I published a version of this in
Suicide Survivor Notes, back in 1989:
We went to Wisconsin to see a parade. Mom’s new boyfriend drove. His name was Vern and he was a fence. He decked her out in faux couture designer labels; baubles and rhinestones and furs of mock Sable. He lasted two months. Traci was six years old.
The parade was fun. We spent the day in a turn of the century greasy-spoon tavern run by a grizzled old couple who had been married fifty years. They served homemade ribs, fries, kraut, cornbread and dark beer. Mom insisted they sit down and relax with us while we feasted on their down home cooking. “Hillbilly vittles” she called them, just like the old South. The proprietors got sentimental over her the way strangers always did. That’s because my mother was a charmer, she had charisma. Down pat. I was worried. Don’t ask me why, but it felt wrong. Like something was going to happen. Nameless dread. I hated myself for it. I’d get a sense of impending doom; something bad would follow, and I’d blame myself for causing it, conjuring up evil by worrying it. She had me convinced I possessed this power, that I could walk into a room and bring it to ruin, which is where I got my grandiosity, in case you are interested in the development of grandiose personality disorders.
I had this feeling that day, very strong, so I withdrew into myself for the duration. I’d contract physically, shut down my senses and rise to the ceiling to watch it unfold hardly breathing until it was all over, I was that talented.
It would piss her off to see me withdraw like that — she’d call me a zombie and I suppose that’s how it looked, totally disconnected, while in truth my adrenaline would be rushing into overdrive. Sweat poured off me. Sweat is pouring off me right now, putting the words to paper, the memory of it. I was no zombie, I was monitoring. She was drinking a lot. And that’s another thing! How all these memories revolve around liquor, but how could that be when she never touched a drop in her life. That’s what she’d say, “I don’t drink, Robin. My friends do but I don’t. I can’t stand the taste, never touch the stuff.”
We had fun that day, this much is true. We were a family again. Mom, her fence, me, my sister, my brothers Marky and even Ricky was there. Busted out of Redwing Corrections, on the run as usual, we were stashing him again, teasing him, calling him the Fugitive, we were romantic when we came together as one, the notorious Plan Clan of petty crooks, grifters, and cons, and we were snobby about it too, calling ourselves outlaws because no one knew the word nihilist.
On the drive home my brothers were rhyming and goofing, out-grossing each other, playing air drums, partying like Little Richard. Mom and Traci were in the back seat, horsing around. Foolish fake fun fighting, a common diversion, nothing to get worked up about. I wanted it to stop. I was panicking inside I didn’t say squat I didn’t know why but I wanted it to stop. Stop playing. Before it’s too late. Stop before — somethings going to happen, can’t anyone see? Something’s coming oh god stop stop please Traci stop — and then she accidentally knocked mother’s wig crooked. Sparks flew fist frenzy mom beating Traci to a pulp jesus she’s bleeding can’t someone stop this — Vern pulls into a Pizza Hut, mom goes right on slamming Traci. She promised to stop hitting her if we’d just all get out of the car oh god she looked so insane she was so insane I’ll stop when we get out of the car let’s go get out of the car and I’ll stop. So we got out of the car and she snapped down the locks on all the doors and resumed beating my sister.
Vern rushed us kids into the restaurant and went back to the car. THIS IS WHEN ME AND MY BROTHERS SHOULD HAVE STARTED TALKING TO EACH OTHER ABOUT WHAT WAS GOING ON. But we ordered pizza instead, Vern told us to order some food.
When the three of them came in we ate a large pepperoni and drank Pepsi Cola from clear plastic pitchers like a normal family should. That’s what we were now, tentative, inward, serious, subdued, the way people are after a bomb goes off.
My sister, she remembers none of this. But today she’s a working girl whose gangsta crackhead jeri curled pimpass boyfriend handles her just like his predecessor did. Nice work mom. He is her exoneration, he has freed them both; mother and daughter remain very close, inseparable to the bone.