always came second . . . or third . . . or fourth, depending upon your position. And for us kids, the position was very far down on the totem pole. You had this sense of a structure towering over you, the hand of god (which for us was the military, and not the true hand of God) – poised to strike at the least infraction. But, of course, we often broke the rules anyway.

Living on an Army base in Germany . . . especially the smaller ones – how to describe this thing to those who have never lived on one overseas?

Imagine a world built of Army trucks and tanks, marching G.I.’s singing randy slogans. We lived in the buildings the Germans had built for their own military back during WWII – quite literally occupying the homes of our enemies (though they weren’t our enemies anymore – for the most part). You couldn’t just plug in your nifty American appliance – you had to get a bulky transformer, or else you would fry your toy, because the electricity came from the German grid. Therefore, these transformers were considered precious – as precious as a refrigerator or vacuum cleaner, and almost as hard to find. Amenities were few, and often small. The only shopping for American goods was at the PX (Post Exchange) – which in many cases was a small building offering only a limited variety of goods, most of which were for the G.I.’s (such as uniforms, boots, insignia and such). Grocery shopping was done at the commissary, though we often visited the German markets (held in the town’s center squares) for fresh fruit and bread sometimes. Eggs were at a premium. Ditto steak, American bread, milk in those green cartons, and a hundred other things. For big items you had to drive for hours to another base, going to the AFEES center. Often you would be allowed to look at a “display sample” – to actually get the thing you had to order it – and like all mail orders in Germany at the time, it would take at least twelve weeks to get there, sometimes longer. You might not even be at the same base by the time it came in.

Entertainment was extremely limited. There were small libraries (just a few rows of books) – and the base theater. Almost every base had one. And even that was strange – or it would be to a civilian. For these were military theaters, and like everything military, there were procedures to be followed, rules to obey – and you didn’t dare disobey any of them. That would result in immediate ejection from the theater – and perhaps disciplinary action against your father. (This being the early 1970’s, not too many mothers were among the enlisted – though they – and we – had to follow the same rules as the enlisted.)

In a military theater it always started the same way. Everyone would sit down – quietly. Talking and discussion – laughter or fidgeting around – would earn you stern frowns from those around you. You waited for the movie to begin. And then it would start – and always in the same way. (The proper – and best way – in my opinion.) For it would open with the National Anthem, the flag and scenes from America on the screen.

And everybody – and I mean EVERYBODY – would have to stand up. If you were in uniform, you saluted that screen. If not: hand over the heart, standing at strict attention. No looking around. No conversation. Just gestures of pure respect towards the images on the screen. And woe unto the person who decided to remain seated. This was a command directive – not just by the C.O., but by the Army. “Everyone will stand – and remain standing – during the playing of the National Anthem.” No exceptions allowed. You WOULD place your hand over your heart. You WOULD stare at the screen. You would NOT shift around uncomfortably. You did NOT chew popcorn while it was playing. I always thought this was a wonderful thing, and still support the notion. After all: I’m proud to be an American, even if we do come up with some f****’d up policies sometimes. And I’m proud that as an American, I can say that. There are some countries where that would get you jailed, maybe even killed.

Such was (and is) the power of a base’s Commanding Officer that I remember one movie – a “premier” (though the movie had been out in the United States for well over a year) – where the CO was expected to show. He was late. Such was the respect (and fear) of the CO that they held off showing the movie for almost a half hour, waiting for him to get there. There were no open complaints made by the members of the audience; we all sat there, frozen in our seats, waiting for him to get in. The harshest thing I heard anyone say was “I hope he gets here soon.” Nothing else.

I’ve said that these military bases were worlds unto themselves. This was true. We dependents (kids and wives) felt free to mix with the G.I.’s – even when they were at work sometimes. I remember wandering into the hangers (my dad worked on aviation electronics – the “spy” stuff) – looking at the Cobras, UH-1’s, and Mohawks (a “spy” plane). Cruising out onto the tarmac to feel the rotor wash of a helicopter taking off – close and personal. G.I.’s would greet you like an old friend – even if you didn’t know them. After all: we were all bound together by a common thing – the military, our country of origin, our sense of “us” versus “them” – those who lived outside the base. There was always an acute awareness of our presence there among ourselves – that somehow we were just there temporarily, to do a job — and yet bound by ties thicker than blood. And the job of us kids was to obey.

