Monday, October 04, 2010

Week 7 Predictions of the Artist as a Young Man

I used to grow moocows but I was scared of the moocows because there were so many of them and they were so much bigger than me so I guess you would say that the moocows were grown by my grandfather. I guess that isn't right either, he was good at growing stubble on his beard, so it was super scratchy when you had to kiss him goodnight. He never talked very much but he watched the baseball games all the time. He wasn't much into predicting the games but he would say this -- the fix is in, the fix is in, especially if his favorite Steelers or Pirates were on the losing end of the TV screen.

I hated to repeat myself even then, but that is exactly what is happening this week in the USCL matches and so I guess repeating myself is almost inevitable this week even though, as I said, I hated to do it. Pappap, that was our name for our grandfather, I never heard anyone else call their grandfather pappap before, I wonder if it was just like how we were calling the moocows moocows-- Pappap, moocows, moocows, Pappap. But then grandma was grandma, so I don't know, don't some people call Grandma, NaNa cum Nah-Noh. Nah, nanna is more like it. But we just used Grandma.

Grandma insisted that the aliens she saw in the backyard were angels, but I guess it was a dream. She was a Christian, with a big C, and those aliens she saw were dressed in white, just to make sure she would know they are angels on the side of good. I dream of grandmas sometimes, and she invents things for me, like a little wooden man that sits on the end of a stick and he dances and dances when you hop him on your leg. I guess she didn't invent that so much as give me that for Christmas one year. She used to talk about how she would milk the moocows during the Depression and how her brother went to World War II I guess right after the Blitz.

Was he part of D-Day? I don't know, I guess he never talked about. Grandma liked to talk though, and she said that he did once, and then cried about it, just like I cried that day when the hornet's nest stung me after I knocked it out of the swingset one night. I swelled up like a big ol' balloon and had my hand soaked in Epson salts for a week and I never did go back to that swingset again. Well, once I did when, in the wintertime, when I wanted to stick my tongue to the frozen pole. I think you could predict what would happen, but I pulled away when I felt that it was just about going to stick.

My uncle used to loom over us kids when we were getting too close to those moocows but I think he never understood that we were really scared of those moocows. The barn, though, we loved to hide in there, and he would come out and say, as if to God, -- I'm going into the barn now, and I better not find anyone in there. We hid pretty good.

'Nothertime, this Uncle of mine said -- You'll get stuck in a bale and be dead. -- I'm careful -- So was I but I almost lost my leg fallin' in a hole. -- I don't think I'm worried about it. -- Well, don't go back in there again. -- I promise. Of course I lied and we never did lose our leg.

I didn't have an Uncle Charles, but there is a Charles in that Joyce book they make some of us read in college. A Mrs. Riordan, too. With a fortuitous coincidence like that, I don't see how anyone else has a chance this week, especially since I don't remember any Costigans. I think there was a Costigan in the Departed, but I'm pretty sure it don' turn out none too good for that Costigan, either. I liked the Departed but Raging Bull is probably objectively better, if not nearly as much fun. It was the best use of cell phones for dramatic tension, the Departed. I wish I made that up, but I read it somewhere.

I thought that my Uncle hated me once when I tried to call him. He just bought an answering machine, and I had imagined a tinny robot would pick up the receiver and say-- I-AM-SORRY-BUT-THE-MEMBERS-OF-THE-HOUSE-ARE-NOT-HERE. Instead I get my uncle's voice --I'm sorry, but no one can come to the phone right now.... -- I kept talking over him and saying, --It's me, it's me. You know me. and my message was later played for my parents. -um, ah, um-, well, -um, OK, -er, -um, never mind. And the machine didn't hear it but I cried, probably worse than the hornets. I felt real sick in my guts, after that, for I was sure my Uncle didn't love me anymore and was ignoring me on purpose. He didn't sound like a robot like I expected, not at all, and who could have predicted that an answering machine was just a tape recorder?

