Tuesday, March 02, 2004

How far does fiction vary from the truth? How much of my life is in the tale and how much is fake? Often it scares me how little of it is fake. How much of this sad tale is truly mine. How much of the tale is truly anyones? For the emotions and feelings I imagine are echo'ed through the world and time.

Standing there the cold winter morning. Clouds overhead hanging low looking like they want to swallow up the world. A few shivering bodies stand near the hole. A old man who should have died years ago mumbling some words as the box lowers. A quick glance and I see none of my brothers. Just my mom, Grandma, and the kids. Kenny should have at least came to be there for his kids. Chris should have came because it was his father also that was being lowered into the cold ground. A few of his friends and people who I know as human waste. Those people did not help things at all. I remember one of them used to be the dealer for some of my friends. Another was one that would always try to sell these car stereo’s that he “acquired” from his friends. The other one the one that would always drive a different van every month. Once in a while in the paper the van was then found abandoned somewhere with remains of a meth lab inside of them. What proud people we have standing here. I watch it lower a bit further and I remember the few moments I had with him.

I remember I was 5 or so. Possibly 6. My mom had left to the store earlier with my brothers and I was there with my dad and a few of his friends. They were sitting around watching TV and smoking something. It was a commercial break as I sat on the floor playing with some toys. We all heard a knock at the door. One of my dad’s friends had glanced through the window and uttered a single word, ‘Sheriff’ My dad picked me up and put me in the room. I asked him why because I wanted to play with my toys. “The police are here, be quiet and stay here.” He said something along those lines. I do not remember. I only remember the feeling of police and stay put. So I played in my room. Then I hear another knock and the door open. Loud words and a crash. Then silence. Perhaps they came to take my toys away was my thought. I quickly hide the toys under the bed and then sit and wait. I keep waiting. That is one of my earliest memories. Waiting for my father to open up the door and tell me everything is ok. It wasn’t though. They had took him away for a warrant. I believe this time was because he was a convicted felon and he was found with a gun in his truck one night. I am not exact. He never came back that day. It was several years before he did come back.

I wonder as I stand there if any of those people standing were his friend back then. I know one of them was one of his friends recently. I was storing one of my cars at his farm so my dad could work on it in his free time and possibly get it up and running for my little brother. My dad had lots of projects that he worked on. Lots more that he did with his friends. As we head off I shake Dave’s hand. I have no words for this man. I remember the first time I met him.

I was 10 or so and the previous day had broke my bike. I was riding it and the brakes were not responding so I tried to slow down and ended up falling off of it. The bike ran into a tree and bent the front wheel. I remember dragging it home and my dad saying that Saturday he would fix it. “Just retighten the spokes and perhaps hammer it into a decent shape. Once the spokes are tightened correctly should straighten it back out.” I eagerly went to bed that night knowing the next day I would be able to watch my dad fix my bike. I wake up the next morning and head out to find him. After searching the house it appears he was not there. I ask mom and she mentions he was went to a friends to get a tool. So I watch some cartoons and play with some toys. Afternoon arrives quickly and still no dad. It gets into late afternoon and still nothing. I decide to wander to the store to get a soda. I get some money from mom and get my little brother. We wander down the street and come across a messy yard that has a car on it. The engine was pulled out and on the porch sitting in chairs is my dad and some of his friends. They are sitting around drinking something and smoking something. I now know that smell. It is hard to forget. Chris and I walk up and say hello. We are quickly introduced as His boys. I ask him what about my bike. Apparently when he came over to get a tool his friend Dave asked him to help fix something. They started on it but stopped a bit ago to drink and relax. He would come home soon and get it fixed. We head off to the store and get some soda. We walk back and they are still sitting there. After we get home supper is ready and we eat then settle down for some TV. Wanting to stay up to catch Dad when he came home I fight sleep. Around 3am still no dad. I fall asleep and wake up at noon on Sunday. Needless to say still no dad and still my bike was broken. The next weekend I ended up finding a new wheel at a yard sale for cheap. A quick please to my mom and I get it. I never ask my dad to fix my bike again.