That world ended at the fence — the eternal fence. (The military is fond of fences.) Beyond lay “Krautland”, within lay our world – the “American normalcy” – or the closest thing the Army could bring to it. We would gaze through the wire like tourists on a ship – the world ended there, right at the wire. Beyond – beyond lay another world, one strange and wonderful and full of pitfalls and traps. The gates that guarded our world were always eerily similar – you would know one if you drove by. Even if you didn’t know where you were at or if there was an American base there – you just knew. There would be a single guard hut planted in the middle of a road – red and white striped iron drop bars blocking the way in. A soldier – an “MP”, actually – standing at attention on the “in” side of the gate. An American flag set on a short pole on or near the shack. The fence stretching away on either side of the road opening, blocking all other ways in. There were times when touring through Europe when we’d see such a thing, and we knew: there lays “home” – or at least as much “home” as we’d ever be able to find here. A place of refuge if we needed one; a place we could run to if in trouble. The hell with the American consulate – that was way too far off. If there was trouble, we’d be running to the American base – into the open arms of the Army, for the Army had become our home. You might get into trouble when you got there – but at least it would be familiar trouble spoken in words you could understand. You may have committed “infractions” – but those infractions would be dealt with in an orderly military fashion, a military way. Outside the gate was chaos – or at least a system we couldn’t understand. Our unfamiliarity with foreign law, foreign ways made their system seem that way to us, even though we knew on an instinctive basis the Germans had to have a system. They had a system for everything.

This weirdness of living on a military base – separated from the world by a thin narrow fence, inhabiting a world of the Army’s making – was to become a factor in our lives. A familiar factor for many, I know, for some of you have done that – lived on a base overseas in the mid-60’s, the early 70’s – and you know what it is like. The rush to the PX when there is a rumor of a new shipment of a “new” thing arriving; the long lines there to purchase it (if there are any left) when you get there. The preference the military gives to their military men over the dependents (for dependents always come second – or third – in the military’s mind — which in my opinion is the way it should be). The anxious waiting for a new movie to appear in the theater; the sound of choppers thundering overhead. (I still find myself rushing outside when I hear that distinctive “thump-thump” of military choppers going by.) The smell of O.D. (olive drab) canvas – such a familiar smell that whenever I smell it (and I love it) – it smells like going home. The sound of a hundred booted feet striking the pavement as one; the chorus of voices in the morning as the G.I.’s march off to work . . . or somewhere. I love these things (cut me and I bleed OD green like a Navy officer bleeds blue) – and to me they are some of the most precious memories of all.

Military bases. Overseas. Worlds unto themselves. Places of their own. Separating you from the outside world and creating a world within – neither one ‘normal’ but a mixture of both. A bit of home away from home, and yet not home at all . . . a feeling of impermanence, of being in transit all the time – not where you are from nor where you are going, but stuck – for years! – somewhere inbetween . . .

Hot Stuff

Hot Stuff

Popcorn Parties

When I was a little kid living in the ‘Hood we used to have some fun. Sometimes in the evening a show would come on, and my parents, like many folks of the day, used to make popcorn.

Now this was in the day before microwave popcorn, and the only “air popped” popcorn you got might have been at the show. (And those were rarer than hen’s teeth, they were – sometimes we’d go to an outdoor drive-in show – somewhere out on the South side of Augusta . . . but that’s getting into another story, so let’s move on).

They’d break out the old electric skillet – a big one, with a huge squared domed lid. The lid had a little vent you could close – a star-shaped thing with a little tab sticking up – nothing you’d want to touch while the darned thing was cooking unless you wanted to get burned.

Now this old skillet – big and silver, with that silver hood – had an equally big thermostat “thingie” on it – a big black thing made out of bakelite, with a round silver knob mounted on it. That was where the temperature was supposed to go, but cooking with it – especially in it’s later years when all the numbers had worn off – was more a measure of trial and error than accurately making an adjustment to the thing. The thing also had a long cord (black, as I remember, rubbery item, too!) – and a big sinister looking ‘probe’ that stuck out of it – which you were supposed to stick into the skillet. It had a little boxed opening for it, too.

Now we’d set that old skillet up on the counter – my mom and dad would put the oil in; then waiting for a few minutes as us kids looked on (we were too small for this thing – or so we were told. But we were growing! Every day. I often had ‘growing pains’ in my legs.) After the oil would get hot enough (they’d test it by throwing a few kernels in) – my parents would get down to cooking. Mostly my mother, but my father got into this thing sometimes. Shaking that ol’ skillet back and forth on the counter – it’s a wonder we didn’t wear holes into the thing! – for you’d be scooting it back and forth (as rapidly as you can) listening to those kernels to stop popping . . . never knowing when it was the right time to end.

