Ha! Versatur Circa Quid! Has any fable (feeble or otherwise) been told in the first person? Methinks not. For those of you unlucky enough to be unacquainted with my humble works of genius, behold the vainglorious splendor of, I, Judge Jasper P. Montague, contentedly, fruitfully, and most certainly deceased. The unwashed refer to me as a common household poltergeist, but, in fact, I am a Quillemender.
From outside the coffee shop across the road, Julia watches Charlie Miller leave the diner. It starts to snow again and if she narrows her vision to exclude all else, she can almost believe that she is looking at an idyllic scene. Snowflakes drift softly through the golden glow emanating from the diner window. Waitresses move about inside with coffee pots, amid the chattering, happy diners. Charlie Miller, in jeans and cowboy boots, plaid flannel shirt poking out from a nondescript brown jacket, completes this perfect portrait of nostalgic Americana. But then he pauses outside the diner and crosses his arms in a tight knot across his chest. He stares straight ahead, as if he is viewing hell. The image of blood and clotted brain-matter leaps up before her eyes. She stuffs it back into the box too small to hold it, only to wait for the demented jack-in-the-box to spring again.
I remember being ten, eleven years old maybe, and running around in the summers when my old man was drunk off his ass on the couch in the frontroom, and my ma would open the back porch door and tell me to get out of the house for a couple of hours so she could get some peace and quiet. I would round up some other neighborhood kids—it didn’t really matter which ones, though usually Benzo and Pooce were along for the ride—and just run out as far as we could get from the block without interfering with anyone else’s turf. At that time, 1960, 1961, there were still a lot of what we used to call prairies around—empty lots. The lots could fool you if you weren’t careful. The grass in them was tall, tall enough that from the street it looked like you could just run right across them to the alley behind. But, really, there was a slope down from the sidewalk and another back up to the alley so the middle of the yard might be four feet or more down. You could run into one and be up to your armpits in weeds and get yourself a broken ankle to boot. That was something you learned as a little kid running through the neighborhood. So, when we’d come across a prairie on one of our runs, we’d be careful, especially if we didn’t know it real good, to go in sideways, one foot at a time, or better yet find a big rock or a stone and throw it in and see how far down it went before we jumped in. This was also true in cases of snow. Just something we learned.
My mother’s a piece of work. She’s an avant-garde throwback to prehistoric times. She’s a ruthless diva of danger. I love her and fear her in nearly equal measure. She has taught me valuable and obscure lessons. The following teachings standout at this point in my life.
I wanted to drink its blood.
Because it never wanted to know me.
But I didn’t bite.