Tuesday, January 29, 2013

First Draft of Second Chapter

Northwood, During Evil

“you're behaving like a backfish!” is what we say in Germany to a girl, thats not a child anymore but not yet a woman. - The word relates to the english “backfish”, which is used for the fish that is thrown back into the sea because its still too young and is not considered to be ready for the market yet. -Philipp Preuss

Thankfully one of my father’s connections to God traveled through his stomach and Norma, a native Oklahoman, made comfort food like nobody’s business.  Her fried okra set a standard for my tongue, much like my father’s cream cheese danish.  Fresh cut okra, simple batter and a pan of hot-ass oil to fry them to a crisp, pleasing brown.  Mashed potatoes and cream gravy didn’t hurt, and neither did chicken-fried steak, but it was the fried okra I’d die for. Just a pinch of salt, a quick drain on towels and in my mouth I wanted them to go.  But first, table, plates and manners, which meant waiting even longer to crunch them down.  
Lee and Norma moved the household without me around objecting to the thinning of my toy crop, which had begun to take up too much space in the corner of the apartment living room. My Snoopy-style miniature plinky-sounding piano that I couldn’t squeeze my cross-legged knees under?  I wanted to keep it, of course.  If I couldn’t play it, then my G.I. Joes sure could. And what piano playing G. I. Joe could strike out with a Barbie?  I was thankful my father was willing to celebrate Christmas, and even if Santa had delivered army tanks and infantry along with my plinky piano, I was still hoping for Barbies.  

