Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Feathers

This occurred in 1984 and I was either 4 or 5. Remembering the exact timeline back then is a little difficult because I was just, as Trusty the Scottish terrier from ‘Lady and the Tramp’ would say, “A wee bairn.”

For lack of a better term my family was poor white trash. We didn’t mean to be, and apparently intentions matter, because look at us now. We did not spend a lot of time at this location, but I have a lot of memories from the house on Green Haven St. Maybe it was just the age or the fact that my parents marriage fell apart while we lived there.

My mother worked for a nuts and bolts company, the one that supplied a lot of parts that were used to build Nightrider, the sassy talking super car that launched David Hasselhoff’s carrier. I remember getting to see the showroom with all 7 cars that were used to produce the series. A voice actor talked to me while I sat in the driver’s seat of car number 1. The signature red light flashing back and forth, and the slightly digitalized voice knew my name. It was so freaking cool!

I don’t remember what my dad did for money back then but both parents were gone during the day. In an effort to keep from putting a lot of extra responsibility on my great grandmother my parents left me in the care of The Millers (cue creepy music, don, don, DONNN). The Millers were the truest back hills, inbred, cousin marrying, filthy, white trash stereotypes I have ever encountered in my entire life until now.

Their house was disgusting. 3 inch brown shag carpeting that had not been vacuumed or cleaned in years, dirty dishes all over the house that never seemed to be picked up. I actually remember seeing a clear plastic cup that looked like a mixture of Pepsi, cigarette butts, mold, and chew spit that never moved… It just sat there for the year that I knew them on the edge of the living room coffee table.

Something like 9 people lived in this 1500 square foot house; Mother, father, 4 sons ranging from 21 to 6, a couple cousins, and at least one grandchild. One of the Teenage sons, about 16 years old, actually lived together in one of the bedrooms with his female first cousin, whom he coupled with. Yes! Coupled! I remember that on one Thursday afternoon, three of the older kids and the cousin/girlfriend broke down on the side of the road, and the father took me with him to pick them up in pick up truck. There were 6 of us all together in this truck that should hold a max of 4 souls uncomfortably. I was forced to squat in the floorboard next to the missing console cover with engine exhaust blowing into my face. The worst part was the two foot circle of rusted out floor that I was hovering over the whole time. Lightheaded from the exhaust, I remember being entranced by the moving parts and asphalt below me. A couple times I reached out to touch the moving shaft and the cousin/girlfriend gruffly pulled me back.

On Sundays the younger kids, and sometimes I were bathed in a 20 gallon steal bucket in the middle of the cracked linoleum kitchen floor, using soap only and a water hose brought in from the backyard. Even though I was only four years old I remember this being one of the most degrading experiences of my life. Even at this young age I knew I was better than these people, and I was like the main event when it came time for my bath. As I sat there staring up at the piles of dead cockroaches half obscuring the florescent light covers, 4 or 5 members of the family would be milling around the kitchen. I remember thinking they were all looking at me. Mrs. Miller did the bathing, and she was the worst. Her leathery hands touching me everywhere, regularly pulling me to a standing position for the world to get a look at my tiny man parts, and spraying me with frigged hose water.

Speaking of Mrs. Miller, she was something to behold indeed. About 400 lbs, always wearing a flowered muumuu, perched on the edge of a low sitting rickety couch, with a long cigarette hanging out of the corner of her mouth with about a ½ inch of ash dangling precariously from it. In the Miller house nothing was ever on the TV but soap operas. Maybe I was always there in the afternoon or maybe they figured out how to work a VCR with their prehensile nubs and just really liked reruns. All I know is that I do not ever remember walking into the smoke filled living room, and venturing across the crunchy shag carpet when soaps were not on the TV. Mrs. Miller had stringy salt and pepper hair, that looked like it came right off the head of the Crypt keeper. Her jiggly round face was accentuated by the mere slits of eyes that were mostly obscured by fatty hoods, which were covered in what were probably moles, but what I always thought were rice crispys that got glued to her eyelids in some unfortunate cereal related accident.

Bobby was the youngest son at age 6. He was the one that really scared me. I spent a lot of time with him in the back yard because we were the closest in age. However, there is a real big different between 4 and 6. Bobby was a serial killer in the making. I saw him kill a cat once, countless torture of bugs, and beat a dog regularly. The back yard of the Miller estate was a sprawling wasteland of chest high weeds, chicken wire, several types of animals, and miscellaneous trash and debris.

One morning Bobby took me out into the backyard and I saw something that I never knew existed. He asked me to stay at the threshold of the broken backdoor while he “got something.” When he called me, I walked around the backside of the house and turned the corner that lead into the corridor of animal cages. Bobby was standing next to the biggest cock I had ever seen. By cock of course I mean rooster, and it was gigantic. Its head must have come up to the middle of his chest, which means it would be almost face to face with me. As I would soon find out… it was not a normal rooster. I stood about 10 feet away, the sun was still behind the trees in the distance and it backlit the two ominous partners.

The rooster was, as I imagine all roosters are, real pissed off looking. Its beady black eyes darted to and fro as it bobbed it black head up and down. The red comb on the top of its head flopped vigorously back and forth. It scratched at the ground and a small puff of dust floated around him in the dim light of the morning.

Bobby had shown me a lot of animals before. I expected him to do something to it. To grab it, try to ride it, hit it or something… Well he wanted to show me something, but it was not something I had never seen before. While I was curious, like usual, I also had a bad feeling. Just before some moments in your life, you know something is going to happen. Something big, something bad, something life changing.

Bobby grinned, an evil hillbilly grin, and time seemed to freeze for a moment and then moved very slowly. I remember his mouth forming each syllable, with a bit of spittle stretching between his lips, his eye’s glowing with an excitement, his eyebrows raised with anticipation, Bobby Miller ‘Beast Master’ said, “Attack!”

The rooster was very graceful as it lowered its body then sprung into the air, wings flapping slowly. I don’t remember everything because it was so traumatic, but this is what I do remember. The rooster was hypnotic in a way as is glided into the air, covered the 10 feet between us in a split second and hovered over my head. I could only see its dark outline with the early morning light of all colors glowing around it. It’s decent to my face was like watching slow motion high resolution video of animals in the wild. Amazing, beautiful, spellbinding. After that the only thing I remember is feathers floating around me slowly, and a faint idea of the rooster jumping off my head and returning over and over again. I know I eventually fell, and I remember Bobby laughing and jumping up and down before I blacked out.

I know there was an ambulance, and I know I was at the hospital for a while. Face and head injuries bleed a lot, and I remember lots of bloody bandages. Apparently my uncle David killed the rooster and the next day we ate it. I do not remember that, but I know if anyone could or would do it, it would be Uncle David. I was his favorite nephew and he was a little crazy.

I have about 12 scars on my head to this day. You know the old story of the man that gets in a fight and his knee is broken, and then every time he takes a step after that for the rest of his life he says the name of the man that broke his knee? Well every couple of months I get my hair cut, and when I see the semi-horrified, or curious look from the barber, I think…. Bobby Miller.

1 comment:

Andrew Eckroth said...

my god! i had no idea that your early childhood days carried such horrific events! rather enlightening, although disturbing...