Memories are just fragments of film. It’s odd, some of the events our brains retain, be they home movies, or pure fiction–intricate fabrications focused tighter and tighter over time. The power of suggestion is strong, indeed. My mother is one of those story tellers who believes in the fables she’s invented, says my dad. I have no reliable source of reality in regards to my childhood, though I do tend to put heavier stock in most things my dad has to say, because he’s not bat shit crazy. Or is he? Dad did a lot of hard drugs when he was young, says my mother–she’s mentioned angel dust and heroine more than a handful of times. But that was before I was born, so why should I care? Right? Right?
These are some things that I know are real memories.
I do recall, without uncertainty, my dad harvesting some of the plants he’d raised in the basement of our house in Lapeer; I watched him roll a joint for himself, and he said, “Don’t you tell your mother.” I also remember when our tabby cat, Thomas, somehow found himself locked inside “Dad’s Room,” and when we discovered him, several plants had been chewed to fuck all. Oh, Thomas!
Dad and Grandpa had fields of weed some fucking place in B.F.E. (which means Bum Fuck Egypt for reasons I do not know). Once my mother began working nights, dad had no choice but to take my sister and I along for the ride out to green fucking acres (I’ve just now come up with that). At age eight, or nine, or ten, I didn’t know what the hell dad was doing, parking his truck in the middle of nowhere, and wandering off into the tall weeds for thirty plus minutes. Tara and I would sit in the dark, and listen to hordes of crickets–or God forbid, the unholy June Bugs. Sometimes dad would leave the radio on for us. Other times we would play the Color Game–that’s when one of us would think of a color, and the other would guess; we’d take turns, guessing the same goddamned colors over and over again. I invented the Color Game one night when Tara couldn’t sleep, for whatever reason–she was an extremely anxious child. It was my way of trying to soothe her without allowing her to climb down from her top bunk and into my bed. She always did end up sleeping beside me. Tara and I grew up best friends, though my role leaned heavily toward mother, even before our parents were divorced.
I was five years old when Tara was born. I’d wanted a brother, for reasons only a five year old girl might be able to explain. My mother had had a long, hard labor. She’d lost a lot of blood, and Tara, who was ultimately taken by C-section, almost drowned in that blood. It was several days for both mother and newborn in the hospital before my dad finally took me to meet my sister. I remember it was night, and Dad had bought me a McDonald’s Happy Meal to eat on our way to Hurley. I sat in the back of the station wagon, stomach in knots, stuffing french fries, and chucks of cheeseburger into whatever crease and crevice available to me. I don’t recall the toy that accompanied my food. That’s a detail my brain did not retain, probably because seeing my baby sister for the first time was/is paramount. My dad held her up before me, and I fell immediately in love with the raven haired baby named Tara.
The day Dad was able to finally bring my mother and sister home, he discovered the remains of my uneaten Happy Meal. “When I asked you if you’d eaten all your food, you said, ‘yes, daddy.’ So why is there food smashed all over in the backseat?” I don’t recall my response, but it most likely involved tears. My dad scared the fuck out of me when he was angry. Hell, he still does, though anger is something exhibited rarely these days. Now, my dad is all enlightened and shit. He hasn’t raised his voice to me since I was sixteen, and his (then) sister-in-law caught me and my (then) step-brother trying to steal cigarettes from the grocery store where she worked. In our defense, back then store management was lacking considering the easy placement of tobacco products. Liquor, too.
Dustin, my (then) step-brother and I used to climb out his bedroom window when our parents were out and sit on the roof; we’d smoke stolen smokes and drink stolen Hot Damn. I had a pipe some dude at my high school made for me, and if I didn’t have any cigarettes, Dustin and I would use it to smoke tobacco we’d loosened from butts we found in ashtrays, or laying around the yard.
I loved Dustin. Until he molested Tara. Now, I hope he’s contracted a penis disease that’s left him dysfunctional, and makes women weep upon the sight of it. Like, I hate him so much, I hope he can’t even masturbate because it’s fucking broken all to fuck, and ugly as sin. I hope the sight of his own penis makes him cry out in terror. And I hope bits of skin fall off into the toilet every time he takes a piss. I hope it looks like an overly grilled bratwurst that has been soaking in a pot of stinking hotdog water. I hope the only thing he is remembered for after he dies is the stench of his rotting penis.
This is my guest submission to The Ink Owl. Please check out his blog–there you will find some very fine writing.
