Category Archives: Childhood

Glass Lollipop

A glass lollipop. That’s what my sister thinks of the most important piece of scientific equipment I possess. And by the looks of it, she’s recently had it in her mouth. I need to find a better hiding place.

Walking into my bedroom, instrument in hand, I stand in front of my 5 drawer, oak veneer dresser, close my eyes, and yank sharply on the red knobs to break the seal to my sock drawer. My mother recently painted the dresser, deciding that everything in the house needed to be updated to suite her wildly swinging, short lived tastes, and now everything sticks to everything else. The drawers were so sticky the first few weeks I nearly pulled the dresser over on myself and once I punched myself in the eye when the drawer let loose unexpectedly.

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Tribe of the Nerds

My hometown schoolmates considered me a nerd. Not all of them and not my closest friends, but the other kids. My hometown in Iowa was named after the Sauk (Sac) Indian Chief – Chief Keokuk – and so I likened the school cliques to tribes. I belonged to the Tribe of the Nerds.

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THE MADNESS

I know this is rough. There are problems with tense, point of view, grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. Basically everything! But I just needed to get it out of me. I just needed to give birth to this little snipet.

Growing up in Iowa, we entertained ourselves on hot, humid summer nights playing kick-the-can http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kick_the_can

I wrote this little piece (many years ago) reminiscing about those days when I was just a wee-lad.

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KICK-THE-CAN

Jesus! Shit! Damn it! I can’t stay here much longer. I’ve got rose thorns sticking me in the back, gravel between my feet and my flip flops and I discovered a spider web under the porch swing with my face. I could feel the web wrapping around my head as I ran through it, trying to find a good hiding place.  A primal fear rose up in me and I almost lost consciousness. Seriously. I can’t explain it. At the touch of the web, my muscles went limp while my body moved forward without my head, which froze in place. My body’s split second transition into doing the limbo nearly saved me, but it was too late.  One second I was running for cover and the next my hands started slapping at my head while I hopped around in place, first on one foot then the other, shaking my hair in what was doubtless an ancestral dance that has proven useful to my species;  the “dance of the hee-bee-gee-bees.” If it worked for my great-great-great-to-the-tenth-power Aunt Ug, it’ll work for me. Whatever might be crawling around on my head – just get it off!  The idea of another creature feeding on my body reminds me of too many nightmares that ended badly. Trying to calm myself I imagined the spider was as terrified as I was and I prayed to Anansi that I would forsake all others and hold the spider god as most holy if he would just do some of his “god-stuff” and help me out.

I once had a spider descend from the brim of my ball cap – right in front of my eyes. It was so unexpected that my brain struggled for distance cues. If it’s across the street, my god, it’s huge, I thought. Thinking quickly I grabbed my sister Jody and pushed her between it and me, but that didn’t seem to help. It was somehow between the two of us – but how could that be? The only logical conclusion was…..that it was Right Next to My Face! Shhhhhiiiiiiiitttttt! Hee-Bee-Jee-Bee dancing ensued.

My knees started to hurt from squatting.  I ran out of time to hide in one of my good spots – so I had to jump into this rose bush. Seriously? A rose bush? And while I sit here, streams of sweat are rolling down my forehead, dangerously close to my left eyeball. Damn the sweat and damn this rose bush. Damn it all! These puddles of pain hang on my face because this is Iowa and the summer air practically counts as a seasonal river. “Ever heard of the Iowa-Summer-River-In-The-Sky”, I ask people? Most haven’t. It’s the blanket of humidity that pours over the entire state in the summer from somewhere in Canada I think, coating it in a sticky, disagreeable wetness. This is the hot dampness that brings the cicadas and the river bugs, the ones that die by the millions down on River Road and turn the road into a slippery, sloppy driver’s nightmare – or so my mom says. She says, “Greg, no riding your bike down to River Road right now. It’s not safe. The flies are thick this year and I just heard that the Richard’s had an accident heading down to use their ski boat. I don’t know why people go down there. It smells. It always smells.” “Yes mother”, I say and promise not to go with every intention of going the next chance I get. I’m disobedient sometimes. It’s summer and I want to see how thick the flies are this year. Summer in Iowa means being hot and wet and sweaty and covered in bugs and that’s that.

