Monday, May 03, 2010

"The Ozone Slayer": Excerpt from "The Heir in Exile Never Returns", a Work in Progress

When I was very young and lived in Queens, our neighbor across the street shot his wife and his mother. Ultimately, he turned the gun on himself. The wife survived, but he and his mother died. It wasn’t his mother-in-law but his mother; she joined her daughter-in-law in an escalating argument with her son. Eleven minutes and eleven seconds later, she joined an exclusive group whose membership in two minutes and twenty-seven seconds would include her son: the dead. Man Kills Mother, Self During Assault On Wife.

The blood in our house rose from scraped knees and shaved chins. A week never produced enough to fill a thimble. People use phrases like “buckets of blood.” At the crime scene across the street, it looked like someone kicked the bucket over, refilled it, and heaved it against the wall oven. There was nothing in the oven.

Chances are I was at my dining room table rolling out clay snakes and curling up their green-grey bodies into braided rugs or diving for our wild puppy in the dry backyard and brushing the dead grass off my plaid Tough Skins as the neighbor across the street attempted to murder his wife. Three gunshots broke the dome of that mid-autumn morning silence, but my ears only heard my rustling on the lawn and Sandy yapping. Sandy was our Labrador retriever, named after the color of her coat. If I were naming dogs back in 1973, I’d have called her "Dry Grass On A Mid-Autumn Morning". It’s not the best name for a dog, but it’s better than "Murder Suicide Five Hundred Feet Away". Which is not good no matter how many feet away it happens.

I don’t remember the couple across the street or the slain grandmother of their two kids, although I’m told I occasionally played with the brothers. Certainly, I don’t recall the last time we rolled Tonka trucks on my front walk, but I’ll timestamp this unmemory November 12, 1973, five days before the shooting. My lack of awareness denied that event the title of “My First Encounter With Death.” The neighbors’ boys weren’t lucky enough to own a wild puppy that yapped at small clay hands and drowned out the sounds of gunshots and crying.

There’s no telling why some of us are left alone and others of us never lose anyone but ourselves.

Unpossessed Knowledge

The allure of belonging seems to be in the acquisition of unpossessed knowledge. Secret knowledge. Once knowledge is attained, interest in the group may wane. But by then, we often find ourselves too deeply embroidered into the association’s pattern.