Harry De Noir By Harry J. Chong December 23rd, 1959 Two days before Christmas.

It’s a snowy day outside. I watch the other children play in the snow from inside the car. My father drives slowly; he turns on the windshield wipers. My mother files her nails upfront, the particles of chitin blows onto Harold’s lap. “Goddamn it,” Harold says annoyed. “How many times have I told you not to do your nails in the car?” Marian gives him a blank look. She goes back to filing her nails. Harold scowls and continues driving on the teeth white roads. A couple minutes pass and we get over to the house. We get out of the black hearse looking vehicle and step up to the porch. Taking off her leather glove Marian uses her middle finger to press the doorbell. A bellowing ding-dong resonates from inside the house. A figure is seen trotting toward the door. Harold grumbles and folds his arms, “What is taking so long!” The door swings open. My aunt opens her arms and smiles, “Marian!” My mother embraces her younger sister and hugs her tight. “How long has it been?” Aunt Chloe asks. “10 years?” Marian giggles and adjusts her large tinted glasses, “2 years by my count.” Aunt Chloe still grinning, waves us inside. We take off our shoes at the front and walk down the narrow corridor into the living room. I take a seat between my mom and dad on the sofa. Aunt Chloe adjusts her girdle, “Would anyone like tea?” I sheepishly raise my hand. Harold slaps me on the back of my skull, “Have you no manners?” “Yes,” my father replies, “Tea would be fine.” Chloe disappears and goes into the kitchen. I can hear the sound of clinging and clanging as she prepares the guest food. My father puts his feet onto the dark share rectangular coffee table. He puts his hands behind his head and leans back. “Harold,” Marian says as she shows him a face of embarrassment. “We’re not animals are we?” “I don’t know about you,” Harold says, “but lately I’ve been feelin’ like an animal.” My mom grabs his pant leg and tugs it back. My father reluctantly obliges. Chloe enters the living room with a silver tray. She places it onto the coffee table. There is a full pot of tea, candies and cookies. I stick my hand out and grab a toffee. Again, my father hits me across the back of the head. “Where are you manners?” he scoffs. I draw back my hand. “Oh,” Aunt Chloe says, “The candies were for Harry…” My father winces. “I don’t want him to get fat.” “One or two candies wouldn’t hurt,” Chloe says. “Well,” Harold says, “They’re bad for his teeth. You don’t want the damn boy to have cavities do you? …Because we

can’t afford to pay another dentistry bill.” Marian rolls her eyes. She leans forward and pours herself a cup of tea. My ears suddenly perk up. I hear the laughter of other children from upstairs. “Oh,” Chloe says as she pours out tea, “Your cousins are home. Would you like to go up and play with them?” I look at my father. He glares and blows on his cup of tea. He takes a sip. “Go up and play,” Marian tells me. “It’d do you good to socialize.” “He never goes out,” Marian tells Aunt Chloe. “He’s always inside writing and drawing. It’s no good for a boy his age – not good at all.” I quietly get up from my seat. I am reluctant to leave. Harold waves me away, “Go on.” I climb over my father’s legs stretched legs and go upstairs. Aunt Chloe sits down and the adults have a boring conversation which I will purposefully neglect to tell. The upstairs isn’t like my house. It’s not musky and smelly. Actually I’d go as far to say it has quite a delightful scent. I run my hands along the hallway ‘till I come to an open door at the end. I peak my head in and stare. There are four girls playing with strange plastic dolls and giggling. “What is so amusing?” I blurt out. The youngest cousin turns to me and says, “Oh it is the latest toy. Have you not heard of the Barbie doll?” Sounds German I think aloud in my head. “Oh yeah,” I lie, “It was quite the rage at school.” “You’ve never heard of it have you?” the eldest one chimes in. I have nothing to say. “It’s amazing how young people learn to lie,” she says to my irritation. The second eldest puts down her dolls and takes me by the hands. “Come in,” she says with a soft voice. “My sister’s are just teasing you.” I go into their oddly pink colored room and sit down on the floor between the beds. “How old are you?” the second youngest asks. I clear my throat, “twelve tomorrow.” “Oh!” the youngest comments. “You’re the same age as Elizabeth.” “Who is Elizabeth?” I ask. “Elizabeth is the charming young lady who brought you in,” the youngest says as she giggles. I muster up my courage with these strange cousins of mine and ask what each of their names is. “I’m glad you asked,” the eldest says. “I thought you were awfully shy and didn’t wish to know us.” I shake my head left and right, “No, no. I am very please to meet you all…” …A moment of silence. “And what are you names?” I ask again. The eldest one puts down her Barbie doll and gets to her feet. She curtsies in her blue dress. “I am Sandra,” she says. “I’m 14 years old.” The second youngest uses her doll as a dummy and bobbles its head toward me. She makes a voice and tries to hide the movement of her lips, “Hello young boy! My name is Alexandria. I’m 9!” The youngest brushes the doll of her hair. I look at her with anticipation. The eldest clears her throat. She looks up at me and bats her eyelashes, “Margaret.” “How old are you?” I ask. “How old do I appear?” she asks back. I scratch my chin. “I wouldn’t

know.” I say. “You look about 7.” She laughs at me. “I’m 5!” she says. I blush and look away. Elizabeth touches my cheeks. “Oh,” she remarks, “look how red you’ve become. Did my sister’s remark embarrass you?” I shake my head no. “It’s quite alright,” Elizabeth tells me. “She has a tendency to embarrass the boys.” “I do not!” Margaret protests. “Oh shush,” Elizabeth tells her younger sister. As I am getting to know my newfound family, I hear the rumbling of my father’s voice. “Harry!” he bellows. “Get your butt down here!” I get to my feet. “Well it was nice meeting you all,” I say. “Maybe we can see each other next time?” The four sisters shake their heads. I run downstairs. Harold taps his feet with his hands on his hips, “What took you so long?” I have nothing to say. Chloe shows us out. At the front entrance she smiles and waves goodbye. Dad turns the keys of the car and guns the big box steel down and out from the driveway. We roll onto the streets. December 24th, 1959 The sun beams down on my face. I squint and look at my alarm clock – 6:00AM. It’s quite early. But I’m feeling in a good mood, Christmas has almost arrived. I leap out of bed and run to the washroom. I splash warm water on my face and dry it off with a towel. I take my glass and fill it with cold water. I take a gulp and gargle. I spit the water into the sink. I run downstairs to the living room where my father and mother are. “Did you brush your teeth?” my dad asks. “Can I do it after I eat?” I ask. Harold puts down the newspaper from his face. “What is wrong with you? Do you have rocks in your head or what? I told you to brush your teeth every single morning!” I slump my shoulder and go back up to brush my teeth. I finish up and go back down. My mom puts down her bible. “Harry,” she calls. “Could you get my purse?” I groan. “Don’t take that tone with your mother,” Harold says. “Where is it?” I ask. “Upstairs,” she says. I go upstairs. I go into the master bedroom and look around. I am having difficulty finding it. I look under the bed, I look on top of the bed; I look around the bed…nothing. I look in the closet and I look in the washroom. I look under the dresser; I look on top of the armoire. No damned purse. I trot downstairs. My mom is holding her bag. “Never mind,” she says. “I found it.” I annoyingly leave the living room and go into the kitchen. I swing open the door of the fridge and grab a bowl of red jell-o. Before I can close it my mom is standing behind me. She grabs the bottle of milk. “Don’t forget to drink your milk,” she says. I sit down at the kitchen table. Marian grabs a clean cup from the cabinet and places it down in front of me. She pours me cow juice all the way to the top.

“I can’t drink this,” I protest. “Don’t you want to be big and strong like your daddy?” she asks. “Not really,” I tell her. “Well it doesn’t matter.” Marian tells me. “You have to drink it anyway.” My mom disappears back into the living room. I hear the noise of the television play as I stare down at the cup of white liquid. I grab the glass and barely drink half way. It’s just too much. “Finish your milk!” my mom says to me while watching her program. “Otherwise your dad will be angry!” I grab the glass again and force myself to drink. I drink enough only until there’s a little bit left at the bottom. Quickly I get off my seat and pour the rest down the drink. My mom will never know I think. My dad saunters into the kitchen and looks at me standing over the sink. He raps on my head with his big hairy knuckles. “Don’t waste my milk,” he says. “Drink it all!” “I did drink it all,” I tell him. “What am I an idiot?” he asks me rhetorically. “No sir,” I say. Harold hits my on top of the head. This time I can feel the blunt force trauma. “I know you didn’t drink your milk!” he shouts. “Marian,” he says to my mother from the kitchen. “Tell this boy of yours not to waste milk.” There’s no response. Dad bellows again, “MARIAN!” My mom shakes out of her stupor. “Don’t waste milk,” she says. Harold goes back into the living room. I rub my head and go down into the basement where I can be alone. The basement is damp and dark…but I like it. Nobody ever comes down here to bother me. It’s strange. Sometimes I think it’s haunted and they’re all too scared to be here. The only time I see my parents in the basement is when mom washes clothes. Other than that it’s totally devoid of life, although I do see the occasional spider. You know spiders are an interesting creature. They always seem to build their webs in the strangest places. One time I saw a cobweb in the bowl of a toilet. I mean really what fly would go in there? Come to think of it, it would make a lot of sense. Flies are attracted to shit aren’t they? I guess those spiders aren’t so stupid after all... Oh! Would you look at that! My older brother Jon left his train set here. I can’t believe he left it behind. Naturally I am ecstatic to see it. I run to the corner and pick up one of the cars. It’s a little worn down, the paint, but it’s still incredibly detailed. I can see the conductor inside. He’s wearing blue overalls. Gee I wonder how much work they put into these things? I don’t know and I don’t care. I piece together the rest of the train and plug it in. I watch with awe as the train cars magically go around the track. That Jon I think, he’s an odd fellow. He left behind a perfectly good train set; the one grandpa bought him for his birthday. Maybe he’s too old for it you think? He is about 18 now. I think that makes him an adult of some sort; too bad though he left home without a trace. I’ve always wondered where he went. Every time I ask mom or dad they tell me to keep quiet. Do you think he’s dead? In that case I should go searching for his body.

