Tuesday, April 7, 2009

World of Darkness Part Three

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That was the year when I found myself stuffed into the first new outfit I had ever known, then shoved on to the big yellow school bus with my siblings. I screamed in fear. My father had lied to me. I was going to the school where the angry man worked.

My two older brothers all but sat on me in the big green seat. They threatened me with every thing they could if I didn’t shut up. Finally the oldest of the two said,    "wait till we tell mom." I shut up.

The moment the bus stopped and the doors opened kids filed out and into the school. At this point I should mention that I had learned to run like a deer as a kid. Now at six I was nothing less than the wind. I stepped from the bus onto the sidewalk. Looking about to find my bearings my next older brother shoved and I fair flew from him.

No one expected it so there was no chance to stop me. I made the bridge and river in record time, puffing like a train. I walked the river home. I didn’t go to the house right away. After all no one was there. My mother said I was not to be left alone at home, so alone at the river was different.

I watched from the high weeds of the hay field behind the house as the bus pulled away leaving my brothers and sister standing there. Sneaking in the back door, I waited for them to come through.

"Boy are you dead!" One older brother looked at me with glee. I wasn’t afraid of him. Later I learned what he meant. My mother arrived home and a dark cloud of doom hung over her. I was dead.

The school had called her at work. I didn’t understand why but the next day, I faced the bus hungry and sore. I figured the man at school couldn’t be worse than my mother and try as she might I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of crying.

I think that was the day I forgot how to cry. The next year and half was spent in fights. I never started one. I was small for my age and being a ‘reliefer’ made me a target for others. I was an embarrassment to my siblings. My ‘hand- me-down’ socks with holes pulled up under my pant legs and over-large shirts from my older brothers made me every bit a scarecrow.

The problem with fights is someone starts them. I never walked away from one. The bigger kids beat me up. They didn’t have the strength my mother did. She couldn’t make me cry neither would they!

We moved that year. I found myself repeating first grade. Between measles and running away from school I missed a lot of days. I did poorly and my grades were bad. I endured my first year in school and was shocked that after such poor performance they actually insisted I return to school the next year. Boy were they dumb! So I thought. Make me repeat first grade? It didn’t go well the first time, why do it again?

The next year in a different school, life had its own problems. They came slowly though. No one knew me and it took time to settle in. I found myself adoring my teacher that year. One boy on the playground didn’t obey her quickly one day and I offered to beat him up for her. Ah, well. She admonished me with many words far beyond my vocabulary. Then she sat down on a swing next to me and thanked me anyway. I think she was the first person besides my father I thought cared about me.

She spoke kindly to me and never gave me a spanking. In those days a teacher could spank a student for just about anything. Mrs. Miller, we’ll call her, was there the day I got sick at lunch time. While others stared or laughed as I threw up what little lunch I had, she came over with a napkin and led me to the rest room. There I collapsed.

The walls seemed to spin around and any motion I made caused my stomach to churn. She called the school nurse who took moments to decide I had a flu and needed to go to the doctor. They called my mother who was working and some time later she showed up. One of my aunts had driven her to the school. If I thought I was sick from the flu it was little compared to the sickness I felt when they looked at me. My mother could burn holes through you when she looked at you.

I was taken to a doctor who confirmed the nurses diagnosis. He gave us some pills and I was to stay home for a couple of days. I don’t remember ever taking a pill before and as soon as I put one in my mouth and tried to swallow it, what was still in my stomach sent it out. Nothing would stay down. Mother was furious at me for vomiting expensive pills on the floor. I managed to survive the flu despite unswallowed pills and the thrashing I got for not taking them.

It was years before I could take a pill. I think I was well in my twenties and married when I finally overcame the urge to gag when one went in my mouth. That was seven years old to eight. School ended for my second time in first grade and I learned that summer to love school!

I wasn’t intentionally troublesome as a child but it seemed I could do no right. Each of us had chores of sorts. We were poor but the house was to be kept clean. Basically, we each did our part and I remember washing woodwork as high as I could reach and doing much of the wash board along the floor. Pine Sol and me were well acquainted.

No one ditched what they were supposed to do. Not if you wanted to go on living. I don’t remember ever hearing my mother laugh. Yell, scream, and holler, never laugh.

Second grade started well enough and I was glad to be in school. For at least six hours a day I was not in my mothers proximity. The kids in school had finally heard about who and what we were and some were as distant as the earth to the sun from me. Others seemed to treat me like a novelty. They liked the spectacle of the poor kid. One kid thought to do me a kindness and gave a model of a tank to put together. I had no glue and one of my brothers managed to acquire a tube of Testers model glue from the store near us. He didn’t pay for it and I didn’t ask why, since it seemed he had glue and I had a model. A couple days later he tossed the partly assemble model at me.

"Here, a bunch of parts are missing. That kid gave you his junk. Probably thinks it’s funny too!" He shoved me as he walked by and I sat down and picked up the partially built tank. I sat there wondering why someone would do such a thing. I turned the wheels that should have had tracks on them against my hand. Then I remembered. After all, when my older brothers were through wearing out their clothes they were given to me. I got toys after they had finished with them. I guess the kid from school was through with it.

I carried it around to the back of the house. There near a loose block in the wall under our porch I had hidden the broken plastic soldiers my brothers had discarded. I took them out and made my army in the dirt with a tank no one would take from me. No one else wanted to play with a broken tank. I didn’t have to be afraid it would get taken away. Discarded things were only valuable to someone who could see use and value to them.

I liked the comic books my brother had in his room. I learned to read with my sister's help and I loved the color pictures in comics. I didn’t understand lots of the words. The action told the story and I snuck into my brothers’ room and looked at the books whenever I could.

That summer I learned to ride bike. One of the boys in the neighborhood had a bike my size and we pushed it to the top of the hill. There at the very top was a huge house. They had a driveway big as a parking lot. We took turns riding the bike there. The people never came out and yelled at us to get away. I skinned myself up a lot at first. My mother never noticed the scrapes on my hands or legs.

My worst fear came the day I fell and tore a hole in the pants recently given to me. It seemed my brothers were growing faster than me and their old clothes were so big on me, even my mother stopped making me wear them. One of our aunts had a son my age and he had out grown some clothes and so they passed them on to me.

It was a week later on laundry day that I heard the growl. She stood holding the pants up and glared at me. Shaking her head in disgust she dropped them in the old ringer washer. I waited patiently about the house since she made it clear if I was going to ruin all those fine clothes I could stay home in my under wear until my ‘every-day’ pants were washed and dry.

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About Me

My childhood was spent growing up on a farm in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania. In those years I learned the lessons that would mold my character and moral center. In my teens I moved to a small city in southeastern PA. Like many teens I had my rebellion and found the futility of it. During my late teens I moved to central PA and in high school lost my heart to the girl who is now my wife. Presently I'm well into midlife and slowing rapidly. The things I used to do, I can't even remember. Married for 37 years, we have a son, a daughter and five grandchildren. My son has two boys, my daughter three girls, I love irony! I'm self-employed for most of 25 years in construction. Doing a project for a customer and getting their approval is wonderful and inspiring. I started writing when my children were younger. I did some stories for them and over time it became more of an interest. I now have four completed novels and several shorts and am working towards getting one or more published. One short has been published.

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