I don’t recall learning how to read. Mom says Darrel taught me, and that it redeemed me in his eyes. I hadn’t shown signs of any real athletic ability (had I been a more coordinated kid, I might’ve been able to get that fucking duck out of that fucking trash can), and Mom says he’d pretty much written me off. But I took to reading like a duck to a june bug, and that “brilliance” (her words, not mine – I tell myself I’m brilliant all the time, but only do so publicly when intoxicated) made him proud to acknowledge I was his.
My reading skills got me some attention at school, but not until I’d been introduced to public humiliation. On the very first day of first grade at Orvis Risner Elementary School in Edmond I got my palm slapped with a ruler by Mrs. Collins, my teacher. I was fascinated by the pencil sharpener attached to the wall, so I kept using my little left-handed scissors to cut off the sharpened lead, giving me another opportunity to use the intriguing gizmo (I keep hearing “Born to Be Wild” in my head). One of my classmates pointed out my curious atrocity to Mrs. Collins, and she whacked me. She’s dead now, though. That’ll learn ‘er.
The first attention of the non-pointing-and-snickering variety came some time later, as we sat in a circle and read some sort of “Dick and Jane” shit. As I equated fast with good (we only learn later in life that that ain’t necessarily so), I probably sounded like a pint-sized auctioneer, zipping through the tales of the (I think) siblings and their dog “Rex” or “Spot” or something.
The very first real book I read was Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” I was about eight. That was one bitch of a read for an eight-year-old. It’s a bitch of a read for most grown-ups, what with the Victorian style of verbiage and the what-not. I was immensely pissed off that I had to read two-thirds of the damned thing before the fucking monster was brought to life! I liked monsters.
I don’t recall the first thing I wrote, but it was probably about monsters. I’d write little sketches and make Stacy perform them with me in front of family and friends. I was always the monster (generally Frankenstein or the Wolfman), she was always the victim. Bless her heart. She’s dead now, too. Life is a long, hard road, and happiness is just those smooth patches between chugholes, speed bumps and roadkill. Some folks are just blessed with better infrastructure is all.
I don’t remember not having a notebook. I’ve always written. It took many (like, thirty or so) years for any semblance of “style” or “voice,” to find its way into my scribbling, but I was just laying a foundation, anyway. I didn’t know that then, of course. I just liked what was going on inside my head a lot more than what was outside, and writing stuff down made it seem more real.
I read everything, but preferred reading about monsters and/or dinosaurs. I believe my first career aspiration was to become a paleontologist. (That didn’t work out). Our folks got us a “Childcraft Encyclopedia” set when I was very young. I believe there were twenty-six volumes. I read them all. A few years later, Mom got a set of “Funk & Wagnal’s,” (a name which never failed to make me snicker when said aloud). I read all of those too, with the exception of I think “O-P,” which had somehow got lost in one of our many moves. So I don’t know as much about “Oncology” or “Platypuses” as I might have otherwise (I already had “Paleontology” down). I’m digressing.
Getting that first set of encyclopedias is one of very few memories I have of the house we lived in before Beverly Drive. It was a two-story house, also in Edmond, I think. About the time we got those books, I also got a new pair of cowboy boots. I called them “go-go boots” until a friend told me that go-go boots were for girls, and inquired if I might be a “sissy.” I was horrified by the notion, as girls were yucky. I remember a gray cat named Smoky, who later committed suicide by jumping out of my Grandpa’s truck window as he was helping us move. Honestly, I’m not sure he actually died, just that Mom told me he’d gone out the window. Don’t matter. One way or the other, Smoky’s dead.
Another memory I have from that house is of jumping on a bed upstairs, and Stacy landing on a bedpost. On her face. A chunk of wood went into her lip, and she had to have stitches. You know, after they removed the wood. That memory always leads to this rhyme it seems I’ve always known:
Two little monkeys, jumpin’ on the bed
One fell off and broke his head
Took him to the doctor, the doctor said
“That’s what you get for jumpin’ on the bed”
Of course, “monkeys” seems rather counter-intuitive. I’d think monkeys would be among the least likely of primates to suffer a bed-jumping mishap. I mean, they’ve got fucking hands on their fucking feet. “Two stupid humans” works fine, both content- and meter-wise. Not as cute, though. I guess you could make the bed-jumpers “drunk monkeys,” but then the meter would be off a smidge (the opening line would no longer have the same number of syllables as the third, which is kind of cool). I’ve probably spent entirely too much time pondering on this.