On the ideas of my musings, I plug out the train and go upstairs. Nobody is on the main floor. Father and mother must be asleep. I check twice. Nope nobody is there. I put on my jacket and quietly go into the porch where I put on my shoes and I leave the house. It’s a cold day, as usual, but my red nose won’t stop me from finding Jon. He’s too important to me. December 24th, 1959, Afternoon I’ve been looking for my older brother Jon since morning. He doesn’t appear to be anywhere. My teeth are chattering from the cold. His body is nowhere to be found. It’s not at the cemetery, it’s not at the school; it’s not even at the park. Where could his body be? Perhaps it has decomposed. I can imagine. The guy was a skinny fellow. He barely had much of an appetite. Especially when dad was around, or as he called him Harold. Hmm…a bird has landed on my shoulder. What a serendipitous event. I turn my head slowly and try not to shift my body on the old wooden bench. The brown bird chirps delightfully. “Hello Mr. Bird,” I say. “It’s nice to see you. Would you know where my brother is?” The bird looks up and flies away. “Goodbye!” I say as I get up from my seat. I am in quite a good mood now. Although exhausted, I am determined to find my brother. I shuffle my feet and leave the park. After an hour of traversing I am getting blisters on my feet. I learn against the tree in the woods and take off my shoe. I hold my foot up and look at the sole. I’ve definitely got a blister. I gently poke it with my finger. Ouch! I put my shoe back on. I continue my walk and ignore the pain. A few minutes of limped ambling has led me to a cabin. It looks quite cozy. But the dark windows seem foreboding. You know I heard that witches live in these woods. They wait for young tired children to stop by for hot soup and then eat their brains. Then again I am terribly tired. I gather my bravery deep from my gut and gather it to my brain. I knock on the door. There is no reply. I knock again. There is no reply. I stick out my chilly hand and grab the door knob. I turn the rusty handle and let myself in. There is a roaring fire I can see. And to the right is a shadowy figure sitting on a rocking chair covered in a blanket. “Hello,” I say. “I’m sorry to bother you but…” The shadowy figure gets up. It takes off its blanket and turns around. I am shocked at what I see. “Jon!” I shout with excitement. I run over to him and wrap my arms around his body. “Where have you been all this time?” I ask. Jon looks down at me, “Things weren’t good Harry; things weren’t good.” “What do you mean?” I ask. “Why weren’t things good?” Jon takes me over to a heavy looking wood table where we both sit. “How’s mom?” Jon asks me. “She’s fine.” I tell him. “But she’s been really worried about you. She always talks about you.” “And dad?” Jon adds. “Dad is his usual self,” I tell him. “He has nothing much to say.” Jon wrenches his hands.

“So when are you going to come back home?” I inquire. Jon puts his hand on top of mine. “When you’re an adult,” Jon says, “It’s not right for you to live at home. You outgrow your welcome.” “Mom still wants you there,” I tell him. Jon lets go of my hand. “Well if dad weren’t there maybe I’d come back. But that’s not the way it is so I can’t.” “Dad is a forgiving person. Is this about when you and he were yelling at each other? I think he’s forgotten.” “It’s more than that Harry. I can’t live with him. I can’t live with Harold.” “That’s silly.” “What’s silly?” “You…always calling him Harold. Well most of the time anyway.” “Harry do you feel happy at home?” “I don’t know Jon. Is there anything better out there?” “Much better,” Jon says. I’m not sure what to think. My 12 year old brain can’t really comprehend these issues. Although when I think about it dad does say an awful lot of mean things. I try to push deep down in my stomach though. Mom says it’s not his fault; it’s from the stress of the job and supporting us. I look up at Jon. Jon looks back at me. “You know I thought you were dead,” I blurt out. Jon faces turns pink and he burst out in laughter, “Ha-ha! Why would you think that?” “Well,” I reply, “You left your train set behind. Don’t you like it anymore?” Jon tries to muffle his laughter. “If I were dead don’t you think there would have been a funeral?” Solemnly and foolishly I say, “Maybe dad didn’t want to give you a funeral.” Jon’s expression changes back. “I know Harold doesn’t like me,” Jon says, “but don’t you think mom would hold a funeral for me?” I nod my head yes, “Of course she would. I bet there would be a lot of food there too.” “Hey what day is it today?” Jon asks me. I roll my eyes up and think, “Monday?” “No,” Jon says. “I mean what’s the date…December what?” “24th,” I say gleefully. “Christmas eve.” “It’s not Christmas eve,” Jon smiles. “It’s not?” I say. “No,” he smiles again, “It’s your birthday.” “Oh yes, yes,” I pretend to not know. “It is my birthday isn’t it?” “How old you are?” he asks. “Twelve,” I tell him. “The same age as Elizabeth.” Jon looks puzzled, “Who’s Elizabeth?” “Cousin Elizabeth,” I tell him. “Is she Aunt Chloe’s children?” he asks. “I haven’t seen her in ages. How is the old lady doing?” “She’s doing okay. I mean she’s not doing too bad consider Uncle Nester died.” “Poor Uncle Nester, it was such an unfortunate accident. Damn bastard was so young. I can’t believe he just passed away like that. Nobody even knew the cause, just flopped over one night.” “Maybe it was demons?” Jon rolls his eyes, “See this is why we can’t have conversations.” “Why?” I naïvely ask. “You’re a kid and I’m adult,” Jon lectures. “The age difference is enormous. I’m 18 and you’re 12. That’s 6 years. I’m 50% older than you. Do you know how much 50% is? It’s a damn lot I’ll tell you that.” I fold my hands, I don’t have a response. “But,”

Jon continues, “You’re pretty mature for your age. I swear you got the intellect of a 14 year old.” “I don’t really think 14 year olds are that smart,” I remark. “It’s your birthday right?” Jon says. “We should go out and do something.” The weather outside the cabin is surprisingly mild. Apparently, according to Jon, it’s perfect for hunting squirrels. “Okay,” Jon says. “Ready your catapult.” I draw my slingshot back with the rock in place and aim it at the fat grey squirrel. “Is this right?” I ask Jon. “Killing a squirrel?” “Of course it is,” Jon tells me. “This is man against animal. It’s perfectly natural…now keep quiet and aim carefully.” I let go of the sling. The rock hurdles toward the squirrel, but the feisty animal dodges it with ease. I give the slingshot back to my brother. He pushes it back toward me, “You can’t learn to live on your own if you can’t kill a squirrel. Squirrels are the most clever animals in the animal kingdom. It takes a real man to do them in.” I swallow a lump of air and take aim again. This time I aim carefully. I look through the imaginary crosshair in my brain and launch the rock full speed. The jagged grey lump of destruction whacks the poor animal in the head. What have I done? I run over to it and see if it’s still alive. My brother pokes it with a thin branch. The black eyes bulge out of its head. “Don’t poke it,” I cry. “He’s hurt can’t you see?” Jon bends down and picks up the squirrel. He taps it on top of the head, “No he’s dead.” I grab it away from him. “It’s my birthday present,” I declare. “I’ll do what I want with it.” I take the cold stiffened animal and walk aimlessly through the woods with my brother following behind. I see a patch of green jutting from the snow. I point, “There that’s where we’ll bury him.” My brother and I walk over to the unusually preserved patch of agriculture. I stoop down and dust off some of the snow. I scoop grab the grass and pull it out to expose the dirt. I scoop up the loose soil and create a makeshift squirrel grave. “You don’t need to bury squirrels,” Jon says. “The wolves will take it away.” “There aren’t any wolves around here!” I say somewhat incensed. “…are there?” Jon folds his arms and taps his foot. Cold air blows out his mouth. I hurry up and place the squirrel down. I cover it up with snow and dirt. “Do you think he’ll be okay here?” I ask Jon. “Jon,” looks down and presses on the grave with his foot. “Yeah I don’t think any wolves will get in now.’ I get up and straighten my back. I clasp my hands together and close my eyes. “What’re you doing?” Jon asks. “I’m praying,” I say. “Every funeral needs God.” “Right,” he replies. “Everyone needs hope right?” Jon clasps his hands together and joins me along in my prayer. “Oh masterful God, bless this squirrel and bless its brother and sisters. Take care of its children and guide them to nut filled trees. I am sorry for sinning. Please forgive, and since the squirrel cannot say it himself, forgive him for any sins he may have had. Take him to heaven, care for him and guide him with your benevolent great love…

