Uncle escaped. He took a handgun and descended into the cellar, and the air resonated with the muffled sounds of a car backfiring. I hardly knew either of them, he or Auntie. Daddy said he did it to get away from her. That may be. Anyway, he left a fortune. A million, Daddy said, at a time when a new Cadillac could be had for less than four grand.
Today a Caddy is forty grand, Auntie is polluting the soil, my hair is silver, and I can say with neither boast nor shame, that I have not known another human critter whom I yet despise. Sitting at this keyboard, I cannot name another. Surely one exists, I’m not that angelic, but I can’t produce one at the moment. This is not owing to faulty memory; something much more splendid, and no credit to me.
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But Auntie wronged Mom. A wretched soul, she wronged others, too; others whom I love. Those happenings I’ve dismissed. But not Mom’s.
We were the poor kin, the black sheep, victims of Daddy’s wanderlust. Poverty earns you that status when the others have money. And now an injury prevented Daddy working, so Mom accepted the role of breadwinner with the same grace and humor that she accepted all of life.
She must provide a house and food, car and clothes for a family of five. And she did. For years, she hunkered over a sewing machine in a dimly lit corner of a dry cleaners for fifty-two cents an hour. She made our shirts and the patches for our jeans. Patched, but clean and ironed when we set out for school.
The house, a recycled army barracks, had neither inside walls, nor plumbing, atfirst, but it was home. Tonight’s beans and potatoes vary from last nights only in the way they are prepared. Hey wait! These are last night’s. I knew that. Though the youngest, and a male, I was assigned the evening meals … and helping Mom wash at the old wringer-type machine.
I surprised her once. I had the washing done and hanging on the line. She …