Friday, March 15, 2013

First Draft of Fourth Chapter

Chapter Four:
Lee and Lisel, Together

“As an adult it is alleged Mr. Barr was trying to hurt his father by telling him things like:
1.) I am heavy into drugs.
2.) My wife and I were taking LSD to see if we could produce a normal child.
3.) When Lee Stephanie was in the grandparent’s care, Mr. Barr would take her away when he would notice that they were enjoying her company.”
-Case File Quotes (2/12/1982)

I consider myself a Texan, because my memories begin there, but I was born in Eugene, Oregon at the Sacred Heart Central Hospital in July of 1972. Induced, I’m told, after a full days work. My father wasn’t always a small-time Christian cult leader and my mother wasn’t always an artist who lived in a tree. When I was born my father was a plain-old, adulterous bastard who could kiss forever, “fuck like nothing else,” and who with help from the G. I. bill, was studying a combination of pre-med and psychology at the University of Oregon-Eugene. My mother commuted to Springfield to work as an executive assistant and the two red-headed, step-children, technically Irish twins because they were born eleven months apart, were from her first marriage, at eighteen. My father was her second marriage. Timmy and Tracy, my half brother and sister, lived with Lee and Lisel, a diminutive of Elisabeth, until right before my birth, when Lee threatened to leave my very pregnant mother if she didn’t send her red-curly-heads back to their father who was still living in San Antonio Texas.

I have two pictures from the day of their wedding in Oregon on June 1, 1969. Lee is dressed in a navy suit, white shirt, tie and tie pin.  His dark hair is cropped short and parted on the left. Black plastic framed glasses and a wide white grin are plastered across his face.  My mother’s hair is equally dark brown, but wavy, all one length just below and tucked behind her ears.  She’s wearing a sleek, sleeveless, high-necked, burgundy-brown dress.  The outdoor shot includes my siblings standing in front of my parents, tissues in hand of my mother that is holding Tracy close. Her face is beaming and they look like a happy family unit.

Life at 1678-A Hayes Street went pretty well, with ski trips and skis for Timmy and Tracy at Christmas, until Lee decided they should expand the family during his junior year. After a miscarriage, my mother gained fifty pounds with me, “due to stress, going to work every day and living with a nut.”  A cheating nut no less.  She was fired though, after my birth and during Lee’s senior year. My mother said she didn’t know how repressed women were in Texas, until she moved to Oregon, which is where she was introduced to the word fuck.  She was fired due to that very word. The ten-person clothing company she worked for had accounts all over the world, a world which did not appreciate the word fuck coming out of an assistant’s mouth- no matter how seldom.  

They called it quits for the first of many times.  My father, Lee flew back to Austin and my mother to San Antonio, with me.  The first word out of my mouth was the word fuck.  Instead of wow, I said said fuck, all the way back to San Antonio.  “Not long after, Lee asked me to come to Austin and live with him.  We were still married and by then I missed him. And you, little girl, you were happy living with your daddy.  He had no car, no job.”

Case File Quotes
“Mr. Barr stated that he and his wife married when he was living in the northwest and attending the University of Oregon. They had the child after two and a half years of marriage.  He stated that the child was “always strong-willed” and it wasn’t until she was 18 months old that he realized she cried and had tantrums when she didn’t get what she wanted.  He stated that the only way to stop her tantruming behavior was to put her in her crib, shut the door and let her cry herself to sleep, or to give her what she needed.  He preferred the former method. He stated that he and his wife had great difficulty in their relationship and had several separations before they were divorced.  They came back to Austin and finally divorced.

The child was given to the mother and remained with her until age 4.  The father states that the mother had multiple boyfriends and that the child slept on the same bed while the mother had sexual intercourse with these several boyfriends.  He then described the child’s natural mother as being “crazy” and described her fascination with witchcraft.  He stated that she tried to drill a hole in the front of her head at one time and that she also put a very large bell on her right ear and ripped her earlobe.  He stated that he thought she was doing “drugs” and that these were causing her to become crazy.”
My earliest memory lives in bright white kitchen. Frozen there by a scene so loud that it was silent. No need for words when you see the sharp, sweeping movement of her body, as it leaves his hands, flying-slamming-stilling down the wall.  She had dark hair. They both had dark hair.  

