Ten to Twelve

He was just ten years old back in 1965.
Living with his mom and step dad out in the country.
The water tasted like iron because it came from an artesian well.
They lived next to Astico park on the river.
They had moved there from Milwaukee where the lived from 1961.

One day they told him that they were moving to Alabama to stay with some friends
that they knew in Milwaukee.
He and his mother got on a Greyhound bus leaving his step dad behind to come down later.

In Alabama they lived in a house out in the country.
With his mothers friend, her husband, and four kids.
There were coffee cans throughout the house for their chewing tobacco spittle.
The kids would have to go cut a switch to be beat with when they did something wrong.

He went to school in a little town called Grove Hill.
He had to get up early to ride the school bus.
Once he asked the teacher if he could go and use the bathroom.
All of the kids laughed and asked if he was going to take a bath.

He would go out and explore the area around where they lived.
He would wonder through the woods and down the dirt roads.
He would blow up fire ant hills with M80 firecrackers.
He found a little stream that was a very pleasant place to be.

One day at school the teacher asked if any of the kids thought they were poor.
He raised his hand.
When the teacher asked him why he said it was because he had hardly any clothes to wear
and nothing of his own.
Some days later when his mom and step dad asked him if he told the teacher he was poor
he told them that he did

It wasn't too long before they were in a car traveling to New Orleans.
After arriving in New Orleans they were approaching a red light.
Step dad put on the brake but nothing happened.
He tried again, and again and they simply rolled right through the intersection.
Luckily they didn't get hit and were not seen by a police officer.

They stayed in a mobile home someplace in New Orleans.
Step dad would be gone for many hours while mom would sit around and play Yahtse.
It was right around Christmas time.
After about a week they were back in the car and headed for Oklahoma.

When they got to Oklahoma they stayed at another friends house.
It was a very nice ranch style next to an open field.
The field was full of fireflies and the boy went out and caught some in a jar.
When he took a bath later he took the jar with him.
He noticed that the fireflies would die in the jar and didn't want to catch anymore.

They wound up in a town called Sapulpa
They lived in a one bedroom apartment above a garage.
He didn't have a bedroom.
He had a bed in a corner of the living room with a curtain around it.
His school was within walking distance.
He would get up in the morning and watch cartoons before walking to school.

He made a friend in Sapulpa name Shane.
He even had a sleepover at Shane's house.
He also encountered a bully name Tony.
Tony would torment him daily and punch him in the solar plexus.

His mom worked at a Tastee Freez.
He would go there after school and his mom would make a foot long chili dog for him.
He just loved those foot long chili dogs.

Then one day on the way home he had an encounter with Tony.
It seemed Tony had decided that the two of them were going to fight.
And so the two of them wound up in a wrestling match that seemed to go on forever.
At one point he had Tony in an arm lock on the ground.
He could hear all of the other kids yelling, "break his arm, break his arm."
He tried and tried with all of his might but this eleven year old boy just could not do it.
Before long Tony managed to slip out of the arm lock.
Eventually, Tony was in the position where he was sitting on the boys chest.
Tony asked if he wanted to give up or keep on fighting.
Being very tired of this never ending fight, he decided to give up.
Tony got up and gloated.
But he could hear the other kids all remarking how he almost beat Tony.
Tony never bothered him after that.

His step dad was a truck driver so most of the time it was just him and his mother at home.
One night he was awakened to find his step dad chasing another man out of their bedroom.
His step dad swung a wooden chair at the man so hard that it broke into splinters from the momentum.
The man in the bedroom ran so fast that he looked like a blur.

It wasn't long after that that they moved to Tulsa.
They lived in a small downstairs apartment in the back of a house.
At least he had his own bedroom.
They gave him a pocket knife and told him to hang on to it in case he needed it.
In the upstairs apartment in the house behind theirs there lived a little Cherokee
girl that he found very pretty.
He liked playing with her whenever he had the chance.

There was a tree in front of the house that was good for climbing.
He would wait until after dark to go out and climb the tree.
He would climb up the tree, take off all of his clothes and sit above the traffic naked.
He found a particular kind of thrill in sitting up in that tree naked while the traffic went by underneath.

One day his step dad told him that his mother might be behaving rather strangely.
She was taking some kind of diet pills that was altering her behavior.
His mother came to him one day in his bedroom accusing him of hiding something from her.
She made him strip down to his underwear while she searched his clothes.
That was the last time he saw her for a very long time.

He soon found himself at some strangers house.
They had four kids that he would watch when they went out.
It wasn't long before he found himself riding in the sleeper of an eighteen wheeler.
His step dad rode in the passenger seat while someone else drove.
Before long he found himself back in Beaver Dam.
Back to live with grandma and grandpa again.

Michael R. Roth

Archived 9/27/2015