Thursday, April 19, 2012

Little Joe & The Backyard (Ch. 9)

We moved back in with my mother's boyfriend, Fred for the second time right after I turned 8.  I changed schools again.  I was happy to be back at Fred's house and this time I got my own room!  We did homework, went diggin, my mother cooked dinner, Fred sold drugs and about every two weeks a fight would erupt.  Life was good for me.  Fred was strict, and would always tell me... "I'll tan your ass!"  But he never hit me... not once.  I stopped smoking cigarettes (which I didn't really like anyway) and I stopped stealing food and instead went on shopping sprees with Fred using stolen credit cards. 


The first time he took me "shopping" it was for back to school things.  I told him I forgot the list my teacher gave me of the supplies I needed.  He just laughed and said that we didn't need a list because we were going to buy everything!  He explained to me that I needed to hurry and at checkout I wasn't to say anything.  We went to Walmart and at first I took a while to pick out the perfect folder and Fred went up to the shelf and grabbed one of every kind and threw them in the basket!  I thought it was hilarious!  I grinned at him and he smiled back and told me.... "Well get on with it!"  I ran down the aisle throwing in as much as I could!  I raced to the clothes and threw in anything remotely close to my size.  It was exhilarating.  I felt like I was on a game show. 

 

I went back to school with $400 worth of Lisa Frank folders, Trapper Keepers and push pencils.  We went grocery shopping like this too.  The way we shopped compared to everyone else was 10 times more fun!  Everyone should shop like that I thought.... but somewhere in the back of mind I knew that what we were doing was wrong.   I didn't think too much about it though, I was just happy to have a Trapper Keeper.

 One of Fred's "frequent visitors" was a woman named Suzanne.  She had a son named Joe who was a year older than me and we became best friends.  Our mother's were very similar, in both appearance and parenting styles.  While his mother was off doing who knows what, Fred allowed him to hang around and play with me.  We were partners in crime.  My best childhood memories were made with Joe.  We all called him Little Joe.  He was tall and lanky with dirty blond hair and hazel eyes.  He was into bb guns and GI Joe figurines.  We made forts in the back yard and set up shooting ranges.  We were in our own little world and for the most part the adults seemed to leave us to our own devices.

We weren't your normal kids next door; our games were more like something you would see on an episode of Ren and Stimpy.  One day Fred decided that what the backyard needed was an old porcelain bathtub.  He said we could turn it into a bird feeder.  Joe and I had other ideas.  We gathered all the change we could find in the house and put what little money we had together to buy about 35 Gold fish.  I think they were actually feeder fish, but that didn't matter to us.  The pet store was roughly 2 miles away, I walked and Joe rode his skateboard.  We ended up with 6 bags of fish and were presented with the problem of getting them back home.  Joe tried to skateboard and hold two bags in each hand but couldn't manage.   In the end it was decided that I would sit on the skateboard Indian style and set two bags in my lap and hold two in each hand and then Joe would push me.  It took us a while to get home because Joe thought it was funny every time I fell off and I was bad at leaning into turns.

When we finally got home we filled the tub up with water from the hose and emptied our 6 bags of fish into their new home.  Both of us were very proud....  The next morning they were all dead.  This lead to another fun day of digging fish graves and having fish funerals.  A couple of years later we dug the fish bones up playing archaeologist.  Those fish provided many hours of entertainment.

Fred's backyard


The backyard wasn't nearly as fun without Joe.  It was sometimes even a place I hated.   When I got sent to the backyard to play it usually meant something bad was going to happen.  I always tried to be extremely quiet and listen as closely as I could in case my mother needed my help.  I got in trouble every time I called 911, but this was the only way I knew I could stop them.  My mother's screams would start and I would run in and make my threats with tears running down my face, "Stop it!  Please... Stop!  I'm calling 911 right now!"  One time I ran in and Fred had his hands around my mother's throat and hit her head against the wall.  My mother fell limp on the floor and started convulsing violently.  Her eyes rolled back and drool was coming out of her mouth.  Fred panicked and dropped to his knees crying saying, "Oh shit, oh shit, baby... please, no no no."  My worst fear was happening before my eyes.  He had killed her.  I couldn't breath, tears were coming down and soaking my shirt, and I didn't know what to do.  I just started walking around in circles with my little body hunched over curling in on itself.  Fred ran in the kitchen to call 911.  Then my mother opened her eyes and put her finger over her lips telling me to be quiet.  She mouthed the words, "I'm OK" to me.  I just stared at her with an open mouth. ...............She's faking?!!! 

I was furious.  I wiped the tears off my face and ran out the front door.  I hid behind a bush in the front yard for hours.  I heard Fred walking down the street yelling my name over and over.  I didn't come out.  I stayed there on the ground behind the bush making a roly poly town in the dirt.  I cried.  I didn't know what to feel.  My whole world had crashed down.... but it was all pretend.  I replayed the moment of when my mother's head first hit the wall over and over in my memory and I cried.  I felt so much relief that she was OK and this made me cry even more.  I hated her.  I hated her... I hated her.  I wished Little Joe were there.

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