Ticket To Ride, Book 2, Chapter 20: Hold the best of him and don’t be false…

East Finchley SignTwenty

Livy’s mind slipped back to that December day in 1967. She and Trudy were back from Blackfriar’s Bridge and her mother had put together a small surprise party for her birthday.

“Happy Birthday love,” she says.

“Oh thank you so much mum, Livy replies, “is this all for me?”

There’s a birthday cake with waxy numbers in the shape of 10. Beside it is a box the size of a typewriter and a smaller box the size of a pencil  or pen holder.

“I can guess what those are, “ says Livy as her father walks into the room noticeably drunk.

“A fools paradise is all that bloody is. You’re just a stupid little girl.”

Livy looks to her mother for redemption or at least a kind word in her defense. Say something mum, she thinks.

“And you the bloody blind leading the blind, you daft cow.”

Her mother says nothing. Can’t say anything. The repercussions would be more than she could bear. She’s broken, and can’t be mended.

Oh mum, Livy thinks, if only he weren’t here, how wonderful it could have been.

“What about Trudy?”

“Forget it Livy,” her father says and takes the typewriter to the rubbish bin.


10218780_1Present Day (1979)

East Finchley, council flat, mum. Brick, grey skies, orange flowered, threadbare couch and that God awful painting of the toreador. Three years and I’m back.

“Livy I miss your father,” said Livy’s mother.

“He was a bastard  mum.”

“Please don’t say that Liv.”

“He was.”

“Drop your sulky teenage attitude for a minute.”

“There you go mum, let me have it.”


You’re sticking up for yourself.”

“Oh, I guess I am.”

“I’m so much more grown up when I’m not here.”

“Try to be that for me now.”

“I’m sorry mum, it’s just that I don’t have much good that I remember. He was a drunk and so damn angry all the time.”

“I wish you knew how wonderful he could be. It’s just that he got old too young. And well, when you came, he didn’t know how to be a father and felt inept. He wasn’t good at little girls.”

“Are you saying if I was a boy…”

“I’m not saying anything of the sort. It’s just that he’d closed himself off to me and you represented a challenge he couldn’t face. Your grown now and I want you to know that neither of us would have had you any other way, but he was closed. He tried but he was closed.”

“But you went away with him.”

“Livy I…”

“Let me speak this time mum. The valium, the naps, the wine, you let him take you with him and I was alone most of the time.”

“I remember you loved books.”

“Books were all I had, and Trudy.”

“But whether you remember or not, your father spent a lot of time reading to you when you were a child. He gave you that love.”

“I wanted love not books.”

“Don’t be disrespectful.”

“Children want love mum. Little girls want to love their daddies as much as their mommies. I’ve stayed away from men because he was what I thought they were.”

Livy’s mother began to cry.

“I’m sorry love,” she said to Livy.

“It’s ok mum. I’m ok. I just don’t want you to slip into some phony soft reverie of him. He hit you mum.”

“That’s enough now Livy.”

She began to cry harder and moved toward Livy and they hugged. Livy became the mother.

“I love you mum and I don’t want you to cry,” Livy said.

“So stop now lovey.”

“Just be ok without him mum. Hold the best of him and don’t be false.”

Livy reached into her pocket and pulled out a poem.

“Here mum. I just wrote this. It’s nothing, but maybe something.”



when I’m 80

I may,

God willing,


all the ages I’ve been and all the things I’ve done

and be spared the pain of

wishing to return to places I can’t go back to

and being with people who are not who they once were or,

are dead.

when I’m 80

I will,

God willing,


all the ages I’ve been and all the things I’ve done

and feel the joy of a life lived.


Not Holy Faith #longreads

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Intro to Not Holy Faith

Here’s another from my childhood. It’s about letting go and growing up; growing up in the best sense of the phrase (not the growing up that makes you hard and cold), but the growing up that embraces change and looks forward to the freedom found therein.

As always, your comments are welcome.

not holy faith

by philip scott wikel

Life is happening to everyone.
The connotation of this statement might be that we are somehow victims.
How to take hold of it?

How many times have you tried or thought you were trying only to come full circle. Life is happening to everyone. But like the little girl who knows the right time to move into the circle of the turning rope, there seems to be a process wherein you can join in and jump.

I was once a little boy with a blue Schwinn “Stingray.” It had training wheels and I had wavy, dirty-blonde hair smoothed back with Vitalis. It was spring 1970, Goshen, New York. I was four and, down the street, Miss Summer’s garden, which seemed to encompass the known world, was in full bloom; wildflowers and bees, pollen and posies.

