swampchild.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpts

from Skybluepink

 

Chapter One

Like many good Catholic girls of the 1950s, my mother saved her virginity for the right car. You mustn’t think me cold for saying that, the manner of my conception doesn’t matter to me one way or another. It was Mother who always made such a big deal out of the whole affair. From my earliest awareness, I knew that I was conceived not in love, or even mutual lust, that my very existence was purely the by-product of Detroit engineering.

 

Chapter Three

One special Saturday, the Beige Electra cruised around the corner and up to it’s usual spot at the end of our long dirt driveway, pulling up close to the front door so that Grandma wouldn’t have far to walk. At first I was confused because there were two men in the front seat, but to my relief, I quickly spotted Grandma in the back, the sunlight catching the tiny glass beads in her hair net, sparkling with color. I jumped up, trying to see her through the window from my five-year-old vantage point.
I ask you, if God didn’t want us to be sexual creatures then why did he make us so that we spend at least three years of our lives with our faces at crotch level to everybody else?
Next to her in the back seat was an amazing conglomeration that I really couldn’t decipher, though later I would describe it as looking like a pile of a drag queen’s laundry. The two gentlemen got out of the Buick and, in perfect tandem, opened the two rear doors to the vehicle. I ran up to get my kiss from Grandma, hugging wasn’t done in our family, any display of that kind was swiftly knocked away. Turning around after that sweet Grandma kiss, I saw the apparition that I had gotten a glimpse of earlier coming around the hood of the car.
Under it was a woman, an amazing vision to anyone I suppose, much less to a five-year-old swamp child. She wore cat eye sunglasses with rhinestones at the corners, a dark purple dress that shimmered; the buttons had rhinestones on them too, and on her feet were gold lame slippers. With her eyes as glued to me as mine were to her, she took a step toward us, and right into a steaming pile left by one of the hounds. “OH SHIT!” she spat “DOGGIE DOO-DOO!”
I felt that wonderful and warm gnarled old hand that I loved so much on my shoulder as Grandma said, “Mikie, this is your aunt Effie.”

I was frozen, glamorized by the sparkling Effie and yet fearful that I would be yelled at for the dog shit. Effie seemed to be frozen too, with one hand gingerly pulling off the offending slipper, while the other reached to shake mine.
“Mikie, now be a gentleman and help your Auntie Effie.” Grandma whispered. I sprang into action like a frog in a frying pan to help this glittering creature; I would have tried to carry her if Grandma told me to. Later during the weekend, I overheard Effie telling my mother “What a fey child you have Patricia.” I knew fey had to be a good word, it just had to be. “He seems like he is somewhere else really, like the angels misplaced him.” “More like they dropped him on his head,” Mother grumbled. Amazing how little minds can capture and remember such small exchanges isn’t it?
I spent that entire visit making a complete nuisance of myself by trying to spend as much time with the two older women as I could. Mother always sat with the men at these gatherings, since they talked about money and hunting. So this meant that there were no parents around to inhibit or censor my efforts. Anyway, I soaked up every ounce of every waking moment during that visit, savoring the slightest glance my way, intent on the magnificent Effie McAdoo, while at the same time making sure that I was never too far from Grandma.
wore on her head. Peeking into my bedroom that night, where I was curled up with three otter orphans that we were raising, she shrieked “Patrishuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhh!
They’s rats in the bay-id with Mikie!”
“What?” Mother yelled back from the other end of the hall.
“They is a bunch of rats in the bey-id with Mikie!” Effie repeated. “Oh, he’ll be fine,” Mother said “they sleep with him every night.”
I can only suppose and pray that someone had the kindness of heart to tell the poor woman that the critters were otter pups, not rats.
Later in the weekend, Effie discovered our emus, and seeing supplies for a dozen hats on the hoof was just too much to resist, resulting in panicked screams coming from the yard. “TOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNYYYY! Leo! They’s a ostrich after meeeeeeeee!”

