~momma’s rain~ chapter four ~children ... it’s elementary~ ~part two~ ~brothers~

WordWulf By WordWulf, 17th Apr 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Domestic Violence & Abuse

~my maternal grandfather had a heart attack~died in the driveway~laying on the cement underneath his truck~his father stood on a chair he set on the table~tied a stout rope to the chandelier then around his throat~he pulled his pistol out of his back pocket~blew his brains out & was dead~before the rope broke his neck~

~brothers~

Ada so loved the baby and her man even when he was gone, perhaps even more so then. She accepted him as he was and welcomed him with open arms whenever the trains brought him home. She felt beautiful and whole in his eyes and that was all that mattered to her. A couple of years later, another girl child, Ella, was born. And a year or so after that, Momma. George was so sure she would be his long awaited son that he planned to name her Carl, after one of his favorite uncles. Disappointed, he allowed Ada to christen her Carroll, the Christian name used by the ex-Cherokee slave, George’s dead mother.

A couple of years after Momma’s birth, Ada developed a goiter on her throat. It grew and grew and none of the homespun remedies of the locals had any effect on it. George didn’t believe in doctors and refused to allow her to seek medical attention. By the time baby Carroll was four years old, Ada could hardly breathe. She stumbled out to the road one day while George was away riding the rails, chasing his destiny. A truck driver found her lying unconscious by the roadside. He took her into the city and dropped her off at the hospital emergency.

A month later, the goiter removed and on the way to good health, near crazy with worry, Ada returned home to find an empty chicken coop. No one could tell her what happened to her three pretty girls, only that George had taken them away. George’s father, drunk and depressed over gambling debts, had stood on the table in his living room, fixed a stout rope to a light fixture and a noose around his neck. Determined to do the job right, he cocked his pistol and blew his brains out. He was dead before the rope snapped his neck. His booted feet never touched the floor. Frantic and out of her mind with fear at the loss of her daughters, Ada caught a bus for Saint Louis, Missouri, where George’s sister lived.

When she arrived in the city and knocked on the door, her sister-in-law answered and laughed in Ada’s face. What nerve she had to abandon her own children then come here seeking help from George’s poor family. Sure, George had come expecting her to care for his children. She set him straight about that, she damned sure did, told him she had a life and family of her own and he had best find his dawdling wife. Sister Ann had no idea where George and his brats had gone.

“Please no...,” Ada begged as the door was slammed in her face. She stumbled from the porch and wandered aimlessly though the city day and night for several days, speaking to anyone who would listen, asking if they had any news of her daughters and husband. She was eventually picked up by the authorities, babbling and incoherent, and committed to a local insane asylum.

When she was released two years later, Ada managed to locate her daughters. Desperate and broke, George had signed them into a Catholic Orphanage. Ada was unable to secure their release for a number of reasons, one being that she refused to convert to Catholicism. There was also the matter of years spent in asylum and the fact that, unable to obtain a divorce from George, she was ‘living in sin’ with a man named Jim Benning. She was informed the situation could possibly be cleared up if the person who had signed the girls in, their father, could be found. Brokenhearted, Ada was turned away. She appealed to the Mother Superior but was denied even a visit with her daughters. The Catholic Orphanage had a strict policy against such visitations as they upset children and compromised potential adoption procedures. Jim took Ada home and they spent the next eight years seeking George Hart.

Momma yawned, smiled at me, and said, “It’s late, my big boy. Your dad ought to be home any minute and you should be in bed.”

I went to the stove and returned with the coffee pot to fill Momma’s cup. “Just a little more, please? What happened to your father? Did your mom ever find him?”

Momma touched my hand as I poured her coffee. “Just a bit more, then you should go to bed.”

When Momma was fourteen years old, her father appeared to claim her and her sisters from the orphanage. She met his new wife, Eleda, and went to spend some time with Ada and Jim. Thanksgiving that year, Ada’s brother, a man Momma called Uncle Dutch, was staying with Ada and Jim. He was an alcoholic, had been drinking heavily, and had gone upstairs for a nap. Ada told Momma to go wake him and tell him dinner was ready. Momma came screaming from the bedroom.

“Help me Momma, help me! Uncle Dutch’s guts are falling out!” she cried to Ada. She had never been told about boys and men having different plumbing. Uncle Dutch had passed out in his housecoat and his private parts were there for all to see. Daddy was the first boy Momma ever kissed.

I saw George Hart once when I was eight months old, Momma told me with a sad smile. He had been having chest pain for some time and died of a heart attack in 1951 while lying on the ground working on his truck. He was fifty-one years old.

I loved to watch Momma while she told her family stories. She was so alive in the telling that they seemed to ‘happen’ as I sat there listening. She poured herself a cup of coffee, hot and black, and lit another Pall Mall. I sat at the table, my chin cradled in my hands, hanging on every word. She was beautiful and belonged to me and me only at such times. “What about Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa?” I asked.

