“Further Down Lincoln Street, Stambaugh, Michigan: summer 1977” by Chad Faries

 

The house was mustard yellow, and the wood smelled of it.  From the front porch I could
look up the hill and see the Lincoln Street house on top where we used to live, the house
where I put Lisa Gasperini on the back of my big wheel and we coasted down until we
stopped about right here in front of the stinking mustard house that I would live in.

I was spending most of my weekends at The Roller Rink in Caspian where I regularly won
candy bars during the pee-wee speed skate. It was the perfect opportunity to practice
flying and close my eyes while getting lost in a music I wasn’t accompanied too, the
BeeGees and Disco. The music was good for flying because it was full of heavy string
orchestras and regular beats. It made everything fold into each other and told simple
stories of people surviving and getting the person of their dreams. The mirror ball in the
center of the rink threw stars and lights that rocketed off my polyester clothing and I was
a solar system on wheels racing around a galaxy I had created every weekend night,
while Mother’s world was still revolving around not being alone, and trying to keep her
mind of off drugs and drinking—

Back at home the Man-Worth-Mentioning was coming over a little more often and the
sound of a mantis rubbing its legs together behind the bedroom door was back again.
This time I wasn’t as worried about Mother as I was The-Man-Worth-Mentioning.  With
Mother was riding him, full and heaving, he was poised to suffer the same fate as
Grandpa Boyd had recently encountered, death by drowning in two inches of water after
being thrown from a car wreck as he lay unconscious in a puddle contemplating but not
doing.  Just simply passive and noetic with his head placed silently in dream fluid, red and
emergency flavored—

I was taking diggers at The Roller Rink and “Staying Alive” for hours during the Jerry Lewis
skate-a-thon. I had to skate thirty hours without stopping.  This coupled with the pledges
Mother had gotten in her month of sober bartending at TJT’s would get me the Raleigh ten-
speed Budzack’s Bikeshop had donated. I was dodging boys twice my size during the
speed skate because I had a purpose.  The trick was to zone in on a mirror ball reflection
on the rink floor and just skate your ass off trying to catch it—

Mother had been out of treatment a couple of months when she received the notice about
Boyd. I met Grampa Boyd twice and was named after him, at least my middle and last
name. That’s all I can say about that. There was no father’s name on my birth certificate
because Mother couldn’t figure out if it was the short and stocky biker turned preacher,
Dale, or if it was the one night fling with the tall and slender photographer/global playboy,
Earl.  She settled for Alan Faries, but couldn’t resist “Chad” as a first name since it was
really Chad Everett, the new apostle of drama T.V., who kept her alive while she was in
labor at the hospital. He was a real life saint healing with his sexual eyes and the orbic
flex of his mouth.  Boyd had a build like Chad.  Both Chads.  A little too slender, but fit.  In
a couple of years it would be obvious who my real father was, but no one really cared
about seeking him out.  There was always The-Man-Worth-Mentioning who occupied his
place—

Molly and Ally skated out into the circle and gave me half-filled cups of Mr. Pibb so I wouldn’
t sleep. After awhile I just closed my eyes and had them pull me while I slept on my feet.
They pulled and pulled until my body went completely limp and I collapsed in the center of
the floor and snuck a sleep while the masses of people skated around me at the
perimeter.

“Get your ass up!  You gotta get that fucking ten-speed you little fucker!” Molly was
shaking me, “Your Mom’s gonna beat our asses if she thinks she wasted all that time and
money getting all those pledges. 100 bucks of it was her money she got from her dad
getting killed! Come on, just a couple of more hours—”

Mom and Hope—Boyd’s daughters—and their half brother Tim who lived down in Texas,
each received a couple of thousand dollars.  After thirty hours, a reporter cam and took my
picture. I won the ten-speed, but never received it. It went up in flames with the rink the
night after the skate-a-thon. In a Texas newspaper there was a picture of a car accident
and a photo of Grampa Boyd.  In the Iron River Reporter there was a picture of me with
my eyes closed, resting my chin on the seat of a ten-speed while I held a certificate that
said I had raised 500 dollars and skated thirty hours. Small spots of light were all over me.

Mother bought me a record player and a new girlfriend as consolation

* * *

Mother didn’t like being alone anymore, especially in her newfound sobriety that would
last a couple of months She needed a sounding board so took in a roommate, Linda from
Alcoholics Anonymous, who had a daughter a couple of years younger than me. Shelly
was her name, and her mother let her swear all the time.   The easiest way for our
mothers to take care of us was by letting us live a pseudo-adult existence so that we
were responsible for ourselves.  Shelly and I sat around listening to music and swearing
about friends that we didn’t have while we ate burnt macaroni and cheese that we
cooked over the gas stove.  We roasted hot-dogs over the flames and chopped them up
with a rusty butter knife.

