Call me Dylan–
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(This is the eighth and final chapter of this short story. Follow the links below to read the previous chapters)
(This is the eighth and final chapter of this short story. Follow the links below to read the previous chapters)
Thank goodness the other bathroom was complete or we might have had an entire family of critters living in the walls. What I wanted to say was, “I wish the other bathroom had been incomplete, that way I could have had my own little family “living inside the walls”, but you never know who might be reading this. I wouldn’t want the reader to think I’m weird or anything, you know how people can take one little comment and run with it. Hell, one opinion like that and the police might be at my door with a battering ram, a search warrant and a strait jacket.
Ok, I have total and complete recall of that yellow painted room with the divided towel closet and the long white vanity top. That towel closet was the perfect hiding spot. When Lil Renny and Chuckie would try to force me to play games like “hide and go choke the middle child” or “ring around the middle child’s head with the barb wire headband”, I would hunker down in that closet behind the towels and stay there until they forgot they were looking for me. Naturally, they caught me one time – just before I got into the closet, they dragged me out into the yard. That’s when I learned to play “red light, green light, middle child lights out”. You’ve seen enough of how my life went to understand how that was played without my even going into detail. They also taught me their version of “Simon says” that day, only it was called “Brother Says” and I was the only pigeon playing. After several rounds of “Brother says go spit on yourself” and “Brother says go lick that chicken”, the chickens got wise and ran into the henhouse. That’s when I got away from them and ran inside and got into the towel closet. Unfortunately, there were no towels in the closet that day so I did like all little kid’s do… I covered my eyes with my hands so they couldn’t find me and guess what? They searched that bathroom high and low for more than 3 hours looking everywhere from inside the towel closet to down the bath tub drain but never found me… and they say the middle child is always the slow one, hahahahahahaha!
(This is the seventh chapter of this short story. Follow the links below to read the previous chapters)
http://wp.me/p5AbPX-Pw chapter 6
Being the parents definitely had its perks. For example, they had their very own bathroom complete with their very own incomplete shower. I have no idea why they never had it finished. Heck, with daddy and Mr. Dunston’s brick fence building skills, one would think it would have been an easy task for them, but I guess not. There was a large gaping hole that exposed all the plumbing on one side and a plywood trap door on the other. I would imagine the idea of losing that hook inside the wall was enough to prevent mama and daddy from asking for any assistance from him.
I often wondered if anyone else realized the trap door led to the hole and vice versa. I have so many memories of that room, like the time mama made me crawl through the trap door to look for critters after she heard something running in the wall. The idea was for me to go in, catch, skin, cook and serve it for dinner. Mama promised I could have the leg and thigh portions if it was a nutria. What she didn’t know was that every time she and daddy and the boys left me home alone, I would crawl into that hole and hang out. The critters within were friends. There were the conjoined nutrias, the nervous 3-legged possum, the owl with the glass eye and the pair of bald headed bald eagles. They made me feel loved and needed… go figure… One evening at mama’s insistence, I crawled through the trap door in search of a nutria big enough to be dinner for 4, no not 5, I was the middle child and I always ate alone. I knew Asa and Asa were big enough to feed the entire family, but I knew I could never harm a hair on their stuck together backs, especially the way Asa looked at me and the way Asa looked back at me. That was the night I had to improvise, so I crawled in, bent over and took a chunk out of my right ankle. It was the one with the fungus on it so I had to work twice as hard to chew through all that thick hard skin. To be sure it would be enough to feed the whole family, I reached around and bit a plug of fat off my back and that was actually quite simple. (For more than a year Chuckie and Lil Renny enjoyed playing tug of war. I was the rope… one held my feet and the other one held my head. I think my neck stretched more than a foot before the judge caught wind and banned them from their favorite game.) I took my meat to the kitchen and tossed all of it into a pot of hot water with some fresh dug potatoes and carrots. When it finished cooking I sat back and watched my family have a fleshy foot fungus and back fat food fiesta, and I didn’t even mind the fact that Princess wouldn’t share her bone with me as I watched. Thinking back and looking forward, I suspect that explains my chronic back issues and maybe even my recurring foot fungus.
When we were old enough to attend school, our parents sent us to what I can only describe as “the little schoolhouse on the hill”. Seriously, it was a big white building that sat on top of a hill. Thinking back, it truly looked like something from “Little House on the Prairie”. Lunch was the same thing every day… English peas, with an orange slice and a piece of cornbread. I can vividly recall the teacher constantly saying “Ro- Shellllll, don’t fork your bread”. As if spending your day in a hauntingly scary looking house wasn’t enough, we had to look at and listen to “Mrs. Congeniality” all day, too. Luckily, my brother and I were in the same classroom since she was the only teacher.
