Fred, mother, Chaco, Queen of England etc.

Posted by on Apr 16, 2019 in Blog | Comments Off on Fred, mother, Chaco, Queen of England etc.

When Fred was with us at Lake Morena up the road from San Diego, he said that our mother was an alcoholic, which was news to me. I said No, she wasn’t, and he looked at me cockeyed, ‘Ja-ack, come on, of course she was and when you grow up with a drunk you run a good chance of becoming one.’

I said, Fre-ed, she drank, she was a party girl but she wasn’t AA material. There are people who drink everyday and still aren’t addicted.

He didn’t know if I was for real on this, it seemed so obvious to him, and for me it was the first I’d heard of this from anyone. So we stared at one another, my mind running fifty years of files on her, him running fifty years of suspecting I was retarded and now finally and forever knowing I was.

I remembered a conversation in this house where they were arguing before dinner about who was smarter. It was just like two kids, No you’re not, I am. You? Ho ho. Both loaded and me with my jaw dropped realizing for the first time that my mother and brother were very dumb people. Here I thought I was the one and they are light years ahead of me. It’d gone beyond ferocity, bulging eyes and stabbing fingers. I walked to her library to look at books as they ranted. Mother had gotten a degree in her fifties at UNM. Now she was yelping about her papers on T-shaped doorways at Chaco published in the Archeology trades, Fred about being Head Reference Librarian at the London Library after graduating from UW at Madison with honors, she about winning the Pulitzer, he the Arthur T. Anderson Award, she about being the first woman president of the US, he about being the King of England.

I’d been a pool cleaner and woodcutter. Once I read a Reader’s Digest cover to cover just to see if I could.

When I’d try to hang out with the two of them before five they were too rattled, and after 5:OO needing a faster delivery than I was capable of. I couldn’t keep their interest with my stories so they’d gang up. Marian finished my sentences, corrected my grammar, facts, place and background and Fred the legitimacy of whatever situation I was talking about. Fred interrupting, saying That’s so naive, Jack, Jesus!

Here I am telling my story that happened with neither my little brother nor mother within two thousand miles of me about meeting this woman at her apartment on Lexington and 46th in New York 2O years before. She’d called me at McGarvey’s and my apartment on the Lower East Side and invited me over, said she knew me but I didn’t know her. She had been watching me for months and now she wanted me to come meet her. ‘She opened the door and I didn’t know her. She was beautiful. (Marion says Of course, and Fred grunts.) ‘She knew me, but I’d never met her’, and Fred is saying how this is either made up, exaggerated and that there is no walkup building at 46th and Lex, and besides how could I not know her if she knew me? And what did I mean by beautiful? What the hell did she look like? And how many women call up perfect strangers and invite them over to their place? You see a movie or something? ‘That’s my point, Fred, it was like a dream, she is this ravishing, open faced woman, deadringer for the young Lauren Hutton, and I felt so at ease with her.’ He shakes his head and looks at Marion and their eyes connect, in silent agreement, Jack’s lying his ass off again!

I say, ‘Her place is beautiful, all candlelit, she even knows what I drink and makes me one without having to ask. The perfume she has on, the white blouse and long skirt, hair just right, and this voice.’ Marion says something about male sex fantasies and safety issues in New York tenements late at night and the clap, and Fred’s cutting me off at every turn trying to trap me in inconsistencies so the spontaneity of the story sputters out. It does sound made up. These people are arguing over who is smarter?! I feel like Einstein and Plato with enough smarts left over to power the Dallas Cowboys and an Emu or two. High IQ does not make smart. Heart makes smart.

Fred is saying our mother was an Alkie and it was all her fault he’s one. I’m still trying to deal with the first part, but there are some things fitting together in spite of my disbelief. How is it possible I wouldn’t’ve noticed at least when I’d grown up? You weren’t there, Jack, he says. Fred is ticking off all the evidence on his fingers and has started back on his first thumb with number 11 in the people’s case against her. I say, Okay, okay, maybe she was, what the hell, she didn’t make you do it. You lived in England for the last quarter century.

I didn’t think of it then but the reason Fred started to drink heavily was for the pain in his leg after he got hit at 7O miles an hour on a country road in Cornwall when he jumped to push his wife out of the way of the car and took the full impact on his legs. They took him to the amputation ward but the surgeons saved the leg. Splinters of bone surfaced through the skin for the rest of his life. He was walking on steel rods where femurs once hung out…