Lincoln Street Across from the Cemetery.
Stambaugh, Michigan: Late Fall 1973
(Excerpted from the Memoir Some
Houses: A Faries’ Tale )
On you, I see the glory
From you, I get opinions
From you, I get the story
from See Me, Feel Me
We were driving back up over the Mackinac to Iron River on reserve with water in the fuel, the plugs missing and pipes sputtering all the way until the motorcycle died at the cemetery on Lincoln Street and we moved into the first house we saw when our windy, teary eyes cleared.
Lincoln Street house was between two cemeteries, one for people in the front, one for geology in the back. The monuments in the back were much bigger. In the distance beyond the arc of the meadow, a gutted ore-colored monolith with shot-out windows jutted up 150 feet. It had something to do with a “mine,” I didn’t know too much about that, but it had to do with digging and people going underground. Mother said the people in the cemetery went underground too, but they could never dig their way out.
Off the front and back of Lincoln Street house were two identical screened porches. When noon sun was shining directly over the house and my stomach was full of spinach and cream carrots Gramma had brought over, I would take my juice bottle and head for one of the plastic hobby horses that were located on either porch with the intent of rocking myself to a lucid sleep. We had bought a pair of them on the second day back in the “U.P.” at the Salvation Army thrift store on the corner, along with a record player and a set of plates—some with little fish, some with little flowers—whose round shapes and cherry colors resembled each other enough that they almost matched. The horses were both yellow and had dents around their muzzles where someone had beaten them, but I could never understand why because their rock was absolutely heavenly. The paint had completely flaked off so I colored them the best I could with some fat crayons. I had only seen a horse in cartoons so I colored one completely purple—eyes and all—and the other a kind of pink.
With the sun directly overhead and no shadows, a full stomach and a full bottle, I often confused the identical porches and simply wondered out one of the doors and mounted a horse. I was in the front staring at the people cemetery, but thought it was the back. A procession of people in soot black was wandering through the freshly cut grass. Miners returning to tunneling I thought. Others in smaller groups—sometimes alone—were surveying the terrain and when they found a spot they liked, put a flower or tiny flag to mark the spot so they could come back and, I guess, dig for something. Rocking there on my purple horse, I imagined all the dark clothes were once white, but because of the digging they had become literally soiled. With the nipple of a bottle to my lips and a hand on the horses’ plastic mane, I flung my weight around and laughed at all the playing and digging the soil-people were doing and wished I was part of their happy tunneling lives.
In my juice bottle confusion I decided to switch porches and stumbled across the house to mount the kind-of-pink horse I had colored. The mine that wasn’t a mine appeared much livelier than the people cemetery that wasn’t a people cemetery out back. There no one would ever exit the monolith except for squirrels, rabbits, and pigeons, at least that’s what I figured since all these animals made their way to the backyard and had to come from somewhere. Indeed this was the place where people couldn’t dig their way out. Under that gently arched meadow where a thousand grasses fondled a fleeting warm current to ward off a slow death were people sucking soil in pure darkness and I think they wanted to leave. And if they could, they would take to beating rabbits, squirrels, and pigeons whose roaming they envied.
My bottle was finished and I started to whine a little. The sun had tipped and shadows were stretching out all over town. I blamed the horse and slapped its ass, creating yet another dent. I headed for the center of the house to get my bearings and sat down in the middle of the rag rug between the kitchen and living room and went to sleep for a couple of months.
* * *
The torn seams of the cherry blossom wallpaper were dazzling when I opened my eyes. Lifting off into evening iridescent lit living room with the hues of the television helping out and Woodstock on the record player all scratchy and worn, the blossoms really flew at me in little pieces that I puzzled back together. And something else was really loud.
It occurred to me as I looked through the doorway and saw Mother and Eddy naked, running back and forth in the kitchen, that they had discovered one another’s full flesh too quickly. I stood up and rubbed my eyes but the blur of bodies flashing across the doorway wouldn’t clear up so I filmed the whole scene in soft focus.
We forsake you
Gonna rape you
Let’s forget you, better still.
