Nov 10, 2014

A Three-Year Period of Relative Prosperity

During a three-year period of relative prosperity, my parents owned a house in Regina, Saskatchewan. A couple of towering coniferous trees flanked the walkway that ran perpendicularly up from the sidewalk to the concrete porch at the front of the house. No grass grew beneath the trees, and tiny wriggling green worms dangled from whatever horrendous stuff tiny wriggling green worms use to dangle from the spiny brown needles of coniferous trees.  

The house had a basement apartment, and when there was no tenant, which was often, we would play hide and seek in the empty rooms. I once shimmied my way up the walls of a bedroom closet and hid on the top shelf and no one could find me. I liked being unfound. There was a fist-sized hole in the plaster of one of the walls from when a renter had punched through it.
The boy who lived next door was named Regan Doyle. He went to my school and had straight brown hair that hung in his eyes and wore thick glasses and I would climb the tree next to the back porch and spy on him while he played in his backyard. I was good at climbing trees.

The house sat on a corner lot. One year, my parents decided to put a curving concrete path leading from the sidewalk at the side of the house to the backyard. During the construction of this path, my father accidentally smashed my mother's middle finger with a sledgehammer. If you feel the end of her finger, you can feel the bone there, too close to the surface. They planted a Japanese maple next to the curve in the path.

My little brother and I used my dad's old trailer as a clubhouse. We normally used the trailer to pack our stuff into when we moved from one basement apartment to the next, but we were stationary at present. The trailer was enclosed and painted bright blue on the outside and had a padlock on the door and sloped down where the hitch rested on the ground. We hung posters on the interior walls and sat on the sloping floor and read Archie comic books and my brother filled empty Windex bottles with grasshoppers from the field behind our house and then filled them up with water and shook them. When we ran through the field, which was a hockey rink in the winter, a blizzard of grasshoppers would rise up around us like a biblical plague.

In basement rec rooms, we kids watched black and white zombie movies and listened to KISS and Madonna on cassette, fast forwarding and rewinding to get to the good songs. We played Spin the Bottle with empty Pic-A-Pops, and one day I tripped my best friend while she was slow dancing with her boyfriend so that they would fall on top of each other and she broke all the bones in her right foot.

In the winter, sometimes the older boys would let me play goalie. In the small wooden building we would change into our skates in so our feet and fingers didn't freeze off, they smoked cigarettes that didn't smell like my parents' cigarettes and swore and showed me the Playboy magazines they brought with them.    

One afternoon I came home from school to find my mother standing at the sink in the kitchen, silently smashing dinner plates on the linoleum floor.

Another afternoon I came home from school to find my mother standing at the sink in the kitchen, my father standing behind her with his hands up under her shirt, holding her small breasts.

Shortly after my twelfth birthday, my dad lost his job again and we put the house up for sale and my brother and I took down the posters and I said goodbye to the trees and the tiny wriggling green worms and the boy next door and the Japanese maple and the neighbourhood kids and the hockey rink and my parents packed our stuff into the old blue trailer and we set out east across the endless Canadian prairie.