Zero to Ten in Two Triplicated Pages
July 21, 1974. Mom ate pie. The whole pie. It was apple. Her stomach cramped. Pie was blamed. Could it be? Was it pie? Was it I? Labor is pain. July 22, 1974. I was born. They pulled me. I slid breathless. I breathed in. I cried out. My life began. Crawling was cake. Walking was hard. Talking came quickly. I sputtered around. Sentences found me. I used them. And never stopped. I talked incessantly. To anyone listening. “Are you Clarence?” Black equaled Clarence. He bought dogs. My parents sold. One saved me. Mom was pregnant. They attacked her. Men on bikes. The dog bit. We were safe. They shit themselves. Literally shit themselves. “Jigs,” one eye. A protective pit. Missing an eye. No socket even. Just an eye. One fierce eye. And huge teeth. One door separated. Them from us. She bit through. One clean bite. A gaping hole. Her one eye. They opted out. They never returned. We survived it. Quick flash forward. Three brought change. Adam was born. Blond, birdlike, ugly. I was fat. My hair black. A beautiful baby. His eyes shut. They brought him. Wrapped in blankets. Skinny fingers poked. His lungs large. His cry loud. Put him back. Put him back. Four years old. Methodist preschool began. New experiences abound. Naps on cots. Snack time, lunch. Dukes of Hazard. Penny root-beer barrels. Little brown bags. Long winter rides. Kindergarten soon began. I learned coloring. What colors where? Choose colors properly. Do not imagine. Sun is yellow. It’s not purple. Grass is green. It’s not red. Sky is blue. It’s not black. I got frownies. Never received smilies. I met Kim. We keep cordial. I met KT. We lost contact. I met Angie. We still spar. She hates me. I hate her. Still, we’re 34. She got smilies. She colored correctly. She reminded me. Everyday she gloated. We sat together. Four of us. In little chairs. A round table. I learned quickly. I read everything. Finishing the primers. I read books. I never stopped. First grade sucked. I re-read primers. Boredom engulfed me. I cried daily. The Blue-Butterfly Incident. I loved them. Mrs. O negated them. They don’t exist. Me: They DO! I have proof. I showed her. My desk relocated. I sat outside. In the hall. We rhymed words. Rhyme with “it.” One says “sit.” Another says “pit.” I say “tit.” Like the bird. Like a titmouse. Mrs.O named me. You are obnoxious. I cried out. You’re a bitch. I missed recess. That undid me. I got paddled. I told Floyd. He’s the principal. She’s a bitch. More paddling ensued. My desk moved. By the office. I ate alone. I sat alone. I did worksheets. Second grade sucked. Tommy got hit. He fidgeted constantly. Opening and closing. The pencils rattled. Mrs. Minnemum threw it. Tommy’s pencil box. Wooden and antique. It hit him. Then crashed down. His head bled. And he cried. I was indignant. I told her. Trouble found me. I embraced it. Branded by seven. She is trouble. Mrs. Minnemum grabbed me. Long fingernailed hands. Claws dug in. Scars cut deep. Stood in corners. Head pushed in. Goose eggs grew. I banged trashcan. Second grade passed. Third passed similarly. In the corner. Missing every recess. Eating lunch alone. So did fourth. I worked alone. Everyone else, groups. We watched films. The girls one. The boys another. Sex entered in. Periods and ejaculation. Kotex and tampons. No more cooties. Real fear loomed. We grew up. Films brought change. Pregnancy became threatening. Scared with beauty. We were young. Fifth grade came. A new school. Mr. Michener for homeroom. He taught Social Studies. And read outloud. I loved him. Love was Platonic. He was kind. He understood me. Miss Wehmeier taught English. They were dating. They ate together. We teased them. I teased mercilessly. I was jealous. My first crushes. Miss Wehmeier and English. I outshined classmates. She noticed intelligence. They accused me. You’re teacher’s pet! She was athletic. She was young. She was smart. Possibly, she’s beautiful. And she read. Outloud, to us. Her voice, sweet. Her cadence, perfect. Her interpretation, divine. I was enamored. I fell fast. I was ten. And in love. School ended abruptly. Summer warmly embraced. I turned eleven. Ten years gone.
No Socket Even
Because I was in utero, I don’t remember the whole story. The little I do remember has been pieced together from fragile scraps of the memories of others, particularly my mother since she was the only witness. What I am saying is that this story may not be true, although I like to believe it is.
When my parents were newly married, before I was ever in the picture, my father began raising Pit Bulls. He had majored in biology with a specialty in genetics, so he has been hybridizing, selectively breeding, and generally genetically engineering plants and animals since I can remember. The main point of friction in my parents’ early, married life came in the form of these dogs. He engineered them so well that up until a couple of years ago, one of his Pits was the breed standard picture in one of those big Dog Atlases that has pictures and descriptions of every breed. Along with making his own dogs, he also rescued them from the pound. Whenever Gayle, the dogcatcher, would get a Pit, he would call my dad and my dad would go get the dog. That is how they got Jigs.
Jigs had been used to fight. She was short, she was massive, her tail was broken, and she only had one eye. The other one had been ripped out fighting, and even the socket had been surgically removed. What was left, where the eye had been, was a big gaping hole of scar tissue that was purple and red and a sickly white. I imagine it looked worse than simply having no eye. She was my parents’ baby until I was born, and she tried to get in my bassinet to play with me. At that point, she moved outside in the kennel with the rest of the dogs. The important thing about Pit Bulls is they are really quite charming dogs, loyal and protective of their owners. In fact, over half of the American Dog Heroes—dogs who have rescued people or saved people’s lives—have been Pit Bulls. When provoked, however, just like any other dog they can be a little difficult to deal with. Possibly, the motorcycle gang should have considered that before they paid my mother a little visit.
At some point during my mother’s seventh month of pregnancy, while my father was at work, she rocked in the rocking chair watching television and playing with Jigs, who was still in the house because I wasn’t born yet. To hear my mother tell it, she heard a loud noise like thunder and looked out the window to find the driveway filled with chopped motorcycles. Knowing their wasn’t a motorcycle convention at our house, she rushed through the kitchen to lock the back door, and went back and sat in the same rocking chair. Meanwhile, Jigs went crazy, jumping, barking, growling, and pacing around the small living room. My mom sat calmly rocking. She said she started singing to herself as the bikers came and started banging on the back door. Apparently, they didn’t think to try the windows. They knocked. My mom rocked and sang and rubbed me through the thick skin of her belly. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…
The back door cracked a bit as they tried to pound it open. Jigs, unable to take the threat any longer, shot from the living room through the kitchen and into the back entry. Her barking didn’t deter the invaders, so she jumped up to a man’s eye level, and in one swift bite bit through, yes, she bit through the back door. Taken aback slightly, the knocking bikers desisted, but they didn’t leave. Jigs began jumping from the floor to the hole she had created, looking out at the burly, leather-clad men, first with her good eye and occasionally with her gnarled socket. The lack of a socket must have done it, because when my mom stopped singing upon hearing the motorcycles start, the men were gone. They only left behind a pair of jeans and underwear intertwined and filled with shit.
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