Morning had broken. Praying lady lifted her head, and a heavy sigh escaped her lungs; the sound lingered, flirting lightly with currents of air. Atop the tower, she stood alone, olive eyes aimed at the horizon; orange and pink painted the sky, painted her face. Distant birds gathered and soared into fine light, disappearing in luminescence; hand to gentle brow, Keeper of Tower Truth followed the melodious flock into chirruping memory.
Gaze shifted, she marveled at the grandeur of the earth; languid streams marked the land, their faint ripples catching beams of dawn’s radiance; wild blooms of red and blue mingled with blades of green that blanketed the soil; honeysuckle bountiful produced tubular heads nectar rich; oaks raised robust branches outspread in praise of the sun. Morning had broken; newborn summer colored the kingdom vibrant.
Train of virginal gown trailed lazy; barefoot Keeper tiptoed through the topiary courtyard on…
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OUT OF ORBIT
I wish I didn’t want Dad back. Or you, little sister. It hurts too much to want. And it’s too damn hard to figure out which hurts me more, missing the dead, or missing the living; though I don’t know why it should really matter.
What I do know is that I don’t like going to the race track half expecting to see our dad in the stands, or to the lake half hoping to find him at the cabin. I don’t want to miss the man who could no longer stand beside his wife, who could no longer stand the sight of his daughter.
But I do miss him, despite this distinct hollow he created in me when he drove away and out of my life. It would be better for me if he were dead, I think. If he were dead, I might be able to accept his nothingness. I wish Grandma had never told me where to find him; that I know where he lives only nurtures my pain.
Maybe you’ve caught me a time or twelve between the rows of red maple, driving up his blacktop lane. If you have then you know I always lose my nerve midway, and I back straight out, wondering if anyone outside or in had even noticed I was there.
I wish I could just admit to myself that he’s no longer my dad, forget the bastard. Unsee his new life with his new wife, and their perfect fucking stone gable house; one just like our mother had always wanted!
Christ. What right do I even have to feel abandoned by him? I failed him first when I failed to save you, his heart.
You were Mom’s heart, too. She and Dad, they were both satellites revolving around the seemingly infinite and magnificent you. After you died, the fights began again, and the affairs. And they couldn’t stay together, which further proved that nobody was anything valuable without you.
I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit to the envy I sometimes felt, even for a little while after you were gone. When I think about all the time I had wasted on feeling jealous of you, I could vomit. But envy or no, you were also my heart. You were my best friend. My sun.
When you died, I fell out of orbit, too.
I remember how strange and lonely the nights had become after you were gone. Sometimes I would leave my bed and climb up into your bunk. It didn’t matter though, where I lay, because I always just lay and stare into blankness. At least in the summer months I had the crickets to listen to; autumn and winter brought nothing at all to soothe me.
A lot of the time, for the first year or so, I would go to bed in the dark and see the dawning of day without ever having slept. There was no difference between day and night. Neither ever brought you back.
I wish I could just stop thinking. But I’m on a roll.
I don’t know what else you could possibly want from me. I certainly don’t have anything left to give you. Is it my actual entrails you crave? Symbolism never did satiate your hunger. You won’t be satisfied until you savor my heart blood, warm at the back of your serpent throat. For you, motherfucker, are a god damned serpent–taste some more of the metaphors I fist down your bile soaked gullet, and be grateful I don’t shove them up your ass. Consider us even for the literal semen I’ve swallowed; I pity all the new women who will suffer your salt.
Slither with caution, snake;
I am a wolf.
And I fucking dare you…
I am driftwood, imperfect, but good enough to hold onto tightly while you figure out the shape I was destined for–I know you too well, Puzzlemaker.
You are one who must make fit the pieces perfectly, lest your life be unfulfilled. So you place me in the vise, and turn, turn, turn. Hold me fast and examine my form.
Where to cut? Where to shave thin? How do you make me slide into place? This is after all, your love game.
I held a blue-eyed baby today. He was soft and quiet, head resting upon my shoulder. I rubbed his back, and he breathed deep and even. I relished the weight of him against my chest, young heart beating against old heart beating. His mother is so young, but I do not pity her; I do not pity him. I pity the people who do not know love. I pity the people who do not know the beauty of a babe, fragile yet resilient. I pity the people incapable of melting by the gentle touch of trusting infancy.
Listen to A Typical Day in the House of Henry by Kindra Marie Austin #np on #SoundCloud
I write you into fiction–it’s the only place you ever listen.
clickety-clack go my keys, and you’re the woman I want you to be:
Just between you and me, my heart does beat–no, it flutters–fftt, ffftt, fffttt…
Just between you and me, I cry–vent the demons; they fall wet against your chest.
Just between you and me, I laugh my hardest–genuine, childlike.
Just between you and me, I lie sometimes.