I guess that cryin' meant I had a lot of anger built up on the inside, and so one day I punched a kid right in the face. It was a complete sucker punch to the chin, turned around a whap! right in the kisser, like I was invincible, immortel. He didn't fall down or nothin' and I was pretty sure I cried right after that, too, even though he didn't touch me. The look of shock on his face must have impacted my delicate sensibilities to the point where I just didn't know what else to do but release the howling demons inside. Either that, or my abject failure to even cause a tear to come to that eye of his just dehmelt me such a blow and demonstrated so clearly to my soul that I couldn't do to other men what even a tape machine could do to me.

I guess I was a crybaby, and once when I was no longer afraid of them moocows I would wander into the holler where the moocows would drink from a concrete trough and I saw a crawdad in there. I wanted to catch him one day, so I invented me a crawdad catcher out of an old Saltine tin, which I punched holes in with some awl I found in the shed where I also wasn't supposed to go but we went anyway even if my cousin once almost did lose his hand to the giant cutter that mowed down the hay. -Gulk, Gulk, Gulk, went that Crawdad Catcher as the air passed through the perforations and let my saltine can sink to the bottom. I scooped him up and the sound of concrete mixed with the mud that accumulated over how many decades made a -SHM-ELOV kind of scrape and glop as I caught that little crawdaddy and pulled him to the free air. Point for me, but when I got him to the surface, his claw pinched me hard enough to make me drop him and I cried all the way home.

I made it about halfway home, when my uncle called me over from the farmhouse and he showed me the ribs he was cookin' up that day for dinner. The bonin's were stickin' out of one side of the juicy meat sizzling' and cookin' up and for a moment I wondered if the crawdad would be tasty like those meatsticks my uncle was tongin' and flippin'. I was getting good and hungry(ski) at the sight of all that meat. Polska Kielbasas, too. My grandma of the big Christian faith was Polish through and through (nee' Muloski), and we ate like Polacks, so I imagined, every New Year's with sauerkraut and pork-stuffed cabbage rolls, thick kielbasas and those dumplings stuffed with potatoes, pierogis! My brother made a tee-shirt in high school that said --Polska Kielbasa and was done up like the grocery store advertisements.

Either my memory is mixin' and matchin' my past, or that BBQ of the crawdad failure was also the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and the anniversary of the day that some miners who borrowed our farm back in the days before I existed blew themselves up in the woods with some nitroglycerine they were transportin' down by the crick. Glycerine Hollow what all we called it and pappap used to point it out when we were hikin' by that crick. The young un's like myself were sure that the ghosts of the departed would come out in the dusk of the solstice and one day we saw rain pouring down about 60 yards away before it hit us and lightning came krasiking down on us like the finger of the dead and we thought for a moment we were all struck dead. We remained matlin'ed to the ground for about 10 heartbeats after that strike and then hooted and hollared all the way down the hill as the dark rain finally caught us and turned our clothes to droopy tears.

Another story Pappap told past his scratchy chin was about 15 moocows up on the hill, legs up in the air, struck dead by lightning. The sentinel tree up there was white as a ghost, barkless, leafless, but remained erect and alive in our imagination some decade after those moocows were gone. Once under the chicken coop I found a pearly white moocow jawbone smiling up at me, and I suspected that was where they had gone. That chicken coop was empty now, but I was hiding from Mr. Wilson, our neighbor who came to the farm to shovel manure for fertilizer and we had plenty of it to go around to those in need. I was hiding from him on account of my dog, Alex the astrodog, had reared up and bitten him in the behind and caused him to hoot and holler that last time. He threw down the shovel, fixed his gaze right on me, and I quaked when he said what he would do to my mutt if he ever caught him again after that. But I could see him from under the chicken coop, shoveling his stink pats, and I knew the astrodog would be safe, even if the cowskull probably was a bad omen if I knew to look for omens then. Somehow, though, seeing that curved jawbone with the chewing cud molars sticking out, worn smooth from chewing grass, I knew they all would be safe, Grandma, Pappap, my Uncle, my brother, everyone, as long as god has a mind to keep us at a distance and, after that, we can all lay down and have lightning pass through us and ferry us to the other side.

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