The Man-Worth-Mentioning was coming over more often. I knew he had visited Mother in
treatment because Mother’s new habit was drinking coffee twenty-four a day and she
never stopped talking.  She said he had a nice dick and that she saw it in the woods
because that was where he brought her to screw since they only had two visiting hours
and he was a student so he was poor and didn’t have money for a hotel room.  He drove
up there in a 1968 white Thunderbird that got five miles to the gallon with white leather
seats that gave light to all his brown earth tones. He had a bottle of cheap wine and a
dime bag of weed. She went on and on and on and I knew where I had gotten the
endurance to finish the skate-a-thon

“I mean, can you believe it?  I’m in fucking treatment and he shows up with booze, pot,
and a hard on telling me that I’m a natural spiritual woman and he thinks he loves me.
Three hours earlier I was in a group session getting railed for being addicted to sex, on
top of drugs, and that I was a no-good parent being raised by my child.  I was fucking
crying so bad my eyes were swollen like the bellies of the dead fish I won at the fair and
forgot to feed.  I couldn’t even take care of fish.  Fucking goldfish and Eddy.  Damn
summer heat up here.  I left those fish on the windowsill and at the end of the day they
were almost boiling.  All I could see was the scales peeling off their white bellies that
poked out of the grayish murk that was their water.  There was no more gold left in them.
And there was no more gold in my eyes anymore either.  So I just kept saying ‘yes’ to
everything those counselors were dishing out, ‘yes I’m a bad mother, I’m an alcoholic, a
whore, manipulative, selfish,’ and so on.  And after all my admissions to being the devil’s
personal bitch, my fellow addicts in the circle started hugging me and saying ‘We love you
Kate, keep coming back.’ And the counselors, after getting me to admit all those things
about myself said that I really wasn’t those things, that was the booze and such.

Then I was so fucking confused I cried more and then my eyes were like bloated bellies of
road kill.  Porcupines, skunks, and white rabbits. And the whole time all I wanted to do
was hug Chad and be some mother that I had seen on T.V. I wanted to make him a nice
square sandwich with square slices and not that commodity welfare shit with the big black
letters on the white packaging that said ‘government issue.’ I wanted a bright yellow
package with smiling kids on it that said ‘Velveeta.’ I wanted to be that image because I
couldn’t figure out on my own what a good mother should be.

‘Fake it till you make it’ is what they would tell us. So then everybody gets in a circle and
hugs.  For the first time I think maybe I can at least go without the alcohol.  I’m not so
sure about smoking pot, but I’m thinking maybe that will come next week.  We’re there in
that circle and I’ve got both arms braided with someone else’s on either side of me and I
feel that same warmth from the bodies as I do when I’m making love riding on the top,
and blood and friction is so great I feel it all over down there, hot, you know.  I am a big
girl and can really make some heat! I figure this circle is what I’m after, not coming and
coming all the time with my feet stuck into the ass-cheeks of clouds.  I want this warmth.
I’m all dizzy and it’s like, you know, ‘ecstasy,’ but with a different kind of penetration.  It’s
not like smoke in the lungs or White Russians going down your throat—I’m gonna miss
those—it’s more like a ray of sun shining on your back as your sitting near a window doing
something and the sun is the last thing your thinking of until its heat seeps into your
shoulder and you feel better but you haven’t figured out yet that it’s the light that’s
calmed you.  It’s subtle, you know, you gotta be a little patient.  So I’m having all these
‘epiphanies’ I guess you call them and forget about Greg coming to visit…”

For the first time I had a name for The-Man-Worth-Mentioning.

“I leave group with my fish eyes, warm sunned body, and head to my room feeling the best and worst I have ever
felt.  So then I’m napping and have a wild dream that I’m flying, although it’s not so incredible in the dream.

t’s just natural, all that flying.  I’m way up over the city, but I must have some eagle-vision or something because I can see the color of people’s eyes, and my hearing is perfect too because I hear all this talking.  Some of the languages I don’t even understand, but one language really comes to me, ‘resonates’ is what Greg would later say.  I understood the language, though I couldn’t speak it to you right now.

It was a mixture of slogans, song lyrics, scientific texts, and children’s stories all mixed together.  It said something like ‘I think I can, I think I can shake dreams from your hair my pretty child by symbioses through keeping it simple stupid.’ You know, it’s The Little Train that Could with The Doors, AA, and scientific shit I don’t even get totally.  It doesn’t sound or mean much now, but you should have heard it in that dream language! It had some rhythm like a train that made numerous stops and changed its speed frequently.