We visited vast empty houses in our search for a place outside apartment-landia.  I moved through light and space imagining what it would be like to live in an ivy-cooled white modern window-y place, or in a limestone ranch with cicadas clicking in the heat of the back yard.  The house they chose, the first house we lived in as a family, after the crush of humanity that they considered Riverside Drive to be, at least the part we inhabited, seemed to have room for everyone and everything, except Chad who was expected to live in the office/loft area, or fly the coop.  Chad inhabited my periphery, as I probably inhabited his, coming and going, and generally being what I thought of as a lucky-dawg.  He had ten years on my eight, which equaled freedom, in my mind at least.
The move from East Riverside Drive to Northwood meant a new neighborhood, new schools, a fresh middle-class start.    Summitt Elementary is where I spent third grade, and it had classrooms side by side with doors that opened to a covered cement breeze-way made safe with painted metal railings.  Mrs. Nabhan ruled our class time, but during recess I ran with the ever loosening and tightening knot of soccer players across the endless sloping fields. We flew with the ball, and it seemed we could fly forever.  One afternoon, in that same field across from IBM, we launched our self-made rockets, most painted red, white and blue.  In streaming arcs of smoke they flew, some so high we lost sight of them in the sun and clouds, but eventually all of them rained back down, to be collected, poked, sniffed and wondered at, all in preparation for a class trip to NASA outside Houston.  
Suburban space meant neighbors at a distance, congregants in reasonable numbers with meeting fumes and laughter dissipating into the piney horse property and cooing doves behind our home.  My father was a healer, and no matter where we lived, he had a steady stream of supplicants to prove it.   Some came for individual consultations, but most attended group meetings. On those evenings, they would arrive in ones, twos or threes, knock softly on the door and make their way into the back living room; the candle-lit, incense-smelling, vaulted room which flowed into the kitchen, dining area and out into the backyard.  Most sat in a large circle on the floor, chatting, waiting. A few of the regulars would help with refreshments, bringing trays from the kitchen, passing fresh-squeezed lemonade around. One of my jobs at these events, before I became evil, was to separate seed from the weed, an honorable and necessary task.
My father kept the weed in a smooth oak box crafted in the new garage workshop, a nod to his Jewish carpenter boss, and the lid, which lifted off, had a multi-tonal inlaid design.  Tidy compartments lined the interior which held papers, pipes, roach clips and matches. He used the lid for rolling joints and packing bowls, I used the lid to roll, tilt and pick all of the seeds out of the gray-green marijuana. Heads tilted together, in our own skunky bubble, he spent time teaching me how to tilt it back and forth, shaking the heavier, rollier seeds into one half leaving the smokable grass on the other. My nimble, eight year old fingers moved quickly careful not to spill or waste. Daddy could roll joints in his sleep and his tongue darted out to lick what seemed like endless fatties as he lined them up and passed them around. People maneuvered to sit by his side, greedy for the freshest hit, or hungering perhaps, to touch with their lips, first, the joint newborn from his fingers and lips.  From person to person they went round, until the jays became roaches and roaches smoked down.
I glance at the multiplication tables on my desk before I open my bedroom door, note Shay’s closed door and walk down the short hallway, my feet silent on the beige carpet. I stop at the line where the carpet ends and the tile begins, our bathroom on my left.  I peer out from behind the line and see him. The back, but almost profile of Daddy, who does resemble Dennis Miller, with the hair, the wit, the dark handsomeness.  Daddy’s right arm is hanging beside the chair, palm down with fingers resting on the floor. He's sitting in the front room, in a low chair, eyes closed to the unfiltered afternoon sun. I step across the line, my bare feet noiseless on the tile. I stop beside him and wait, quieting my breath, staring down at my toes, willing him to acknowledge me.
“What?” he asked, eyes still closed.
“My head hurts,” I said, glancing up and right back down. A deep inhalation and long sigh are his only response. I wait.
“Come. Stand here.” He motions the space between his knees. I move and he lifts his hands to my head, dark brown eyes now open and appraising me. He grips my skull, one hand on either side, thumbs on my forehead. His eyes close again and the pressure increases, his breath a steady count, in and out. Then his hands are gone, his touch is gone. No lingering, soothing departure, just gone.
“Your headache will go away soon,” he says, eyes staring into mine. I nod in agreement, my head throbbing as before. What else can I do, contradict him? But maybe, my head does feel... a little bit better.
“Back to your room,” he says. “Now. And meditate for fifteen minutes.” I nod again and retreat, retracing my steps, hopping over the line and then into my room, shutting the door behind me.
Backfish, Norma and I were not, in 1980, that was clearly Shay’s department. She played older games with older friends, she went to a different school.  Our spheres at eight and fourteen didn’t seem to connect, so much as collide and repel one another.  We both knew the next door neighbors, but she’d stay inside with the older kids while I ran around with the younger crew playing hide and seek in the ravine with the occasional trickle that we only accessed through the yard and over the fence behind their house. With the same group, we’d wait for the bus in the mornings, in some constant state of dare; feet circling the red harvester ant nest entrance --we’d all been stung before.  We played pencils and rose garden, up and down the inside of our forearms.  We danced to that song with lyrics that go ”upside down, boy you turn me, inside out, round and round”.   We could gyrate.
