Monday, March 30, 2009

Fond Memories Of Childhood...

[The following is an excerpt from H. A. Covington's novel Fire and Rain.]

That October Friday afternoon Matt barricaded himself in the upstairs bathroom about four thirty. He shaved, showered and scrubbed before supper, made it through the meal with only a little casual needling from his father, then got back into the bathroom and applied aftershave and cologne he had not dared to wear at the table. He dressed in his sharpest sport shirt and windbreaker, then debated quickly: front door or back door? He already had permission to go and protocol did not require him to check out, so to speak, but sometimes breaking contact and making the actual escape could be tricky.

In 1970 the Southern Colonial style home his father had built was not yet the sprawling mansion it would become later, after Daddy got hold of his father-in-law’s money and went berserk building himself a palace, and there were only two doors. Going out the front door would mean he would pass the TV den, and if his father was watching television there might be an incident. On the other hand the back door led through the big kitchen where the family ate together, the formal dining room being largely unused because few people cared to be dinner guests in Randall Redmond’s home. If Daddy was still sitting there guzzling beer there might be remarks passed which could lead to problems.

Matt had noticed the refrigerator stocked with a full case of National Bo, which had sinister implications. Daddy usually got by on two six-packs a night. Matt sighed and assumed he would catch hell about something or other when he came in at eleven, but that was okay. He would have almost four hours with Mary Jane Mears. But how to break contact and get away now? It was quarter past six.

Sid was in his room, the door open a crack, sitting on the floor in front of a small record player listening to his favorite classical piece, Stravinsky’s 1911 Petruschka, rocking back and forth rhythmically, his eyes blank, his mind wherever it went when he listened to the classics. There was a reek from the piles of filthy, feces-caked underwear thrown in the corner. Matt stuck his head into ten year-old Steve’s room. The boy was reading a Spiderman comic. “Hey there, Cheetah, got a mission for you. Tarzan say go find Gorilla Man.”

Steve jumped up and started making chimpanzee noises, then ooked and eeked his way downstairs. This was a trick they had done before when Matt wanted to sneak out of the house. They both understood how dangerous it was; the most violent incidents, tantamount to bona fide assault and battery, always occurred whenever Randall Redmond divined rightly or wrongly that his sons were in any way colluding against him to do something, conceal something, or evade one of his rulings.

There were more monkey noises and the irate rumbling of his father’s voice downstairs. Steve came running back upstairs in his stocking feet. “He’s watching TV,” whispered the boy. “Already got three dead Marines on the coffee table.” For some reason their father, an ex-Marine himself with a chest full of medals from the South Pacific, always referred to empty beer cans as dead Marines.

“Thanks, Cheetah,” said Matt gratefully.

“Hey, Tarzan, you still going in the army?” asked Steve. The boy had walked in on Matt in his room several weeks before when Matt had been reviewing a pile of surreptitiously acquired recruiting pamphlets and literature on his bed.

“I think so, but I told you to keep your lip zipped about that,” said Matt, perturbed. “You know what would happen if he finds out, Stevie. It will be bad, worse than anything we’ve either of us ever seen.”

“You’re telling me! I just figured I’d let you know I heard him and Mama talking about your application to UNC. He’s going to fill it out for you but you’ve got to sign it or something.”

“Great,” sighed Matt. “Well, I guess it’s going to come sooner or later. I’ll hold it off as long as I can. Don’t get caught up in it, Cheetah.”

“I don’t want you to go away,” said the boy suddenly, looking away. “I don’t want you leaving me alone with him and Sid. I’m scared of them, and Sid always smells like shit. Why can’t you just get a job or something and take me with you?”

“If I have to stay here four more years while I’m in college I’ll kill him,” said Matt quietly. “I’m sorry as hell, kid. I just can’t take it any more. Don’t worry, your turn will come. You’ll be eighteen one day.”

“Yeah, in eight years!” said Steve sullenly.

“I know it seems like forever to you now, but it will come,” said Matt soothingly. “Look, I’ve got to go. Thanks again.”


Blogger Ray Seltz said...

This reminds me that I should re-read some of your books. Seems like nothing else is happening. Its something to do until people start to move on from blogging to doing.

7:45 AM  

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