~chapter six~ ~part three~ ~gainful employment~ ~children of the fall~

WordWulf By WordWulf, 5th May 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1y9m1lo7/
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Domestic Violence & Abuse

~never have had much use for cops~judges badges guns & lawyer types~they throw you out~kick you when you’re down~try to get that protect & serve thing~with your wrists manacled~sittin’ in the back seat with no door handles~right is always on their side~all consideration as to who the enemy was~went by the wayside when they put momma in jail~oh yeah I got murder in my heart for the judge~mercy of the court my ass~

~gainful employment~


Early the next morning Daddy went to work without me. Momma let me go out wandering the neighborhood with Jackie when I asked her. She surprised me by not insisting that we take Phillip with us. Ain’t nothin’ like a brother. I got my stash and we ate Hersheys and drank Royal Crown Colas with salted peanuts. I gave Jackie one of the secret silver dollars I’d gotten from Ringo. We went to the Five and Dime on Tejon Street and bought all kinds of stuff. Jackie got a monkey on a stick and we laughed our butts off while he pumped it up and down and said squeak squeak faster and faster ‘til the monkey broke. We found a park with a little lake and caught crawdads. Jackie threw rocks at ducks ‘til some ol’ guy on a bicycle started hollering at him. Jackie flipped him off and I couldn’t believe it. One thing was for sure, just like Momma said, a couple of boys with time on their hands would always find some trouble.

I didn’t work with Daddy any more that summer. He was drinking more and working less and I was relieved to stay at home with Momma and the kids. Daddy had begun to keep a bottle of peppermint schnapps by the bed and one in his truck under the seat. Sometimes he just parked by the Platte River and drank cheap wine until he passed out. I was supposed to go with him a couple of times but Momma needed me to baby-sit while she went out looking for a job. The landlord refused to fix the window until the rent was caught up and Momma was worried because fall was approaching and it would soon be cold.

Grandma Webster came to visit a few Times. She brought us dish rags and other stuff she found on sale at Woolworth’s. One day she asked me to meet her at Grandpa Webster’s mother’s house. I had never met the elder Websters. It seemed odd to me that someone as old as Grandpa Webster would have parents still alive. The old couple lived in a tiny house on Thirtieth Avenue, just off Zuni Street which was only about eight blocks from where we lived off Speer Boulevard. Grandpa’s father, Nick, was a big ol’ guy who insisted that I not call him Grandpa or Great Grandpa or any of that Mister stuff. His name was Nick and he saw no reason for me to call him anything other than his given name. That was difficult for me because I had never addressed an adult by their first name. Nick seemed like an old grouch but, once you got to know him, he wasn’t that bad.

The reason Grandma arranged for me to meet her there was they needed someone to paint the wooden fence around the back yard. They were willing to pay me a dollar a day or five dollars for the whole job, Nick informed me. The choice was mine to make: a five dollar contract or a dollar a day. I had never painted a fence before but figured I could probably knock it out in a couple of days. I opted for the five dollars. Nick chucked me under the chin and favored me with a wry smile. Except for the ever present big fat cigar he was always chomping on, he reminded me of Santa Claus.

It took me eleven long days to paint that fence. Great Grandma Webster fed me good. I wasted a considerable amount of fence painting time eating and playing with her pet parakeet. By the time the fence was finished the bird would perch on my finger and give me kisses. This delighted me and the nice old lady. She smiled a lot and I liked that. I got along well with those old folks and was fairly sure they liked me quite a lot. They offered me seventy five cents a week to mow their lawn, which turned out to be my first steady working gig. I was treated well, fed well and truly loved that parakeet. Great Grandma Webster named it Sweety. It was a wonder to me that such a nice couple could produce a stingy old mean guy like Grandpa Webster. I figured he must have been adopted or something.

There was a Salvation Army Store on Zuni Street on the route between our house and the Websters’. I got in the habit of standing on the sidewalk and looking in the window every time I walked by, which was at least twice a week. One day a lady dressed up like a soldier came out of the store and asked me what I was doing and why I wasn’t at home like other boys and girls. I explained to her that I lived right up the street on Speer Boulevard and, since I had steady work, I might be able to come in there and spend some money on Christmas presents for my five siblings and Mom and Dad.

That’s another thing that occurred in my tenth summer. I stopped thinking of Momma and Daddy as Momma and Daddy. Now they were Mom and Dad. This resulted in some guilt and confusion on my part, like when I got upset and went to bed praying to God they would die. I usually spent the remainder of the night praying to the same God no one had been able to introduce me to that I didn’t really mean it. I prayed and prayed that what I truly wanted more than anything else was for those two wonderful people to live long and happy lives. If someone had to go to hell to atone for my evil wishes (gulp), then let that someone be me. Anyway, try as I might to fight it and/or figure it out, Momma and Daddy became Mom and Dad.