amen.” My brother and I open our eyes. “You should get home,” he says. “It’s getting late.” It’s nearly 5PM when I arrive home. The sun is going down. My dad stands before me in the front corridor. His large shadow blocks my light. His arms are folded. His head looks like it’s going to burst. “Are you okay?” I ask. Harold’s hand races across his face – slap! “Where the hell were you!” he shouts. “Do you got rocks in your head or what?” I’m pissed but I know shouting and wailing won’t get me anywhere, I swallow my pride and try to maintain my composure. In a calm manner I look up and tell him what happened. I tell him everything. I tell him how I walked all around alone, I tell him where I went; I tell him how I met with Jon. As I do mention that last bit, my father’s face begins to swell. He slaps me again, with increased ferociousness. Tears stream down my cheeks. I look in the shining buckle of my dad’s belt and can see my face with red hand imprints on it…he really hit me hard. My anger is boiling. I pull my fist back and try to hit him in the gut. The old man catches my hand and squeezes it with intensity. I’m in pain. He drags me to the family room and closes the door behind. He grabs me and puts me over his knee. Harold pulls down my pants on the couch and spanks my bottom. Now I have to say it doesn’t hurt so much as it is embarrassing. As I whine in utter distaste my mom comes in with a birthday cake. Marian is shocked at the unusual and cruel spectacle. “Harold!” she screams. My dad pulls my pants back up and gets up from the couch. He storms out and goes upstairs, presumably to nap. My face is flush red. I can hardly see. My mom puts the cake down on the adjacent table and wipes my eyes with her hands. “How old are you she asks?” in a soft voice. “Twelve? You’re almost a man now.” Man? Who’s this man? Am I man enough to not be spanked on my bottom? Apparently not… December 25th, 1959, Christmas Morning I like Christmas. Not because of the gifts or even because of the food, but it’s the only day where nobody argues. I don’t get why not. It seems to be a day like any other, so why shouldn’t vehement discussions be an option? I guess because it’s the day when Jesus Christ was born…well that’s what everyone’s been telling me. I haven’t found any evidence that he’s even existed. I guess that’s what happens after a thousand years or so, you lose evidence for certain matters, but believing in it is a matter of trust and faith… like trusting the government. Damn government. Anyway, that’s enough about my thoughts. I think I hear my mom calling me. It seems Marian is quite excited. She’s calling me down. I’m going down. Being alone in my bedroom isn’t the spirit of Christmas…apparently. Hmm would you look at that? Mom is sitting on the couch with dad. It seems Harold is waiting for me to open his present. Should I take it? I don’t want to get

chastised or smacked on the head again. No I guess it’s okay. I go to my dad. He looks at me with a sparkle in his eyes. Strange it seems he’s happy. No moaning or groaning today. I take the gift. It’s wrapped in red paper with a shiny silver bow on top. I shake it and listen to the sound. “Open it up,” Harold says. “We bought it especially for you.” I eagerly open it. My mom looks at me and gives me a warm smile. Shoes! They gave me black leather shoes. I’m shocked. What kind of gift is shoes? I already have a perfectly fine pair of brown leathers. I’d better not say anything. I’m almost a teenager. I should learn to grow up. I lie to them. “Wow,” shoes I say. “These must have cost a fortune.” “You’re worth it,” mom tells me as she pinches my bony cheeks. “Your father and I saved up for a long time. We know you don’t like the shoes you have now.” What is she talking about? I like my shoes. They’re worn in like a baseball glove. They’re as comfortable as be. Given they’re cracked along the sides and are peeling; it’s still a good shoe. Oh well. I hug my mom and dad. They smile. They seem satisfied with their generosity. I can’t say I’m really disappointed though. Last year I didn’t get a gift at all. The money was spent on fixing the bloody windows from the ice storm. It was quite harrowing year. Harold beat the crap out of me. Somehow I caused it. It was my fault for not helping to chip the ice off the trees. What did the old man want anyway? I had a terrible fever. Why’d he have to call me a useless shit head? Again, this is in the past, it shouldn’t matter. “Well,” I tell my parents. “I’m going to try on these shoes.” “Wait,” my dad says. “Don’t walk around in the snow. Those are church and funeral shoes. They’re only for special occasions.” I quip, “Isn’t today a special occasion – the birth of our savior and what not?” Harold looks ticked off. I’ve stepped on the lion’s tail. He raises his hand. He glances at Marian who gives him a disapproving look. Harold puts his hand down, he pats me on the shoulder, “Sure go ahead and try them out. It’s your gift.” Of course I’m not stupid. When Christmas is over he’ll just punish me. “I’ve decided not to use them,” I tell Harold. “You’re right they are for a special occasion. I’m going to go store them in my room for the right day.” My dad cracks a weak smile. I run upstairs to my bedroom. I slide the box underneath my bed. I hear a squeaking noise. I drop down to the ground on the cold floor and look. There’s a mouse eating a small piece of bread. What should I do? “What are you doing?” I ask him. The mouse continues eating. He has totally ignored me. I speak a little louder, “What are you doing Mr. Mouse?” The mouse, once again, ignores me. I strike out with my hand and grasp the grey creature with lightning fast reflexes. It squeals and flails its short little limbs, trying to escape. “I’m not going to hurt you,” I tell it. “I just can’t have you hear. If my dad finds you he’ll cut off your tail and

boil your soup. Is that what you want?” The mouse calms down. It seems he has understood me. I put the mouse down on my bed. “Stay there,” I say. “I’ll give you a new home.” I get down on my knees and fumble around for the shoe box. I find it and bring it on top. I take off the cover and remove the shoes. I pick up the mouse and put it in the empty box. “Don’t worry,” I reassure him. “I’ll give you some food and water and bedding. Don’t you worry” The mouse nods its head at me. Or at least I think he did. I go back downstairs. As I go into the living room I quickly see that we have company. Aunt Chloe and her sassy daughters are here. They are gathered around with mom and dad. “Hello!” Aunt Chloe says. “How have you been Harry?” I stammer for words as I look at Cousin Elizabeth. She’s look quite well today. “Um, I’m okay,” I reply. “How is everyone here? Having a merry Christmas?” Chloe giggles and nods. Hmm, I guess that laugh runs in the family. I walk past them and head toward the kitchen. My dad grabs me by the arm, “Take your cousins out and entertain them…they’re our guests.” “Out?” I say. That’s unusual he normally doesn’t like me going out. “But where,” I say, “will I take them? I have no money.” Harold goes into his pocket and takes out his wallet. He opens it up and gives me a few bills. It’s not a terribly large amount, but it should be enough to amuse myself with. I take the green off my dad’s hand and put it into my pocket. “Okay,” I say. “Let’s go.” As I walk toward the door and put on my winter clothes the girls (Sandra, Elizabeth, Alexandria, and Margaret) get up politely and follow me. I open the creaky rectangular piece of wood and step out. The girls strap on their jackets and all five of us leave the house. Harold seems indubitably relieved. The weather outside is, as usual in this part of the country, cold. Though I must comment and say it seems warmer than normal. It’s probably because of all these bodies around me. “Excuse me,” young Margaret asks, “Where shall we be going today?” I stop walking and scratch the top of my head, “I’m not really sure. Does it matter?” “I would like to go to the ice cream shop,” she tells me. “I’m hungry for a cold desert.” What an oddity – she’s hungry for something cold on a cold day. I turn my head to Margaret, “Why would you want to eat something cold on such a frigid day like today? Ice cream will give you a head cold you know that?” “That’s nonsense,” Alexandria tells me. “That’s just fishwives tale.” “And what do you know about fish and wives?” Elizabeth asks her younger sister. “Never mind the ice cream shop,” Elizabeth tells me. “Take us wherever you please.” “Any suggestions would be good,” I say. “We’ve been walking for several minutes but haven’t thought of a thing to do.” Sandra pipes up, “How about we see a movie? Do you have enough for a movie Harry?” I dig into my pockets and pull out the money. I count it and put it back away, “I think there should be enough.”

We arrive at the movie theater. We get into line and eagerly wait to buy our tickets. The line shrinks down and eventually we have our turn. The man behind the glass in the wooden box adjusts his glasses and looks at us, “How may I help you?” “What movie do you want to see?” I ask the girls. They all shout out different titles, “Ben-Hur! Room at the Top! Sleeping Beauty!” The man behind the glass looks at me, “Do you wish to see all those movies?” “No,” I reply. “We just haven’t made our minds up yet…I’m terribly sorry. I guess they’re not used to these new multiplex theaters yet.” The man leans forward, I can see the large bald spot on his head; “I don’t have all day. There are other people waiting in line.” “Okay!” I declare. “We will see Sleeping Beauty.” The man hands us several tickets, and I give him his exact change (I don’t wish to idle around such a grump). The girls and I go into the theater, I hand them each other their ticket. We pass the concierge and go into the theater. It is a full house. There are barely any seats around. Sandra, the tallest of the sisters, telescopes her head upwards and looks around. She spots an empty row of seats. We go to those empty seats and sit down. Elizabeth sits down beside me. “I hear this is a good movie,” she says. I nod my head and agree; although in actuality have no idea. “I was told it got rave reviews. One movie-goer even fainted at the end. It was that surprisingly.” Elizabeth laughs, “That’s silly. It couldn’t be true.” “Quiet down!” a coarse voice says. “You’ll ruin the damned movie!” I turn my head back and see a frowning curmudgeon glaring at us. “You better not talk during the movie!” he yelps. “I know your type, talk, talk, that’s all you do.” Margaret turns her head toward the curmudgeon and stares at him. “What the hell are you looking at?” he says. “Nothing,” Margaret replies. “I was just wondering how somebody a grump got into the theater.” The curmudgeon stands up, furious at the remark. I stand up as well, “Look mister, this is a free country. If you don’t like us talking when the movie is NOT playing you can just leave.” The curmudgeon pulls back his hand. “I dare you to hit me,” I say. “You don’t have the guts.” Gee I hope he doesn’t call my bluff. The curmudgeon grumbles and sits back down. He slumps down and slides into his seat. He pulls his cap over the front of his face and mutters some profanity. Margaret and I turn back to the movie previews. Elizabeth taps me on the shoulder, “Why do you think it is that society is so interested in damsels in distress and rescuing princes?” What a profound question, I’m not really sure, but give it a stab. “I think,” I say trying to come up with an intelligible response, “I think the reason people like that sort of thing is because people have crummy lives. They want to be rescued from their horrid and vapid life.” Elizabeth looks perplexed, “What an unusual response. You’re quite the negative Nelly aren’t you?” I fold my arms and slink down into my seat, somewhat embarrassed, “If I say no will you take that as a negative response?” “No,” she replies.