 

Chapter Seven

Human skulls, Mastodon teeth, fossils and pirate treasure all sat around on shelves in the room outside mine. The heads of deer and other big game sprouted from the walls to look over the deep freezer that held the rest of them.
One weekend I had tied Mary to a tree in her trademark outfit of white buckle shoes and ruffled panties and was preparing to throw knives at her like I had seen on the Ed Sullivan Show.
In a rare fit of maternal concern, Mother came running out. “What do you think you are doing?” “I’m going to throw these knives all around Mary.” I answered matter of factly. “Not with my good steak knives,” Mother said, taking them from me, “they were a wedding gift.” I hadn’t intended to hurt my little sis, and she knew that. What became apparent to both of us were our mother’s priorities.

Chapter Eleven

One by one, Julia polled the people gathered in the great room of Williamswood Castle; “Vicki, why are you here this evening?”
“I’m here because of Michael,” Vicki replied with a grin. “Michael, you’re just everybody’s hero here tonight,” laughed Cecilia, referring to the fact that several other people had named me as the reason that they were there that night.
“No, it’s not like that,” Vicki quickly interjected. “I am here because Michael invited me to tea. I was alone and I was scared, just about to go back on crack. But Michael invited me to tea at his house. I didn’t want no preachin about me havin AIDS and havin to stay healthy and all that, and I sure didn’t want nobody talking about how I never was gonna see my baby agin if I fucked up agin. But I’d never been to somebody’s house for tea for real, so I went.”
“Now, I have an apartment. I’m still clean, and I may be gettin my baby back soon. So, if Michael says that I oughta be here, then I’m here.”I turned my face down so that no one would see how red it was. This wasn’t modesty, false or otherwise. I was terrified by Vicki’s accolades. I’d learned the hard way that when people put you on a pedestal, it’s only a matter of time before they start throwing rocks.
I was good with one on one, particularly if the other one was ill or in distress. I was also pretty good when it came to speaking to a group or even crowd, as I’d done at the college a few days before.
But we were here to form a group. The Knoxville chapter of NAPWA, the National Association of Persons With AIDS. Groups, including those made up of friends, or those made up of the whole of humanity, were not at all my forte. It was in groups that all of my flaws glared most loudly, where the fact that I was an outsider was most apparent.
Half an hour later, when it came time to pick officers for our chapter, I quickly offered my help and support, but made it clear in no uncertain terms that I would not hold a post of authority within the chapter. Blessedly, my wishes were respected.
It could be argued successfully that Williamswood would be a much better setting for Middle East peace talks than Camp David has proved to be. An English castle in east Tennessee, it is the ongoing creation of our hostess that evening, Julia.

 

Chapter Fifteen

I found some ladies foundation manikins behind the local shopping center, which we soon put to use as pool floats. Always adaptable, Mary and I fit right in when Mother started bringing in drunken revelers after closing time, first from the country club, and then from the Red Lion, the local gay bar.
I had been to the bar because I had been with the owner, a little trick of the trade I had picked up back in New Orleans. After it was sold it became a private club, where you bring your own bottle and pay for the set ups. It wasn’t strictly legal, but then I was able to actually go with Mother, relishing this new togetherness.
The owner of the old bar was eventually arrested for fucking a twelve year old boy and committed suicide. I didn’t think that he deserved to die, but I thought that he should at least be arrested for wearing black dress socks when he fucked.
 

