Continued from Housemates

Meanwhile, mom was still coping with faulty plumbing. Who knew so many things could go wrong with toilets, faucets, and pipes? I have described Mr. Tracy as an older man, which to me he was. But, time plays funny tricks with age. As I look back now and do the math, well…he was in his 50’s. And mother? She was thirteen years younger than Mr. Tracy. Virginia, the neighbor so abused by her father, with her dated hair and glasses and utter lack of make-up, looked mother’s age but was probably in her late twenties. They all seemed so o-l-d! I think about these things now and realize that my sterile little neighborhood was thrumming with hormones and pheromones . . . good heavens! Even old-lady Boring was probably not a whole lot older than I am right now, though she looked and seemed ancient with her powdered wrinkles, cheap old-lady perfume, and compression hose.

One day returning from my friend’s house down the block, I was surprised to find that our house had acquired yet another pet. By this time, in addition to the lambs, we had the dog and her pups, two cats, and now a bird! Jerry, was a beautiful, blue-green parakeet. To keep him out of cat claw range, mother hung his cage from a plant hook screwed into the ceiling. Apparently Jerry had belonged to Mr. Tracy’s nine-year old daughter. But since Mrs. Tracy had died recently, Jerry, the parakeet, was not getting enough attention because Mr. Tracy didn’t have the time to care for him. Or some such story. I was excited because I thought Jerry would talk. But he never did. He just sang off key whenever Joan practiced the piano.

I never paid a lot of attention to the fact that mom was gone frequently after dinner. At first she’d send me next door to keep Mrs. Borher company. But eventually, she was gone for longer and longer in the evening and she’d come home to find me asleep on Mrs. Borhrer’s couch and Mrs. Borhrer rubbing nap-bleary eyes. So she began leaving me at home with Joan in charge. I loathed these evenings, as I suppose Joan did too. We invariably ended up in a spat and sometimes, circled each other like mismatched boxers.

Mother had joined a few clubs. These were her excuse for being out at night. Of course, as I said, I never thought to wonder about her disappearing acts. The notion that she might be on a date was the farthest thing from my mind. My mother was asexual. There was no talk of dating or husbands or any of that nonsense. As a matter of fact, some of the women she knew were desperate to get out of marriages. At one point, mother, had skipped town to avoid a legal summons from pair of her friends who were slamming each other around in divorce court. Mom didn’t want to be forced to take sides, so she simply left town for a week to avoid being served a subpoena. Joan stayed with a friend and I got to stay with my best friend down the street. It was a grand week during which I indulged in delicious PBJs on Wonder bread with smooth Skippy peanut butter and smooth Welches grape jelly. As I look back on it, I wonder, did she really visit the Red Desert alone, as she said? Or did she have company?