“It’s finally fucking over,” William, Morgan’s father, said to the TV.
The news commentator was announcing the end of the war in Vietnam. The shelves over the TV were jammed with books, encyclopedias and almanacs. Hardwood floors ran in all directions around the house, interrupted here and there by a well-placed throw rug. The curtains on the windows were all Julia Blake; small daisies on a periwinkle background, delicate and firm at the same time. She was in the kitchen listening to John Denver. The song was “Readjustment Blues.”
“Excuse me.” said Julia, his wife.
“The war, it’s over.”
The television broke to a commercial wherein a Native American man was walking along a highway in the heartland of America. There was trash strewn all over the side of the road and blowing around as the cars passed quickly. The camera panned to the man’s face and a tear rolled down his cheek. As the commercial ended Morgan walked in.
“What the fuck’ve you been doing? Aristotle’s been calling to find out why you’re not at work,” roared William Blake.
“Well actually just once Will,” said his wife Julia.
“Quiet, Julia. Well Morgan?” Julia retreated a bit, Morgan looked at his mother.
“I just… well I…” Morgan stuttered, feeling like a small helpless child.
“Jesus Christ you fucking pansy, spit it out!”
“Will, please.” Julia interrupted.
“Quiet Julia. Morgan don’t you know what I’ve been through with you and your flaky shit. Your gonna lose this job! I won’t have a little hippie… ”
Something gave way in Morgan.
“You know what dad… fuck you!”
William is stunned, his face pulling tight and toward rage.
Morgan continues, “You brought us here to try and get away from your shit. But your shit’s in you and you can’t hack it. I can’t help that your dad was a fucking bastard and all your guys died in the war. Fuck it all any way, I’m leaving ‘sergeant’ Blake,” Morgan said sarcastically, saluting his father.
William came at him quickly and Julia threw herself in the way. Morgan reached for the door knob as he backed toward the door, opened it and bolted.
“Get the fuck out of my way Julia,” William roared.
“He’s gone Will,” replied Julia.
“He’s gonna end up on the streets,” William finished.
William stopped, looked at his wife and then out the door. He sees himself as a child. He’s with his own parents who were walking him to the front door of his uncle’s house. His father was in a hurry as usual and cursing under his breath.
“Jesus Christ, we’re gonna miss the train, move William, get the lead out.”
He rang the doorbell three times in rapid succession.
“Where the fuck is that fruitcake Norman.”
The door opens.
“Well hello there.” says Norman, looking down at young William.
“We gotta go Norm, we’re late, we’ll call in a couple days, soon as we get to Denver.”
William’s mother bent down to hug and kiss William.
“Mom, I don’t want to stay here.”
“We already talked about…”
“Let’s go Tish, we’re late,” interrupted William’s father.
“You’ll be fine honey, ” said William’s mother.
“Of course he will,” confirms Norman.
The door closes.
“How about some milk and cookies Willy?”
“Yeah, ok,” said William reluctantly.
“And then maybe we can play our little game. You know Uncle Norman loves you.”
Blocked it out
until you were twelve
blocked it out
and were never home
build when they’re broken
pulled apart like legos
to build again fresh
kids know this
keep knocking it down ’til they’re tired
keep knocking it down
exasperating their parents
who want to keep it built
and can’t stand the pulling apart of it
keep it built
don’t make legos like they used to
or maybe it’s just that it seems that
there was a plan in the box
step by step instructions
and pretty pictures to aid in the construction
Young William looked to the door and felt the distance from his mother growing.
William of today then thought of himself as a little older than in the previous memory and he remembered Jack. Uncle Jack, the strapping young man just come home from the war. They’re standing in the back yard of Grandma’s house in Los Feliz. The family is throwing a homecoming party for Jack. A banner across the back fence reads ‘Welcome Home Our Beloved Jack.”
“Let me tell you Willy those fucken Japs flew right into the engine room. The boys on the deck said they could see the whites of their eyes as they came in. The ship burned for days. We all swallowed a lot of smoke Willy, and a few of the boys didn’t make it. Some burned… but fucking A Willy… the South Pacific… brown girls with no tops… Don’t tell your mom I told you this.”
“I won’t Uncle Jack.”
“I almost forgot,” reaching into his duffle bag, “this is for you kid.”
He pulls out a sword.
“It’s Japanese kid. Kamikaze pilot left it behind. I pulled it out of the cockpit three decks below.”
“But Uncle Jack.”
“It’s yours kid. And you can tell your mom I said that. Don’t let her tell you otherwise Willy. It’s yours.”
“Thanks Uncle Jack. Hey can you tell me more stuff about the war?”
“I’d love to kid but right now I’ve gotta get inside and get cleaned up and your Uncle Devlin is coming in today too and you know Rachel’s gonna be here. I haven’t seen my best girl in a long time. Get a soda kid, we’ll talk like guys again later… your dad treatin’ you ok?”
“I’ll talk to him kid.”
