Funny how the house had looked bigger at ten than it did at forty.
I grew up in that little ‘big’ house on Jones Street until my poppa got laid off at the auto parts plant and we moved back in with Grammy and Gramps. “Temporary” was what Momma and Pop called it, just temporary until Pop got another job.
Pop took to drinking and temporary became permanent until Pop was killed crossing the railroad track taking a short cut home. He wanted to save the quarter mile it took to use the overpass. The preacher never mentioned Pop being drunk or anything when we buried my poppa. Momma knew and I knew. Grammy and Gramps knew and made excuses, saying their only son had pressures no man should have to bear. It was a wonderful excuse but it didn’t bring him back.
Momma joined Pop less than a year later. Some say it was cancer. I say it was a broken heart. By the time I was 13 I was too much for the old folks to handle. I cringe with embarrassment when I think of calling them “old folks” now. They didn’t deserve that. And it was just one of many disrespects I paid them they didn’t deserve.
That little old house didn’t look as big through my forty year old eyes. The neighborhood didn’t look so grand either – trash in the gutters, potholes in the street and more junk cars in the yards than down at the junkyard. Of course they crushed them at the junkyard and shipped the scrap off to Birmingham.
Most of the cars on Jones Street had a good start on being crushed. Nobody had the money or the pride to have the scrapes, dents and mashed in fenders properly fixed. If the damage could be beaten out and the clunker still ran, that was good enough. No sir, not a lot of pride on Jones Street. Not a lot of self-respect either.
So what was I doing standing in front of that little house that used to be in my eyes, so big? A lot had gone down in the twenty-seven years since I ran away to Birmingham. I’d seen the world, a kindly judge saw to that and I’d developed my own personal relationship with beverage alcohol. As you might guess I accumulated a vast storehouse of useless knowledge. Useless knowledge is what the bars provide its steady customers.
In the Navy I earned to wash my hands BEFORE I took a piss – dirty hands really messed up a clean set of whites after 4 or 5 hours of renting beer. The first few times of being out with the boys after boot camp, my fly looked like I worked in the coal mines. Knowing to wash your hands before you piss to keep your fly clean is what I call useless knowledge.
My first marriage was a hoot. My “bride” went on base to have herself added as a dependent. That went really well. My CO sent me down to see the legal people as soon as Personnel let him know. Seems like this was a popular ploy for benefits and citizenship in the United States. The advice I got from that legal eagle wasn’t useless and I made good use of it the rest of my life. You don’t have to marry them to get laid.
My second and third marriages were different. Both women like to drink and fuck and neither needed me there to do it. Some anonymous somebody wrote a poem about my last two marriages:
Two pillows covered in lace, two young lovers lying face to face. Two hands full of tit, two mouths full of tongue. Pussy full of peter and too drunk to cum.
Do you need any more or do you get the picture? One morning I ‘got the picture.’ I woke up on a couch not knowing where I was and before I could even get to the bathroom to puke my life passed before my eyes. My life was in the toilet swirling round and round waiting to flush out.
I sat there on the toilet with my head in my hands. Was there any hope for me? One more missed day of work and I was out of a job. Job? I suppose you could call changing flat tires and sweeping up at a service station a job. I was a qualified radio/computer technician, a trade the Navy paid for but with my reputation I couldn’t get another job in that field.
I checked my ‘card case’, no need call it a billfold. It was empty and I was broke. I think puking and the DTs helped me; I felt so much better after they were over. I eased out of the apartment I was in and hit the streets. After walking a mile or so trying to determine where I was, I ran across, stumbled really, a main drag I recognized. It only took another 35 minutes to walk to work. (Somewhere there was a country songwriter watching me, planning to write a big hit based on my life.)
Glad to be early to work I used the men’s room to wash my face and change into my coveralls. Boy did they smell. I wondered if somebody could have pissed them during the night. Let’s cut to the chase. I used the phone and called AA. I silently wondered if they knew all the smart remarks I’d made about them. The man who called me back made arrangements for someone to pick me up and take me to a meeting that very night. They thanked me for calling and hung up. That was different. It had been a long time since somebody thanked ME for calling.
It’s been seven and a half years since I made that call. I’m standing here on Jones Street looking at the little house I grew up in. It took a little persuasion to get the slum lord owner to sell it to me and I probably paid more than it was worth – worth to him that is.
I bent over and picked up a piece of trash off the sidewalk. It was the first improvement on that property but it won’t be the last. No sir. My wasted life wasn’t saved for nothing. Jones Street is just the beginning of paying it forward for this ex-drunk.