In that bright kitchen I had one thought that looped in a tight circle, if I have to choose, I choose her. If I have to choose, I choose her. That little thought was it, the seed of my undoing. I was barely at my beginning and I was already at my undoing, according to my father.

I have an aunt who tells of a time that she and her husband lived in the same apartment complex with Lee, Lisel and me.  She observed that my parent’s form of childcare consisted of a crib and a locked front door.  My aunt was caring for a cousin of mine, just a few months older.  She didn’t know what to do, said my aunt.  She could hear me crying, crying and crying.
In their time together Lee and Lisel wielded knives, fists, words, lovers and objects.  They erupted together and apart, in conversation and in bed.  My father planted tomatoes and my mother ripped them out, preferably when heavy with fruit.  I watched her once, through the sprinkler-rainbows. The sun that made misty rainbows for me glinted off the butcher knife in her hands. Her rhythmic yanking and hacking didn’t alarm me, it was just something she did.  Something they both did to clothing, plants, the garden.  From what I remember, we were all wild things.  

Lee and Lisel squatted in houses under construction and renovation.  Indoor camping they must have joked. Maybe the houses were job sites, though I seldom remember my father working. I did think of him as a carpenter, at least a few times.  Like that time he was up on a roof, with a hammer, as we drove by.

In this house, with carpet nails to cross at every threshold, I remember needing a band aid, after landing on a stretch with my bare toes.  I crouched with my mother, one leg out, slowly shredding a paper wrapper, searching for the band aid that my mother had already used to encircle one of my toes. Strip by strip I ripped it apart, and still nothing was there.

I remember shoe-tying lessons at the carpet-nails house, because my parents thought shoes were preferable to blood, crying and bandages. But I didn't like complicated tie-shoes and there was a pomegranate tree at the top of the driveway that I wanted to visit. I stood in the front doorway, barefoot still, staring up the steep driveway at that tree, on the right. The red fruit hanging down looked tantalizingly in reach from this perspective, but on closer inspection, still out of reach, even for a wild child.  After the pomegranate tree, I wandered down the street into other yards, and on this day I was a dog.  Sniffing, noticing, snuffing and woofing, walking on all fours, kind of like Disney’s version of Mowgli when he’s attempting to be an elephant, but I’m a dog, a dog with a need to poop.  I chose a spot between a parked car and the trunk of a tree, a few yards down. I pooped, not at the base of the tree, but somehow right between the two. I wonder if the act went unnoticed, or if some family watched with a mixture of horror and amusement at a little girl pooping in their yard.  It was a nice green yard, thick and bouncy. I don't recall wiping and dogs don't wipe anyway, they wander.  No wiping, just wandering.

If there is one thing I’ll agree with my father on, it’s that I’ve been strong-willed from the start.  In the carpet-nails house, my parents slept in separate rooms, my father on a sleeping bag laid out on the floor, he had one half and I had the other.  My mother, in her room, would eat slices of the most heavenly chocolate cake, which I swear is the Pepperidge Farm dark chocolate cake, still available, in your neighborhood grocery freezer section.  The layers of icing, cake, icing, cake, icing cake.  She would give me bites and invite me to read with her.  To lie down next to her and read.  

One morning I woke in a very cold, wet spot on my side of things and heard the shower going.  I’d peed.  I scuttled over to my father’s side of the unzipped bag, crab-style and commenced to pee again, the hot urine arcing it’s way out of my body, thoroughly soaking his side.  I didn’t notice the shower stilling in the bathroom next door, too entranced with mine. And he caught me, mid-stream, looking like a little crab on a beach, pissing on her father’s side of the bag, because her side was wet too. It was out of balance, like too many things. After hearing the sound of him, seeing his face at the door, toweling his hair dry, I struggled to get the rest of it out.  An innocent or insolent look on my face, I imagine, either way not working for him.   

Case File Quote: 2-11-82
“Juliet Habsburg-Bourbon provided additional social history info.  She stated that during marriage, she and Lee Barr agreed to have an “open marriage”.  She stated that Mr. Barr slept with another woman (woman was landlady of last apartment where they lived together).  Ms. Habsburg-Bourbon also took part in this agreement as Mr. Barr was.  She did not elaborate on this.  Mr. Barr did punch Ms. Habsburg-Bourbon in the stomach during her pregnancy.  He hit the side of her stomach.  During his enlistment in the Air Force Lee Barr drank a lot.  The military made him ‘nervous’. He was not infantry because he was a friend of, or had a friend that knew Henry B. Gonzalez, that arranged for him not to go to fight during the Vietnam War.”

