Wednesday, September 30, 2009
This woman, acting as his mother, was not to be trifled with and she knew how to get what she wanted, she could make a sudden move that could send him, spinning off with just a haughty glare, emotionally blinded into the weeds at the edge of her mind, which sometimes seemed to him the same as the edge of the world over which he might fall. Sometimes what she wanted was more than his world could bear but he did not know that then.
He needed the fox to keep him going in the town where he was born and when he traveled the fox stayed home and took care of the gardens, kept the cats in check and tried to make sure the dark Queen did not get out of hand.
His small childhood role was filled idyllically with frequent visits to the children's room at the Public Library. The shelves of his sister shared bedroom were filled with picture books with names like Madeline and Curious George, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, , New Worlds For Nellie, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Beezus and Ramona, and of course always and forever Good Night Moon.
There was a rhythm orchestra in kindergarten where the teacher played selections from Hayden’s Surprise Symphony on the piano and the music class before that even and his sister played the cello and he started the violin when he was eight because he loved a children's story about Hayden learning the violin. He could play by ear by the time he was ten but got lazy about reading notes and by junior high they wouldn't let him play in the orchestra any more, he had to quit and no one seemed to care.
He didn’t know that decades would pass before he would pick up the instrument again and learn to play by ear again, and then he’d have acquired a vast repertoire of vernacular melodies and songs but first he’d have to buy instruments for children that he loved.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
There were so many worlds then, so many faces hovered in the child's field of view and yet he did not know what they represented then, for he was only consumed with his wooden blocks the toy train and the moon that rose over the hills above the Radiation Laboratory, it's lights on all night up on the hill where they were inventing bombs. His mother had him sing 'I see the moon and the moon sees me, the moon sees the one I long to see...' and say his prayers 'Our father who art in heaven', but the only father that mattered to him was the one that sat him on his lap and let him watch while he drew pictures in a book of blank pages.
Sometimes while alone the boy would explore the neighborhood and play in the creek that ran out of the hills and down under some of the streets before disappearing into a concrete tunnel beneath an apartment building. As he did at other times in the park and with friends he would make little dams and route the water into pools of his creation. The summer he was four (or was it five?) he ventured into the tunnel alone to see where it would lead. There seemed to be sufficient light as periodically he would pass by the bottom of a grating covered drain from a street corner which gave enough illumination for him to see by. The tunnel ran on and on gently downhill and presently he realized he was beneath a manhole cover in the middle of an intersection with many cars passing over head. He climbed up the ladder to see what he could and peeking through the ventilation holes in the metal plate could see that he was in fact in the middle of the down town business district. He found it thrilling to have discovered this space entirely on his own and he kept the secret as his own. Quickly he returned to the place he had entered and resumed playing on the lawn in front of the apartment building.
When still in diapers but standing he’d hummed the melodies of composers the parents played on large black disks on a phonograph and they praised him. Later when they were alone the mother would curse him for not being the one he was supposed to be, and swear that she was glad she had banished that man forever and bolts of hatred lightening came from her eyes and shot him through the heart and he did not know why.
In those years he and the sister were close as small children in stressful circumstance might be and they had games together and sang together and he looked up to her adoringly, being the younger sibling who wanted only to please.
He did not know that it was not safe there, that with the mother’s charms and ways, the sister and her cold eyes behind glasses who barely tolerated his inquisitive longing to belong, to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was loved. And in his naïveté and ignorance he happily played whatever game she suggested and they made little bowls of plasticine clay and put dabs of the ground green salad the mother made and placed them on the window sill for the fairies. In time the boy would come to understand that he had to protect his own world from assault and ridicule but it would be a long and emotionally expensive education.
He played with another little boy and they were barely three feet tall and wanted to play on the lawn across the busy street. No one was watching and they ran across and played on the velvety grass in front of the house where the boisterous college boys sang and shouted and parked their loud cars. Those older boys were scary and noisy at times but part of the fabric of this college town world, as much as milk men and their trucks and the ice man that came every other day to deliver blocks of ice and give a lonely child a piece as big as a cake to suck on when the weather was hot.
When he was alone and listening to music the spirits would descend into his soul without bidding and he found himself with trusted friends.
There were bells that chimed the hour and bells in the morning and evening that sounded glorious music that could be heard across the hills and through the trees when the air was still. He heard those bells deep inside long after, when he was most troubled or lost and the fox was unable to reach him, the bells would sound lullaby for him and he would thank the gods he’d been born to hear them ring. In later years he would run into a girl he knew slightly who was musical and she would invite him to come up in the tower with her while she played the carillon, pumping with wooden levers attached to cables that moved the bells and the clanging of the massive bronze bells striking each note, that could sometimes be heard for miles across the hills shrouded with trees and fog. It was so extraordinary, hearing a piece of Bach, a Christmas carol in December, a song popular long ago and much more that he could not put it into so many words the sense of enchantment that he felt.
Monday, September 28, 2009
In the hills above the town, which sat near the ocean, and home to a large university, there were gardens where deer wandered freely. Among the gardens were many cats, skunks and possums along with all manner of other small furry creatures.
The cats moved like shadows that
wandered freely between the homes and made note of goings on that others did not observe.
It was in this world that the fox ruled his domain and though the other creatures gave him wide berth, he gave them no trouble for he had more important matters of concern.
The Siamese cats that lived next door to each other three in a row eventually, would gather to
trade stories about their respective domiciles and laconically recount the foibles and
idiosyncrasies of those who lived there and fed them.
They would gather at the gold fish pond that was in one of the larger gardens and gaze at the lily
pads and dragon flies that hovered there on a summer afternoon, there they would recount
which lonely widow was drinking herself into a fog nightly and which professor known for
brilliant rhetoric all but beat his children into submission, demanding perfect grades without
He didn't know how he remembered but he did that he had waded in a tide pool near rocky
beaches and taken a few small steps and fell face first into the cold sea water and cried his heart
out with shock and fear. He did not have far to fall for he was not yet three but the father swept
him up into his arms and took his wet shirt off and gave him his own striped blue and white tee
shirt to wear and he was happy and smiled again. This was the time for him to bask in the sacred
field of affection and patience that would carry him far into times of unexpected trials.
Not long after this time they were living in a small apartment near the university on whose lawns
and glades he played like they were his own. The sister wore glasses, long braids and braces on
her teeth, voraciously consuming one book after another and his head was filled with story book
dreams and music.
He loved little more than to play with his wooden train set and wind up the Victrola phonograph
the father gave to him to play one little record after the next, prancing alone, his head filled with
Skip to My Lu, Lavender Blue, Hey dilly dilly and Old Mac Donald, Three Blind Mice and The Big
Rock Candy Mountain.
How was he to know then that the ominous mountain made of candy was but a lure for little boys
like him to be taken by vagrant men to the hobo camps and there to be their slaves for begging,
cooking and whatever those men desired?
Although the majority of events are from experience, I have taken considerable liberty as to how to present sequence or emphasis or how much to understate or exaggerate. It is up to the reader to decide how much they might care about such trivialities.
Ultimately I would frankly like to find a commercial outlet. There is, furthermore a substantial body of illustration already in various states of completion that are directly related to some of the events and places in the narrative.
One final comment is that I do not necessarily intend that the sequence of entries from this body of writing will be published here in the order they may finally appear in print. It is to be noted that at the present time there have been twenty two revisions to the text thus far.
No only would I welcome commercial inquiry, but also any constructive commentary others might make that would further add to my understanding of the effectiveness of what I have chosen to present here.
It is my hope that at least some of this is received as being of interest and enrichment to the reader. It is a work in progress still. Peter Ashlock September 28, 2009