Wednesday, July 20, 2005


2:43 p.m. I am home. I've been spending much of the afternoon teaching myself to play and sing a new song on the guitar. Not quite performance ready, but getting there. (Note: Performance ready means that I can play it through once without messing up.)

I am going to tell a very short story about when I was a kid. This isn't forensics. It's not so exciting, but it's part a of my life that I've been thinking about a lot lately.

I was five-years-old and it was summer. I had been sitting on the porch for a while being bored, waiting for my sister to come out. Finally, I had a brilliant idea. I grabbed a stick on the side of the driveway.

WHACK!! Got it! WHACK! Ha! It was judgement day for ants.

“Gross!” My sister, Tina, wrinkled her pretty little nose at me. Tina was eight-years-old and most definitely the boss of me. She had long straight blonde hair and my father’s striking green eyes.

I ignored her and instead watched in fascination when, a few minutes after the carnage, the living ants swarmed back in, hefted their squished comrades off the pavement, and dragged them away. There was no question in my mind that they would eat their dead. Cool.

A few minutes later Tina and I met a couple of other neighborhood kids...Chris and Nathan...along the street and we walked over to Jack's house. Jack was just three-years-old and I liked him mainly because I could boss him around.

We knocked on the front door. The woman who answered was a stranger. "Can Jack play?", my sister asked. The stranger asked us to wait and within a few minutes Jack slipped out the door to join us.

We shuffled quietly down the street. Nobody spoke. We just caste wary glances toward Jack from time to time as if we feared at any moment he might boil over like a pot on a stove.

The air was heavy with moisture and it was oppressively hot outside. I could hear cicadas buzzing lazily in the distance. We were right near the pond and every few minutes there would be a random plop as a frog or box turtle launched itself into the water. I wished I could join them. The heat made me think of how nice it would be to go for a swim. Sometimes we kids would take off our shoes and socks and step off the embankment into that murky pond water. It wasn’t very deep, perhaps four feet, at the most; quite sufficient to drown a kindergartner, though. Of course, I later realized that sewer from several nearby homes fed into that pond. I shudder to think what comprised the mooshy silt bottom that would squish so silkily between my toes.

We stopped and stepped off the pavement near a thicket of tall grass to pick wildflowers for Clair, Jack’s mom. As we picked I decided to make conversation. “So, your dad died, huh?”

My sister Tina, who was a far more tactful and sensitive child then myself, smacked me in the arm and shushed me angrily. “Be quiet, you dummy!”

What? It was true, wasn’t it? I rubbed my arm and weighed the pros and cons of hitting her back as Jack stated, quite matter-of-factly, “God took my daddy’s beard away.”

Jack’s father had been riding his bike along the road yesterday and was hit and killed by a drunk driver.

As we picked flowers, I watched little Jack wade through the shoulder-high grass, scattering field bugs and moths in his wake. The mid-morning sun was casting light off of his white-blond hair like a reflecting mirror. He looked as shiny as an angel standing there with droopy daisies and purple thistles grasped in his little hands.

Flush with flowers, we walked back to Jack’s house a few minutes later. The sudden blast of cool, dry air as we crossed the threshold made my skin prick with goosebumps. I climbed up the stairs and into a living room full of grim-faced people who spoke quietly in small clusters around the room. Within seconds, the stranger who'd answered the door gathered our hapless bouquets and bore them into the kitchen.

Clair, Jack's mother, sat alone. It struck me that activity buzzed all around, but Clair might as well have been the very chair she sat in; still and silent and soulless. Her half-lidded eyes stared blankly ahead, her face ashen with shock and grief. An island slumped in a wing-backed chair. Her sleeping baby daughter, born just two weeks earlier, lay bundled peacefully in her arms.


Punky Brewster said...


beautifully told.

thank you.


JD Rhoades said...

Damn, you're good.

I originally posted a long comment about how if you didn't write a book, I was going to hold you at gunpoint til you did. But I thought, no, maybe that's a little over the top. So...

Which song?

kibby F5 said...

It's amazing what images we hold forever. I'm sure there's a meaning to why ... and some day we'll understand it.

If only to recall a much simpler day. Imagine, at that time the thing you worried about was Jack.

Any idea what happened to him?

Polly P.I. said...

Jack was a good kid growing up. I used to babysit him and his little sister. From what I hear he became a male model for a while. He also took up running, like his dad.

His little sister used to come over to my house all the time and ask me to do her hair for her. She was fiesty and very cute. She got in some trouble in high school, but I am told that she straightened out and is doing very well.

Clair never remarried. I saw Clair at a graduation party when I was in my mid twenties. I hadn't seen her in years and I was amazed at how much she'd aged. She looked frail. I told her I thought she was a wonderful mother to her kids. (I hung out at their house enough to know.) She started to cry and gave me a hug.

Polly P.I. said...

Thanks. The problem is that I haven't the slightest clue where to start getting published. I have no contacts. I have no agent. Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated.

What song?? Rubber Ducky.

Brat said...

Your memory of that time is so clear, and the story tenderly told. I wonder what Jack remembers of his dad?

I lost my father to polio when I was 3. I have only one clear memory of him.

He would read us the Sunday funnies. I'd sit in his lap, with my older brother and sister on each arm of "his" chair.

Polly P.I. said...



kaf said...

Polly.. that was amazing.. so beautiful. The girls that I work with at the moment turn 3 next weekend (twins) and they lost their mother back in February. My strongest memory of the whole occasion is of G who went into the room where her Mum was "resting" at home, looked up at her Dad and said "Daddy, Mummy's cold" He said "yes, she is isn't she?" "No Daddy, she's really cold". With that, she hopped down, ran to her bedroom and came back with her (reasonably large) security blanket in hand, draped it over her Mum and tucked it in. Then she just kept patting her. *sob* That's probably going to stick with me for a lifetime. It's a beautiful thing to remember, though.