Case File Quotes:

“The child’s third to fourth years were spent with her natural mother.  During these four years the child lived in 5-10 different residences of various conditions, i.e. middle-class to poverty (roach and rat ridden homes). The child spent much of this time away from her parents in nursery schools,  Montessori schools, grandparents and other caretakers.  Allegedly during this time the child witnessed violent acts between her parents, e.g. knife chasing.”

Case File Quotes:
“I asked Mr. Barr about the family history of the mother and he stated that her mother was living in San Antonio with 8 dogs and in his opinion she was also crazy.  He stated that his first wife’s father was an internist in New York who many times would abuse his first wife.  He stated that even when she was an adult he would spank her across his knee when she was nude.  He did not elaborate on this.

We visited my grandmother Assunta a few times, she lived due south of San Antonio, Texas on a large plot of land with scrubby trees, grasses and a large gaggle of geese.  She greeted me and my mom at the side door with a pack of yapping, nipping dogs at her ankles. She was dressed in a red and grey-striped robe and all-weather boots.  Her steely, grey-white hair was long and somehow braid-wrapped around her head.  

The humid, Texas summer air pushed me forward, but the stench of the house pushed right back. I couldn't move until my eyes could see inside and my nose agreed to move further. The floor was covered in newspaper. The newspaper was covered in dried wet spots and squished, scattered piles of poop, and more layers of newspaper. With a nudge from my mother, I took a few careful steps into the hallway and stopped. I had to be still in order to look anywhere but down. Assunta's bedroom was on the right, with a twin sized bed tucked into the corner also on the right; a TV flickered at the far end of the room and fresh newspaper lined part of the floor around her bed. On the left side of the hallway Assunta began pushing a heavy wooden table blocking a pair of glass-paned French doors. In this room, the only room with no dogs, she had newspaper configured in a different way... piles of it everywhere. Piles taller than me, two year old child. There was a couch, a desk and some other furniture, everything under a layer of papers and dust.

All the heat, dust and concentrating made me thirsty; I asked for a drink.  I played a very focused and weird game of hopscotch behind my grandmother, down the dark hallway and into the kitchen. Except for a few functional carved out spaces, every surface in the kitchen was covered in dishes. Comical, Dr. Seuss piles of dishes; they crawled up the walls and leaned on each other for support. It looked as though my grandmother kept buying sets of dishes, using them and then stacking up the dirties for someone else to clean.

My mother swears there was a specific place for the dogs to shit, but I swear there was just one place they couldn’t, which was the guest space, behind the French doors. Regardless, according to my family tree, I should not be alive - my grandmother, before she was a mother, was a nun.

I should mention that I have the right to call myself the Princess of Hungary or the Archduchess of Austria. My favorite is the general title of Royal Highness. My grandmother, Assunta, in addition to being a mother and former nun is also an Archduchess with eleven given names: Assunta Alice Ferdinandine Blanca Leopoldina Margaretha Beatrix Josepha Raphaela Michaela and Philomena. Her gravestone reads  Assunta Habsburg-Lothringen.


  1. FYI Assunta is rolling in her grave .Assunta did not want to admit you were alive.Your mother always had to argue with Assunta over the fact that she had three children not two.Assunta wanted nothing to do with you.She knew you were a bad seed.No you do not have the right to call yourself Princess or Archduchess.You are a fool and a disgrace,you should be ashamed.You have no class airing your dirty laundry in public.

  2. FYI, Betty Mays Lancaster, brilliant attorney and devout Catholic was a close friend of my grandmother Assunta. She regularly lets me know how proud Assunta would be, if she could know me now. Betty sends books in the mail, and encourages my writing. As much as the people around me disagree, I value your opinion, and some of the things you say hurt. Regardless, and to quote a favorite song, "I'm a truth addict/ Oh shit I got a head rush." Leigh

  3. Fiction addiction/No shit Leigh's off her meds again!


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