I’ve mentioned before that I followed my brother everywhere. One day, just before dismissal, the sky turned dark and a torrential rainstorm pummeled the area. My brother and I stood inside the building looking out for our parents. A fellow classmate, who just so happened to be Mrs. Congeniality’s kid, approached us, and for lack of a better term, baited us. The little demon dared us to walk home, in the rainstorm, all alone. Here’s where I have proof that my dear, sweet, older brother loved me from the start, he grabbed my hand, and led me out of the building into the storm. He told me that we would be okay and that he knew the way home.
I suspect, had I looked back, I would have seen that evil kid and her mother laughing at the poor little drenched idiots who were trudging along holding onto one another for dear life. The rain was coming down so hard I could hardly see what was going on in front of me. We made it down the hill and to the main street, which was generally a very busy two lane street. On this particular day, traffic was almost non-existent, probably because the entire area was under a tornado warning. Anyway, as we made our way in the direction that my big brother assured me would get us home, we approached a bridge that was completely unfamiliar to us. That’s when an older model blue car drove past us then pulled over on the shoulder of the road. We held on to one another and kept walking when suddenly the driver’s door opened and a very tall, thin man stepped out into the rain, basically blocking our way. When he bent down and spoke to us, we, being brought up to be polite and respectful, stopped and greeted the man. He smiled and told us that he was our “Uncle Jeff” and that we should get into his car so he could take us home. I was so happy that “Uncle Jeff”, whom I’d never met nor had I heard of before, happened to be in the neighborhood that I gladly let him pick me up and put me in his trunk., I guess my big brother was happy too because he allowed “Uncle Jeff” to pick him up and put him in there with me.
To our horror, he wasn’t really our uncle and he didn’t have a clue where we lived. He had lied… and so have I, but only about the trunk. He didn’t really put us in the trunk, and by the time my big brother remembered that we didn’t have an uncle named Jeff, the man was pulling into the driveway of that darn little white schoolhouse. He had taken us back to the scene of our escape. “Uncle Jeff” parked, opened the back door, picked both of us up and carried us to the front door of the school. Mrs. Congeniality stepped out and acted surprised to see us in the arms of that stranger. I heard her thank him for saving us as she closed and locked the door behind him. She immediately called our mom and dad, and I specifically recall sitting in a chair in front of the open oven door eating cookies when they arrived. Was the pilot lit in that stove? Was it set on 500 degrees? Was she trying to kill us with gas fumes or make chocolate chips out of our little drenched bodies?
Mom and dad arrived and mom cried when that crazy old lady told her what happened. They carried us out to the car and took us home.
To this day we don’t have any idea who that man was, where he came from or where he went. Needless to say, that was our last day at the little schoolhouse on the hill.
(This is the sixth chapter of this short story. Follow the links below to read the previous chapters)
My bedroom, aka, The Taj Mahal.
The walls were covered with magazine cut outs of my future husband, Michael Jackson. Yes, the world famous, now deceased, Mr. “I Want You Back”, himself! We He released that in 1969 with his brothers. We were very young then and had one of those arranged marriages, only neither of us really had anything to offer the other. I was a lonely middle child and he was “mean Joe Jackson’s” boy. Who’d have ever thought he’d rise above and make it so big? Not me. Hell, if I knew then what I came to eventually know, I wouldn’t have insisted on him moving away to Indiana. Of course, he came back for me when he started making it big, but I’ve never been one to grab anyone else’s coattail – so I sent him away to live his life …as a lonely guy with a monkey for a best friend. If this seems fictitious, just google the lyrics to “Ben” and you’ll see me written all over that song. Not to mention, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Baby Be Mine”. I could go on forever, but my peepers of times forgotten are starting to cloud over so I’d better get on with it before they’re too cloudy to see the computer keys.