And the smell and steam of popcorn would fill the house; there’d be butter on the stove – melting with golden intensity – and we’d all be smiling all around with anticipation over this thing . . .

And then! The lid would come off and the house would fill with this smell – growing more intense as time went on – and there’d always be the odd kernel popping, throwing popcorn everywhere. And us kids would go scrambling around, snatching the still hot kernels – trying to grab them in the air.

Then my mom would put the popcorn in a bowl and there’d be plenty to go around. She’d dribble on the butter; shaking the salt – we’d all go into the living room and watch TV, the lights way down low.

It was a good thing.

Then one day it happened.

I was allowed to cook the corn this time.

I had been arguing and advocating that the time had come – that I was big enough to do this thing. I’m reckoning I was about eight years old; I don’t know for certain. It might have happened when I was ten. Either way it was in the Oklahoma Hills region; that much I know for certain!

My parents had set it up for popcorn the way they always did – high up on the counter, in the corner of the kitchen. I had to reach up to hold this thing.

Because, you see, you had to hold the lid on. As the popcorn was popping you’d be sliding it around by the “thing” (the black ‘handle’ or electrode looking ‘thingie’) – and holding onto the little black bakelite knob on the top to keep the lid from sliding off. The lid barely fit down in this thing – about like your standard pot lid – just a quarter of an inch; maybe even less.

So there we are, sliding this thing all around – and you’ve got to move it rather quickly, or else the popcorn will burn. I’m busily (and quite happily!) – sliding this thing around, listening to the popcorn pop, wondering when it will be done – and if I’ve waited too long already or not, but depending on my mom and pop to tell me when this thing is done . . . when it happens.

I am shaking-shaking-shaking the skillet and when the skillet moves – I lower my arm (the left one, the one holding the lid on) – and the corner of the skillet lid’s dome touches the skin just below my elbow, on the inside. Yeah: the tender meat; not the tougher skin.

Instantly my arm flares with pain! I scream – the lid goes flying, popcorn going everywhere – I’m all upset at this thing . . .

and I look at my arm and a big red blister is forming – a huge one this time, not a little one like the other burns I’ve had . . .

and my parents immediately take me to the Fort Gordon hospital emergency room – which at this time is a little like a cordoned off barracks area, connected by a series of long hallways to another one (this one for miles) that led to some rooms and the wards . . .

Where the doctor tells me (and my parents) that I’m gonna have to leave this blister alone. They put some compresses and bandages on me . . .

And I thought I was going to be scarred for the rest of my life.

That blister held on for a few days – and then it gave in. Then it became encrusted; then it turned into a sore. That held on for a little while, and then the scar set in.

It was a round great big old red one – one about the size of a silver dollar I suppose. I kept it on my arm for a long, long time. I haven’t noticed if it shows up anymore (I’ve noticed my booster shot scar doesn’t) – it seems to have gone away by the time I was – oh, seventeen or so? I kept it on my arm for a long, long time.

Funny thing is: the skillet lasted longer than that scar did. It might even still be in the barn. And I’d be willing to bet: wherever that ol’ silver devil has gone to (it did quite a good job!) – it’s still burning, still working . . .

and if I was using it?

I’d be careful about my arm.

Hot Tea & Me

You’d think by that title that I’d be writing about getting burned by some tea – but you’d be half-wrong. In a way I did – and in a way I did not.

My mom used to make tea in a little teapot of hers. It was white and it was ceramic, and it had plain fluted curves – an attractive thing to me at the time. She’d boil some water (not in that pot; in the regular kind) – and then putting some teabags in this pot, she’d pour the water and put the lid on.

Well curious me, I’ve got this tale to tell. One that didn’t turn out so badly – because I learned something this time.

I had always watched her making tea – the delicate aroma filling the air – and I always wanted some, but whenever I tasted it (talking about the hot kind here: pure and unsweetened; unsavory to a child) – I didn’t want none. But that was okay with me. I was more interested in something else that was going on.

I’d noticed one day that her teapot had a spout – and from this spout steam would come. Now I’d used a vaporizer before; I knew a little about steam. However this one intrigued me. If the tea she made tasted so good (and it did when it was sweetened) – then how would steam be? It seemed to me (I can remember looking at this pot so clearly – it was sitting right there next to the edge of the counter.) Silver snakes of steam coiled from the spout – not many, not so hot looking . . .

And looking at it I could see it had a little hole in the lid which would let the air in – which meant I wouldn’t be sucking up hot tea or nothing . . . and the steam wouldn’t be that warm . . .

so pressing my lips to the warm spout (I was just standing there; it tells you how high I was; my chin was just above the counter) – I sucked in on this thing.

