The gun was not actually pressed against her temple.
It merely hovered near as if following the slow spinning housefly careening
around the room on the other side of her head.
A cool crisp bright spring-morning air flowed through the screen door
and under the half open window spreading into the darker interior.
I was a diminutive three-year-old with toy in hand, standing off to the
right of my dad, away from the main scene, looking up disinterestedly as
my fifteen year old sister Hazel gasped.
The slight mustiness of our aging house did little to impact the
fragile freshness drifting in from outside.
We were home and just two doors down from our family's truck stop
restaurant (open 24/7) where eighteen wheelers always stood beaconed
around the large neon clock and parked down both sides of U.S. Route 40 in
tiny Lafayette, Ohio, attracted by some of the best food, talk, and coffee
length of this main commercial conduit which spanned America coast to coast.
In 1953 and 20 miles west of Columbus the world moved slowly
enough for truckers to turn off their engines when stopped, so it was
Plus it was a special time of year: Easter morning.
My father gripped his immaculately cleaned World War II .38 Special far too tightly,
and his voice quavered as he struggled to force a silencer onto the intent of his hateful words.
Late the night before and a few feet from my head, just outside my open bedroom window, an east bound
trucker fired-up his rig waking me to the
typical churning activity of yet another
cool deep starry night lightly peppered with the vintage warm-hued street,
restaurant lights, plus a distant mercury vapor lamp in one direction and
the inviting glow of the
Red Brick Tavern the other.
I curled my tiny back against my mother's side as I reached to touch the
cracked and valleyed grimy paint layered on the window's sill while I took an extra long
breath of one of my favorite smells—the
rarified scent of stale burnt diesel exhaust.
Sounds like a joke, but I believe there is no word for that
I am not talking about the very common heavy odor of liquid diesel fuel, a
foul stench that permeates and stays on everything it touches, nor the
choking blast of ugly undercooked fumes hastily purged
through an exhaust pipe.
This fragrance is aged, and it is much
different: ethereal, temporal, and hidden beneath.
From time to time I still catch a whiff of it, usually coming from a tour bus
accelerating away from a longer than usual stoplight.
I have never come closer to being able to describe it than exactly
the way I did
at three, "Smells like...makes me want to eat dirt."
In any case, I enjoyed the sights, sounds, and closeness of the busy
highway until finally falling back to sleep—nightmares and all, it
state I often wished permanent—and by morning everything was dead
Since my dad's gun was in his right hand, his left was free to firmly vice my
sister's throat as he mashed her up on her toes and flat backed against
the barren, poorly plastered and dirty white wall.
His muffled shout was a growl, "If you don't watch your mouth, you'll find
out what happens."
I was transfixed by the contorted look on Hazel's face which held an
extravagant combination of retreating fear and forward defiance.
As for myself, any fear I might have had was shunted through the
insulation of youth, plus the assured thought that she was probably
getting exactly what she deserved for blurting some unknown slight, while
I, on the other hand, had solidly learned to keep my mouth shut around
people, and only observe them... very carefully.
It was clear to me that I was smarter than my sister, but I could still
not understand why she would just not learn.
"Maybe this will be the moment."
That thought remained in my head a little while later, as I squatted
the sun under my too mature brimmed hat, uncomfortably
bound in my new gray Sunday suit.
My mother's excited voice prodded again from back in the house, "Go on
Bobby, see what's there."
My eyes widened as I squatted more deeply.
For right there, out from the severely warped back door, beyond the
end of the short dark dug-by-hand stairwell that led back and down into the
horrid black of the tiniest and most often flooded of all possible
half-height fully spidered overly shelved canning-jarred dirt floor
basements, yes, further out than that, and even further than the outhouse
(and well past the garden), a little ways more than where the tiny hill
bottomed, precisely at the base of a specifically gnarled fence post, the
one leaning most against the few rusted barbwire strands straining to
separate our backyard from the slightly rolling (acceptably stoned)
adequately grazed cow pasture that was open all the way out to the thin
tree line almost as far away as the eye could see, precariously distant
from all human contact, and quietly nestled in an inconsequential little
tuft of grass... right there at my feet, the early morning sun glinted sparks off a small vibrant cluster of
one blue, one purple, a kelly,
and a yellow—dazzling pastel eggs.
I stood upright.
Thinking to myself, but in my own little-kid way without words, "I
knew I should've never let them trick me into coming all the way out
here. Look at that! Jeweled eggs from nowhere. If stuff like this can
happen, what on earth can
not happen?! How will I ever get past the cellar and back
inside? That's it, I've had it. I'm running... and I'm running... and I'm ru..."
"Oh Bobby! You're s'posed t' bring 'em back... "
What a magical world I was born to.
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As I moved uneasily away from the house, pressured into going out to
what all the fuss was about, I felt a broad foreboding presence
hovering above and behind my right shoulder.
I was certain it must be the creature that they were all saying left something wonderful down by the swing set.
I wondered, "Why would it leave something so special way out there,
and wouldn't it want it back?!"
When I darted a look around to see what was behind me, I found nothing.
Then I'd look ahead again, and the presence was back as strong as
ever: watching, waiting, insinuating into my thoughts, helping
those people back in the house goad me on.
I could firmly feel it next to my me'ness, almost as if it
were part of my inner eye, busying itself trying to appear to be
just a larger more diffuse part of my own self.
It felt like a trap.
"If only I knew what's a theesterbnee!"
Then I saw the brilliantly colored eggs, and I knew immediately the
creature would be back for them... and for me.
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this page created: 08/21/2010
10/24/2013 08:17:16 PM