Momma touched my cheek with her hand. She never touched much but when she did it felt like a caress from the Gods. It was all good. “Tommy,” she crooned, “Always try to remember, people are just people. Sometimes they do the worst things for the best of reasons and the other way around. Life just, well, it just happens to them.”

There was a tear in her eye and I knew it was for Daddy. How could a woman love a man so much? Where was he tonight and who was he with? What ghost haunted him so, drove him to fill himself with alcohol?

She told me many things though, such as: when Daddy was fourteen years old, he came down with rheumatic fever. He was near comatose and babbling incoherently about his twin brother. His kidneys had begun to fail and the doctors asked Grandma Webster about the brother he was ranting about. They had already removed one kidney and might need to locate a blood relative in the event they needed to perform a kidney transplant.

“No, there is not a twin brother,” she replied. “He is just hallucinating, out of his mind with fever.” Soon after that, when Daddy went home from the hospital, he pressed the issue and Grandma broke down and admitted that he had a twin. He and his brother were born on a ranch in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1932. Four years later, Grandma divorced her ranch hand husband, my grandfather, and ended up in Denver with her twin toddlers.

She met and fell in love with Paul Webster. He was a hard and practical man and agreed to raise and support one of her whelps but not both of them. She would have to make a choice. She chose Daddy and left his brother in an outhouse at a roadside rest area in the mountains somewhere between Colorado Springs and Denver.

As in many marriages, the lines of rage were drawn. For Paul and Lillian the line in the sand was written in the blood of innocents. Paul’s favorite tool for administering punishment on the son chosen was the coal shovel, a handy implement considering the fact that a common error the boy made was not refilling the coal bin or failing to perform the task properly. Daddy could receive his beating, then proceed to do his chores, one of which was to shovel coal. Momma assured me that Paul Webster was a practical man. I considered the rabbit and clothes pins, tame meat and rabbit stew, the Packard in the driveway. What might happen to the child who picked up a sharp stone from the driveway and marked the paint of that car deep and down the side?

I began this monologue by stating that these events were related to me in a single night in my ninth year. That isn’t exactly true. They are bits and crumbs scattered across the bowl of my childhood. I remember that night best of all though and the slumbering bodies of my siblings under a single warm blanket. Momma talked and Daddy spent the night with another woman from the bar, so Momma and I had all night as it turned out. Life teaches some of us that we always have all night. It may very well be the all of what we have.

Uncle Tom came to visit us at the Corncrib one day. He noticed kids flying kites and asked me why Phillip and I weren’t out there with them. I told him we had never flown a kite and didn’t have one anyway. Uncle Tom handed me a twenty dollar bill and told me to go to the store and buy kites for myself and my brothers and sisters. “Be sure and get some winding spools and kite string,” he reminded me, “I’ll be across the road at the Corncrib with your Daddy if you can’t figure out what to do with them.” When I got home from the store, the other kids were glad to school us in the art of flying our brand new kites. I never did give Uncle Tom his change and felt guilty for the longest time about that. From this place of distance, many years after my uncle’s death, I believe he meant for me to have it.

Momma called me in from outside a couple of days after the night Daddy didn’t make it home from the bar. She needed me to watch the little ones so she could go and try to get Daddy out of the bar so he would make it to work the next day. While I was watching my sisters, a girl named Trula beat Phillip up and sent him home crying. She was the bully of the court and, at fourteen, five years older than me. I went to the unit she and her family lived in the next night after dark and knocked on the door. Her mother, a woman named Helen, answered and went to get her for him. When Trula came to the door, I slugged her low in the stomach as hard as I could then walked away. I didn’t say a word, just hauled off and gave her the best I had. She doubled over when I hit her, didn’t even try to come after me. That was my first taste of pure vengeance and I found it to my liking. The sweetest part of the deal was that Trula’s mother, Helen, was that woman Daddy got drunk with at the Corncrib and spent the night with sometimes. I felt good, like I had evened the scale for Momma and Phillip with one good punch.

Momma was pregnant the summer of 1959 and missed a lot of work the closer she came to her birthing date. Daddy worked some but spent almost every night carousing at the Corncrib. February 11, 1960, Cheryl Lynn was born.

Now there were six of us, three boys and three girls. Momma was tired and fought with Daddy a lot about his drinking. He would come home and break things and smack her around. Us kids tried to hide but our living space was so small there was nowhere to go. The landlord rented the adjoining unit out. Daddy was drunk and Momma was crying, color books and crayons, all avenues of escape and diversion swallowed as if they never existed in the first place. I decided safety was a state of mind and not a very safe one at that.

