Being Somewhere Else

When I was a little boy I never wanted to live where I lived.   That’s because I was happier living where we lived before.  Where we lived before was a city, an industrial city that didn’t stink.   Well, Dad thought the unions stank;  oh, and his boss.  In this city they made appliances, industrial generators, farm equipment, electrical motors and even automobiles. That was in Ohio. We never should have moved away, but Dad had to.

My best pal’s dad was an engineer like mine, but a mechanical one,  where they made tires. Dad was electrical and according to my stepmother he was  creme de la creme.    On summer evenings the mechanical engineer used to sit  on his front stoop in his under shirt.  His tummy rolled and hung over his belt.   He drank Burger beer and watched us catch fireflies in a jar.  You could smell his cigar from down on the sidewalk and see its red glow. Often my pal’s dad drove us to the train station where we put pennies on the track and watched them get flattened.  Dad didn’t take us places but he didn’t get mad like the mechanical engineer did.

I was never older than six when we lived there, but I had friends in the city.  Later when I visited was when the  regret set in.  My pal, enjoying the city,  had a really good high school where he played the cello.  He became a priest.

The place where I never wanted to live was in the country, outside a little town. It wasn’t the country I hated.  I liked being alone in the country. It was in the  little town where I became a snob.  My stepmother didn’t like where my father had brought her.  I tended to agree with her.  It’s hard to be a snob in the sixth grade.  You don’t know you’re one, but everyone else does.  Stepmother came from another, bigger industrial steel city where they made dump trucks.  Both cities had a twelve-story building, but my stepmother’s city had a club on the top where a black man called Nathan was a waiter.  She always asked for Nathan and gave him a big tip. I liked cities. My stepmother was married to an eye doctor before  he died.

There were only two houses within sight, but you could hear cow bells down the road beyond the trees in the meadow.  Two pretty girls lived on that farm.  Later on, the girls in short shorts rode horses a lot. I longed for a horse.   Once I hung around the barn and watched the girls milking their cows.  I was transfixed by them.      My stepmother let us hold dances in the basement of our house.    My stepmother always thought it best to have the parties at our house.  Pubesence, especially hairy boys, scared her.

In school I got a lot of B’s and my share of A’s so I made the Beta Club and went on to college where I became a fraternity man.  My stepmother was pleased with that because being part of the Miami Triad of fraternities was very important.

So, I finally got out of the town where I didn’t want to be.  Funny though, I’ve always wanted to be somewhere else.

Steadfast and cautious,

The Tortoise