Saturday, November 8, 2008

Section 4

Saturday morning. A little hungover, listening to the Sights' myspace (link found on the sidebar), wishing someone would put them back on a label.

Below find Section 4 of "From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt." This is the section that introduces Maggie, the eldest sibling in the family.


Slightly contemplative in a sweater.


It always comes at the worst time doesn’t it? Just when things seem like they are going to get the most frustrating and I know I’m going to become fussy the cramps hit me and then the rest follows. I’m passing the 7-11 and I make a right on Shaker Drive across from the train station. I haven’t been home in a long time. I couldn’t make it to Easter and of course Mom was upset about that.

On the phone. “You’re the oldest. You know how important that is to set the examples for your brothers and sisters. The piety begins with you.”

“Oh, come on, Mom. We’re not kids anymore.”

“It doesn’t end there, Margaret.”

“Mom, you know I’d make it if I could, but work…”

“Yes, work.”

“I have to stay.”

“You were always the oldest.”

I laughed. “That’s a bit obvious.”

“The most adventurous and I always loved that about you. But your brothers and sisters they…”

“I’m not James, Mom.”

“Yes, James.”

I didn’t know how badly off she was then. I spoke to her after of course but that would’ve been one of the last chances to see her. I could’ve come in the summer. Taken a train down to New York and then hop on Tom’s beloved LIRR and come home. Take a swim in those Long Island waters. But I didn’t. And now I’m back to Shaker Hill at the four way stop where it intersects with Meadow Street. On the right is the angular white corner house where Zach Roper used to live. The green shutters still look the same and so do the pink phlox flowers growing right by the stop sign. Something in me always had to get away from here. I felt a certain suffocation at all times growing up. I don’t have the poise of James, his patience in letting things come to him. Now he’s married and three and a half years younger than me. I always expected one of us to have part of Dad’s curse. Him more than me since he was the first boy. But sometimes I think it’s me who inherited Dad’s freewheeling nature. The way he didn’t want to be pinned down. I can remember vaguely from childhood when he was drinking and coming in late. That was before he started the practice with Uncle Connor. He thought he could be a comic or an actor. Maybe that was why Mom fell in love with him in the first place. She was the complete opposite, patient and levelheaded. That’s where James must have gotten it. I guess he’s the perfect mixture of the two. “A born leader,” Dad used to say. “A bleader.”

And me? The oldest maybe I’ve been the disappointment. Never ready to receive responsibility but always ready to move on. I think I’ve done alright, though. I’ve got an apartment in Boston. I’ve got a good job at the magazine. I get to travel. Yet, I pass those old ivy-lined brick buildings of the Clark School and I begin to get goose bumps. I’m afraid to be recognized by anyone from these sand-lined streets. James could always accept that, but I can’t. And, even though Tom has remained close to home, I know that he shares the same feelings as I do. The repulsion of this little island of ignorance and self-importance. Hugging to Manhattan for dear life or a reason to exist. I roll my window down and turn onto Tallmadge St. I smell honeysuckles and the always-indirect scent of hot wet grass. I know somewhere above and beyond the trees the sound is sitting there lapping and lapping. My car rolls down the little hill of Tallmadge and begins to climb up the big one. As the engine works its way to the top, I can make out the black gate. I see Tom’s car and I see James’ car. Green and Blue. Mine is white. Dad’s is black and probably in the garage next to Mom’s, which is silver.

I park the car and feel the urge to eat the blackberries along the side of the house underneath my old window. Now, I’m out of the car into the September sunlight and I can really smell the honeysuckles. They will probably die soon. Mom beat them to it.

Maybe when this house is empty I’ll finally understand what I’m missing.

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