And for a second I was right. The steam was just warm.

And then the hot tea entered my mouth

and I was screaming and spitting.

For little did I know (poor little one!) – that the tea had been poured until it was higher than the bottom of the spout – it was that graceful curve which had done me in (betraying me!) – for it functioned more as a straw than a vent – so when I thought I was just sucking some steam in, I was getting a dose of the real thing –

a boiling hot mouth of tea.

They took me to the hospital again (gee – that hospital – that was a world of it’s own! And I imagine they might have gotten used to seeing me there . . . but Army doctors on rotation; you never know.)

The doctor applied some ice – and more ice when I got home – and I couldn’t keep enough ice in my mouth all night long, and it hurt all the next day.

I had blisters on the roof of my mouth and my tongue. I reckon I eventually got around to eating, though.

Because I’m still around today. 🙂

The Wheels on the Bus
Go ‘Round and ‘Round

The school bus was rattling down the dirt road, setting all us kid’s teeth ajar. We each hung onto the top of the seat in front, trying to balance our thin books and paperbag lunches in our lap. The accordion pleated road, each bump – I swear, each piece of gravel transmitting its message through the wheels, the frame – and eventually pounding it into each and every one of our collective little butts. Except the fat girl. Her’s were amply plated by thick thighs, and even thicker abdomen, and a butt twice as large as any of our collective own.

Us boys sat on the left side – beneath the wide eye of the driver’s mirror, where she could keep an eye on us unruly children. (You know us boys – always sneaking frogs in, lizards, and toads – and something else sometimes.) The girls – all prim and proper in their various printed frocks and dresses – most of them poor, or in various degrees of becoming poor, or desperately trying to climb out of the poverty they were in. But we all wore clean clothes – or at least most of them; us boys would have our clothes dirty by ten a.m. from recess playing in the rough clay field that passed for a playground there, at the school we were going to. There was no equipment there – the area was too old, the school too new, and this was in the Deep Southern South to boot (meaning the state of Georgia, the USA).

We rode on that bus from hell . . . well, it really wasn’t from hell, but we were a bullied crowd. For awhile there we had a teenage kid acting as “bus monitor” – until I took a swing off her tits going out the door – just reaching up and spontaneously grabbing this young thing’s – this young bitchiest bitch I ever knew (as a young kid, excluding my own mom) – pendulous breasts and whoo-hee! – swinging my young ass (I was only about eight years old) – out the front folding door. She chased me down, knocked me to the ground, and told me not to do it anymore. Seeing as her fist was cocked back to knock my block back to the house I had come from, I hastily agreed (but I was still laughing) – then I scrambled off and ran home, torn between laughing at her and my fear. But after that she left me alone, and I, her.

This time as we were riding the bus – Mark had yet to get on. I was looking forward to seeing him – that’s all I ever did was see him; never got to associate with him, know him in any other way than his name, his way of getting on (with a beaming white smile and crinkles around his eyes – and a pug nose – and wider cheekbones than most, angular somewhat towards the tops; round – curly brown-blond hair – and blue-green or true green eyes). I know because I fell in love with him – a ‘love at first sight’ kind of thing. Perhaps I was sensing a soul mate – it’s happened sometimes. There was only one other from that time . . . a guy called Leo – but that was at a different school, when I was in North Carolina . . .

and the road is wet and muddy, softening the bumps somehow – splashing through the mud puddles, and sinking in the ripples in the wet clay and sand covering the road . . .

and I can kinda see from my position in the seat – leaning in a bit in the aisle, looking right out of the middle of the windshield – there is this black car coming down the road. Now we’re on this hill – not steep; just a gentle grade – but the bus is struggling through the mud, and so is the car. They look like they’re going to meet for a minute – the car fishtailing back and forth, slewing through the mud (the driver obviously had his brakes on: locked and sliding). Then the car mysteriously (and miraculously) slides around us on the left side – while the bus is rocking over to the right.

And it keeps on rocking over – going over, leaning more and more . . . until we are on our side, sliding down the ditch as well as down the road . . .

and all the boys are screaming like a bunch of little girls – not about the accident, but the fact that we’re being thrown into the girl’s side! THAT is forbidden territory – much forbidden both by the driver and our own little boy’s moral code. You don’t associate with girls, or at least not very much. And definitely not on the bus. That was a “Do Not Touch” kind of situation – one instituted by the Driver and strictly enforced by her friend, the overly endowed (and thick framed, come to think about it) teenager who rode on the “hood” of the engine in the bus while we were moving, keeping an eye on all of us. (Yeah – it was that strict back in those days – some of the time. Sometimes it seemed not so much.)