I lean my hand on my head and wait for the movie to begin. All this small chatter is giving me a headache. I really don’t understand this thing called woman. Why do they ask silly questions and balk when they get a silly response? Beats me I’d say. I suppose some things are best left as mystery. “Why are you leaning your hand on your head?” Elizabeth asks. “I’m just a bit bored,” I tell her. “I’m waiting for the movie to start.” Elizabeth pull her long brown hair behind her ear, “It will start in a moment. I think they’re having trouble with the projector.” Elizabeth looks back, “I think it’s working now.” I quietly fold my arms into my lap. The movie begins. The film is grainy and speckled. It annoys me a little bit, but as the movie plays I begin to ignore it. This Sleeping Beauty film is quite entertaining. Although I am not of the female orientation, I find it to have relevant themes and am very impressed with the two dimensional animation. After about 75 minutes or so the movie finishes. The dragon died – I really thought prince charming was going to be eaten. It seems the audience though is satisfied with this conclusion. Some of the other children are standing up and clapping. “Come on,” Sandra says. “Let’s go.” We exit the theater and hang around outside and chat. Margaret seems to have taken a shining to this movie. “How did you like the film?” I ask her. “It was the most bestest movie,” Margaret rambles on, “I have ever seen.” “It’s the only movie you’ve seen,” Alexandria says. “How can you know if it’s the ‘bestest movie’ you’ve ever seen?” Margaret looks wide-eyed at Alexandria, “You didn’t like it?” “No,” Alexandria says. “I liked it. I’m just saying it’s silly for you to judge a movie as the best if you’ve only seen one.” “Don’t tease your little sister,” Sandra tells Alexandria. “You’re only a few years older than her.” “More than twice,” Alexandria says with a, humph. Elizabeth wraps her arm around mine, “It was really nice of you to take us out.” “Do you normally get to see movies often?” I ask. “Yes,” Elizabeth replies. “This is actually the second time we’ve seen this one.” “Wow,” I say, “You must be rich.” The girls chortle at my corny joke. “So what shall we do next?” Sandra asks. “Perhaps we can go to the zoo and tease the animals?” I lift the sleeve of my arm and look at my watch. “It’s getting quite late,” I tell them. “If we don’t get back to the house my dad will have on of his usual conniptions…he’s quite an irritable and angry fellow you know.” Sandra looks at me, “What an awful thing to say. You should grateful for having a father figure around.” “Well,” I say in a somewhat caustic tone, “I’m not.” “You only appreciate something when you don’t have it,” Sandra lectures me. “If your father dropped dead today you’d take back everything you said and only have but sweet words to say.”

I shake my head, “No I don’t think that would be the case…Yes I’m grateful for him having given birth to me and putting a roof over my head, but he hasn’t done much other than that.” “What do you mean?” Sandra says. “Has he not loved you? Has he not taught you many a thing? Has he not been there for you?” “He has not,” I reply. Sandra is somewhat skeptical. “Has he,” Sandra continues on, “Ever said he loved you? Tell me that much. It couldn’t be true.” “Really,” I say, “Can we not talk about my father? It’s really bringing down my mood.” “Answer the question then,” Sandra presses. “Has he or has he not?” “No,” I tell her, “Never. Not once in my life. There have been no words of encouragement.” Elizabeth seems stunned, “Why that can’t be true. Every child should have a loving father. You must be lying.” “I am not lying,” I tell her. “Harold is not an affectionate person…but it doesn’t bother me. He’s just giving me ‘tough’ love. You would understand that if you were a boy.” Sandra looks at me with puzzlement, “You’re really quite an odd character aren’t you?” I shrug my shoulders and begin to walk away. “Wait,” Margaret cries. I continue walking; they dash ahead to follow me. We walk on the snow-ridden path and march back to the house. Not a word more is uttered about Harold. We arrive at my home. We trudge inside with our wet shoes and notice the empty living room. Where are all the adults? “Hello?” I cry. No reply. The cousins and I take of our shoes and look around. We go upstairs and downstairs, all over, wherever this house may lead. We meet back in the living room. “Where do you think the adults are?” Sandra asks. “It seems bizarre,” Alexandria replies, “that they would abandon us?” I have a seat on the sofa. The old cushions spray a mini cloud of dust. “Why are you sitting down?” Margaret asks. “Are you tired?” “No,” I reply. “I’m just waiting for everyone return. It’ll probably be a while. Maybe you too should have a seat?” Sandra, Elizabeth, Alexandria, and Margaret sit down on the grungy sofas. I cross my legs and fold my arms. The clock on the wall ticks. The sound grows louder and louder, ‘till I can’t stand it. I stand up abruptly, “Where the hell are they?!” The telephone rings. “I’ll get that,” I say. I run into the kitchen and grab the phone. I put the black receiver against my ear. “Hello,” I say. Nobody answers. All I hear is a heavy breathing on the other end. “Hello,” I repeat myself. “Who is calling?” My anger gets the best of me. I slam the receiver onto the phone hook and hang up. The phone rings again. I answer it in an irritated tone, “Hello…” I hear what I think is my father’s trembling voice, “Harry is that you?” “Yes,” I say. “Who is this?” “Don’t be an idiot!” the voice shouts angrily. “It’s your father!” “Oh!” I say. “I’m sorry father. Where are you?” I listen carefully and hear distressed voices and movement in the background. “Are you in the hospital?” I ask Harold. There is a long moment of silence. “Harry,”

Harold slowly says, “your mother isn’t well.” “What do you mean she isn’t well?” I ask. “She was fine today!” “Don’t yell at me!” Harold screams. “I don’t know what’s wrong okay!” I pause and think about what’s wrong. Maybe she’s had a heart attack? Maybe she’s been beat senseless by a hooligan? Maybe she’s caught a disease? Oh lord what to do? So many thoughts are racing through my head. As I day dream and imagine what could be wrong my father screams over the phone and gives me a jarring wake up call. “Harry!” he shouts. “Listen to me goddamn it…are you listening?” I nod my head (as if he could see). “I want you to take your cousins home,” Harold instructs me. “Take them home and make sure they’re safe.” “Why?” I ask. “What about mother?” “She’ll be fine,” Harold says. “Just get those cousins of yours home.” “How will I get them home?” I ask. “Their home is over 40 miles away. We couldn’t possibly walk.” “I know!” Harold says. “That’s why I want you to drive them home.” “You want me to drive them?” I ask. “I’m not allowed to drive.” “Who am I?” Harold asks. “Who am I?” I answer sheepishly, “My father?” “And who is the law of the house,” he says, “who?” “You,” I tell him. “Now,” Harold says, “get your cousins home.” He hangs up the phone. I grab the car keys on the counter and leave the kitchen. I go into the living room and meet again with my cousins. Elizabeth stands up, “Who were you on the phone with so long?” “My father says to take you home,” I tell her. “So get your things together and we’ll go.” “I can’t walk 40 miles in the snow,” Alexandria exclaims. “I’ll freeze to death!” I ignore Alexandria and head out the door. I go into the driveway. I walk over to the driver’s side and take the tarnished car key and stick it into the keyhole. I try turning it. It doesn’t turn. I try turning it again. It doesn’t turn. “What the hell is wrong with this?!” I cry out loud. In frustration I bang on the window and kick the door panel. I hear a voice. “The keyhole is frozen,” it says. I look up and see Sandra and the rest standing on the other side. Elizabeth reaches into her coat pocket and pulls out a lighter. “Here!” she says as I catch the metal contraption in my hands. “What am I supposed to do with this?” I ask. “Light the car on fire?” “Don’t be ridiculous,” Sandra says. “Use it to warm the keyhole.” I flip open the lid of the shiny rectangular lighter and spark a flame near the keyhole. Drips of water run down the side of the door. I turn the key, it opens the door. I get inside and unlock the other doors. Sandra, Elizabeth, Alexandria and Margaret hop in. I put the keys into the ignition and turn. The car sputters for a few moments but starts. I reverse off the driveway and hit the standing mailbox. The girls snicker. “Aw Christ,” I exclaim, “dad’s gonna kill me.” I reverse again and this time, successfully get onto the road. I steps on the gas pedal and skid along the snowy roads. Margaret screams in horror, “Ah we’re gonna die!”