That Christmas my brother would show my sister and I the hiding place for presents. And I would, for the first time, feel a certain sense of unease about the world; how what was, may not be. This bit of uncovering wouldn’t be fully realized until nearly seven years later when, on Christmas Eve and needing to pee, I caught my father stuffing Christmas stockings with candy. It seemed we both felt the loss at the same moment; he mine, I his, me mine, he his. I don’t recall either of us saying anything. Just eyes meeting, his mouth slightly open, neither of us breathing, the fantasy dimmed. The holiday became something else. Belief became dependent on faith, not holy faith, but the faith that warms the motions we go through in ritual. When the veil’s lifted you can either smile or deny. I turned away for a while.

At age seven we took the training wheels off of my bike. My father held the seat and ran behind me. I could feel how his hand steadied the bike. My hands sweated against the blue plastic handle-grips. My eyes didn’t want to look beyond the handlebars but I was aware of the old maples that lined the street and all of the houses of all of my neighbors moving by me. And my sister, having already learned this, sat comfortably on her banana seat leaning against the curb.

“I’m going to let go,” my father said.

“No,” I replied in a voice that seemed small to me and probably even smaller to my father.

“You’ve got it,” he said as he let go.

I could feel myself pedaling wildly now. The handlebars struggling back and forth.

Leaning. Gravity. Crash.

My father caught up with me and reached down to help me up.

“You OK little man?”

“I guess.”

“You did well kid. C’mon let’s try again.”

That Sonoma Autumn #longreads

sonomaIntro to That Sonoma Autumn:

This is a true story from my youth. My family and I had just moved to Northern California from New York. We lived for a few months on a horse ranch in Sonoma County, 18 miles from Cazadero, and more than an hour from the nearest hospital. Uncle Rex, the local sheriff, had just lost his best friend in a bank robbery/gun shootout and was hitting the sauce pretty hard.

I re-wrote this piece for Ticket to Ride and it is now part of Morgan Blake’s childhood. He relates this story to his therapist in the latter part of the book.

As always, your comments are welcome.

that sonoma autumn

by philip scott wikel

The heat of the small cab of the truck mixed with the smell of old socks and souring buttermilk made me want to throw up. My father sensed my unease and opened the wing window. The churning lessened, but as it did, the pain in my head came back tenfold; the same way the buttermilk at first eased Uncle Rex’s ulcer, then turned on him.

I was a little more than nine and the night before, my brother, four years my senior, had let me have the top position in our bunk beds. It was one of those early triumphs, an epiphany, the sort of thing that would only be eclipsed later in my life by events like getting my driver’s license, falling in love, and turning twenty-one and having my first legal drink.

I had climbed the ladder slowly, savoring my ascent to glory, like one of my childhood heroes who had summitted the Citadel, then slipped into the sweet sleep of the conqueror. But by 3:00 am I had managed to roll off the edge. Those three feet or so of sleepy weightlessness must have been blissful to my subconscious. Wham! A formica desk broke my path downward. A couple of inches to the north and I would have cleared it and landed, however abruptly, much more comfortably onto some of that “thick pile” shaggy seventies carpeting.

Rex finished his buttermilk and threw the empty carton on the floor of the truck. His stomach had cooled a bit but then his stomach acid went into overdrive. His stomach burned.

“Damn stomach!” he said angrily, and startled, I couldn’t help but shit in my pants. And this movement on the far end of my digestive tract prompted a surge from my stomach.

“I’m gonna throw up.”

Rex pulled over in time for my father to carry me clear of the truck. I bent over and puked in the tall, dry Northern California grass, caught a glimpse of the ocean in the distance, then felt a sudden sense of well-being.

“You all right?” my father asked.

“Better dad,” I replied.

Rex threw out an old towel which from there to the hospital served as a makeshift pair of pants, an outfit I wouldn’t have to duplicate until almost ten years later when, on a late night surf trip to Huntington Beach, a few wiseasses thought it would be cute to separate my friends and I from our pants while we were out surfing.

“Is that a deer dad,” I asked as we started back down the road.

“Sure is,” he replied, sounding relieved, ” I didn’t think you could see… thank God.” He looked over at Rex, then pulled me a little closer. He’d awoken to a screaming child, his bloodied son reaching around in a dark room trying to find the door.

For the first time since the fall, he was assured I hadn’t lost my sight. And for the first time in that long hour, I felt like everything was going to be okay.
I’m the second son and the third child. And now that I’m a father of two myself, I’ve come to understand how it might be that each successive child will get a little less of his parents undivided attention. But that morning, in that sour-smelling truck, on that little mountain road from the horse ranch to Sebastapol, my father and I had nothing of greater importance in our lives than one another.

From then on, the bottom bunk was just fine.

Dylan knows the Truth

by philip scott wikel

After church on Sunday I decided to surprise my son with a trip to some tidepools up around Carpinteria. I was a little wary of telling him where we were going because I had agreed with him the day before that we would go to Target to get a new game for his Playstation. I was worried that once he got his new game there would be nothing else in the world to him and that a trip to the beach to look at crabs and starfish would pale, profoundly, by comparison.

Continue reading “Dylan knows the Truth”