Beguiled Serpentine Days
Some pains are worth ignoring, the foreboding ones especially, the ones that bit long ago and present themselves neatly and conveniently and positioned poetically. The dead pain between your legs and back and gut and groin, that only says hello to remind you of what you do, until doing is no longer fun, it says, hello, it’s time you stopped feeling. It’s worth ignoring because there is nothing that could be done, because those Sundays made you crave something that tasted pure and of nothing.
7th day mornings were always a fight. The sun comes no matter what but the wee eyed dreams of the night need fixing before it’s worth seeing, and nightmares require flirtation timed in days not hours. Church ended any possible salvation from those. St Pats had enough stone and masonry to keep my mind busy enough, though, having a small bladder and frequent water fountain trips made the dry homilies fade away into the brief moment of happiness of saying peace be with you to total strangers. Of course, there were those times when behavior demanded an exile to the hall rectory basement. It was darker down there than bad dreams and equally relegated to the mind’s little cracks that only eye sand can fill. Inevitably, anywhere I was, the masses end with the safe boredom of the brick and painted vaulted arches. The day of rest was now over.
Breakfast went around year round something like this; Fresh eggs (Theresa had to fetch them) – mostly snot sunny side up, frozen orange juice concentrate with a gag pulp of course, powdered milk out of a box, either or both of frozen bacon or Jones’s breakfast sausage pan fried in their own crude death drippings, and white bread toast made from 6 month old sometimes moldy bread that had been bought 5 for 1. Sometimes one or two would go down cruising, sometimes none. The real problem with breakfast was not the food, it was the looming doom of dad the master blaster. Yeah, he was the big cuddly bear strong guy and the short maniacal Napoleon strapped on top, all wrapped into a 140 lb 5’-2” stone of so much mean and heart that the Grinch was like, 7 sizes what? Theresa and I would try to slink away from the table while dad was talking to grandma and grandpa on the phone. Mom would say, “Your father wants you to help him after breakfast”. By help, she meant a kick blocking, hand ducking, tool dodging, crying, hiding, daydreaming, languishing, anguishing, 7yr old, forced captive labor, beating flunky of a kid. It was always learning hard and escaping for fun. There is nothing I can’t tackle today thanks to it. Someone once told me I’m a renaissance man. Yes, bought and paid for in now fiat emotions of that golden kid.
As far as work was concerned, Sundays all mixed in the same. Dad usually worked a 2nd job on Saturday so that was for our rest. Otherwise, the weekends just bled and bled. Work could be anybody’s guess, double 30 yd dump trailers of bulkhead wood to be cut, fork lifts needing repairs dropped off in our driveway, concrete pavement to be demolished by hand, rabbits and ducks to be slaughtered, .5 acre gardens to be tilled, ham radios to be built, all hand cutting for the wood burning stove (if I was a lazy summer, it was my snow job to work it out), tool runner, handy helper, but mostly there to do what I was told. I learned.
Sunday dinners and Sunday nights had good things, always. My mom was never a great cook but she sure knew how to make dinner. Oh, except for the occasional casserole or liver ideas the 70’s induced. We’d watch Quincy, Little house on the Prairie, The Waltons, the Wonderful World of Disney, PBS Telethons of the Marx Brothers and Buster Keaton. They seemed better with popcorn which is still my favorite. We had family time too. Monopoly and Life were good. Poker was fun until my dad fleeced me out of my possessions with the lesson that the house’s business was to cheat. I guess I could go on and on about the bad and the good. Looking back, I’d say good, more, a warm feeling that you feel inside. Not like that other feeling, when as a child you get up late and crave something to taste and you stand in your doorway gnawing the finish, gnawing the fire board, gnawing that white chrysotile center right to the black metallic face, gnawing it from your highest to the floor, bending the back out to gnaw some more, bending it back each night to hide the missing core, gnawing square feet worth of fibers and grit, gnawing it raw and loving every bit, gnawing out the last hours of every Sunday consuming that white asbestos, swallowing it down, letting its crystal fibers embed, embed in the lower intestine. For decades, it nested, prodding the cells until they broke free of their shells and tried to be what they are not. The doctor looks at you and says, “I’ve never seen such an MRI form in a body, it is horrifyingly amazing. It is all connected and shaped like Pterois”.
But this is not what I expected. What am I going to tell her?
“Better Tell her she will meet them all next Sunday”
“and If you are smart, hold onto that string”