“We are not going to die!” Sandra shouts. I get the car back into control. The rusty red clunker straightens out and we’re on our way. Several minutes have gone by. It seems my driving skills are tantamount to Harold’s. Nothing, aside from the damaged mailbox, has gone wrong. “How are you enjoying the ride?” I ask the girls. “I feel a bit car sick,” Elizabeth says. “Your driving is making me woozy.” I put one hand on the wheel and lean back to look at her, “It’s not that bad is it?” “I don’t know,” Elizabeth replies. “Maybe it’s just me.” Elizabeth jerks her body forward and covers her mouth. “I think we ought to stop the car,” Alexandria suggests. I press on the break and stop the car. Elizabeth runs out and throws up on nearby by bush. I roll down the window, “Are you okay Elizabeth?” Elizabeth sticks up her middle finger behind her back. She finishes up and gets back into the car. She slams the door and wipes her mouth. I roll up my window, “Are you finished?” Elizabeth glowers, “I’ll be fine.” Sandra turns her head back from the front seat, “It was quite rude of you to stick your middle finger.” “Sorry,” Elizabeth apologizes, “instinctive reaction.” I patter the steering wheel, “It’s okay. It was my fault. I’ve never driven before.” As we are about to take off a police cruiser appears on the street. It drives behind our car and nearly kisses bumpers. The African American police officer steps out his vehicle, carrying with him his large black flashlight. He marches toward our vehicle. He stops by the driver side and taps on the window. I roll down the pane and smile, “Hello officer, how are you?” “What are you doing?” the officer asks. I take my hands off the wheel and scratch the left side of my eyebrow nervously, “What ever do you mean?” The officer puts his flashlight away into his holster. He walks around to the back of the car and taps on the trunk. I look into the rearview mirror and hear a locking noise. The officer returns and looks at me, “You were driving with your trunk open.” I shrug, “Am I in trouble?” “No,” he says, “but it’s very dangerous to drive around with an open trunk.” “Is that so?” I ask. The officer adjusts his belt and lifts his glasses onto his forehead. With his index finger he points to a small dark vertical scar above his eyebrow. “See that?” he asks. “An axe nicked me in the head; the darn thing flew out the trunk of some putz’ car.” The officer breathes heavily, “I thought I was going to die. Blood gushed out and dripped into my socket; nearly lost the vision in my left eye.” “That’s tragic,” I tell the officer. “But you can see fine now right?” “No,” the officer says. “I still have blurred vision.” “I’m terribly sorry,” I tell him. “It’s a tragedy, a real tragedy.” “It’s okay,” the officer says. “Just keep your trunk closed.” I nod my head in agreement. The officer pauses and looks carefully into my eyes, “You know you seem a little young to be driving.” I stutter nervously, “Wha-wha-what makes you think that?” “Maybe it’s my blurred vision,” the officer says. “Why would a kid be driving a car full of young girls?”

“Ah,” I agree, “you’re quite perceptive.” The officer turns around and leaves. He gets back into his car and leaves. I breathe a sigh of relief and cautiously continue driving. After two hours we finally arrive at my cousins’ house. They rush out the car and gather at the front entrance. I watch from the car as Sandra takes a silver colored key from out her brassiere. She takes it and puts it into the keyhole of the door. The girls run into their house and shut the door behind. As soon as I see they’re safe I reverse off the driveway and get onto the road. I look at the house and see at the window in front a waving hand. I wave back and drive off. December 26th, 1959 The hospital is smelly and crowded. It’s like an overcrowded funeral parlor. People are crying and sulking. And you can smell the scent of death. It’s a sweet smell, but it’s unpleasant, it’s jarring to the senses. It’s hard to describe. Imagine if you will a sumptuous dinner. The food is good, it tastes great, but if you eat more than your share you feel bloated. I guess that would best describe the feeling, that is, the overwhelming sense of death. “You can go in to see your mother now,” a nurse informs me. I put down the Popular Science from 1955 and hastily get up, nearly falling. Nobody notices. I get to my feet, collect my senses, and leave the waiting area. I go to room 108. I quietly knock on the door and stick out my head, “Mom?” I hear a mumbling noise. A domineering voice tells me to come in and be quiet (father who else?). I get inside. It’s a disturbing scene. My mom’s face is bruised and swollen. There are tubes coming out of her face. It appears to be hooked up to an air tank. I can barely contain myself. I try to hold back my tears and clench my fists in pain. I don’t think she would want to see me in such a sad state. I walk over to the bed where father and Chloe are surrounding Marian. “Mom,” I say. “Can you hear me?” Mom squints at me and just barely nods. “What happened?” I ask. “Some asshole cut us off,” Harold says. “And… and…” Father is having difficulty speaking, “And…and I swerved and slammed into a tree.” “Will mom be alright?” I ask. Aunt Chloe wipes a tear from her cheek, “We’re not sure. The doctor’s say it’s a fifty-fifty chance.” “Excuse me,” I say to Aunt Chloe, “I have to step out for a moment.” As I leave my father angrily grabs me by the wrist, “Where the hell do you think you’re going? Your mother needs you right now. You don’t need to be getting up and leaving.” I hesitantly pull away, “Don’t be mad at me. This is your fault.” I leave the room. I can feel the glowing red eyes of Harold behind my head. I lurch past the hospital personnel and get onto the elevator. On the elevator is an old man smoking a cigar. I look at him in disgust and cough, “This is a hospital. Not a cabaret.” The old man grabs the cigar out his mouth and lifts the front of his beret. He looks at me and smiles, “You haven’t been living that long have you?”

“What’s the hell is that supposed to mean?” I grunt. “It means,” the old man continues as he puffs his cigar, “that you don’t know what it means to be alive.” “Are you senile?” I say annoyed. “I know what it means to be alive.” “No you don’t,” the old man replies calmly. “You don’t have any life experience…you’re naïve.” “Naïve,” I think. “What does that mean? I’ve never heard of that word.” The old man drops his cigar on the floor and extinguishes it with the heel of his crust old leather shoe. “Don’t you find it ironic,” the old man says, “that you don’t know what that word means?” Irony, now that I understand. “How is it ironic?” I ask. The old man pats me on the head and walks out the elevator. I get off as well. There is a waft of smoke behind me. A nurse enters the lift and glower at me as she presses the button to the 4th floor. I ignore the temptress and continue on way out the hospital. I get outside and lean on the rough concrete wall outside. I go into my pocket and pull out a fresh pack of Kent cigarettes. Apparently it’s Bob Cousy’s favorite brand... Ha! What an ass-hat, advertising a product he doesn’t even use. Ah well. I take out a cigarette and put it in my mouth. As I search for my lighter I hear a faint voice, “Excuse me.” I jerk my head to the right. My cigarette falls out my lips and to the ground. A blond bombshell bends over and picks up my sin stick, “You dropped this.” I am completely flustered. “Oh,” I say, trying to keep my composure. “Thank you very much.” I clumsily put the cigarette in my mouth. I extend my pack outward and offer the attractive stranger a smoke. “Would you like one?” I ask. “Sure,” she says as she extends her slender hand and takes me up on my offer. “I don’t normally…but I’m a bit stressed out.” I take my back off the wall. I reach into my back pocket and find my lighter. I take it out and light the girl’s cigarette, then mine. I take a deep drag. “So what’re you here for?” I ask. The girl smokes her cigarette, “Aren’t you curious to know my name?” “No,” I say skeptically. “Why would I want to know your name?” “Oh,” she replies, “I’m so used to guys asking my name. I guess I thought…you know what never mind.” I take my cigarette out my mouth and hold it in my hand. I lean forward. “You are a very attractive girl,” I tell her. “I’m just in a mood right now.” The blond sweeps her hair back with her hand, “So why are you here?” “I just came out the hospital,” I reply. “My mom was in a car accident. It was really horrendous. I-I just couldn’t look at her. I had to come out here and get things off my mind…you?” The blonde looks at me apprehensively, “Do you really want to know why I’m here?” “Of course,” I say. “I’m not totally heartless. Tell me, what’s the matter?” The blonde pauses from smoking and licks her lips. “I’m here to watch people suffer,” she says. My jaw almost drops to the floor, “You what?” “Don’t get me wrong,” the blond tells me. “I don’t enjoy peoples’ pain. I’m not a sadist. It’s just that I feel reinvigorated when I come here. I appreciate life more.” “Christ,” I say. “That’s the most screwed up

thing I’ve ever heard of.” The blonde’s eyes well up, “I know I’m sick aren’t I?” I wag my cigarette like an adult chastising a child with a lecture, “You really need some help, serious help.” “Well,” the blonde says, “I tried to get help. The shrinks just told me I was going through a phase; said I’d get over it in no time. Well that was 5 years ago…the only thing that helps me deal with my depression is seeing other people suffer.” “I don’t know,” I say. “Something’s just wrong with that.” I finish smoking my cigarette. I flick the butt onto the pavement and begin to walk away. I look back at the tearing girl, I feel somehow as it’s my fault. I pause for a moment. Maybe I should do something to help her? “Nah,” I think. “You can’t help sick people like that. They can’t change.” I continue walking away until the blonde is out of sight. My cold shoulder has saved me from another awkward moment. December 27th, 1959 Boy that Jackie Gleason is fat. Why does Harold watch that show anyway? What is the appeal with this fat stupid moron? “Watching the Jackie Gleason show again?” I ask my dad. Harold barely blinks an eye. He shifts slightly in his seat and grouses irritably, “It ain’t the ‘Jackie Gleason’ show moron. It’s the Honeymooners.” The TV drowns out the sounds of my voice, “You don’t have to call me names all that time y’know.” Harold gets up and adjusts the contrast of the television. He sits back down, “Get me a cup of coffee.” Not wanting to make anymore inane conversation I do as he says and leave the living room and go to the kitchen to make some coffee. As I enter through the green swinging doors I see a giant spider on the breakfast table, square in the middle. It appears to be a tarantula of some sort. “Hello Mrs. Spider,” I say. “What are you doing all the lonesome in the kitchen?” The spider creeps toward me. Its hairy spiked legs make a high pitched scraping noise as it moves its legs in perfect synchronization. “I don’t like the way you’re moving,” I tell the spider. “It seems you have some ulterior motives.” The spider continues forward. It walks down the legs of the table and traverses in my direction across the floor tiles. I lower my hand onto the ground. The spider climbs onto my palm and heads upward my body. “Now, now,” I say to the spider, “Don’t be biting my in my backside.” I feel the sensation of the spider’s tickly legs go all the way down the back. I turn around and look to see the spider calmly crawling along the floor. It heads in the direction of the swinging door. “You shouldn’t go in there,” I tell it. “You’d be wise to stay away from father Mrs. Spider.” The spider reaches the door. It gets on its hind legs like a dog and with its two front feet scrape against veneer. It looks like it wants to get out. “That isn’t a good idea,” I warn the confused eight legged creature. “Father will squash you with his slippers.”

