Tell It All But Tell It Slant
Today’s spate of summer showers is like
the downpours of late childhood that
sometimes ended games of stickball in the street.
We didn’t run to separate houses: not with
John’s parents working, not with his collection
of Mad magazines and his clock radio that
pulled in WBZ from Boston 80 miles
away. They played “Do-Wacka- Do” and
“Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” and
though we preferred “Light My Fire” and “Born
to Be Wild,” we liked BZ’s quirkiness.
It was a lot like John himself. He was nineteen
and we were pre-teen but there were
enough of us that he couldn’t keep us in line
once we had our fill of magazines and started in
on keep-away and monkey-in- the-middle.
One day we knocked over a floor lamp. John did
nervous. Not a natural athlete. You’d test
his strength and he’d grab your wrists so you
couldn’t break free but that was it. His speech
was hesitant as was the way he moved.
He compensated with bright-eyed smiles
and non-sequitur comebacks. His folks took my
eleven-year- old brother to a steakhouse and
bought him a gift after their dachshund bit him
on the leg. No flurry of letters crossed
between houses. My mom sent a note saying
the injury wasn’t serious, but they felt bad.
The dad was a postman. I think the mom
was a nurse. The sister worked at Cumby’s but
not on the register. My parents said she was shy.
John planned to attend pharmacy college.
I don’t think he made it. Obituaries listed no
cause of death. Neither his nor sister’s a few
years later. Their parents died soon thereafter.
His sister locked no poems in a desk. No
cottage industry of scholars plumbed the family
history to solve the mystery of John’s mutant
soul. For all I know he hadn’t been
anything but sane and happy in the small white
cape near the cemetery all his life.
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Photo by Scott Allen /Flickr