One morning toward the end of August, Jackie came in all bruised up and told me I’d better not go outside. I went rushing out into the dirt back yard with the intention of making even with someone for the beating my brother had so obviously taken. The yard was empty except for me and Charlie, my dragon lizard. I saw Charlie’s coffee can first, all smashed in the dirt. There he was, stuck through the middle of his back with a thin metal rod. He was pinned to the ground and his feet were digging holes as he tried to crawl away from his pain.

I ran inside and got Momma (Yeah, she became Momma again as soon as I had some awful trouble - does to this day). If anyone could help Charlie, it was Momma. She took one look at the lizard and said, “Tommy, he’s gone. There is nothing we can do for him.”

I began to weep. “If we had money like other people, we could take him to the doctor. They have special doctors for lizards and dragons. I know they do!”

Momma touched my arm. “He’s dead, Tommy. No amount of money can bring Charlie back.”

“I’ll get ‘em!” I swore as I pulled the rod out of Charlie’s body and, for the first time, held my horny toad, my venom-spitting dragon, in my hands. In the back of my boy brain I entertained the unreasonable notion that it was cruel and unfair to be so afraid of a pet I never held until it was dead. “I’ll kill ‘em, Momma,” I vowed solemnly. “Soon’s I find out who killed my Charlie, I’ll make ‘em dead.”

Momma squeezed my face hard between her hands.

“Tommy, stop it! Charlie was your pet and now he is dead. He’s gone. Why don’t you bury him, then come on inside and get cleaned up.”

Jackie and I had fixed up an old wagon we found in the trash. Its wheels were all different sizes so it wobbled something awful and screeched like a dying thing. I swiped a hanky out of Daddy and Momma's room and wrapped Charlie in it. I put him in the wagon and me and Jackie, Phillip, Lily and Linda made a funeral procession. I pulled the wagon down the alley and around the block a couple of times. I glared defiantly at any and all brown children I saw. I was sure Jackie knew who killed Charlie but no matter how hard I noogied and choked him, Jackie wouldn’t give it up. We buried Charlie under the back porch and made him a cross out of pop sickle sticks. I wrote ‘CHARLIE THE DRAGON’ on the cross stick and made a song about him and Daddy when I became a man.

The last Wednesday of summer break from school I went over to the Websters’ house to do my final mowing of the season. Jackie went with me. I promised to split the pay with him if he helped push the old mower around the yard and rake up leaves. The house was locked and dark. The shed out back had a padlock on it so we were unable to get the mower out.

“They’re dead,” Jackie said.

“You’re crazy,” I argued, “You don’t know nothin’!”

“I know things sometimes,” Jackie insisted, “You know I do. I may be crazy but I ain’ stupid. I toldja those kids hated us when we moved into that rat trap ol’ house. You didn’t believe me then an’ they kilt Charlie. I’m tellin’ ya now, these ol’ folks is dead an’ that’s all there is to ‘t.” He went up to the house and wiggled the door knob. “We could get in there.”

I pushed him away from the door. “You can’t just go around breakin’ into people’s houses!”

Jackie got that mean old man look on his face. “I’ve done it before. It ain’ like they was really related to us anyways. You done lost your steady job ‘cause they’re dead.”

I hauled off and slugged him one. “You’re crazier ‘n I thought. Come on, let’s go back home. I’ll have to mow the lawn some other time when they’re there.”

Jackie lolled along behind me. “Their bird is dead too,” he said to my back.

I found out much later that Jackie was at least halfway right. Old Nick had set a small ladder in his bath tub so he could work on the shower attachment. When he climbed onto it, the ladder slipped on the slick surface of the tub. He fell and broke his neck and died instantly. Great Grandma Webster was sent to one of those places where old people are warehoused until they die. I never saw either of them again and no one ever told me what became of Sweety, the parakeet. I liked to think he was out of his cage and just flew away when all the emergency people came to make sure Nick was dead and take his body away.

The only time I had seen Grandpa Webster’s parents before I became their handyman and bird trainer was when I visited Grandma. There were a few pictures of them among her millions of knick-knacks. I never noticed them then and didn’t know who they were anyway. I enjoyed the occasional overnight with Grandma for lots of reasons. One was that she was a packer at the Bowman Biscuit Company and would usually have a cupboard full of the broken cookies they threw away. I only spent the night when Grandpa Webster wasn’t home and Grandma spent most of her time in bed because her legs hurt and her body ached in a million places. I wandered around by myself in her crowded little world after the elder Websters were gone and wondered if all the old people in the pictures were dead people and why no one ever told me what happened to the folks we moved away from. I wondered too much.