“Your dad loved you boys very much.” The words leave Dave’s mouth as if they were squeezed out. They sounded so fake. My dad did not love us. If he did he would have been at home when we needed him. If he did then he would have came back to the room and got me instead of disappearing for 3 years when the police came. If he loved us he would have not put my mom through the hell she went through. Yeah perhaps tough love. Not wanting to say anything mean this day I quickly turn my back and start walking to my car. I remember my first car that I had bought. I was 18 and I was making payments on it. I had agreed to pay 1500 for this car. After 4 months with this car I had already broke it. The dang thing leaked oil. I was completely new to car maintenance. My dad loved cars and always would work on them. Usually though the working on the cars was at a friends house. They would sit, drink, and smoke while they pondered what to do next to the fabled El’ Camino my dad kept saying he would get running soon.

“So if I buy a motor for this car can you help me put it in?” Those words I will later learn to regret. My car has been sitting in the driveway for 3 months. I know my income tax return is coming up soon and I want to get my car running again. I know the auto shop has a motor that I could buy but I could not afford the labor they would charge to put it in. “Sure I can help you with that. Tell you what I think I can actually find a motor for it at the junkyard. Would be a lot cheaper for you and that way leave some money to fix anything else you may have broke.” I remember working a couple of weeks at 50-60hr’s a week to acquire the money I needed. I remember waking up at 3:30am and working until 9:30pm some nights and coming home exhausted. The parts of my hands were the chemicals I used to wash dishes were starting to cause a rash. All of it would be worth it though. I only need my car running then I will have freedom again. I will be able to drive where I needed to go. I could also visit my friend in Ogallala and perhaps steer him away from the drugs he has been using. “Ok I will give you the money for the junkyard but you have to help me put it in please..” I hand over the wad of bills. More money than I have ever held before this day. Two paychecks worth. I remember the begging and making a deal with my mom so she would not charge me rent this month and that I would slowly pay her back. She just wanted the car off of her driveway so she could park there instead. The next weekend he came back with a motor. We take it inside and start to clean it and strip it down to check for broken parts. He commented on how one of the other motors out there were crap and this was a good one. After that night it would be two more weeks away before he would do anything further. I would continue to work and dream of things I would do when I got the car back up and running. One night we get the motor prepped and plan on the next day to drop it in. it was not a heavy motor. Both of us were able to lift it and move it. That night we pull the motor out of the car and set it aside. The next day I wake up and apparently he had left in the middle of the night to go meet with friends. I catch him a few days later. Another week passes and we finally drop the motor into the car. We add all the parts back and try to start up the car. It struggles and struggles putting out lots of smoke. We pull the motor out and look it over. Water in the oil is the culprit. Then two more weeks pass by with the motor sitting on a table. I ask him what we could do to find out why water was appearing in the oil. He says we could try a compression test. Still more time passes by and nothing. One night while looking over the motor and comparing it to the old motor I see the water pump is shorter on the new motor. We compare and look deeper. The motor he bought from the junkyard must have been in a crash. The water pump was pressed into the engine and had a small crack that lead into the block. I ask him about returning the engine so we can try another. Apparently the junkyard had a policy about returns. You had a limited amount of time to return the item to get a refund or exchange. We had long passed that time. I remember taking a long walk that night. Early morning came and the sun rose to me sitting in my car. I was saying goodbye because I now knew we would never get it working. I also could not afford now professional mechanic to fix it.

“Perhaps we should have dug a bigger hole and buried some of his stuff with him.” My mom still in shock that he was dead. She kept taking him back over the years so much that it was a pattern us kids saw. He would screw up and she would kick him out. He would return one night to get some of his stuff and she would take him back. She would always bug him about the shit he kept there. She would always threaten to throw all of it out. Sometimes she would throw away a box and he would dig it out of the trash and store it somewhere else. Often he would take the stuff to a friends house and store it there or he would stick it in one of his many cars and lock the car. Now that he was gone I know she wont be throwing anything away. With all of his faults she still loved him like the first day she met him. I drive her back to her house. Hands gripping the steering wheel. One of the traits I got from him. He would always grip with one hand tightly and the other loosely.