Suburban space meant we weren’t forced upon each other anymore, it also meant I could be banned to my room, or worse still, my closet,  which was mostly empty, and therefore my very own meditation station.  The place to take space and repent, ask forgiveness, or just log-in, as it were. Except I wasn’t logging in, so much as I was inadvertently listening in --to the rumbles, giggles and gasps emanating through the wall from the front bathroom.  I knew the rumbles, I knew the giggles.  I eventually knew what was going on.  Did she blossom in his attention, his ministrations?  I couldn’t really say, but at fourteen Shay seemed to be going on thirty-three, and my father at thirty-three, was somehow going on sixteen.  Those kind of numbers might work in places like Nigeria, or Afghanistan, but in Northwood?
My dad kept a change jar in his bedroom and emptied his pockets there.  Once, he let me split the change with Shay and my portion totaled thirty-eight dollars and ninety-two cents.  By some strange miracle, or pure force of pack-rat habit, I still have one of the books I bought with my father’s generous gift: Richard Scarry’s Best MAKE-IT Book Ever.  I adored Richard Scarry’s  books because his creatures became my creatures and inhabited the world of the squirrel apartments I loved to decorate. I could imagine Lowly Worm bump-driving up the side of the tree in a hot-dog truck  to make a delivery to Ms. Squirrel.  Who didn’t love the Lowly Worm or Ms. Mouse?  I cut, colored and glued my way through the book, making my own version of Scarry-vision.   I was of an age to color neatly between the lines, which isn’t the same as following all the rules, and somehow following all the rules became more and more difficult in our new spacious house, so I spent more time in my room, reading the children’s bible and meditating, and less time riding my bike or learning chess from a friend a few houses down and over.  Scarry-vision was a welcome diversion from prayer and meditation.
About the only thing Shay liked to do alone was poop, so she must have been doing that when I noticed her friend was alone.  She sat on Shay’s bed, and looked up when I pushed the door open, which was catty-corner to the right from mine.  I told her, my step-sister’s friend, that something was going on, something wrong was going on between my father and Shay, and could she please tell someone about it.  I explained that I’d tried to tell my teacher Mrs. Nabhan what was going on, but that it came out wrong, and she told my dad, told him that I thought he didn’t love me. Maybe if someone older tried to help?  Had Shay already said something even? And simple as that, I became evil. I hadn’t been discovered yet, but in a few sentences before I ducked out of Shay’s room,  I defied him.  I defiled him.  I eventually cost him his home.
My father taught me that every single moment of life is recorded, which was his way of explaining omniscience. One of his powers he explained was that he had a direct connection to God, immediate and direct, as long as he could be open to it   He had to do many things to sustain his strength for the connection. What God knew, he could know, so what I knew was that it was just a matter of time until I was caught.
One early afternoon on a Saturday, my father watched as I played a mixture of tag-hide and seek with a few of the  neighborhood kids.  He noted which direction I was running and placed a two by four across the doorway that went from the garage to the backyard. It was neck height for me because of built in cabinets on either side of the door, and I never saw it coming. We’d been running that path all morning, it seemed, and with the force of a full run I rammed into the two by four, knocking myself flat, no breath or air for longer than I care to remember. Did he stand over in a dark corner of the garage and laugh?  Silently, unobtrusively, laugh?  He had a middle brother meanness to him, he liked to play tricks and teach lessons, but somehow none of the lessons were kind-- or is it that I just don’t remember the kindnesses?  The lessons that didn’t end in bruises?
When my father was particularly unkind, he would usually come to my room, later, in private, to apologize-- except his apologies seemed to come without words.  He would stand in my doorway and wait to be invited in, a look of remorse on his face. He would sit on my bed and wait for me to crawl in his lap. We would sit like that for awhile and then he’d float away.  On this day, after I had been discovered,  I was dusting the oak lion’s feet that our dining room table rested on, remembering that that I was a Leo, which meant I had some lion in me.  I watched his feet and legs approach the table, and my father knelt down, a simple wooden box in his hand.  He motioned me to my room, where he handed it to me. Smooth-sanded and oiled it was both light and soft to the touch.  The thing about his silence and the thing about his empty box was that I could insert whatever soothing words I needed to hear and save them for later.
When I turned evil, I wasn't allowed to come to the meetings anymore.  I wasn't allowed to greet people or separate the seed from the weed. After evil, I spent all my time in my room, door closed, being the black hole of me, emitting horrific cancer causing radiation. Since my presence caused pain and my touch caused cancer, I was as banned as I could be, no eating with people, touching people or talking to people.  I had a bed, a toy box under the window, a desk, bookshelf and a little walk in closet, perfect for meditation.  


  1. Wow. A gripping read and one that leaves me anxious to read the rest. Great work Leigh. I am your number one fan (after your boys of course :). ) let me know

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Sorry, technical difficulties. Let me know how I can help you get to the finish line. Susannah

  3. You obviously never knew you grandmother Assunta she would have torn you a new one for even mentioning her name.You are a cunt with balls,a lousy actress,your writing is lacking

  4. Did your deadbeat father ever have a real job?Sounds like the LSD gave him brain damage...sounds like his followers were also bums...had to listen to his shit just to catch a buzz.All his thoughts were not original...Why did he wear glasses if he was such a great healer?Couldn't heal his own kidney either?

  5. If your mother was a whore how was your father so certian he was your father?This is'nt a riddle.

  6. A good sign of mental illness is not knowing the difference between dream & reality...grasshopper.

  7. Being hooked on your meds burnt out your"happy"brain cells,you are a burnout,fryed...like any other drug addict....no happiness left...just a meaningless void...irreversable brain damage


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