Passed/Past

Excerpt for my book. It’s on sale right now for 99 cents. Thanks for reading.


Passed

The days pass, there is a garden, there is a kiddie pool, there is a tall metal slide, there are bikes. There are parties and Old Maid. There are faked deaths on the living room rug. There are forts made of blankets, boxes and overturned furniture. There is art on the steps to the basement. There is our neighbor, Mrs. Thomas. There are bees in her yard that she keeps.

Mrs. Thomas invites us over for drinks and play while she chats with my mother. Sometimes I imagine the more-than-average number of bees are falling into my glass of soda. They land on the edge of my glass and claim my sticky beverage. I wait until they fly away again before I take another drink. I become anxious as I see puckers in the dark liquid. It’s a drowning bee, struggling, trapped by the sugary fluid prison. Its wings weighted down by the tempting sweet and now dying a horrible, humiliating death. My mother assures me it’s just ice.

I’m not convinced.

I try to avoid the puckers as they lunge toward my lips. I wait for the stings. For the mouthful of barbs and flesh-engorging pinch of the bee or bees. Between sips, I watch the air.

The sun is white, bright and soft. There are thousands of particles bumbling and floating in the trees. There are dandelion puffs, grass clippings, pollen, bees, insects, dust, fairies and little bits of earth-bound angel breath, each humming in a small sphere of light. The light catchers and carriers; the light that carries each element on the warm, swirling wind.

Let’s All Go To the Movies.

More from Vol. 2 of Present Tense


My mother and father have lost the will to parent. I am sitting in a dark movie theatre with Mom, Dad and my sister. I am five, almost six.
Alien.
Oh, God. That man’s face has just been attacked by an octopus egg.
Oh, God. The android’s head is decapitated from his body and milky fluid is shooting out from his neck.
I am screaming. I am crying. I am being ushered quickly to the lobby by my mother.

We lounge for about a minute.
“Ready to go back?”
Okay, there are no more bodiless robots. Popcorn.
I have to have my legs in my seat. I am sitting cross-legged. No aliens can possibly eat my dangling legs if they are safely tucked up, away from their snotty teeth.
Oh, God. There’s spaghetti exploding from that guy’s open stomach.
Oh, God. It’s a baby alien. I am screaming. I am crying. I am being ushered.
A minute.
“Ready to go back?”
My parents also let me watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Deliverance (ABC Presentation of the Week). Also, A Thief in the Night.
This 1972 (made before I was even born) Christian classic talks about end times. Christians are taken to heaven in the rapture and non-believers are left behind. Everyone has to take the 666-Mark of the Beast tattoo or they can’t buy eggs and butter. People who just want a little breakfast are arrested for trying to buy groceries, and a girl with a balloon gets beheaded on a guillotine. There’s a fun song at the end, too.
I wish we’d all been ready…

The synopsis of this movie may be slightly inaccurate. It’s what I remember and the impression that remains.


I lived through what seemed like a very real threat of nuclear annihilation during the height of the Cold War and was constantly worried about being microwaved to oblivion by a nuke. These movie nights and paranoid world destruction fantasies could be considered the bright, sunny moments of my childhood with an abusive father. My prayer, as I got older, became this:

If I have to die–God, just don’t let me die a virgin.

Vol. 2 (continued)

More from my second volume of Present Tense. These excerpts have not been published or seen. This is from the time I visited my dad in the hospital, just before he passed. He was very sick. End-stage cancer.


Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em


Lung cancer. He smoked for over 45 years. Sometimes 3 packs a day. Sometimes a pipe. Rarely marijuana.
He is laying in bed in a hospital room. I walk into the room with my mother and sister. He’s in a gown, head shaved and Sharpie marks on his scalp. That’s where they focus the radiation. That’s where the brain tumors are. There are several marks. There are other places in his body that have cancer. Leg. Stomach. Chest.
He’s uncomfortable. He starts to squirm. He rolls onto his stomach, props himself up on his elbows and knees. My mother rubs his back. She whispers softly in his ear. She looks scared. So does he. This is the most vulnerable, tender moment I have ever seen them share. The pain passes.
He looks at me and asks me to buy him a pack of cigarettes. He hands me several dollar bills. I agree.
Our philosophies were in agreement on this day and many to follow. The world is a brief, harsh place and you find pleasure where you can.
I was not going to deny a dying man his last want or need.
We are on our way to my grandmother’s funeral.