And get this, I’m looking toward this voice which is coming out from the middle of a park that has old castle buildings on one side, a desert on the other, and then some Rivers and oceans and stuff on the backside, and I swear it was Chad, though he’s a little older.

Then he starts calling me Kate.  ‘Kate!  Kate!’ he says, ‘You have visitors,’ and I’m looking around to see if anyone is flying next to me and there’s nobody so I start gliding a little toward Chad to get a closer look to see if I’m really right.  I decide at that moment, if it is Chad, I’m gonna grab him in my talons and pick him up and never let him go.  When I think this, I have an eagle head because the smirk of my face and beak reflects the intensity of the decision I’ve made.

He’s still calling me “Kate” and I want him to stop because I want to be Mom again.  I’m almost close enough to make out the exact details of his nose and small ears—because he’s a little older you know, about 30— and then he yells ‘Kate’ one more time and I open my eyes to Mary, my roommate standing over me saying I have a visitor.  ‘No Shit.’ I said,  ‘I was flying.’

‘Relapse dream,’ she said convinced.

‘No, not that kind of flying.  This was natural I guess. I turned into an eagle.’

‘Me too, after taking a sheet of acid at a Supertramp concert in Tiger Stadium under the grandstands.  I jumped off what I thought to be the top of the grandstands and fell on my face.  It must have looked fucking stupid, jumping into the air and diving on your face.  Nobody saw it happen, thank God.’

“I go to see the visitor. I don’t put makeup on or anything, just a pair of jeans and a wife beater with no bra.  On my way to the visiting room one of the care workers tells me it’s not appropriate attire so I go back and throw a dark t-shirt over it so you can’t see my nipples because I didn’t want to lose my daily points and be short of cigarette money at the end of the week.

Greg’s in the waiting room.  His hair is all frazzled and you’d swear he was part black with that afro, and that bulge in his brown hip-hugger corduroys.  His glasses are tinted purple, but everything else on him is brown.  He’s smiling really big like he’s already stoned and says ‘Hello Goddess.’ and that’s about better than the group telling me that they loved me.

We hop into his car and we just sit there for a minute looking out the front windshield.  I guess we are both thinking.  I’m thinking that goddesses must be able to fly, and if they are always good, but I knew they were bad sometimes.  They had been preaching to us in treatment about finding some “higher power” and I didn’t give it much thought until I found this book called “The Masks of God” which was really hip and covered all times and all places in the whole world, not just Jesus and a bunch of guys—this was about women and stuff.

But the thing was, nothing was really clear.  I mean I couldn’t tell what was good and what was bad.  All these ceremonies and sacrifices seemed to cancel themselves out.  It was about killing a bad chicken to have good eggs.  Then there was this part about earth goddesses, which Greg said I was.  Goddesses were almost always mothers and usually had some child at their breast which was supposed to be an enduring force, and the goddess and child together were like one thing, one unit inseparable.  Both the mother and child felt the same things through ‘symbioses,’ both physical and psychic.

I always knew I was psychic.  A gypsy woman told me that once. So this unit of goddess and child was like a universe all tending toward the good of itself and bliss, which is like ecstasy, an orgasm. So that’s the good part. But that bad part, like always, is that not even goddesses can anticipate everything and there are times when the universe doesn’t correspond with what is really needed.

This happens when that little child starts remembering how we was pushed out of a black vaginal hole all bloody and screaming.  At this point the child forgets everything, his mother, the universe, the bliss of sucking on mother’s boob and then the mother is identified with the kids destruction. I was reading it under the covers in the middle of the night with a Zippo and started crying because I’m thinking Chad realized this a long time ago and I was never gonna have him back at my breast again so I realize that’s why I’m sticking my tit in everybody else’s mouth and that’s why the counselors are on my ass about being promiscuous and stuff like that.

So the goddess is beatitude on the one hand, and terrible destruction on the other. Damn.  And if that’s not heavy enough, the book starts getting really specific and talking about a Hindu goddess named ‘Kali’ which looks a little like ‘Kate’ when it’s written out, and she has a long tongue, which licks up the lives and blood of children just like a pig sometimes eats her little piggies.  And yet this goddess is not bad, she’s often portrayed with a child at her breast.

So you’ve got heaven and hell and what’s in between is this fucking treatment center so I start thinking that I am a goddess,  good and bad and I tell Greg to start the car because I’m waiting for something at my breast and bliss. I’m ready to be a cannibal too, if you know what I mean girl! Next thing you know we’re at the end of Forestville Road surrounded by woods and a little house where a chainsaw sculptor lives and he’s got huge carvings of Eagles and Bear and old men smoking pipes and the Madonna. We park and get out. There’s a big ‘slam because the door is so heavy and I shudder a little because I’m still sensitive to loud sounds. Reminds me of fists and all that stuff, you know what I mean.

