This is another installment of a rough draft of a memoir chapter that covers fourth grade.
Later that day, after Dad got home from work, Mom and Dad sat me down. It was in the kitchen this time, at our big white oval kitchen table. Mom wasn’t saying anything, which I realized was way worse. Screaming would’ve been comfortable in its familiarity but this was something else. Across the stable, she looked still but I could feel her vibrating with rage.
“I just don’t know what to do with you anymore,” Mom said, “I just don’t know what to do.” She wasn’t resigned or sad. She was on some edge, like she might crack and get stuck, just repeat this sentence over and over and star pounding on the walls or the table or me, lie she could barely keep crazy away. I knew then that though she hadn’t said anything to me, Mrs. Domaracki called my mom.
“I’m sorry,” I said in a pathetic, pleading voice, and started to cry. This time was too different. I knew better than to argue.
“I’ve tried everything,” Mom said, putting such desperation on that last word. Everything. “Therapy, punishments, warnings, everything. I don’t know what to do with you.” She looked at Dad. She looked at me. Something wild in her eyes, electric. “What were you thinking? Mrs. Domaracki said you skipped a big block of class. Something about a key. What on Earth has gotten into you?”
I was blubbering now. “I don’t know. There was a key in the office. It was on the announcements.”
Mom and Dad both looked at me like I was talking alien talk. “What the hell does that have to do with anything?” Mom asked. She almost never, ever swore. This was bad.
“I thought…” Couldn’t she figure it out? Didn’t she remember giving Randy the key a few days ago and realize she hadn’t asked for it back yet? Normally I wanted to fight for Randy, even when he didn’t want me to. Normally, I would blame just about anyone to get myself out of trouble. I liked stories about loyalty but I had none of it. Still, this wasn’t a normal argument. There was no script, I didn’t think it would help me to tell the truth and I couldn’t think up a quick enough lie. “I don’t know,” I finally said. “I don’t know what I was thinking.” Tears and snot ran down my face. “I’m sorry.”
Mom said nothing.
“Well, “ Dad said, “this will definitely count as two warnings for today.”
“John!” For the first time all conversation, Mom sounded her normal enraged self, sharp.
“While we figure out the rest of the punishment,” Dad said.
“I think she has to earn back not having warnings,” Mom said, slipping back into her quiet desperation, barely concealing crazy voice. I didn’t quite know what she meant. It must’ve shown. Mom set her hands on the table and started talking slow, low, deliberate, like she was talking to a retarded five-year-old. “Instead of having a normal bedtime at nine and getting sent to bed early with warnings, your normal bedtime will be seven until you can prove you’ve learned your lesson.”
“How?” I asked.
“Until you go two weeks in a row without getting two warnings.”
Dad leaned forward and a little toward Mom. “And we’re talking away Jenny.” Mom looked at him, probably glad he was finally getting the seriousness.
“No!” I said, finally snapping back to my regular self. “Don’t take her!” I started crying again. Which is exactly what Mom needed to know it was the right punishment. They made me go bring t hem Jenny, and then I got sent up to my room for the rest of the night. It was barely past five-thirty. Mom still seemed like a scary shell and I felt empty inside. I didn’t write stories. I couldn’t focus on any books. Math couldn’t help me. I just lay in bed, missing Jenny, wishing that aliens would come make lights on my walls and take me away.
There was a knock on my door. “Come in,” I said, without getting up. No answer, just another knock. What the hell? I got up and opened the door. It was June. There was a plate of food outside my door. “I said come in, silly,” I said.
She looked down, whispered. “I’m not allowed to talk to you or look at you,” she said. She bent down and pushed the plate onto my rug then ran back downstairs. I took the plate and picked at the chicken on the biscuit, one of my favorite dinners. Then I went back to lying in bed. I would have to figure out how to be good.
The next morning I saw that Jenny was on top of the fridge, her poofy blond hair and a plastic leg appearing near the edge. It would take me almost two months to earn my doll and my normal bedtime back.
Next Segment in this Piece: A Sorta Secret Passage
So this is an excerpt from a chapter from a project I’m working on called Eclipses of Jupiter. It’s in its infancy still, but it’s about growing up with albinism and being legally blind in my crazy family, and all the school and social implications. It’ll also focus on blind camp and related programs when I get into teenage years. This chapter, which will be broken up into installments and posted over the next few weeks, is all about fourth grade, which was a bit of an epic school year. It’s still pretty rough, and way too long, so yeah, infancy stage still.
- The “Truth” About Me – Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch 1
- Instrument Analysis – Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch 2
- Mystery Worlds – Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch 3
- Bathroom Jungle Gym – Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch 4
- Caught in the Act – Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch 5
- Light as a Feather – Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch 6
- Dark Winter Chill – Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch 7
- From Secret Passages to Aliens – Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch 8
- The Birthday Cracker Wrapper – Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch 9
- Sleepovers and Upward Social Mobility – Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch 10
- Walking Home and Crossing Streets – Truth, Lies and the Wicked With 11
- Lost Keys – Truth Lies and the Wicked Witch 12
- Driving Blind Under a Desert Moon
- Dusky Waters, Orcas Island
- Music Takes Me Back – Camp Marcella 1993
- Writing as Time Travel