The front room was lined with shelves of beautiful china and glass vases. Every room had hardwood floors and walls covered with things like old Coca Cola signs, license plates and old movie posters from the 1960's. The living room had a loft like area that was carpeted and you could climb up there like it was a giant bed. The walls and ceiling in this room were covered in old toys, coins, and Small appliances. There was an old metal fan glued on the ceiling, next to it there was a large figurine of a T-Rex and next to that a Stretch Arm Strong doll. They were all glued upside down and looked like they were defying gravity. Fred looked just like Hulk Hogan, he was an antique collector, a credit card fraud and a drug dealer. He was the closest thing I had to a father in the time my mother had me in California and I loved him.
We use to go on these excursions together that Fred called "goin diggin". He would break out his metal detector and we would set out to an open field. We would dig these massive excavation sites that were sometimes up to 8 feet deep. I was always in charge of the shifter, which was a large screen he had nailed to four posters of wood. I would shift through piles and piles of dirt looking for pieces of glass, pottery, jewelry and old coins. We were treasure hunters.
Fred use to help me with my spelling words and math homework. From him, I learned that getting good grades in school was important. I learned to have good manners.. "Yes, please" and "No, thank you." He called me "Turd Knocker." :) That was me.... Turd Knocker. When we would ride in the car somewhere I would have to battle "The Claw!" If the music was on, his arm would start twitching and he would say, "Oh no!!! It's The Claw!! I can't stop it!!! The Claaawww!" Then he would clamp his hand on my knee tickling me. I would reach over frantic and shut the radio off and "The Claw" would die and go limp. He would smile at me and say, "Well, that was a close one!" We couldn't drive around anywhere with the radio on! "The Claw" was always lurking.
Mixed in with these good memories are darker ones. Memories of Fred telling me to go outside and play while him and my mother fought. Most fights got physical and afterwards my mother would be covered in bruises and every so often she would have a broken arm. Once he broke both of her legs... although I'm not sure how it happened. I was always caught up in the middle, running around to all the neighbors houses to call the police, sure that he was going to kill my mother. Tears streaming down my face, "PLEASE! Call 911! He's killing her, he's killing her!"
My mother would be so angry at me every time I called 911 and when the police got there she would lie and say it must have been someone else. She made me lie too. Fred would cry and get on his knees and beg forgiveness and say he was sorry. I believe he was always sorry. I don't think what he did was right, but sometimes I felt like beating the crap out of my mother too. In a sick way, I understood. My mother was beautiful, but insane. If she suffered physical abuse from Fred, Fred suffered verbal abuse from her.
Despite all the violence, I felt safe at Fred's. I was never ever hit or abused there. Mentally I'm not sure I can say it was the healthiest place to be though. Most nights my mother even made dinner for Fred. I don't think she would have made dinner if it were just for me. But Fred made sure I ate. If I didn't clear my plate I was punished... actually it was the dog that got punished.
My mother always seemed to put too much food on my plate and I would whine, "I'm fullll." I used a high pitched baby voice hoping to get some sympathy. Fred would look at me and tell me in a clipped voice to, "EAT OR ELSE," and I would start to cry. Then he would get up and tell me that he was going to go outside and beat the dog till I ate all my food. "You don't want the dog to suffer because of you do you? Eat! All of it.... hurry up." When he said "hurry up" it was in a sing song voice and the first time he threatened this I wasn't sure if he was serious or not. The door slammed behind him and soon, sure enough I heard the dog cry. Her wailing would continue till I shoved every last bite of food as fast as I could in my mouth. An empty plate was a happy plate, for me and the dog.
Fred and my mother also had a bad habit of thinking I was asleep and having sex with me in the same bed as them. I remember thinking that it wasn't normal for them to be doing that... but at 7, I decided that life in the pirate ship wasn't that bad compared to having to go back over the child molester's house or live with all the lunatics on Cypress Street. I wanted to stay.