The spider ignores me and continues scratching at the wood. I feel empathy for the poor young missus. It has a yearning for freedom and the only thing in its way is a big block of timber. I am hesitant but eventually do the right thing. I step forward and stand beside the spider. With my godlike arm (or as it may appear to the spider) I gently push open the door. The spider runs outside. As I wave it goodbye I hear the voice of my father, “Goddamn it where is the coffee?!” I apologize to my father, “I’ll be just a minute. I can’t find the coffee.” I let the door close and go over to the sink and look in the cupboards above. I see a lot of different products – Oreos, Tang, Voortman Cookies, Old Dutch Potato Chips – but no damn coffee. Where could it be? I return to the living room where I hand my dad a glass of Tang orange juice. “What the hell is this?” he asks. “I didn’t ask for juice! I asked for coffee!” I nervously scratch the left of my eyebrow, “We don’t have any coffee.” Harold slams the Tang down on the coffee table and gets up and goes to the kitchen. He returns to the living room with a jar of coffee, “What the hell is this?” I squint with my eyes, “Coffee?” Harold tosses the jar to me, “You’re completely useless. Yah can’t even find one goddamn jar…it was in the cupboard above the sink!” “I guess I didn’t see,” I say. Harold shoves me out the way and sits back down to watch TV, “Get me some coffee.” I go back to the kitchen. I return with a piping hot mug of coffee. I place it down on the table in front, “I hope you like it your majesty.” Harold doesn’t appreciate my sarcasm. He kicks me in the shin, “Don’t get smart with me.” I leave the living room and go upstairs to my bedroom. I close the window and shut the door. I reach under my bed and grab my shoe box. I place it on the bed and lift the lid. My pet mouse is still alive and well. I reach into my pocket and grab a piece of fruit. I gently lower the pear slice into the box. The mouse runs toward it and gnashes away with its buck teeth. The juice wets the bottom of the box. I scratch the mouse behind its fluffy ears, “You’re quite hungry today aren’t you Mickey?” The mouse makes a squeal of delight. “Oh,” I say as I look at my alarm clock, “I have to make a phone call.” I pat Mickey on the head, “I’ll be right back.” I lift my rear off the bed and leave quietly my room. I go into the living room and saunter past my father into the kitchen. I walk over to the phone and lift the receiver. I dial the number 111-3840. I listen to the ringing. Someone picks up. “Hello,” I say. “May I please speak to Elizabeth?” “Who is this?” the voice on the other line says. “It’s your nephew,” I reply. There is a pause of silence. I continue on, “…Harry.” “Oh yes,” Chloe says, “Of course. Let me get her.” I tap my foot on the ground and wait. A voice comes on the phone, “Hello?” “Elizabeth!” I say. “How are you?” “What do you want?” she asks. “Remember,” I remind her, “You asked me to call you today.” I hear Elizabeth scratch the tip of her nose, “Oh yes I remember now. Do you think you could help me with my piano?” “It might be a while ‘till I get to your place,” I say, “but I can definitely help you hone your skills.”

“Good,” she replies. “Be here as soon as possible.” I hear Aunt Chloe calling for Elizabeth in the background. She hangs up the phone. I am perturbed by the abrupt ending of the conversation, but nevertheless I go into my basement and grab the sheet music off the old piano. I run back upstairs and rush out the house with my jacket. Fortunately dad doesn’t notice. He is far too engorged in his program, the Perry Como Show. Outside in the chilly weather I spot a blue GMC truck carrying hay. I run behind it shouting a flailing my arms, “Hey!” The truck comes to a stop. I run over the driver side and make my request. “Excuse me,” I ask the driver, “Are you heading north to Adelburry?” The driver nods his head. I reach into my pocket and pull out some change, “Do you think you could gimme a ride there? I can pay you $1.85.” The driver puts his arm out the window and pushes away my hand, “No charge.” I run to the other side and hop into the truck. “This is the first time I’ve been in a truck this large,” I tell him. The driver adjusts his orange trucker’s hat and takes a sip of coffee from his cup. “Well then,” he says in his slow but gentle voice, “You’ll be happy to know we won’t be makin’ any pit stops.” The driver grabs the wheel and presses the gas pedal. I fold my arms into my lap and keep quiet. Several minutes go by before another word is said. “I enjoy the road,” the truck driver says. “It makes me feel as if I’m going somewhere in life.” I’m not sure what to think. Is that self deprecating humor or is he being serious? I muster up the best reply I can think of at the moment. “Yes,” I say. “Life is a highway.” The driver laughs, “It sure is.” “…So how long have you been a truck driver for?” I ask. The driver takes a hand off the wheel and scratches the stubble on his chin, “Not real sure. I been truckin’ about since I were a teen. I say twenty years just ‘bout.” I cross my legs and put my hands behind my head, “That’s a really long time. I can hardly think a month ahead – much less a double decade.” The driver sighs, “I know. I wish I’d finished school.” “You don’t need school to be a success,” I say. “Well,” the driver continues, “If you want to be a writer…” I uncross me legs and sit straight, “You wanted to be a writer?” The truck begins to slow down, the driver suddenly becomes lethargic and solemn, “Yeah, but I had to drop outta school ‘cause we didn’t have no money. It was either books for myself or food for the family.” I feel sorry for the fellow. I take my hand and pat him on the back, “You can still write.” “Actually,” the driver tells me, “I do write…but my books don’t sell well enough for me to make a livin’. I think if I went to school I’d be a best seller.” “Did you write that book, Truck & Mistress?” I ask. The driver is surprised, “How’d you know?” “Lucky guess,” I say. “…So you’re Troy Gillman huh?” Troy grabs my hand and gleefully shakes it, “You’re the first fan I’ve met.” I smile and clap my hands. Troy laughs loudly and honks the horn. Several hours pass by. We finally arrive at Adelburry. When the truck comes to a full stop I jump out. I wave goodbye to Troy as his truck barrels down the road, “Thanks

for the ride Mr. Gillman. I’ll never forget it.” Troy honks his horn and vanishes into the distance. I dust myself off and remove a piece of hay from my hair. I walk over to Aunt Chloe’s house and stand under the shallow roof at the front entrance door. I ring the doorbell and preen my hair as I wait. I look in the frosted glass window. The curvaceous figure of a woman lurches forward. The door opens. Aunt Chloe is in a bathrobe. “Uh, hi Aunt Chloe,” I say while holding up my sheet music. “Is Elizabeth there? I’ve come to help her with her piano.” Chloe reaches underneath her robe and takes put a pair of large glasses. She puts them on her face and squints, “Oh Harry. It’s you. Come in.” I step inside and take in a deep breathe through my noise. The house smells distinctly female, very sweet. “Elizabeth isn’t home yet,” Aunt Chloe says. “She’s out with some boy. Would you like to wait in her room?” “Sure why not,” I reply. “I can wait.” Chloe points upstairs, “You remember where it is right? It’s the room at the very end. You were in it before I believe.” I nod my head and hastily run upstairs. As I pass through the hallway I hear the noise of running water – a shower. I see steam coming out through the crack of a door. The curiosity gets the better of me and I go over to look. My eyes widen as I stare at the voluptuous silhouette. My pupils are adamantly fixed. I can barely unlock my gaze. This is wrong isn’t it? She is after all my cousin. But I can’t look away. I feel overwhelmed with a strange feeling. My hand starts moving down toward my pants. “Harry!” a voice yells. I quickly spin around, “Elizabeth! Is that you?” “Of course,” she giggles. “So what’re you doing by the bathroom?” I am utterly speechless. “If you want to go pee,” she says, “There’s another one downstairs.” “No thanks,” I say nervously. “I don’t need to go anymore.” Elizabeth takes me by my hand, “Come on the piano’s in the basement.” The basement is very clean. There isn’t a clutter or mess around. “Wow,” I say in high pitched voice. “You have an extraordinarily neat basement.” “You mean extraordinarily neat as in clean,” Elizabeth says, “or extraordinarily neat as in amazing?” “A bit of both,” I say with a smile. Elizabeth leads me over to the piano. I notice the top is abnormally dusty. “How long has it been since you used this thing?” I ask. Elizabeth blows off the dust, “Not since dad died.” I cover my mouth and cough. When the dust subsides I put my sheet music on the piano and have a seat beside my cousin. “It’s too bad that Uncle Nester passed away.” I say. “He was a really good pianist. Actually come to think of it, he was the one who taught me most of what I know.” Elizabeth scooches over, the side of her leg rubs against me, “Let’s not have ourselves any distractions okay?” “Sure thing,” I say. “Shall we begin?” Elizabeth carefully lifts the cover of the piano. “I’ll begin,” she says. “Okay,” I reply anxiously. “Just take it slowly.” Elizabeth presses her pinky finger on the first key. “Good,” I say trying to be like a teacher,