So there we are – canted off-level in the ditch, the windows bleeding mud on the girls side – us boy’s braced as best we could – arms and legs repelling those seats of theirs – lunchs scattered everywhere. Imagine a wet paper bag and peanut butter kind of approach – mixed in with sour milk odor of a bunch of damp kids on a school bus in the mud . . .

Photo Credit: JOSH DOHERTY

So we’re sitting in there hanging on and the teacher / driver (because she was a little bit of both that morning) told us:

“Boys! Relax. Help is coming. You can sit with the girls.”

There were shrieks of protest (as well as some giggles) coming from both sides. And no, we were not completely innocent in that respect. I think I was one of the ones who giggled – then eased my way in.

But there sat Dee. – the fat kid. The fattest girl in the ‘hood. The one us kids tormented mercilessly – kids can be so cruel. I only know of one kid who was really kind to her, and that was later, when I left. He lived right across the street from her – grew up with her in some ways, though he was an Army kid like I and often left the ‘hood for some years at a time. But he grew up with her, told me about her life some. And we knew, us kids in the hood: we tormented her BAD. I’m really kinda sorry we did that – but she was fat. And you know how it can be with a kid. She stood out – really. No one really ‘hurt’ her so much as talk behind her back kind of thing – I mean, we were friendly enough, and would play – but for the most part? Ignored. But hers was not to be a happy childhood; not at all, I from what I heard. She had a really tough time. But then again . . . all us kids of the ‘hood pretty much have had some really hard times at times. But that’s life, I suppose.

So there we are: all us kids guessing, wondering, gathering our lunches and belongings up – and here comes some adult to open the emergency exit up. You couldn’t get out the front – the door was jambed in the mud – so we were going to have to go out the back . . .

Us kids were all excited – and a bit leery of the thing. The door swung open after they had struggled with it for a few moments; I guess the bus’s long box had a twist, jamming it – and then it fell against the back of the bus with a big bang! We eyed the wide opening as some officer stuck his head in. You could see the black car a ways down the road, its nose stuck in the mud in the ditch on the opposite side of the road. The driver was one of the men helping.

Going one-by-one, they ‘escorted’ us off the big bus. Us kids were afraid of jumping – it was a long way down, counting the side of the bus and the big ditch it was in. The ditch dropped in a “U” beneath it, making it an even further drop that it would have been had the bus simply rolled upon its side. So the men were taking us, one on each arm, and lifting us from the squared off doorway as we would stick our heads out. It sometimes took a little encouraging – from both ahead and behind – to get some kids to take that giant leap of faith and jump from the bus, but for the most part the evacuation went smoothly.

Then they came to Dee. Us kids – gathered some distance away – were whispering among ourselves, wondering if she was going to make it; if those men were strong enough to hold her, keep from dropping her in the mud.

“The door’s not wide enough,” I heard some of the kids speculating as Dee slowly made her way from the front of the bus towards the back, escorted by the driver and her aid. You could almost see the bus swaying from her weight – or at least we could, in the imaginations of several young minds . . .

and then came the moment when Dee stood – ponderous in some ways, in some ways not. Her legs, while fat, ended in trim little ankles, her hands? Small and delicate with thin, mobile wrists, and she always dressed good. She practically filled the whole doorway – then we realized: she was holding out her arms. The men grip each, each with two hands – and slowly lifted her from the back of the bus. Her frilly dress was spared the indignation of the mud as they lifted her clear and delicately deposited her on the less muddy section of the road like some landing butterfly. There she stood, beaming and smiling as us kids stood around slack-jawed at staring at . . . everything. The wrecked bus; the mud, the unfamiliar neighborhood; the man, the men, Dee standing in the mud – ourselves, standing in the mud (some of us by now up to our arms in it from playing so much) – when the bus came – the second one –

and we were kind of hesitant to get on (naturally, given what had occurred) – but we did – single file and things, lunches held tightly (at least for those who had them anymore), shoes soaked and feet cold (the water had seeped in) – another driver, and not one we knew (so everyone was more than hush-hushed and quiet – given what we had all witnessed and went through) . . .

and on to school we went.

Boys on the right side, girls on the left . . .

but somehow it was never the same. After that it seemed the girls were cutting their eyes to us a bit much more – and us to them – and you might just catch us all chatting while sitting on the corner, waiting for the bus to come (and throwing Spanish arrows at each other – some of nature’s darts).

Some things never change . . . and some never remain the same.

Riding the school bus was one of them1.