It goes like this.
The black room fills to the brim with warm air. And there is mom, squeezed to the edge of the mattress with her slim mouth slightly open and always anticipating, some infant tantrum. Mom never got over the postmortem stall that having a child engenders in a woman’s sleep patterns. She was and is, perpetually awake.
Not a scream tonight though. Tonight you wake up and the balmy room is bursting with crimson light that melts to the sheets already warm and musky from Dad’s sweat.
She leaps from her back to her ass, and you are already there in her thin arms. Her mouth is moving and the red light is all over her face. It is all you can see. Then Dad on his feet from the bed to the window. Then we’re out to the kitchen, the hall, the driveway.
The source of the blaze as I came to find, had to do with the man next door. A gnarly old asshole
-I’ve rarely heard him referred to as anything else-named Ron. He was too slovenly to be brutish and too boring to be any sort of personality. He did, however, poses his own talents as even I at my age had become aware.
There are those with a true sympathy for aged things and their past. And for them, the tears and slog that are carried in the smell of old things-especially of the deviant sort - give an unmistakable air of beauty.
Then there are the walking sleaze who eat and sleep and play in pools of the world’s most stinking waste. Never mind sentimentality. A true cache for them and a fire hazard for the rest.
That Ron belonged to the latter is something I say without the slightest apprehension. He was a tireless collector of anything and everything worthless and depraved in humanity. He stuffed it in all corners from the top of his three story bungalow, through to the kitchen and into that moist green basement…back up the stairs, and through to the long back lot.
And oh what treasures! From the top there was war memorabilia of all sorts, old grenades and helmets and swords next to boxes of filthy comics, junk mail, and bottles of booze. Damp old records, weapons both functional and not, video tapes, radar detectors, radios, and surveillance devices that could only have been found in the back of some radio shack brochure.
Splashed throughout the stink was an array of pornography which his son and daughter and I took in like the dirty little sponges that we were, to say nothing of the daytime sexual acts that he forced upon his little wife despite any passerby with ears.
The house held the stench of a mouthful of rotting teeth. A giant cavity in the belly of the West Side.
But the real wonderland was in the back lot. See it strewn with dozens of battered cars, tire irons, engines, lawnmowers, all wading through the Cleveland air for no thing in the world save for children dancing over the lawnmower engines, or making combat with broken bits of steal, and whipping each other with old timing belts and rubber hoses. Just rust and iron and rust and steel and big pools of oil oil oil. We road our training wheels through rainbow pools of it and raced to the tops of El Caminos and old semi cabs. The whole lot withered and flaked and would certainly have outlasted us all were it not for the Ron’s plan to torch the bastard.
For him, there must have glimmered the hope that burning up this trash heap could afford him enough in an insurance settlement to fund years more of this bloated masturbation, securing a dismal enough caricature for his children to either detest or mimic and no betweens.
So he torched my wonderland. And sent, my mother, my father, and myself into a panic.
The mechanism for justice need not be intentional or even immediately apparent.
I wonder what old Ronald would have thought of my smooth face in his daughter’s crouch as it had been so placed by her very own hand only a couple years following the great inferno.
What grace. Call it moral providence!?
Really though, I cannot claim the victory as I was too young to know what that older girl was doing with my head. She, telling me to get on my knees and hold out my mouth. She was bigger, older.
But again, no victory. The faint taste of urine is all I can really discern from the incident and that alone was no match for what was left of Ron’s backyard, my playground.
Charred as is was, life went on and we played with the blackened rust, toyed with each other’s genitals. The games kept always from the parents who no doubt lead more grotesque lives than we could have ever imagined….and not in the least at the time.