April 29, 2010
posted & written by caroline picard
what follows is an excerpt from WOOF.,
An Episode of Childhood: Cash and Pappi and the Woods.
Cash had two siblings and five boy cousins and one girl cousin. The boy cousins: Aaron, Zeke, Matthew, Neil and Sammy. Neil and Sammy were brothers. Frieda was the only girl cousin.
Cash had one older sister, Nora, and one younger brother, James. When he was born, their mother asked Nora to come and watch so that Nora could learn about where babies came from. Nora watched Cash breaching between their mother’s legs, she watched his head tear out of her, she watched his body wriggle out into waiting, bloody hands, she watched her mother screaming, her father pale with a mask on his face. Nora watched the nurse spank her new baby brother and when he started to scream she passed out. She didn’t talk for days afterwards, she was so horrified. Neither Nora nor Cash watched the birth of James.
Nevertheless, when they brought James home Nora did not recognize him as her brother, because she did not seen him come out. She called her mother a faker.
The cousins only saw one another once a year, during the summers, when their parents rented a house in the Colorado mountains—rentals were cheaper that time of year and the whole family, cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, gathered together to barbeque and take hikes and read.
For the children it was paradise. For older members of the family there was no end of beneath-the-surface stress.
Pappi, the grandfather, and Mormors his wife. They liked to play dominos. Mormors always made popcorn and she always burned the popcorn, but everyone still ate it and everyone still liked it, even though the house smelled like burnt popcorn for hours after. They also liked to drink, a cocktail before dinner and wine during, coffee afterwards.
Pappi often took the cousins on walks. Usually he just took the boys. Mormors would have made them sandwiches with bolonga and mustard. She always wrapped the sandwiches in wax paper and he always put them in his knapsack and they would set out over the He always encouraged them to pick up litter along the way, he turned litter into a game. They brought special trash bags and the children picked up bits and pieces of trash—old soda cans, candy bar wrappers, potato chip packages, anything and everything they found.
Every so often he took them to a special place, a few hours’ walk from the house, and the children followed Pappi into a clearing with a stump in the center and Pappi sat on the stump in the center and gave the children their sandwiches. (Nora came one time with Frieda, they dallied behind the others, picking flowers along the way they were especially excited, as they weren’t usually allowed to go with the boys and their grandfather).
When they finished eating, when they were full and eating handfuls of trail mix and laughing and telling their grandfather about what they studied in school and who was their favorite teacher and what their favorite movies were, then Pappi pulled the stump back.
Underneath the stump he had a package wrapped in plastic bags. He opened the bags and pulled out a stack of magazines. He passed the magazines around to show the children and everyone admired the naked ladies inside and Nora especially liked to look at the way the woman lay down in different positions with their hands on their private parts, spreading the skin back to show all of the folds of pink and grey skin.
When they got home Freida and Nora made pretend they were in magazines. They stole off to the room they shared and posed for one another like they’d seen how, admiring one another.
Everyone loved their grandfather very much.
May 1, 2009
posted & written by Caroline Picard (this again, is a self-contained excerpt from “Happy Endings”)
An Epsidoe of Childhood: The Ghee.
In the wet woods of the northeast, Brian Rashid grew tall. A single child, between two parents, his father woke up before Brian to ride the train into the city for work. On most days, the father did not return until Brian had already slipped into sleep.
His mother woke him each day, smelling like sharp flowers—this scent she put on each time she left the shower and often the child sat in her bedroom, eating cereal and watching morning cartoons as she dressed.
On such a day she had a basket of flowers ready by the front door.
“We’re just going to stop at the Miller’s on our way to school,” she said, pulling into the Miller’s drive. “Take this basket, here—take this note,” she stopped the car several feet from the front door. “Take these and lay them by the back door, go up the stairs onto their porch—no leave them just by the back stairs, so that no one sees you. I’d do it myself, only I don’t want to talk to them, we’ve got to get to school on time and I’ve a busy day ahead. Try not to let them see you and leave them just there and come back to the car quick as you can.” Her hands, painted red at the nails and glistening with bracelets shooed him out of the passenger door. “Hurry!” She smiled at him. She winked. “Careful with the flowers! Don’t drop the basket!”
Brain scampered out of the door, thrilled with stealth and purpose. He scurried like a young cub, ungraceful with feet too large, he lumbered as quick as he could, careful not to disturb the heavy bouquet.
He stole up the back stairs, conscious of his mother’s gaze. He laid the basket softly on the ground, trying soundlessly to impart her gift.
But lo! He heard a growing sound in the distance, accompanied by the sound of feet scrabbling through dry leaves, he heard paws scrabbling towards him. He felt fear for the first time. He turned abruptly and started to run, loping and awkward once more; his back to the impending monster. He could see his mother’s face through the windshield. Her mouth open, face pale. She did not move.
Not even when, within an arm’s length of the car, he felt a punch to his shoulders on either side of his neck—it knocked him to the ground, knocking the wind out of him, he felt stones in his eyes and he cried, hysterical, as the muzzle of big dog growled and gruffed in his ears. Instinctively, he brought his hands to cover his face and the dog nipped them as the dog bit his shoulders, he could hear the car still running. He screamed, shuddering, he wet his pants, he heard someone in the distance call out, “RUFUS! GET BACK HERE! OFF!” heard feet, this time a pair, crunching across the gravel drive towards him until at last he felt the weight on his back tossed off. The dog yelped, growling still.
Still not moving, shame burned the back of his neck. He wheezed. He heard the car door open. His mother, smelling of spring, lifted him off the ground, clutched him close and wiped his face, her jangling bracelets in his ears.