“Good.” Elizabeth continues. The pace seems slow, but it quickly picks up in speed. I can’t believe my ears. She is playing a perfect Chopin down to the last key. I am mesmerized but at the same time suspicious. I put my hands on top of Elizabeth’s and stop her from playing. “Do you really need help with your piano,” I ask. Elizabeth has a glazed look over her face, “No.” “Then why,” I say, “did you ask me here?” Elizabeth gets up from the bench and paces around fretfully. Droplets of sweat form on her face. “I’m so sorry Harry,” she apologizes. “I’m so sorry.” “Calm down,” I tell her. “Why did you really ask me here?” Elizabeth slows down and plunks down on the floor. She rests her hand on her face, “I’m having problems.” “What kind of problems?” I ask. “There’s a boy I met in school,” Elizabeth says. “…he won’t leave me alone.” “A boy?” I say curiously. “What’s his name?” “Oh,” Elizabeth frets, “does it matter his name?” I stand up from the piano bench, “So what do you want me to do?” Elizabeth stands as well, “I want you to pretend to by my boyfriend.” I put my hands around Elizabeth’s shoulders, “Do you know how crazy that sounds?” “It’s no more crazy than this dead cold winter,” Elizabeth rebuttals. I don’t know what to say. “Please,” Elizabeth pleads. “You lied to me,” I tell her. “And you want me to lie again? That’s not only crazy, it’s contemptuous. What kind of man – I mean boy – do you think I am?” Elizabeth wraps her arms around me and hugs. “A good man,” she says. I grab her by the wrists and loosen her sully grip. “I’m your cousin,” I tell her. “I’m not some mush minded perverted boy. You can’t manipulate me like this.” Elizabeth begins to cry, “Please! I’m sorry. I didn’t think you’d come all the way out here to defend my honor.” I take Elizabeth by the chin and lift her head, “Of course I would I…we’re family.” Elizabeth hugs me again, “Oh thank you, thank you. You won’t regret this!” I’m being held upside down by my feet over a pile of snow. “Not so tough now?” the six foot ginger kid tells me. “Put him down!” Elizabeth screams. “What do you see in this guy anyway?” the redheaded goliath asks as he dips my head into snow. “He’s such a puny wimp!” My face is turning extraordinarily red. “If you don’t put me down,” I threaten, “I’ll tell your father!” The ginger kid laughs, “Then what?” As I am dipped down into the snow I grab a clump of slush with my hands and make a wet ball. When I am raised back up I throw it as hard I can at the big bully’s face. He sputters and drops me to the ground. I get to my feet and raise my hands like a boxer. “Put up your dukes!” I yell. The ginger kid wipes the water off his face and marches forward with his hands at his side. I bend my waist to the side and pick up a big thick branch. I hold it back like a samurai sword. “What’re you gonna do with that little stick?” the ginger kid says, “Spank me?”

The cousin lusting bully isn’t frightened a bit. He continues forward as if my attack of subterfuge never occurred. But I am determined to defend my Elizabeth. What right does he have to grope her whenever he damn well pleases? I yell as I swing my stick at his big fat head, “You bastard!” The branch breaks in two. Elizabeth is in shock. The redhead drops down like a house of cars against a strong wind. I bend down and poke the bully with my finger. He doesn’t move an inch. Blood drips down his nose. I listen carefully and hear some shallow breathing. “I think he’s alive!” I shout. Elizabeth joins me to see. “You asshole!” she yells at the laying giant. “You just had to harass me didn’t you?! Now look what you’ve done!” Elizabeth walks onto his chest and stands above him. She gathers her phlegm and releases a slow string of thick spit onto his forehead. I watch as it goes down in slow motion and spreads all over. “That’s awful mean,” I say. Elizabeth ignores me. She lifts up her dress and pulls her panties to the side, revealing her no-no bits. “Is this what you wanted?” she asks the ginger kid. “Well too bad! You can’t have it!” The wind howls ominously as we stand out in the field. “I think we should go,” I suggest to Elizabeth. Elizabeth steps of the kid’s chest and takes me by the hand. “Yes,” she says. “Let’s go.” We walk away from the red and white corpse and get onto the road. December 28th, 1959 A blinding light awakes me from my sleep. I look up and see my father standing over me with curtains wide open. “Where were you last night?” he asks. I rub my eyes, “I was here. Didn’t you see me?” “I know you’re lying,” Harold barks. I roll over and hug my pillow. Harold pulls me out of bed and by the ear. He shoves me on the floor and steps on my back. He pulls off the belt around his pants, “I told you never to lie!” I wait for the sting of the belt. I begin to choke. I can barely breathe, my face is turning purple. The belt is wrapped around my neck. “Well,” Harold says. “If lashings don’t straighten you out this will!” “Stop,” I whimper. Harold continues choking me with his foot on my back ‘till I can hardly see. When I finally think I’m about to pass out he lets go. I roll onto my back. “Don’t piss me off,” Harold says as he shadows over me. Father puts back on his belt and leaves the room. I cough loudly and slowly rise to my feet. I bend forward and rest my hands on my knees. I turn my head to the side and look at my bed. Oh shit. I forgot to put away my shoe box the other day. I stand up straight and hastily look around in my room. I look underneath my bed; I look on top of my nightstand; I look around my dresser – everywhere. The box is missing. I run downstairs and shout, “Dad!” There is no response. I look about; father has already left for work at the post office. I go into the kitchen and continue my search. I practically turn the place over. The shoe box is nowhere to be found. I am losing my mind. “Where is that goddamn box?!” I scream. As I admit defeat and am about to

walk out the kitchen, I smell a sweetish scent. It leads me to the garbage can. I step on the pedal and lift the cover. The shoe box is sitting on top of the trash. I am filled with glee and relief. I take the box out and lift the cover. My elation dissipates with horror. Mickey has been vanquished. I lift the mouse out and hold him in my hand. His grey blood stained fur and black bulgy eyes bring me to tears. I put Mickey back into his shoe box and place on the lid. I tuck the makeshift mouse coffin under my arm and trudge disgruntled up the stairs. In the upstairs hallway I pull down the red chord under the square panel. The attic stairs drop down. I climb up and go inside. The attic as expected is dusty. Nobody has been in here for ages. I spot an attractive trinket box off in the corner. “That would make a proper coffin,” I think. I stagger over and place the shoe box down beside. There is a tiny golden padlock locked to it. I grab a rusty brass lamp from behind and use it to smash open the box. When I open it I find a series of papers. Out of curiosity I leaf through them without regard to privacy or as to why they were locked up. Most of the papers are mundane – documents, love letters, correspondents – nothing particularly out of the ordinary; but at the last letter I am panic stricken. It is a certificate...of adoption. To which it reads, “This document thereby declares that the child Harry De Noir, will officially be under the parental care and/or guardianship of Mr. and Mrs. Harold J. Harris“. I reread the certificate. Has my vision betrayed me? I can’t be adopted…could I? It would certainly explain why I have black hair rather than brown like my parents. It would also explain my feelings of distance and loss. Honestly I’ve never felt part of this family. I always knew something was terribly off. I put the certificate down and try to get my head together. I feel dizzy and light headed. My body is trembling with disbelief and skepticism. I can’t be adopted! I can’t! I need more evidence. The certificate isn’t enough to prove anything. Anybody could have made that. The piece of garbage looks like a bad Xerox! Hey, maybe it was an April fool’s prank Harold was planning to do? And he decided it was distasteful. That has to be it…oh lord who am I kidding? I get up from the dusty floor and brush myself off. I pick up the shoe box. Anger and confusion fills my head. I pick up the trinket box and chuck it against the wall. “What the hell mom!” I shout at the top of my lungs, “Why didn’t you tell me?!” I stamp my feet and jump. The attic shakes with my fury. I get down on my knees and pound my fists mercilessly on the floor. My hands begin to turn red and swell. I become exhausted and tired. I stop my fit of rage and collect myself. A strange calmness comes over me. The situation starts to gel. Things make sense. All the things that have happened to me, all the things Harold has said over the years, must have been some sort of frustration – through no fault of my own. I can imagine his conundrum of not being able to explain to his wife why he can’t

giver her a child. It must be a horrendous thing to live through, knowing you’re not a man. Then again, perhaps I am just fabricating the motives behind my father’s brash behavior and parenting. Maybe I was just a pity case…a baby from the trash? That though would fail to explain a lot of the family tension. A person, who’d pick up a strange child and care for it, would not be so contentious and harmful. No, no, he must be a blank shooter. His inadequacy would explain the madness of Harold. What else could it be? Money? December 29th, 1959 I hold my mom’s hand and squeeze it tightly, “Marian are you alright?” Mother squints at me and wheezes, “Why did you call me Marian?” I let go of her hand and lean my body back from the hospital bed, unsure of how to respond. “I said ‘mom’” I tell Marian. “You mistake me. It must be your condition.” Marian stares up at the tiled ceiling, “Where is your father?” I look at my watch, “It’s 3 o’clock right now. I think he’s at work.” Marian closes her eyes and breathes shallowly, “What an asshole.” How candid. “Mom,” I ask, “when are you going to be out of the hospital?” Marian struggles to open her eyes, “I’m not sure I’ll be leaving.” “What’s that mean?” I say. “You can’t stay here forever.” “Yes,” she replies. “I can’t stay here forever.” I get off my knees and stand. I turn my face to the wall and clench my fists. I try to fight back my emotions – to be strong. I can feel my face turning red with anxiety and fear. I feel my mother’s hand reach out and poke me in the back. I turn around. My eyes are red and my cheeks are wet. “Don’t be sad,” mother says. “If I pass away…your father will always be there to take care of you.” “Where my father is,” I say, “I don’t really know. Now do I?” Marian is flabbergasted but nary has the energy to show it. I fold my arms. My sadness turns into anger. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I cry. Struggling to breathe Marian grabs my hand. She squeezes it tightly, “You’re a sweet sensitive boy. I didn’t want you to know.” I let out a deep sigh and squeeze the skin on my forehead, “Where are my real parents?” “We are your real parents,” Marian tells me. “We took care of you, we raised you. We fed you; we put a roof over your head. As far as I’m concerned we are your real parents.” Though an ideal response, Marian’s answer isn’t good enough. “I’m going to find my family,” I tell my mom. “And there’s nothing you can do to stop me.” I leave the hospital room. I try not to look back. December 30th, 1959 I run downstairs carrying with me a beat up brown leather briefcase. As I am ready to spring Harold stands in my way at the bottom of the steps with his hands tightly