William never had the chance to talk with Jack again. He heard of his exploits through the filter of his mother who believed Jack was what she called a “womanizer.” Devlin said he was a real ladies man with a gift for the finer points of aeronautics. He was called back East to take part in what later evolved into the space program. It was said that he was a better teacher than his own teachers because he spoke in common terms and the guys understood his analogies and anecdotes better than the all of the scientific jargon of the day. Later in his life, William’s grandmother told him many times that “Jack was a rascal, he liked to drive fast and he’d always say, ‘I wanna live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse.’” Jack came within a month of finishing his degree as an aeronautical engineer and was one out of two guys chosen from the West Coast to be a part of the space program. But the smoke Jack inhaled on the U.S.S. Bunker Hill manifested into lung cancer and killed him in the summer of 1956. William went to Vietnam as an officer ten years later when Morgan was six. A lot of young men died under his command.
“He’s a lot like Jack,” William said to Julia.
Morgan ran as fast as he could to the empty lot behind “Mana Foods.” He jumped into his VW van and slammed the sliding door closed. He turned on the stereo and pushed in Bob Marley and jumped into a makeshift bed made of old beach towels and a lawn chair pad. He stared at the ceiling of the van and began to cry.
In a couple of minutes a tan, skinnyish but well-built young woman appeared from behind the van, opened the passenger side front door, and bounced into the seat.
“I knew you’d be here… I’m sorry about Psalm. He was kind of trippy wasn’t he?”
Morgan just looked at her, then said:
“I’m living in here for awhile.”
“Cool… oh and… I’m sorry, that was sort of insensitive wasn’t it?,” she says, her deep blue eyes at one moment cruel, and in the next, caring.
Morgan still said nothing and Anaya noticed his face was wet.
“You been crying you big baby?”
“What do you want Anaya?”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“You know, you have a knack for coming around at the wrong time.”
“Really,” she says, shifting so that Morgan now has a better view of her bikini clad breasts.
“I fought with my old man, he’s a prick.”
“Dads are pricks… my stepfather tried to nail me once.”
“What’s the deal with these fucking old guys? My dad’s great uncle molested him when he was a kid.”
“That’s sick, totally messed up.”
“Hey, I know, you wanna eat some acid and hang out at my place?”
He looked her up and down, thinking maybe if he did they’d have sex.
“But, I’ve never… that stuff’s…”
“C’mon, it’ll be fun… get our minds off this crap.”
“What about your parents?”
“Gone to the mainland for two weeks… it’s just the people who rent the studio, but they’re cool.”
Anaya slipped a small sheet of paper out of the pocket of her cutoff jean shorts.
“Here,” handing him a small piece of paper, “put it under your tongue.”
“How’d you get here.”
The sun was setting as they arrived at Anaya’s house and for Morgan the world had begun to turn upside down. Inside the door they were confronted by a naked couple in poor shape. Morgan sees their bodies begin to expand and contract against the backdrop of an interior decorated by Jack Murphy.
“Hey,” said the woman, who, to Morgan, at once looked like Janus Joplin and, in the next moment, like the witch from the Wizard of Oz.
“Uh, hey,” said Morgan trying to get past her.
“Look at your eyes… are you guys tripping?” asked the man who looked like a post prime Bob Dylan with bad skin.
“Wow, I can almost see the colors you’re seeing,” she said as all the colors of the rainbow began to spark from the corners of Morgan’s eyes.
Morgan moved faster to get to the door but the woman seemed bent on catching him until she heard the sound of a baby crying. Morgan looked back at the same moment she did and saw an infant hanging in a hammock. The baby cried again and for a moment Morgan saw a cocoon hanging there with a cut-away view of a caterpillar. He turned and followed Anaya through the door. They were in her part of the house now and Morgan felt a bit safer. He looked at Anaya and felt aroused but in the next moment her body expanded and contracted and he was terrified by what he was seeing.
“Anaya?,” he said feeling his world going away.
“Hey, you know what, I’m gonna go upstairs and trip alone,” she said smiling, and rushed out of the room and up the stairs.
“But…” As he spoke the door to the upstairs closed. He was alone.
He walked out on the patio. It was getting dark now and he had nowhere to go. The giant leaves of the foliage in front of him seemed to be trying to reach out at him. He stepped back and inside and felt like he needed to relieve himself. There was a small cramped bathroom tucked under the stairs. He pulled down his pants and sat on the toilet. He could feel his whole body moving in some kind of contraction, like the shit was rolling like a wave from his chest down to his ass. The bathroom was dimly lit by a bare, low watt bulb. All around the toilet were spiders of different colors and sizes and Morgan wanted to get up but he was afraid of shotting on the floor. He looked to his left and saw himself in the mirror. His head split in two pieces then snapped back together and then he saw his whole body being lowered into a meat grinder and his own hand was turning the crank. After an hour of this at Anaya’s house Morgan finally tried to find his way home. He was so messed up it took most of the night to get there.
His abandonment by Anaya changed him. That night he became cold to women. At once a romantic and now a cynic. His mother seemed to be the only adult in his life who hadn’t outright let him down.