Friday, November 27, 2009

Every Last Leaf (Autumn Rivulet #5)


heard the people who live on the ceiling scream and fight most scarily;
hearing that noise was my first ever feeling that’s how it’s been all around me...
the Clash

...had a friend named Michael when I was seven or eight...first kid I ever met whose parents were divorced....he told me, I remember, one time when we were playing up in the treehouse my dad built in the woods behind our house....didn’t know many kids who talked about serious stuff like he did, either...

....at some point, heard my mom telling somebody, another adult, something his mom told her...about how she’d had to quit her job to look after the kids because the sitter’d been doing something sitters aren’t supposed to...which I didn’t think too much about at the time...

...another time I slept over a couple nights...don’t think I’d ever been in house like that...really bare and run down...toys lying around, mostly broken...holes in the walls his mom plastered over herself...said some bachelors lived there before, and apparently punched the holes with their fists....he lived there with his mom and two little brothers, and this guy who was living with his mom...dark beard, ponytail, tattoos, kind of quiet, soft-spoken when he spoke at all...had a workshop in the basement and an ashtray shaped like a hand with a middle finger sticking up at the back....nowadays, I’d call him a biker, though I don’t remember if he actually had a motorcycle....Michael and one of his brothers, a year or so younger, looked a lot alike...skinny white kids with long stringy hair down to their shoulders...first boys I ever knew with long hair...but his other brother, who was maybe three or four, had dark skin and an afro....Michael said he just came out that way....the first night I had dinner with them, that brother spilled some milk, and their mom turned red, stuck a big fist in front of his little eyes, said see this? this is gonna go right in your face...

...late that night, hearing footsteps in the dark hallway, she shrieked, high pitched and threatening, through the door...then opened it, said oh, it’s you in a voice turned gentle and soft, and pointed me toward the bathroom...

....the next day, Michael and I jumped up and down in a pile of leaves his brother’d raked up, scattering them all over the yard...his mom yelled at both of us, said we’d better get up every last leaf...so we started raking....then, after a while, eager to get back to playing, I said I doubt she really meant ‘every last leaf’...with a nonchalance that grew naturally in my world...but he kept working...he was in his world, and he knew it...



...just happened to remember this story, recently....sorry if it's a bit dark...

13 comments:

martine frampton said...

it is important to remember that some children live with so much fear in their lives.
thanks for sharing
Martine

Brooks Hall said...

Wow. So many stories seem to come from the leaves! How vulnerable we are as kids... I feel for your childhood friend and his brother living with the rules of their world.

Eco Yogini said...

so sad what some children have to live through... and not understand. some kids have such a rough start. :(

the walking man said...

Every history has a bit of sad and dark mixed in with the happy and light. That is simply the nature of his story.

TINA VAUGHN said...

This is deep but profoundly reflective...I imagine growing up, I was Michael and fortunately my children are growing with that beautiful nonchalance...with the ease that should be in a child's heart and their world. Do you still know Michael?

WR said...

The story/memory is so moving and profound. Too bad the Google IT gurus couldn't develop a sensitivity meter for the search word spider that places ads....something more fitting than "Leaf Filter is Better"

Karin Bartimole said...

An all too familiar story Jay, and you must have been a very good friend in Michael's eyes - I don't remember having friends I was comfortable enough with to let them come over to be witness to my mother's fury. Holidays are especially volatile, with the added stress of expectations, so being aware of these kinds of situations at this time of the year can be powerful. We can step in where we see harm being done to a child - to ignore the sounds coming from a neighbor's window can be a tragic decision...

Lana Gramlich said...

Dang...that brings back too many nasty memories (although at least my mom was passed out drunk overnight. There was some peace then.)

Laura Hegfield said...

Wow! I have some memories similar to this, at a friend's house in college her Mom adored her, but would beat up her sister...and I was only 18 so didn't know what to do...another friend who's sister always slept in her Dad's bed (this was in high school) he would walk into the bathroom even if one of the girls was taking a bath and just pee into the toilet while his daughter was naked in the tub (this happened one time when I was there with my friend hanging out with her) Some families are really messed up and it is so strange and frightening to witness...but it does put our lives into perspective.

timethief said...

Dang! You did it again. You went deep and dug up a bone. I have had experiences like Karin has recounted above. Sadly, many families have mucked up parents at the helm and holidays do tend to bring out the worst in them.

berenice said...

Dr. Jay
yours and Michael's is a bittersweet story, the harsh rules of the house, and then your friendship, i remember many times have felt embarrassed by my parents (not cause of violence thank God) with my friends around, and the other way around. What i love about how you wrote your story, is that you wrote it with the same heartfelt feeling you had in those moments by your friend... you are not filtering the words or feelings thru the adult in you, you are not judging, you are just telling, as a sensitive child would do... somewhere among the comments said how sensitive we are as children, that infinite sadness of melancholy children sometimes get, followed by infinite happiness, sure childhood is a roller coaster of emotions, maybe 'cause they are brand new, but somehow i do miss those intense feelings, nowadays is very easy to know when you are sad, glad, or just OK... i like reading how you write (btw)

earthtoholly said...

Such a good post, drjay. I agree with berenice in that you've kept the flavor of a child's perception in your story. I can almost see you--a wide-eyed, slightly plump, curly-haired kid--observing and wondering... Sorry. I took liberties with my description there, but it's kinda how I imagine you as a kid. Go ahead, slap me. I deserve it.

I remember a childhood friend or two whose homes seemed very different from my own...thankfully nothing to the extent of poor Michael, but just different enough to make me wonder...

Bird said...

The first time I went to a friends house and the stench of sour milk, unwashed clothes and dog dirt made me gag, and I realised some homes could be a lot worse than mine... I won't forget it. I was used to shouting and anger and even violence but dirt and hunger and indifference - that was shocking to me. I still wonder whatever happened to those kids, how they turned out - or even if they grew up at all.

Where I live you just never get involved no matter what is going on in the street, but if I hear a kid scream I'm out there, I'm out there like a flash. Too many adults just turn away. I'm glad you still remember.