Like my dream of paleontology, my parents’ marriage didn’t work out, either. They were married eight years, which means I was seven when they split up - about the time man landed on the Moon. I remember that, but don’t recollect the fighting and/or strife which led to the divorce. I just know that we hardly ever saw our father, until we didn’t see him at all. Mom says there was some breaking of the vows on Darrel’s part, that he was always popular with the ladies. He’s been married four times, I think, so I guess she was right.
Any man who says he’s never pissed on his own nut-bag is either lying or has a really small nut-bag.
No idea where that came from, but it made me shoot coffee through my nose when I thought of it.
Sometime between the departure of Darrel and the arrival of my first stepfather Dick, Mom gave birth to our little sister, Rebecca Belle. She’s always been “Becca.” Sometimes “Becca ding-a-ling” (the latter part always said as an onomatopoeia – like ringing a little bell). I rarely use that now, and do so only in the spirit of fun.
Happiness is akin to physical pain, I think, in that they’re both sensations which cannot be replicated through memory. In fact, they kinda pull a switch-a-roo sometimes. When we think about physical pain, we can feel happy (or at least relieved or amused), because thinking about it means we endured it. Conversely, memories of being happy are not always happy memories, as we contrast the past with the present. Of course, physical and emotional pain can intertwine. That shit’s always sad.
One of the happiest days of my early childhood was when Mom brought Becca home from the hospital, and that day will always make me smile. Honestly, that was the first really happy day I remember. School was a few blocks away, and I ran all the way home. I was just so stinking excited. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I love to love, or because I love to be loved. Or because, as the oldest child, I’d just doubled my realm of authority (a word which I cannot speak or write without mentally hearing Cartman from “South Park.” You know. “Author-i-TIE!”).
I was just tickled to death with my baby sis. Honestly, I’ve almost always been tickled with her. During her first weeks, I’d wake up every night and tip-toe down the hall to look in on her. The first time I remember feeling real fear was the night she wasn’t there. I looked under her crib. I looked in the closet. (I mean, really…what are the odds an infant would be under the crib or in the closet? That’s stupid. I guess if there’d been a fridge in the room, I’d have looked in there too. At least the light would’ve been better). I looked in Mom’s room, careful not to wake her. Didn’t see Becca. So I went back down the hall and re-checked under the fucking crib and in the fucking closet. Then I woke up Mom. Of course, Becca was sleeping peacefully on her bosom.
Memories are weird. I only have a couple of memories of even being in Mom’s room as a young child. There’s that one, then there’s the time I sat on her bed, listening to “Jesus Christ, Superstar” on the radio as she got ready for work. As the opera was born the same year as Becca (1970), these memories are not far apart. But that’s pretty much it for Mom’s room in the house on Beverly Drive.
I was sometime around then, I think after the split but before Becca came along, that I recruited Stacy to help me break into our next-door-neighbor’s car, my friend Danny Reynold’s house, and to try to extort money from the folks across the street. Not all on the same day, of course, but I don’t think the incidents could have been too far apart.
We didn’t get anything from the neighbor’s car, I don’t believe. But I did leave a note claiming responsibility. Signed “The Wolfman.” Fuckin’ idiot. I knew the jig was up when Mom asked me to re-write the note. I remember liking these neighbors – the son especially was cool. He had Playboy pin-ups on his wall (I didn’t quite get why one would want to look at such), but also had a poster of a guy with his head up his own ass with the caption “Your Problem is Obvious.” I got that, and found it hysterical.
We broke into Danny Reynold’s house in the middle of the night, while he and his parents slept. Beats the shit out of me why. We entered through an unlocked sliding-glass door, and started rummaging through the cabinets. He had some really cool breakfast cereal I remember – “Cap’n Crunch” or some such shit. His dad heard us and got up. I recall the layout of the house, the kitchen, living room, and dining room situated so that one could travel in a circle through the three. Which, for a few seconds, we did. It was rather cartoonish, as Stacy and I tried to outmaneuver Danny’s dad. Then he changed direction once when we changed direction twice, and he nabbed us in the dining room. Seems funnier now than it did then.
We never got caught for vandalizing the back yard of the neighbors across the street, nor for the note we left demanding five dollars to keep it from happening again. I guess I didn’t sign it “The Wofman.” We never got the five bucks, so I guess – to use some current political logic – we never really committed a felony.
It’s funny, I don’t believe we got whupped for any of those things. “Sparing the rod” was not in our mother’s nature, not later at least, but for some reason I can’t recall getting beaten for any of that stuff. I remember stuffing a sofa pillow down my pants in anticipation of a whuppin’ (which I had about as much chance of getting away with as signing shit “The Wofman”); maybe Mom was going through too much at the time.
Maybe she was just getting geared up.
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