It starts like this with Eddy, close-up on his lips:
“You were the one who dragged me all the fucking way up here,” and then he walks out of the frame. Then a still shot on the kitchen sink tap dripping. In the background The Who strums a couple of chords that signals the introduction to “See Me, Feel Me.” They sound like the sun downing after it’s been tapped of its fire and only a hollow memory echoes.
Enter Mother. She lost her flower dress and had put on a little weight in the past months. Only her belly and breasts are in the frame—and the tips of her lips that move frantically as if they are the little goldfishes that we brought home from the carnival in a plastic baggy and transplanted in a mason jar full of tap water from the leaky faucet. Eddy won them by squirting water into a clown’s mouth. We hadn’t changed their water and they saw in the window for days trying to tell us something until they gave up and tried swimming on their sides to pass time. Soon Mother too would be on her side floating on the pale blue kitchen linoleum, passing time because no one would listen to her when she asked for some help.
“Fuck you and your tight jeans. You just followed me for a piece. You don’t give a shit about me, this house, Chad—all you do is smoke weed and fuck, and you can’t even do that good anymore.” Now her hands periodically entered the frame as she swung them frantically for emphasis while the drums of “See Me, Feel Me” kicked in from the living room over my shoulder and I remembered seeing Roger Daltry in his fringed white leather shirt swinging his microphone in a full circle when Mother brought me to the movies for the first time.
Listening to you,
I get the music.
Gazing at you,
I get the heat.
My beady eyes lit up and I titled my head in some sort of toddler awe, just like now.
“I can’t take it! I can’t take it! I can’t take it!” she kept saying. She drifted out of the frame. What was “it” I wondered as I stared at the dripping faucet. Then the two crescendoed into each other with their chests at the center of the frame and Eddy grabbed her wrists and she sang, “Let go of me you prick! Stop it. Fucking needle dick!” And her voice was an aria now and my toes were licked by indolent waves as they danced and the record played. Release. Out of the frame. Body crescendo.
Release. An empty frame. And in my soft focus I again locked my sight on the flayed wallpaper seam launching blossoms into the air as if it were breaking it. There was a cymbal smash, then another shower of petals everywhere, some little fishes on the floor too, fluttering their tiny gills, gasping to recite the lyrics of the record when I realized I was witnessing the splinters of plates exploding on impact as they were hurled out of the frame of the kitchen at the hallway walls. The almost-matching plates that we bought along with the horses and the record player were now dying breeds of blossoms wilting and little red fish flapping on the scratched hardwood floor. Everywhere fish were flying above the horizon in a flower-meadow-fragile air that broke with each note sung by Mother and Roger Daltry.
I climb the mountains,
I get excitement at your feet.
“Prick! Prick!” she bellowed and her tears fell with the tap. She got softer in the distance as she fled even further from the perimeter of the frame. She must have been near the window now where my paper cutouts I had made with Aunt Molly would be in the panes putting on smiles. “Prick.” she hummed and her tune carried.
Enter Eddy from the other side of the kitchen into the center of the frame as the last plate shatters at the wallpaper seam. His dick is hanging out and rising with the record momentum. Staring at his nudeness now I knew indeed they had discovered each other too fast and didn’t take the time to start with fingertips and massage each other’s cuticles and know the blossoms in those seams too, at the very edge of the body where all skin begins.
Right behind you,
I see the millions.
With his hips facing me, and his torso twisted toward my mother, he reached out his hand and simply said, “Come here,” without any singing. And for a moment I was reminded of all the holes under us—how we would probably never be complete, and I was o.k. with it, really. The truth was all the mines were abandoned, and there wasn’t any difference between back and front anymore. Mother once again entered the frame. Crescendo. And Eddy and Mother settled to the floor, right above a hole and laid there on their sides together as the music wound down and they fell into each other.
“I fucking love you," he said, panting over the top of her, “I fucking love you.” “Me too.”
I see the glory.
I get opinions.
Their rock was absolutely heavenly. They rocked until the air stirred so that it rocked the horses on either porch. I stood up from the rag rug where I had laid for two months and walked delicately over the blossoms and fishes, making my way toward the basement steps off to find a mineshaft and dig a little to comfortably burrow myself in.
I get the story.
And then we moved.