Memoirs: B2BCyber Convention and Book Expo
watch for My Impossible Life: Memoir by Charlene Jones
I stand in the red and white kitchen my mother painted. The cupboards have glass doors and my mother has pasted small decals of flowers —orange, yellow, white— on the bottom edge of each. She will slam those doors against their frame, screaming and slamming until the glass flies in all directions, the scattered shards of dark angels.
Not yet. Now she stands by the kitchen sink, her back to me, over the white porcelain. She talks to her budgie bird, “Pretty boy! Say it. Say “Pretty Boy.” Tell me, come on now, who’s a pretty boy?” She chirps like a bird, her voice sing song and the fowl, enchanted by my mother’s sounds, encouraged by her sweet face, charmed by her warmth lands on her shoulder. It shoves its beak into its feathers, then hops on etch-a-sketch bird legs back and forth across her shoulder, dipping its head in rhythm to its own skinny sound, “Pretty boy, who’s a pretty boy, achhhh.”
I stand on a chair, just tall enough for my arms to reach up to the top of the round, white fridge. That’s where the dirty yellow radio sits, its dials smiling at me. I am not allowed to touch.
In spite of this my fingers reach out. Without turning, my mother snaps her voice, “Don’t touch that.”
“I was just…”
“Don’t. Leave it where it is.”
Maybe it’s Connie Francis telling me Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool, or Bobby Darin yearning for his Dream Lover, or the Platters, Only You. My small body rocks with the music I love. Sometimes when the Platters come crooning through, my mother sings, her voice pitch perfect and I feel her velvet. That’s on the other days, when she may be making cookies, or peeling vegetables, her face smiling, her kind black- brown eyes suffused with love as she calls me, “honey.” That is the heaven of my short life.
Not now. No softness now. Her voice bites the air and I hear the warning. Her voice is the first. The leather belt hangs at the top of the basement stairs to her right. That is hell.
Did my mother know? Did she ever see my brother’s feral eyes peering at me, gloating with triumph after? Did she ever hear in his boy words the imperious humiliation he leveled at me, stripping me of emotional worth after he had invaded my body. For all her visionary ability I believe she was blind and deaf to him, her shining light. Birthed from a line of Scottish visionaries my mother’s mother, Gram, had been born with the caul on her face. Gram told me how her own visions began when she caught her waist length carrot red hair on the tracks of one of the first street cars, what she called a trolley, in Toronto. Outside the door of their convenience store my grandmother’s screams pierced the air where the conductor slammed the brakes on, the smell of electricity acrid in his nostrils, relieved to see as he jumped down only the shining tresses of my grandmother’s precious hair wound ever more tightly into his wheel, which had attempted and failed to pull my grandmother’s head toward its demise and Mama, her one good eye trained on her only daughter, running with the scissors, clipped her daughter free.
My Great Grandmother, that Mama, stands behind her two small children in the picture from 1905. Taken when they first landed in the great New World, my Great Grandmother’s one good eye stared down the present, peered through its veils into a future she found more tolerable the more she consumed the alcohol that fueled her blood.
Did he pluck the eye from her, that man, my biological Great Grandfather? His shadow seeps across the dock in Edinburgh where, toddlers in hand, surrounded by crates of silver cutlery, crystal vases, bowls, glasses, china the detritus of a marriage gone wrong, my Great Grandmother scans across the dangerous voyage before her to a land of safety.
Her Sight, and love of alcohol, ran true in my grandmother’s blood, sang in her sleep all the nights of her life, whispering to her cells secrets of the future. I believe this because my mother had the Sight. I believe this because that knowing dances in my blood too.
Visions in dreams: as a child a single dream of horror returned three times: a green valley of slime. I want out! The first two times I scramble up the sides, driven by instinct to the top of the sides where I hoist myself up. Through broken concrete I look back and see the bloodied stumps of what remains of my legs.
The third time I have the dream I refuse that thrust and walk, terrified to the end of the valley. The dream tucked itself away in an inside pocket I didn’t know I had.
It returned in the middle of the three days I was held hostage by two criminals, Al and Gary, who splayed a man’s flesh to shreds with a sawed off shot gun, the smell of that blood fingering through my nostrils, flying back out through my mouth in bile and gorge.
“We’re going out that door. You can run. The highway is 12 miles in that direction,” Al’s sneer twists his face, his finger points. “But we’ll come after you.”
“And shoot me dead.”
“No,” triumph in his voice, “No, we won’t shoot you. We’ll shoot the legs out from under you and leave you for the animals to eat.” The dream springs out of hiding, green slime splashing across my inner vision.
My Impossible Life - Teaser 2!
My Impossible Life - Teaser 3!
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