Memory sorts and narrates in ways convenient for the person remembering. I’m quite sure of that. When I heard Michael Moore say that Martin Luther King was murdered on Holy Thursday in 1968, it seemed too rife with coincidence, that King was assassinated, martyred the day before Jesus Christ’s martyrdom would be acknowledged on Good Friday.
I got to thinking more about that Easter weekend, in 1968, because memory tells me that I was home alone on an Easter Sunday when I was in about the eighth grade when my father’s strategy worked.
He had me home alone.
I know the story I’m about to tell happened, but was it really on Easter Sunday? I know it was a Sunday afternoon. But Easter? Where were my mom and sisters? How did I get home without my father, who came home later? Did Mom and Christy and Carol drop me off on their way to a Campfire Girls occasion for Christy? I don’t know. But,
I was home alone in Dad’s television chair in the living room when my dad swayed into the house. He must have gotten a ride home. His tongue swollen, cotton blanched his lower lip and saliva webbed the corners of his mouth. I was all too familiar with his body odor: yeasty, stale beer, faint Skin Bracer, fresh Camel cigarettes, and pungent salami and pepper. His eyes were fishy, filmy, panicked. He misfired a match four times, before lighting a Camel straight.
My stomach tightened. My throat dried. My hands trembled. I started to stand up.
“Sit down, son.”
Dad’s bloated face began to shake. “Everything does it.”
“You know, elephants, dogs, hippopa, uh, rhinoceruses, uh, animals do it.”
Oh shit. We’re having The Talk. I tried to help him. “Right, Dad. I know.”
“Your mother. She has a thing.” He made a circle with his thumb and forefinger with his left hand.
I felt like I was watching a car flip on a freeway.
“Girls do. Have a thing.” He pointed the forefinger of his right hand straight out.
“You take your, your thing.” He moved his right forefinger toward the O. “And put it in.” His first attempt missed the O high. The second missed low. The third missed again. The fourth thrust succeeded. “There. That’s. . . that’s that.”
I nodded. I broke the silence, “I got homework upstairs.”
He nodded and staggered to the kitchen for a beer, bumping his shoulder on the doorframe.
Dad’s talk with me was a little late. I had read the book my mom got from church and kept in her and Dad’s bedroom on the basics of sexual intercourse; I read it like pornography whenever I was home alone and once, when my mom found me reading it, and asked me what I was doing, I called it “that book”.
Dad had books in their bedroom, too. Many of them had one word titles like Glover and Candy. They told stories of sexual intercourse with no mention of jungle animals. There were no crude hand mimes or faceless figures illustrating clinical sex. These were tales of men and women who were strangers to one another gliding furtively into bathrooms, underbrush, luxury automobiles, or guest bedrooms where they tore eagerly into one another’s clothes and bodies. I never got caught reading those books.