As Jackie and I neared home, we knew something was going on. We could both feel it and it didn’t feel good. We heard a terrible howling noise that got louder and louder the closer we got to home. We came up through the alley and saw a group of kids in our back yard. I squinted my eyes to try to see what they were doing but couldn’t make ‘em out. Half a block away and bellowing like a mad bull, I charged toward the yard. All the kids ran except the huge boy who had pushed Jackie when we moved in. He was doing something at the clothesline and the awful sound seemed to be coming from whatever he was doing.

I was traveling under a full head of steam and threw a shoulder into his fat gut. Over he went and I ran right across his face. I caught myself and turned to face the boy, ready to pound him into the dirt. He crawled away and I kicked and beat him until the howling called me back to the yard. I turned from my kill and stared stupefied at the sound from the clothesline. The boy had taken a rod like the one used to kill Charlie, the axle from a Tonka Truck or something, and pushed it through the head, ear to ear, of a large black cat.

The pitiful creature was then hung suspended between two clothesline wires, held up by the rod pushed through its head. It howled and screamed and held its legs straight out, claws swiping at air. I yelled at Jackie to take one end of the rod. I would hold the other so we could take the poor thing down. This sounded like a good plan but every time we tried to get close, the animal twisted around in a vain attempt to defend itself. The effort would cause it to howl louder than ever. There was a filthy old blanket lying in the corner of the yard by the fence. I picked it up and spread it between my arms then rushed the cat from behind, wrapped the blanket around it, and lifted it as easily as possible from the clothesline wires.

I held the blanket over it as it writhed and screamed through its death throes. The howling would not stop and I realized it was me. Momma came out the back door when it was over to see what was going on. I pulled the blanket off to show her and the cat lay there, its jaws wider than any cat’s jaws can be and bleeding from its eyes. I put my foot on it as gently as possible and pulled the rod out of its ear. It seemed to relax into its death then.

“People are bad,” I wept to Momma. “I’m gonna find that boy and finish him off.”

The next day Momma went to work at a tavern called the Dog House. It was a small bar in North Denver, not far from where we lived. She worked as a waitress and got tips which meant she could hide a little money from Daddy on a good night and buy things for herself and us kids. She had high hopes. Momma always had high hopes, like Daddy becoming the person she married and not the drunk tyrant he was changing into.

She had gotten a hundred and nine dollars from Aid to Dependent Children (Welfare) in the month of July. Momma always applied for help when she went to pick up the commodities. When the welfare police found out she was working at the Dog House, they sent her a summons to court. She showed up for her court date and they put her in jail for defrauding the state welfare system. This was the first time I ever watched all the kids all night. I just about went crazy wondering where Momma was. The stinking bastard cops wouldn’t keep her, the judges and court lawyers, would they? We had no telephone but, when she was let out, she told me she was never afforded the opportunity to make a phone call anyway.

She wasn’t released until the following afternoon. She was sentenced to a year’s probation and had to pay the hundred and nine dollars back plus court costs or would have to spend more time in jail and pay the charges back at three dollars a day while incarcerated. She went back to work at the Dog House and put in more hours than ever. The court, in its mercy, had set up a payment plan for her. It was beginning to look like the front room window would never be fixed. The landlord would not do it until he had all his rent and Momma and Daddy could never keep up on the rent. Momma confided to me that the silver lining, the blessing in disguise, was that he certainly couldn’t rent the place out from under us with the front window missing. No one in their right mind would pay to live in a house in Colorado in the winter missing its front room window. She was hopeful and I was afraid as Daddy seemed to have careened completely out of control. Oh, yeah, while in jail she was sent to a clinic inside and found out she was pregnant again.

~wordwulf~
Inquiries: wordwulf@gmail.com
©2014 graphic artwork music & words
conceived by & property of
tom (WordWulf) sterner 2014©
~also available at Amazon ~
~chapter one~
~chapter two~
~chapter three~
~chapter four~
~chapter five~
~music~

Tags

1958, 1959, Alcoholism, Art, Colorado, Denver, Employment, Family, Free, Gainful, Memoirs, Missouri, Mommas Rain, Money, Mothers, Parenting, Philosophy, Photography, Poverty, Religion, Saint Louis, Sons, Survival, Tom Wordwulf Sterner, Violence, Wikinut, Writer

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author avatar WordWulf
I write novels, poetry, songs,nonsense & lies. Sometimes truth sneaks in when I ain't lookin'.

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