Uncle escaped. He took a handgun and descended into the cellar, and the
air resonated with the muffled sounds of a car backfiring. I hardly
knew either of them, he or Auntie. Daddy said he did it to get away
from her. That may be. Anyway, he left a fortune. A million, Daddy
said, at a time when a new Cadillac could be had for less than four
Today a Caddy is forty grand, Auntie is polluting the soil, my hair is
silver, and I can say with neither boast nor shame, that I have not
known another human critter whom I yet despise. Sitting at this
keyboard, I cannot name another. Surely one exists, I’m not that
angelic, but I can’t produce one at the moment. This is not owing to
faulty memory; something much more splendid, and no credit to me.
But Auntie wronged Mom. A wretched soul, she wronged others, too; others
whom I love. Those happenings I’ve dismissed. But not Mom’s.
We were the poor kin, the black sheep, victims of Daddy’s wanderlust.
Poverty earns you that status when the others have money. And now an
injury prevented Daddy working, so Mom accepted the role of breadwinner
with the same grace and humor that she accepted all of life.
She must provide a house and food, car and clothes for a family of five.
And she did. For years, she hunkered over a sewing machine in a dimly
lit corner of a dry cleaners for fifty-two cents an hour. She made our
shirts and the patches for our jeans. Patched, but clean and ironed
when we set out for school.
The house, a recycled army barracks, had neither inside walls, nor
plumbing, atfirst, but it was home. Tonight’s beans and potatoes vary
from last nights only in the way they are prepared. Hey wait! These are
last night’s. I knew that. Though the youngest, and a male, I was
assigned the evening meals … and helping Mom wash at the old
I surprised her once. I had the washing done and hanging on the line.