around his cushiony hips. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” he says. I put down my briefcase, “You are not father. You are not my friend. You are a stranger. And as a stranger you do not have a say in where I go. I don’t have to go to school if you say so, I don’t have to stay in this house, and I don’t have to be your son.” I close my eyes and await a hard slap across the face. Nothing happens. I open my eyes and peak. Harold looks at my somberly, “You’re right I’m not your father and you’re not my son. So go ahead and leave the house. It’s your choice, it’s your freedom.” I am perplexed and bewildered; nonetheless I pick up my briefcase stuffed with clothing and food. I walk toward the door and leave. I feel the cold wind blowing on my face. I blow out a puff of smoke and breathe the fresh air into my lungs, “Freedom!” December 31st, 1959 Not a long time has passed since I left home, but it has felt like a lifetime. Forgive me for my naivety but I have never been on my own. But despite the hardship, I feel invigorated. The whistle blows and awakes my senses; I spryly step off the platform and get into the train. I look for a place to sit. I see an empty seat down at the end. I go there and sit down beside a husky fellow in a grey suit. “My first train ride,” I say. The husky fellow reaches into a pocket and pulls out a bible. He flips the pages to the apocalypse. “You know,” the husky fellow says, “the world is going to end very soon.” I don’t believe a word he’s saying but I humor him, unsure of how to respond. “Yes,” I say. “This planet is doomed.” The husky fellow reaches into another pocket and pulls out another bible. He tosses it into my lap. “What’s this for?” I ask. The husky fellow puts his bible down. “What a silly question to ask,” he says. “Read it.” I pick up the bible and look through the thin paper pages, “Is there anything you recommend?” Two large round fingers split open the good book, the tips run up to the top, “Give and it shall be given to you. For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return.” I look up at the husky fellow and his thick walrus moustache, “Are you implying I’m selfish?” “Not at all,” the husky fellow replies. “I just think it’s a good useful passage. Do you not agree with its saying?” Having no opinion on religion I nod my head. “It sounds reasonable,” I say. The husky fellow buries his head back into his book. I get up from my seat and walk around. There are a lot of people on the train. They all seem to be going somewhere important. They certainly aren’t going on vacation, the look on their faces are far too worrisome. I can see an old lady at the end distracting her self with knitting. It looks like she’s making a cap. Out of curiosity and boredom I go over to speak with her. “Hello ma’am,” I say. “How are you?” She gives me a sharp glance and averts her eyes back to her knitting.

I try again, “My name’s Harry.” The old lady pauses and looks up, “Do you know how to knit?” “No,” I say. “But I had a mother who was very fond of it.” “Let me show you how to knit,” she says. “Have a seat.” I lift the old lady’s big bag out of the way and sit down beside. “You remind me of my grandson,” the old lady says while knitting. “Is your name Chaz too?” “No,” I say. “It’s Harry…” The old lady continues knitting. “Knitting is an art form,” she tells me. “It takes patience and persistence. You have to pay attention to the detail, yet see the big picture. See how I do it? Very slowly, but relentlessly, never giving up.” I watch carefully. I watch the needles go round and round, like the teacup ride at Disney World. The old lady stops. “Your turn,” she says. I take the needles and yarn and try to knit. My hands shake and my eyes tremble, I can barely focus. The bright orange color is hypnotic. “Relax,” the old lady says to me. “There’s no rush. Relax and feel the movement of the needles.” I take in a deep breath and concentrate. A pattern begins to form. I’m surprised, I’m actually knitting, I’m adding to the old lady’s cap. Time passes by quickly, I barely notice. The train comes to a stop. The cap is complete. “What a wonderful job you’ve done,” the old lady compliments. I hand back her garment and smile. “Thank you for teaching me how to knit,” I say. I get up from my seat. The train conductor appears and asks for my ticket. I look in my pocket, I can’t find it. “I must have left it at the other end,” I tell him. The conductor follows me suspiciously. The Husky fellow holds out my ticket in his left and the bible in his right. I leave the bible and take the ticket. I show it to the conductor. The conductor looks and it and punches a hole through it. “Satisfactory?” I ask. The conductor nods his head. I head off the train. A new town and a new life await me. January 3rd, 1960 Wingport is an amusing town, but I haven’t yet been able to catch the sights and sounds. I’m working right now. Yes indeed, I am mopping up vomit from the kitchen floor. It, as you would expect, smells rancid. I can barely contain myself. But I understand; I’m the new employee. This is probably a regular thing at restaurants. The manager comes in through the swinging doors and enters the kitchen. She walks over to me and grabs the mop. “Hold it like this,” she says. I look take the mop back and try to emulate her. I grab the top and bottom, bending my back ever so slightly. “That’s much better,” the manager commends. “You have a future in the restaurant business.” I continue mopping and look down at the shrinking puddle of vomit. The manager leaves and goes off to attend to complaining customers. The vomit is soon cleaned up. I wheel the bucket over to the janitorial closet. I empty the “contents” and hose it down. As I am cleaning a voice beckons to me, “Harry.” I turn around. “Elizabeth!” I shout in surprise. “What are you doing here?” Elizabeth

swats a fly away from her face. “I followed you,” she says. “After I saw you leaving the house I decided to do a bit of stalking. Are you surprised?” “It’s a bit unorthodox,” I remark. “How do you think you got this highly coveted job?” she asks. “I put in a good word for you.” “You work here?” I ask. “Oh no,” Elizabeth says. “My aunty owns the place...from my father’s side y’know.” “I thought she looked familiar,” I say. “She has your eyes.” Elizabeth takes me by the hand, “Let’s go out and enjoy your vacation. Forget working.” I forget about the mop and bucket and follow Elizabeth. Outside seems pleasantly warm, despite being January. I zip down my jacket. Elizabeth and I wait on the street side. “Where are we headed?” I ask. “I know why you ran away,” Elizabeth says. “You think your parents are here.” I am astonished, “How many others know?” “Everyone knew,” Elizabeth tells me, “But they hid it from you. Your relationship with Uncle Harold was strained enough.” I am still surprised at how naïve and oblivious I was. “So are my parents here or not?” I ask. Elizabeth puts her arm around me, “You’re so uptight. Are you always this way on Christmas vacation?” “No,” I say defensively. “I’m just having troubles. You know what happened…I bet you do.” Elizabeth tries to console me, “Well I think the place we’ll visit today may help your emotional wounds heal a bit faster.” A taxicab pulls up to the curb. Elizabeth whistles. We jump into the cab. “To the De Noir place,” Elizabeth tells the driver. The driver adjusts his mirror and steps on the gas pedal, as soon as the light turns green. The ride is dull. Elizabeth and I barely speak. I’m a bit unnerved and angry at how I was ill informed about my own life. What else did they know that they weren’t telling me? Was I black? I should double check that one. I lean against the door inside the cab and look out the window. We pull up to a large mansion. It’s enormous. I have to wind down the window to see the whole damned thing. Elizabeth pays the cab driver and pulls me outside. The taxi skids its wheels and disappears. I look at the black scuffmarks. A perfectly good driveway has been ruined…if you can call it that. It looks more like an airstrip. “Come on!” Elizabeth shouts. “What are you waiting for?” I follow behind like a little puppy ‘till we get to the front of the mansion. Elizabeth knocks on the door using the big brass ring. It makes a loud reverberating noise, DA-DOOM, DA-DOOM. My anxiety is at an all time high. Do I really want to meet my parents? Before I can answer the question in my head the door opens, I hug the man in the black tuxedo, “Father!” The butler laughs, “The Masters are upstairs.” I let go of the butler, embarrassed. Elizabeth giggles. We are taken upstairs. The butler leaves. Elizabeth pushes open the large double doors in front of us. My eyes hurt from all the shining objects. The office is extremely posh. There is a dark haired man sitting behind a desk talking on the phone. He turns

around his chair and stares. He puts down the phone and waves us toward him. Elizabeth and I go over to his table tennis sized desk. “Could it be?” the businessman asks. I clear my throat in nervousness. The dark haired man, the businessman, stands up. He gets up from behind his desk. Carefully he examines my face. “You are my son,” he says. “The resemblances are uncanny.” I begin to feel uneasy. “Why did you abandon me?” I blurt out. The businessman hugs me, “I didn’t abandon you. I gave you away so you could have a better life.” I step away from this alleged father of mine. “Well I don’t have a better life,” I say angrily. “Do you know what it’s like scraping by on pennies and going to school without lunch almost everyday?” “Well today,” the businessman says, “that is going to end.” There are so many feeling going through my head, I don’t know what to say. “I don’t want to be a part of your family,” I tell the businessman. “I don’t want to be a part of any family. As far as I’m concerned you’re all frauds.” The businessman goes back behind his desk and opens one of his drawers. He pulls out a picture. He holds it up and shows it to me. There is a picture of a young man and a young woman holding a baby. “This is you,” he says while pointing. “This is the day you just came out of the hospital. The lady holding you is your mother.” I take the photo. Elizabeth caresses my back, “You look adorable.” I stare at the photo for several seconds, thinking of how different life could have been. I snap out of my fantasy and hand the photo back. “Do you expect me to call you father now?” I ask. The businessman takes a seat on his leather chair, “No of course not. You can call me by my first name until you become comfortable…Calvin.” I swallow the saliva collected in my mouth and fold my hands with apprehension, “Okay Calvin.” Calvin jumps out from behind the desk, “We should go meet your mother.”

Harry is living with his abusive father and mom. The mother’s sister passes away. They are the god parents. The four sisters move in. They are treated like shit. Oldest child is paid to marry somebody. Father dies. The cousins get married. Sandra 14, Elizabeth 12, Alexandria 9, Margaret 5. Brother Jon 18. Uncle Nester was killed by Harold? Harry is actually adopted. New character is introduced, Officer Mackenzie. Troy Gillman, Truck Driver

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