Earlier in the story I indicated that my room was not appropriately furnished. Pictures on a wall, even if they’re of such a beautiful guy, certainly do not make for a comfortable area to call your own. Remember when I said that I slept on a mat in “the boys’ room”? That wasn’t forever. At some point it became perceptible that I was being treated more like a red head step child than a middle child and mom and dad must have felt bad, or something, so they decided to change things up a bit. They bought used furniture from a flea market, used carpet samples (shag and thin) from a remnant store and a pair of venetian blinds that were only missing half the slats. For the most part, I loved my “new” room. The sofa sleeper would only pop out three quarters of the way so I slept sitting up, sort of leaning forward and folded. The bed bugs and chiggers weren’t much of a problem either, after daddy started dipping me in kerosene and motor oil in the mornings. The blinds, even with their shoddy, flawed design, provided enough shade and cover to keep me from being completely exposed. Since there was no glass in the window, they blew in and out freely, which helped keep some of the horseflies out too. The only thing I didn’t like was the flooring. I couldn’t seem to keep my footing on the thin parts, and the fleas on the shag pieces kept my ankles peppered with oozing, red, itchy spots. To my dismay, the kerosene motor oil potion was more like joy juice to them than poison. It’s like they lived for that stuff. I can still see them licking it off, then using their needle–like front feet to drill holes into the fleshy parts of my ankles making them look like fat, caramel covered candied apples but without the apples. They still look like that to this day.
(This is the fifth chapter of this short story. Follow the links below to read the previous chapters)
http://wp.me/p5AbPX-OQ chapter 4
Ok, now let’s go ahead and put my parents room “in review”:
Their room was laid out much like my room is today. They had the master bedroom in their house like I have the master bedroom in my house, except I added a 6×12 foot walk-in closet and had my half bath converted to full. The closet was a must have, my Snicker Bar, Fritos and Coke fetish have to remain private… and secret. Yes, after all of the “things” I went through, I survived, and I guess you could say, I even thrived…never underestimate the power of prayer, 47 years of psychotherapy and some of the best mind altering drugs known to man.
The master bedroom- my reminiscences of this room are a bit hazy, and it’s likely that the matter involving the bees, the electric blanket and the baseball bat are the cause. The doctor said that waiting until the swelling went down was probably not a good idea. That one nostril was swollen so big it cut off the air to the other one and I guess my airway was blocked off a little more than I thought from that blood poisoning infection I got from the rusty needle mama used for my stitches. Those five days of random wheezing/whistling instead of breathing, undoubtedly must have done some brain damage.
What I do remember is the way mama and daddy had to hold Renny down every morning before school to comb his hair. See, Renny was born with his intestines twisted and had to have an operation when he was just two days old. Granny Lynn said they used too much “ether” and that made his teeth look like tiny yellow spikes. She said it also explained why his hair was so damn bad that they had to use a metal comb to comb it. Spikey teeth, non- spikey teeth, good hair, bad hair – no big deal, right? Especially since his baby teeth were destined to fall out anyway… but what about that hair? Would it fall out, too? Was there any hope? The fact that they basically had to hog tie Lil Renny each day just to get the comb through one “2×2” block was too much for mama to bear. He was her baby and she wanted to protect him at any cost. I believe that’s when the hair transplant idea first crossed her mind, at least that’s about the time that I noticed mama spending more time with me than ever before. She hugged me more, she held me more, she kissed me more, she smelled my hair more and she ran her fingers through it more. The only time I can recall a hug or kiss from mama was the night I choked on my hamburger steak. Looking back, I realize two broken ribs might be consistent with the Heimlich maneuver, but where does mouth to mouth fit in to that scenario? I guess she wasn’t taking any chances. My parents were court ordered to keep me alive “by any means necessary” or else, and obviously, they intended to do just that. Nothing in the order mentioned keeping me with or without hair, which now leads me to believe mama was “casing” my head. Do you know what that means? It’s a slang law enforcement word used to describe what potential thieves do when they check a location out or watch it closely and covertly.
This hugging and kissing and finger combing went on for 6 to 8 months. Then one day granddaddy came around and offered me a cup of that sweet, fruity tasting, warm tea with the funny smelling froth on top. I didn’t want to be rude so I took it, drank it and woke up 4 days older, lying on the floor, in a tea induced fog. I was confused, thirsty, hot and sweaty which was the way I always felt after drinking that “tea”. I eventually realized I was in my parent’s bedroom and I can remember nervously looking up at daddy who was sitting in his recliner next to the bed. When I stirred, he looked down at me with that empty mouthed frown and a question mark on his face. That simple look silently spoke volumes. When I looked over at mama, who was sitting in the corner, her face told a different story. She looked away and snickered. Suddenly I caught a glimpse of my hair in the big mirror over the dresser, only it no longer framed my face. It was Lil Renny’s face that my beautiful, luxurious locks were caressing. I reached up and touched my head and began to cry, not for the hair I’d lost but for the hair they’d left me with. I felt what could be no less described as patches or splotches. One look in the mirror and my muffled sobs were covered by shrill, hyena-like laughter. I stared at my reflection in the mirror until it became obvious that each time I inhaled, the hyenas would stop and they would only begin again when I exhaled. It was me, the laughter slash shrieking was coming from me…
…8 days later…. I woke up to the smell of ammonia and Vicks Vaporub with a hint of Lysol and a touch of bleach on the side. It seems that daddy had convinced mama that I was possessed, and that the only way to stop my “fit” was to purge me. It only took 3 months for some of the feeling in my cheeks to return. I still have trouble with the right one when it rains and the dentist has such a hard time numbing my mouth that he has to sedate me. I guess that’s from that ammonia, Vicks, Lysol, cocktail enema they gave me that day; and all these years I thought I’d inherited this crooked smile…
(This is the fourth chapter of this short story. Follow the links below to read the previous chapters)
http://wp.me/p5AbPX-Ox chapter 1
http://wp.me/p5AbPX-OH chapter 2
http://wp.me/p5AbPX-OL chapter 3
Since you last saw me curled in the fetal position outside my mom’s bedroom door, I guess that’s as good a place as any to get started again.