Chapter Seventeen

“God, the things I have seen, done and experienced in the black desert night,” I thought as the last lights of Luxor disappeared and the midnight train to Cairo plunged into darkness.
My arrival in Luxor was far less of a deal than my departure had been. When it was time to board this train, Mr. Ibrihim, the owner of the Happyland Hotel, had insisted on paying for a taxi for me, and I was met at the station by several well wishers who were still there waving as the train pulled out of the station. Over time, I have learned to deal with this kind of attention, even when I am not sure quite why I am receiving it.
Arriving by ferry in Kusadasi, Turkey, people yelled my name through the chain link before I could get through customs. One friend of mine had gotten miffed when we got off the bus in Goreme after an overnight ride from Istanbul, and people came running across the square, again, shouting my name.
On second thought, maybe I do know why I get all of that attention in these places. Maybe I am treated like I am something special because I made each of the people involved feel like they were special at some point. It’s a powerful gift to give someone.
It was probably intensified by my state of mind, but Luxor had been a series of shocks almost from the moment I arrived. There were beggars and dirt, I was used to that. I was also somewhat immune to hawkers of various tourist wares and services from my years in the region. This wasn’t my first Middle Eastern rodeo.
Leaving the Happyland after checking in the first morning, I followed the road to where it splits at the temple. This being my first time in upper Egypt, I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see the tatty little Mosque slapped down in the middle of the lotus pillars and the McDonald’s towering over it all. I veered left, to walk along the Nile, and was immediately approached by the first of what would be dozens of felucca operators wanting me to charter his craft for a trip to Banana Island. “You want to go with me to Banana Island and see the big banana? You want to eat some big banana?” he happily queried with a huge smile on his handsome bronze face letting me know that the double entendre was indeed intentional. After a few minutes of his charming sales pitch, I managed to get away, mumbling that universal tourist copout, “Maybe tomorrow.”

Chapter Twenty Six

It has been my observation that when someone is sick, they quickly start dreading that catch 22 question, “How are you today?” Knowing that this was very true with Jack, I devised a way to find out how things were going without taking that route. Each day I would ask, ‘What would make life splendid today?’ and Jack would answer. At first, it was a trip to Europe. Then, a splendid life meant going out to the movies with friends. Later, it meant simply being able to pet his dog. The definitions changed with the season’s and his decaying health, but we all were dedicated to making each day as splendid as possible.”


Chapter Twenty Nine

Daniel had Organic Brain Syndrome, where your brain gets eaten away kind of like a sponge. Those who suffer from this cruel disease lose their humanness. They will forget to use their hands and eat food right off of the plate for instance, or defecate on the floor. It is also an extremely painful disease.
Daniel wasn’t yet too far gone when I arrived, which was a blessing to me, I can tell you, because that meant that he was making lucid decisions. We had agreed that if one of us found the other in a state or position to not be able to make this decision, then the other one would.
Sometimes life is like the movies and sometimes it isn’t. Daniel had made his decision. He had the pills, but unlike the famous movie, he had no one to hold him. I am weeping as I write this, which is why I have told a bit of a fib when describing my encounter with euthanasia before, because the memory of the real version makes me break down every time. Daniel was an incredible force of love and compassion, who had held me back in San Francisco when the strain would almost make me collapse, and I had done the same for him. I wasn’t just losing another incredible friend, I was losing a role model that I had made this promise to, who had traveled a road with me that few others would ever know myself up on his pile of pillows. Then sweet Daniel lay down on his back between my legs so that the back of his head rested on my heart. I had done this quite a few times with strangers so that my whispered voice could become anyone they wanted.
We put on Piaf and I told him all of my sillier and happier stories of my time in Greece, leaving out the sick people of course. Daniel laughed and asked me some intimate questions about my adventures and Greek men. As our last conversation progressed, he became slower and more slurred. I began to softly sing silly songs into his ear, ever so softly. Finally, it was like the body on top of me had become a water balloon, which is the best description I can think of for what “dead weight” feels like.
I got out from under him and then knelt by the side of the bed with both of my hands clasping his left one. I stayed that way for an hour or so softly singing him on his way, before kissing his forehead and leaving, taking a bus to New Orleans and Chey’s
 

***

My lips began doing embarrassing spasms when the Princess of Wales came into the room, her eyes glued to John, who she greeted by name, and then turning to me said “Hello, I’m Diana.” Every time I come across from some pissy queen or arrogant snob, I think of that moment, when the most famous woman on earth, mother of the future king of England, was so gracious as to introduce herself, putting us on equal footing.