And then I remember my current predicament, stuck in a rose bush, sweating profusely with burning eyes and a piece of webbing dangling from my cap. I will NOT let this cruddy hiding place get the best of me. I’m better than that. If I have to, I will sit here and play “THE GAME.” That’s right, I will play “THE GAME.” “THE GAME” is where I force myself to endure an itch or the urge to sneeze or some other discomfort, without allowing myself to scratch or sneeze or wiggle or whatever. I pinch the soft spot near my triceps  where it really hurts, to distract myself and I see how long I can withstand the discomfort, how close to “THE MADNESS” I can push myself. I’ve felt it, “THE MADNESS” I mean. It’s as real as this rose bush and anything else I suppose. I once thought I was lost to “THE MADNESS”, that I wouldn’t be able to return to my body, that I had lost control and forfeit it to who ever keeps track of such things. I had a dream about it a few nights ago. There was an office of people, somewhere in a fog that seems to be part of every dream I have (along with spiders), that knew I was getting close to “THE MADNESS.” That I was doing it again, pushing myself closer, on purpose. The people in that office in the fog told me I had broken some crazy rule for the last time and that I had to be punished. “It figures”, I said. “My life seems to be about punishment.” But tonight, here, sweating in this rose bush, I don’t think I’ll need to push too close to “THE MADNESS.” I shouted in my head, just to make sure I heard it, that “I am in control of this body and “I” say when it’s ok to scratch or sneeze or rub my eyes and that’s that!” It seemed to work. My current record for bearing the torture of an unscratched itch is 45 seconds.

Another prick from a thorn reminded me that I didn’t have time for “THE GAME” right now. I needed to focus and pay attention. I needed a clear view of the Newlon’s backyard, that’s what I really needed. That yard is where my prize and my glory awaited me. All of my focus was on the large, silver Hi-C can standing upright in a bare spot in the middle of the lawn. Hi-C was the drink-of-choice for us kids during the summer and the 58 ounce cans were perfect for kick-the-can. Not too big, not too small and they could withstand many kicks before needing to be replaced.  The can was illuminated by a flood-light loosely attached to the Newlon’s house. The light would swing around in the wind, casting some very scary shadows, but the winds were calm tonight.  As I was staring at the can, I realized I had broken out in a rash because I was so hot and scratched up from tearing around the neighborhood all night, knockin’ over trash cans, jumping through hedges, hiding under the neighbor’s porches, and poisoned by spider venom no doubt. I looked down and noticed I had torn my new jeans. Mom’s gonna kill me. She usually stocks up on those iron-on patches for the summer. She never seems happy when she’s ironing the patch over a hole in the knee of my new pants, but she doesn’t seem mad either. She gets a little smirk on her face, but tries to hide it from me. Then she gives me the serious face. The face that says “You know we can’t afford another pair of pants right now, don’t you Greg? You’re gonna have to wait until the end of summer, just before school starts for another pair. This pair is “IT” for the summer, got it?” “Yeah mom I got it”, I say as I bolt out the door, the knee of my pants still warm from the iron.

Just then, a river of sweat pours into my eyes makes me want to scream. I just need another 30 seconds. I see Angela taking her foot off “THE CAN”, moving further and further away from it, daring someone to make a run for it, while not getting too far away so she can capture them. When she gets 10 feet away she bolts back to “THE CAN”, like a runner on first base who is threatening to steal second, except she’s the pitcher and we’re the runners. She’s about to learn a lesson in how a master plays “KICK-THE-CAN.” Sucker. I just need her to move another 5 feet and I know I can outrun her to “THE CAN”, even dragging half this rosebush with me. For a second I think of Angela’s mom seeing her rose bush pulled halfway across the yard, and I hesitate. Vera really loves this stupid rose bush. She takes such good care of it; fertilizing it, pruning it, snipping roses all summer. She gives my mom roses when the bush is at its peak. My mom fills up a vase on the kitchen table with most of the roses, but she also saves one, cuts the entire stem off and floats it in a glass bowl of water. We’ve had that bowl forever. I don’t know where she got it but it’s perfect. The bowl is shaped like a globe and it’s fun to squat down and look up at the rose from underneath all the water. I get dizzy sometimes and feel like I’m heading for “THE MADNESS”, but I just shut my eyes and stand up and that’s that.

< To be continued …>

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May 29, 2013 · 7:45 pm