It is the morning after the inauguration dinner. Raining lightly, but still warm.
John and Rebecca are at the site office. He is quiet, distant, the residue of the car ride home last night. Rebecca is unsure what to say, or if to say anything.
A flatbed semi’s airbrakes Hishhhhhhh! And John moves to the window opposite Rebecca’s desk to see a load of large pipe, three foot in diameter, has arrived. A pipe “bomb” that transports him back in time. He appears transfixed at the window, staring at the load of pipes for a moment or two.
John relates a story; “When I was a kid, my parents were always fighting.
It seemed to start when I was 5 or 6 years old. My dad had a very bad temper that got worse over time. My Mom would get ‘comfortably numb’ 3 or 4 glasses of wine starting every afternoon.
By the time Dad got home, she’d be mouthy, miserable. Dads temper would flare and they’d be off. Sometimes all night, sometimes not, but you couldn’t talk to them for quite a while afterwards. We kids would go out a lot. By the time I was a teen it was routine. Have dinner, clean up, and go out. I’d go to a friend’s house or to the ‘Corner’ an abandoned lot across from the Skinner’s grocery store, where everyone went to hang out.
One night I was walking home in a light spring rain, and it was warm, like now. As I reached the house I could hear them yelling… I just couldn’t go in there…
The storm sewers were being replaced in the neighborhood. Right down our street, there were these large diameter pipes, like those on the truck, spread along the path of the work, all the way down the street.”
Rebecca is respectively quiet, but welled up at some points along the way.
She is able to manage her emotions without causing a scene.
John is now looking out the window, at the truck, while he continues the story
“I crawled into one of those pipes just outside our house, and made myself comfortable.
And just waited there, out of the rain, until I couldn’t hear them anymore.”
“That must have been very hard for you… how did you do homework?” Rebecca pondered aloud.
“It didn’t get done, and I didn’t finish school. We just had to survive, until we could get out, get away. My oldest sister, Elizabeth, got married at 18. My brother Gordon and my sister Carol took advantage of opportunities to move-in with other friends of theirs, they were both out of the house before they were 19 as well.”
“What about you?” Rebecca asks gently
“I had found a job on a construction site. A friend had got me on. Don was from a broken home and had a little basement suite. His previous roommate had just moved back to Nebraska. He asked me if I would be interested. Why not I thought, and I took him up.
I moved in on May 1st. it wasn’t the best, but it was home. For me though the most incredible thing was the predictability. Every time I came home it was the same, or at very least it wasn’t a war zone.
Then it happened.
May 14, 1974.
I had not been home from work long.
There was a knock on the door.
I swung the door open to see my brother with the oddest look of urgency, shock.
“Dad’s dead you have to come home!”
As firm as the hysterics would allow, he announced it.
I was in shock. Neurons firing in all directions at once.
I hurried and got my shoes on. I wanted it to be a joke, not real, I was shaking and couldn’t tie my shoes.
I don’t remember my brother not saying much on the short ride home.
Perhaps it was all he could do to keep focused on driving?
Home was very surreal. I didn’t seem to be involved directly. It was like being outside of it all. Watching all the emotion, swirling around. But no one was talking to me. My emotions seemed to shut down, like an overloaded circuit.
I told my mom I wanted to walk home. She asked me if I was sure I would be ok, and I nodded, and left.
I walked along the bus route for a ways, and when one came along I hopped on. I spotted a couple of people I knew at the back of the bus.”
“What happened to you?” Mike asked. I guess I looked in pretty rough shape.
“My dad just died” I deadpanned.
“Wow, what a loser!”
“Mike’s comment was completely out of character, he was a cool guy, a nice guy. I’ve never seen him since and never understood the comment. But, boy did it ever feel like he was right.
It was a short few blocks to the basement suite from the bus stop. Along the way there was a loud CRACK! The sky opened up and it poured for a few minutes, then just as quickly it cleared up, and the sun came out again.”
The site office lightened as the skies over Dubai cleared as well. A gust of wind pushes the clouds along. It blows through the length of the pipes, producing a scary howl, Rebecca shutters, and John is frozen still for a second or two…
What caused John and Rebecca’s strong reaction to the scary howl? Find out next post, ‘Transylvania A3’.