Let’s see… I’m looking across the hall, in the recesses of my mind, and I see “the boy’s room” as they referred to it. In all fairness, until I was about 12 years old it was my room too. Or at least it’s the room I slept in. Did I have a room of my own, especially since I was the only girl? Actually, I did, but don’t forget I was the “middle child”, so expecting it to be furnished, appropriately, was another story. First, I’ll share my childhood memory of the room the three of us shared, then I’ll tell you about “the other room”.
There was a set of twin beds separated by a three- foot span of floor space between them. Looking back, I can picture Chuckie in the bed farthest from the door and Little Renny nestled all snug as a bug in the other one. Oh, you’re getting good. You guessed it. I was able to tell you about the distance between the beds because that’s where my mat was. It was a thick and fluffy mat with colorful butterflies and red and black lady bugs on it. Little Renny’s live bumble bee collections (jars 1 and 2) were housed, lids off, under the beds and if I didn’t do too much tossing and turning I could make it through the night with only a few stings.
I’m surprised I’m able to conjure this one up but let me tell you about the night I remember getting shocked and stepped on then stung in the nose… 4 times… in the same nostril.
It was a cold and rainy night, and in the country nobody had central heat or air. It was either window units, electric heaters and fireplaces or hand held fans and electric blankets, or a combination of all that. Well, in our house, we had the latter which turned out to be unfortunate, for me… per the norm. I was on my mat, trying not to disturb the bees, when I felt a sharp burning sensation that seemed to be moving from my toes up toward my face- on both sides. At the same time, my arms and legs stiffened up on me and I started trembling uncontrollably. I can remember Lil Renny looking over the edge of his bed, directly into my eyes. He looked as if he was seeing a ghost. The next thing I knew I was hearing an almost unbearable screeching noise coming from the right. My head was locked, but I managed to move my eyes just enough and just in time to see Chuckie screaming and bearing his tooth at me. (He’d lost so many teeth that year and so fast that mama had resorted to making me chew his food up then feed it to him). He was pointing toward my feet and when I looked in that direction what I saw horrified me too. His big black shepherd, Princess, was in full squat relieving her bladder on top of, around and through the chewed up electric blanket that I’d been so graciously given after Lil Renny used it until the electric wires were shredded and showing. The open wires and my little metal leg braces were in a tangled mess fighting to let go of each other with neither one having a mind to actually ungrip the other. The boys’, as I knew them, became nothing more than screaming, sniveling useless little pansies… but man oh man, could they move! They jumped up, in tandem, and stomped all over me trying to get out of that room. What made it even worse was the fact that they too felt a shocking jolt when their feet touched my face. The jolt caused them to jump up, and with all things going up… they must come down. In this case – right in my gut which was a brief, barely felt stomp that I must admit pailed in comparison to the first two. They made it out of that bedroom door in record time – about the same time that the shocking sensation subsided and the bumblebee stings began. They came at me like bats out of hell. No amount of swinging, swatting or swearing would stop that onslaught of furious creatures and apparently, they thought my nose was a hive. They flew inside my left nostril, one at a time, mind you, and stung me so hard my dead man eyes watered and my smutty throat burned. When I thought it was over for me, I saw my mama run into the room and grab the first thing she could. I guess the fact that it was Chuckie’s baseball bat didn’t even occur to her until she saw the blood. It took 47 stitches to close the gap mama created with that bat that night – but that’s ok. I just wish she’d used a different color fishing line and a smaller needle to do it.
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Author of suspense novels Search For Maylee, Aggravated Momentum, The Stix, and New Age Lamians. As well as the short story collection Time Wasters and (co-author of) The Suspenseful Collection. Columnist for The Conscious Talk Magazine.
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