“Dad you got to watch the road otherwise you may miss the turn for Uncle Jacks.” Sitting there in the seat of the El’ Camino as he cruised down the highway. I have no clue how fast he is going but I know he is going fast. He lifts a can up to his mouth and carefully balances the can on his arm and uses the other hand to light it with a lighter. A deep inhale that rivals the sucking of a vacuum then a small snort. Moments later he exhales and a cloud of noxious smoke fills the car. I am not tall enough to look completely out of the window. The deep seats and my slouched posture keep me from seeing the weaving white lines. I cough and he quickly rolls down a window. Soon after he is down with the can I watch him toss it out the window and we eventually arrive at our destination.

“Junior slow down the speed limit here is 30!” My mom always is fearful because I apparently drive too fast. I glance down at the speedometer. I am doing 34. As if my mom summoned them on the spot I see some flashing lights behind me. I pull over and await the police officer shakedown. An old man approaches the car. I look like a gangster. Sitting there real low in my firebird. The seat was broken so unless I hunched over all the time I would scoot the seat up and lean back. I know this officer. I have ran into him quite a few times in my youth. He peers through the window. “Do you know why I pulled you over?” “No officer.” My automated response to just about everything he can ask me. “Do you know how fast you were going back there?” “Yes officer I know how fast I was going.” “Do you know the speed limit here is 30 mph?” “Actually officer no it is not. The sign back there stated it was 35mph and I imagine you just missed it.” I have never been one for hiding around the bush with these cops. If they are going to pull me over for a obvious fake reason then I will be more than happy to point out their lies. “License and registration son.” I hand over the information and then sit there waiting. My mom telling me I should treat these people respect. I tell her I do not believe in charity and watch in my mirror. I see another cop pull up behind the other one. I wonder if this will end up like some of my other encountered with the local police.

“Excuse me there son can you tell me which way your going?” Silly officer stupid questions are for kids. “I am going that way.” I point off to the west. “No I want to know where you are heading and where you are coming from there son.” “I came from that direction and will be heading in that direction. “ The police car stops and he gets out. I stand there waiting and ponder if I will be able to make more fun of this idiot. Some of my friends standing behind me. They are glad I took the attention off of themselves. I am glad they did not decide to light up otherwise they would have been busted. “Son I asked you a question and I expect a valid answer. Now tell me where are you heading and where did you come from.” Seeking to move along I decide games will not be worth it today. “I am heading to Wal-mart to buy some soda for my friends and we are coming from Campbell’s School after playing some basketball.” “Then where is the ball?” “The kids with the ball lost so went home. We decided we would get some soda as a victory prize.” “Are you carrying any drugs on you? If you tell me now when we lock you up like your dad perhaps they will put you two in the same cell.” “I have no drugs officer. Wait correction. I have some Caffeine pills. Would you like to check them?” A tense moment and then the cop pats me down and searches my coat. I used to always carry a huge amount of items in my coat. Finding no drugs or illegal substances he seems almost disappointed. Handing me back my package of pills he gets into his car. He flips a U-turn and is gone from our sight. “Dude your dad is in jail. What did he do this time?” “Probably farted in the wrong direction and that guy did not like it. I don’t know he is there all the time it seems. Now lets go to the store I need something to drink.” After a friend makes sure no cop is in sight they light up their joint as we continue our way.

The cop walks back to the car. He gives me a warning for doing 42 in a 35. I tell him I will not accept this warning because I was obviously not speeding. He gives me a evil look and tells me I am luck that he is such a nice guy. He drops the warning off into my car and walks back. I start up my car and slowly start heading back home. When we get there I find out the reason Kenny had not went to the funeral is he is again in jail. Chris has got out a week ago and must be hanging with his friends. Sometimes I wonder if the cops keep stopping me because they cannot believe one of my dad’s kids kept clean. Perhaps they hope that they will catch me on something. Perhaps they cannot understand that the whole bunch was not bad. That night I leave the town. I watch the lights fade into a soft glow in the distance. After a bit more time even the glow disappears. The best part about coming home is leaving it. I often wish I could leave it for good. I know deep down though that I will die there and never leave it again.