06 January 2009

Breakwater



If it has seemed matter of fact up to now, it is because all of these old ghosts were laid to rest years ago with a story. So this time out begins with the beginning of that story and ends with the song that was written by Amanda McBroom about her father, the actor, and sung many years after my father died that finally made me cry for my daddy, the accountant.

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"The Juggler".

The pretty balls whirled above the child’s head. Daddy had bought a small circus for the day and it was only right to name the spinning circles after those she loved. Blue – Aunt Ruth, green – Uncle Don, red and yellow for mommy and daddy; the pink one was Aunt Helen, orange for Wanda, white for Duane and you run out of colors and balls for Butch and Sandy, Claudia Jo and Donna Ruth, Grandmother and Pampa. The girl cried because there weren’t enough colors to go around and she just knew one of the ever faster moving globes would drop and ruin the show.

Front row seats at the Ice Capades. Chubby fingers reach out to touch the back of a skater resting in the dark waiting for her cue to skate out into the lights. She’s warm daddy. The skaters flashed among the rainbow lights of a fairytale world. They’re warm; they’re real. But the show was over. The lights went out. The fairytale ended in a bar with daddy. Just one honey and we will go home. There are no real happy endings.

The princess wore gold satin and white majorette boots with tassels. The winning number is -------. Blinded by the flashing cameras she was lifted down by one of her many cheering adult attendants. The gold typewriter was gone and they all went to watch the stripper. How could you? The fight went on into the early hours as she buried her head in the pillow to muffle the sounds from the next room.

You have to put her in school. Mother argued with the man above the child’s head. She’s too young, barely five, she will never keep up. Test her, please. She can do it. The first in a series of tests started. They would continue for years at each new school. She has the mind of a ten year old. We will put her in the third grade to start. No, keep her as close to the right age group as possible. The child sat politely still among the rest of the furniture and listened. Give her the books. She will learn on her own. She was different – the teacher’s pet – the outsider – the smart one – alone.

She had become a juggler with colorless balls: Mother, father, aunts and uncles, teachers, schoolmates, a happy face for each role. There was no one like her. Hold them in the air. If allowed to fall, the world will end. California, Arizona, New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and California again: It was her own great circle tour. The dream started. She faced the long winding road, running always faster as the shadowy figures pursued. There was now a stepfather, a stepmother, two stepsisters, another stepfather and how many of mother’s friends; she forgot. Home was where she happened to be that night. "Here is your ticket honey. Get off the bus in Fresno; call a cab and give this note to Casey. She will keep you until I have a place again." Planes, trains, buses, all the dusty terminals of the Western U.S. became more than familiar. They were places without anyone she knew, which made them friends.

"You lousy, mother-fuckin’, son-of-a-bitchin’ bastard --- " The litany went on into the night. Dad made phone calls when he drank. Get up again. It’s only 4 a.m., and self-appointed guardians keep dawn watches. Daddy, I love you. Talk to me. Please talk to me. That’s the closet, not the bathroom. I’ll take care of you. Please! Talk to me. "Stinky, bring your friends home". Oh, daddy, I’m twelve, don’t call me that. "Here’s $20.00 buy yourself a record". Thank you. Go to bed now, please.

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So you daddies and daughters,
you sons and you mothers.
Remember life's over before it begins.
So love one another, and stand close together
As close as my dad did to old Errol Flynn

3 comments:

Linda said...

Well, I'll be honest, I've read this twice and I'm just a little confused ...

Jamie said...

Just a child's viewpoint of everything happening above her head.

Travis said...

This is excellent.

Do you ever wonder sometimes how you made it through with your sanity intact?