The roofing work for the landlord of the Corncrib bar and motel buildings, much like Daddy’s drinking, was never finished. After a few months we were evicted from the Corncrib Motel and Daddy found us another motel to live in on South Platte River Drive in Denver. It consisted of a row of one room units called Herbertson’s and was owned by a man who also owned a concrete company of the same name. The Platte River flowed lazily by in front of it just across the dirt road. There was a swampy area out back away from the buildings. Whenever Momma had a day off, I was allowed to go out back and tromp around. I threw rocks at frogs and birds but usually didn’t come close to hitting anything I aimed at.

One day that changed. I heaved a stone at a bull frog sitting on a rock and scored with a direct hit to its head. An eyeball popped out and it plopped over in the mossy water dead on its back. I felt terrible. There was no way I could consider cutting off its legs and eating them as Rob had taught me. I found a shoe box in the trash and buried the frog, felt guilty about killing it for a long time. After that, I made up my mind to catch frogs and soon became a fair to middlin’ frogger. Momma said I could keep one frog and only one frog as a pet. I decided to keep one I’d caught and named Mitch, the biggest and froggiest of the bulgy-eyed bunch. I was nine years old and found myself in boy heaven slinking around out there between the reeds.

One night after work Daddy was watching TV. He was pretty shaky, having just come off a drunk and trying to pull himself together. I kept Mitch in a cardboard box by the back door and the frog had never gotten out. The box was full of leaves and frog stuff so Mitch could burrow in and sit there with his eyes sticking out so he could see what was going on. This night turned out to be Mitch’s exception. Daddy had made popcorn and everyone was sitting around watching television. Daddy seemed more nervous than usual; he kept shifting uncomfortably in his chair.

He finally said, “Carroll, do you see anything odd in this room?”

Momma looked around the room and answered, “No, Tom, I don’t,” What are you talking about?”

About that time, Mitch hopped across the room and settled down right in front of the television set. I jumped to my feet and grabbed the frog, sure I was in for it now. Daddy didn’t allow critters in the house. Turns out he was so relieved that Mitch was real and not a figment of his imagination, the DTs, he laughed and allowed me to keep the big ol’ boy. He said he’d never seen a frog that big, wasn’t aware frogs could grow to be as big as Mitch was.

All the folks living at Herbertson’s Motel paid their rent one day at a time. That’s how Daddy got us a place so quickly but it didn’t last very long. Mitch had to go back to his pond when we were evicted from Robinson’s. Daddy found us a new place to live on Garfield Street, a couple of blocks from City Park in Denver. The neighborhood was predominately black. Momma advised me to keep to myself and the black folks would likely do the same. They had enough problems of their own without worrying about poor white people living in their midst.

Soon after we moved into our tiny house, Uncle Jack had a big fight with Aunt Pat and sent Jackie back to live with his birth family. Jackie was scared and unhappy but I was elated to have my brother back. It was the spring of 1960 and it was a high time for the family in the little white house. Daddy was sober, Jackie was back, and this little duplex house we moved into had one of those high windows to crawl through and no one living next door. It was better than the Corncrib because the landlord would call the neighbors whenever he was meeting someone to show the place. They would advise Momma so she could straighten the yard and make the place presentable. We never got caught out with our color books and crayons on Garfield Street and Momma got acquainted with the neighbors.

Jackie spent a lot of time out roaming the neighborhood. He’d find pop bottles and cash them in to buy Hershey bars and other goodies. I fell into the old routine with him, letting him go and not telling Momma and Daddy, always with the hope that he would bring back something good to eat. Jackie tended to push the time envelope, not come home at the agreed time, and I would get upset. We would both be in for it if we got caught. There was also the problem of the younger children, especially Phillip. Ideally, Jackie would wait to leave until I put them down for their afternoon nap. Jackie and I had been lucky since his return from Uncle Jack. The pickings had been good too, lots of pop bottles tossed away by rich people in the trashcans, lawns, and gutters of Denver’s City Park. In addition to Hershey bars and RC Colas, Jackie almost always came back from his rounds with pockets full of small white bouncy balls. They were hard and covered with dimples.

We were out in the yard bouncing them on the sidewalk in front of the house one day and I asked Jackie, “Where do you get ‘em?”
He winked and wiggled his scrawny nose. “Ya gotta know where to look. I toldja, it’s all out there. Alls ya gotta do is go after it.”

Jackie’s teeth were horribly crooked and his skin was mottled with dark red freckles. I squinted my eyes to see better. The way Jackie had his face all scrunched up made it appear as if his freckles were moving around, changing places with each other. Or maybe the illusion was caused by the squinting of my eyes. I grinned at my goofy looking brother. “C’mon, tell me where you get ‘em.”

~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~
~music~
~of lips, mother & wine~

Tags

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

Meet the author

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

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