“If you study history it’s patently obvious that God is not going to intervene. That’s up to the people, that’s what the second coming is all about.” Jane Lee Randall
Chapter 1 - 1975
I was ten years old the summer my feet turned to concrete. Being a chubby child I was already an embarrassment to my mother, the Queen of Door Proper, so I’d learned early to dislike myself intensely and stay hidden in quiet shadow. The problem was my concrete feet made me noisy, my concrete feet made me visible; my concrete feet turned my mother, bi-polar on a good day, into a shrieking harridan. She shrieked day in, day out, and it was such an ugly sound blackbirds fell out the sky and people took to wearing sound-proof earmuffs made from recycled polyester.
My father, retired military and solution oriented, decided to chop off my feet. He strapped me down on top the potting table off the patio, said this will hurt me more than it hurts you, and swung the axe up over his head. I closed my eyes, trying desperately to put myself to sleep — whenever I was scared I put myself to sleep — at which point my slut brother Elbert burst through the privet hedge hollering, ‘EA EA MORRIGAN!’ and threw an open box of rattlesnakes at him. Rattlesnakes hate to be boxed so they hit the ground in a biting mood. To this day the mental polaroid of my father jumping up and down, chopping at snake heads screaming for a gun fills me with a subtle pleasure.
Mother shrieked on and after two months my father finally broke down and sent for my very rich Uncle Julian. My father couldn’t stand my very rich Uncle Julian — he'd married up when he’d married my mother and Uncle Julie never let him forget it — but, it was a desperate time calling for desperate measures. My mother, whose beauty was so intense she was once named the eight wonder of the world, was turning into an ugly, stinking toad woman. Everyday she was squatter, more bulbous, more inclined to hop the halls, and worst of all she knew it was happening.
“Someone must pay for this,” Uncle Julian said, watching the repetitive up on two legs, down on all fours, creepy forward motion of his beloved baby sister. “Whoever did this has to pay. And my father agreed. They got to drinking bourbon, then they got to shooting rattlesnakes, and then they got around to me. ________________________ Bat dark and jittery, my slut brother Elbert skimmed up Persian wrapped stairs into the back attic where he stashed his marijuana and quludes. Elbert was speeding his brains out and just back from a new punk club on Bickle Lake outside Tap Town. He saw a passed out, partial naked father. He saw a passed out naked Uncle Julian. He thought, “How fucking weird is this?” Then he saw his chunky, baby sister and pretty much lost it.
Elbert half-dragged, half-carried me out the house and down the driveway. He was sixteen and crying, “I can’t believe they did this, I can’t believe they did this. My God! My God! I can’t believe they did this!”
I remember the collared, choking sound of the words, rivets of black mascara coursing down his chalk pale face. I remember the coming green of the cypress trees lining the driveway. He landed me gentle on the cool seat of the grounds jeep, but I would not let go of his neck.
“Let go sweetie,” he said, “I’m getting you out of here.” I was blinking in and out the grays. “They’re no doors Elbert,” I said, sticking my arm out where the door should be. “You’re fine baby sister, strapped in tight.” The jeep went fast, the jeep jerked a hard stop. Stars shot out my forehead. “Open the goddamn gate,” Elbert demanded. Paul of Mourning stood thick, legs apart, arms across his chest “Elbert, there’s no roof,” I said, peering up out my one still open eye. “I said open the goddam gate,” Elbert repeated. Paul of Mourning held his ground. “I will kill you,” Elbert said, real flat. A boy true to his word my brother, everybody knew that. The gate queried, punctured out. I dissolved into thick liquid color. Quietude.
***************** The fat wheels of the Red Bus shaped and shifted like bags of cats fighting to get out. That kind of lurching adaptability works well on the pockmarked roads that run through the Scrub but it’s pure undulated hell if you’re traveling as cargo.
“You’re too kind for this freak show, baby sister,” Elbert said. Pressing a kiss to my forehead, he lowered the top to the crate, fit it just so, and started to hammer. “Elbert,” I whispered. “Elbert, please.” “Trust me Janie,” he said.
The crate was the sole occupant of the underbelly of the bus and much to its sawed delight had room to move. In the roiling black I smelled sparks and hot wood. The loud of it all made me scream but no one could hear and I split in two. One half of me was the girl who’d grown up in my mother’s house, which some kindly, unseen force steamrolled into sleep, the other half was the girl becoming seen for the first time by my Uncle Gabriel when he pried open the crate with a crow-bar.
“Hello Jane Lee,” he said. “The packing slip says you’re my niece. I'm your Uncle Gabriel."
I’d no idea I had an Uncle Gabriel. The man's voice was spun of river current, threaded through with kindness, and when he reached out his hand I took it even though he looked to be a giant and a crazy man. His hair was dark brown, shot through with gray, and stuck straight out. His eyes were blue with silver flecks, and changing like light on water. He helped me out the crate, we were in the kitchen, and the tiny, tiny, toy-sized livestock started lowing, oinking and bleating. Seriously, there were tiny, tiny, toy-sized livestock lowing, oinking and bleating, covering at least half the kitchen floor. All I could think was oh-my-god-I’m-visible-and-I’ve-shrunk-his cows-his pigs-his goats, and-his sheep. I dove back into the crate, tucked in tight, flattened out, and wrapped sheets of darkness around me. Uncle Gabe looked confused.
“It’s okay Janie,” he said. “Nothing and no one is going to hurt you here.” I didn’t say anything. “You come out when you want, sweetheart,” he said. And with that he went about making dinner, talking to himself the entire time. It was a rousing conversation.
Uncle Gabriel called out goodnight, said he’d left a sandwich on the counter for me in case I got hungry, and blankets and pillows on the couch in the living room in case I got cold. I listened to his receding footsteps.
Being blessed with night vision I could move ’round in the dark without bumping into things but my concrete feet, made balancing difficult and silent, tip-toe, step out of the question. I clumped out the kitchen, waltzing arms to keep balance, lost it anyway, and pitched forward into the living room. Faces morphed out the walls, smiling breezes of love. I threaded fingers into rings of night, ready to bury under sheets of darkness, for what I knew of love was sharp, mean, and for my own good. That’s when the raccoon on the couch farted, surprising me so I completely forgot to be scared of the lavender, pale pink, and silver gossamer hues nuzzling at me like little noses of nurture.
It was wonderful, absolutely wonderful, and I clumped, fell, clumped, back to the kitchen, and got bit my very first stinging bite by one of the tiny, tiny, toy-sized, mean-tempered black sheep. The sheep only bite though if they think they can get away with it. Esmerelda told me that. Esmerelda was the great love my Uncle’s life. The first words I ever heard come out her mouth were, “You bite me one more time, you little piece of licorice shit, and I will drop kick you into the middle of next week.” I was asleep in my crate at the time. Her words angled into me, stood straight, and gave me such a tooth-rattling shake my eyes popped open. Esmerelda threaded her hands over and around the sheets of darkness I was hiding under and hauled me out. I was shocked I tell you, shocked, and really pissed off seeing how she woke me in broad daylight. I’d been keeping vampire hours ever since I’d arrived at my Uncle’s and he was fine with it. He’d even painted up my crate to look like a coffin. I was kicking at Esmerlda with my concrete feet I was so mad, for sure the first time I was ever mad or fought back in my entire life. Esmerelda swiveled her pretty hips right, left, with a slight tuck here and there. “Stop your kicking darling,” she said, low and gentle. “You only fight what would hurt and harm you and then you make sure you win. You understand?” And for the first time in my life I was struck still, inside and out, by an idea.