“‘Cool,’ I say as I stop and really take a good look at the art.  Greg takes my hand and pulls a little, but then he stops too and we have another moment where we are just staring together and that’s when it felt like we were talking the most.  Then he pulls again after a couple minutes and we go off into the windows and strip down buck-naked, but its fun.  It’s not really just about sex.  Things were always a little different with Greg.  He had some kind of special wits, though they weren’t always there. He’s completely naked except for a backpack and I ask him what’s in it.  He says a good bottle of wine and some weed. Then I question his wits.

‘What the hell is that for?’ I say,  ‘You know where I am?’

‘With our Mother,’ he says.

‘What?’

‘With our Mother, you know, the goddess Mother Earth,’ and then he starts quoting the bible for justification, “Genesis 1:29.  And god said behold, I have given you every plant bearing seed and tree bearing fruit which is upon the face of the whole earth.  To you it shall be meat.”  It sounded good to me, but I just didn’t think it was right.  I could tell he wasn’t so sure either so he didn’t pressure me much after that, but he did take some for himself and rejoiced with the goddesses.  Next thing you know  he’s got the open bottle in one hand, a joint in the other, and I’m bent over a tree getting it full throttle.  I’m flying again, thinking about Chad, and thinking that Greg’s got some downfalls, but he’s getting educated and loves Chad so I give in and let myself really go and the ecstasy come, and come if you know what I mean, girl! We get dressed and time has really passed so he speeds me back to the treatment center.

“So I get this idea that I’m a goddess and tell everybody at treatment that I’m a goddess and that’s my spirituality and then they say that won’t work because you can’t be your own higher power, you need to have a power greater than yourself and then you can be restored to sanity.  Well Jesus fucking Christ.  I had never thought that hard before about anything, and it was all for nothing.  ‘But I feel good about myself now,’ I said.  ‘I’ve got a man who calls me a goddess, I’ve got these huge life-giving breasts full of bliss, child-bearing hips…what the hell?’

‘Right on Kate! Johnny W. says I’m with you baby! You’re my Higher Power!’  The counselors just shake their heads and tell me to keep coming back which means I’m supposed to stick with the program and these twelve steps that tell me I’m powerless and pretty soon things will be revealed.”

The conversation was long and I was taking notes the whole time by assigning stories to various toys as mnemonic devices.  The bionic man was the dream.  My Charlie McCarthy puppet was Greg.  My Legos were the treatment center, and the weeble-wobble people filled in the rest of the gaps.  I built the story right in the middle of the bedroom and then asked Shelly if she wanted to really play.

“I mean really play,” I said emphatically. I stripped Shelly down to her panties and went over to my new Fischer Price record player in the corner.  I swung the purple plastic arm around and dug the needle into a 45 of Heart’s “Barracuda” and turned it up until the cheap speakers were distorting.

“Fuck yea” I said at 6.  I floated over to Shelly in my birthday suit, bent her over and jammed to “Barracuda” as I faked adult ecstasy the best I could while gyrating all over her emulating Greg and Mother’s story. I reached around to grab her breasts that wouldn’t be there for another ten year.  I just couldn’t fly like Mother.  My wings were clipped. I had become The-Boy-Worth-Mentioning in Shelly’s private mythology, full of knowledge and lacking sense.  That’s what ecstasy does to you.  I bent her all over the bedroom and Greg came over and joined-in in the other room filling Mother full of compliments and weed. Her complexion flushed and the familiar warmth that drugs brought heaved in her breasts.

She forgot she was supposed to be powerless and let the goddess run wild.  She poured wine into her mouth and let it run down her chin into her cleavage.  It was beatitude and it was devastating. We all dug each other.

And then we moved.

 

 

Chad Faries has published poems, essays, photographs, interviews, and creative non-fiction in Exquisite Corpse, Mudfish, New American Writing, Barrow Street, The Cream City Review, Afterimage, Post Road, and others. His book, The Border Will Be Soon: Meditations from the Other Side was a winner of Emergency Press’s open genre book competition. It chronicles his visits to Yugoslavia between 1995-2000 and will be published in May 2006. He has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and was a Fulbright Fellow in Budapest. His memoir, Some Houses, is seeking a publisher. When not traveling he is a carpenter and professor. He recently purchased an old Victorian home and now is planning his next Triumph motorcycle in order to solidify his artificial existence as a renaissance man.

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