In my last post, I interviewed Anthea Carson, the author of THE DARK LAKE. Here is a selection from the next book in THE OSHKOSH TRILOGY, which chronicles the turbulent life of Janeylou. Please be forewarned, there is some strong language below.
Also, Anthea is also a fan of William Faulkner (I wonder if that term was ever used in his lifetime about his writing). Here is her blog in homage to him: www.stalkingfaulkner.blogspot.com
THE DEEP BACKYARD
Then I woke enough to hear the roaring back and forth of angry vacuuming, then some more slamming.
Krishna ran into my room and a pillow followed her, flying in the air. The door was slammed behind her. I was barely able to lift my head.
“What the fuck?” I said.
Krishna was giggling and dragging a sleeping bag behind her, my dad’s old army one, with lumberjack colors. She wore army clothes herself so she looked like a soldier dodging bullets.
The door opened again and three empty cans of beer were thrown at her head. By this time she was laying on the wood floor next to my cot, purchased by me from the army store in Appleton, a town twenty minutes from Oshkosh if you took the back roads, which I always did.
When the cans hit her in the head some of her black hair lifted up a bit, like hair does with static, which was unusual, because her coarse waves never seemed to budge but then again, with my mother on the warpath, practically anything could happen.
Then the slamming began in earnest, against the door. I thought it would break down.
“Bang! Bang! Bang!” Krishna, still asleep, began imitating the sound.
Finally I lifted my head.
There was Gay over there passed out on the green fold out chair. Only it wasn’t folded out. It had just folded in under itself and she was so contorted there that I had to wake her up to see if she was still alive. After all, if the vacuuming wasn’t going to wake her, she might just be dead.
She opened her eyes half a slit, glanced sideways at the exploding door and turned over on her side, which made the chair twist into a new shape, one I’d never seen before. And her leg was at a strange angle now too, with her foot either stretching or breaking, I couldn’t tell which. She knocked something over when she turned and it made a crashing sound but I didn’t have the will to sit up and see what it was. It sounded like that cinnamon candle in the glass container that was shaped like a big dragon. What a bummer.
Man that candle smelled good. When we burned it I always ended up wanting-
What had happened to cause Gay to scream this was just… unthinkable. Unbelievable.
You see, last night, we had rented a very expensive piece of equipment. I think.
No. I think we might have already owned it. Because it was an antique film projector (quite heavy) and we owned a lot of that kind of stuff. We had a really old funky ass stereo that had been there since I was only old enough to peek into the soft cloth in it’s windows and try to figure out how they got the tiny people in there to sing –
“FUCK!” she screamed, rubbing her head, “God DAMN!!”
Did that thing actually hit her in the side of the head when my mom opened that door and threw it in here? Did that happen?
Well, she was crazy! She was fucking crazy! Crazy fucking B-
She opened the door again and threw in a couple more teenagers.
“That was a very expensive piece of equipment you just threw in here I hope you realize that!” I stood at the door now in a tee shirt. “She’s crazy!” I turned around, “She’s fucking – how’s your head?”
Gay was still rubbing the side. It should have had a baseball-sized egg on it but miraculously did not.
I expected her to complain about my mom’s insanity some more but she just lit a cigarette and sat up, still looking really confused.
“I’m starving,” she said suddenly, her Nikes still on and only an inch or two from the broken glass under the coffee table.
But was it safe enough yet for us to raid the kitchen with her on the rampage like that. Maybe not but we did. Some uncounted number of zombie creatures we stumbled in there and started pouring cereal and making coffee and trashing he kitchen. Where was she? Then it all began to seem like it happened a long time ago.
The backyard birds, deep leaves and cool summer shade, sent energizing vibrations in through the wide kitchen window. We slammed our glass bowls and porcelain coffee cups on the rippled glass table and I can still hear it. We tossed things into the sink. We emptied cartons and left opened milk on the black lacquer top counter. Cupboard doors stayed open and spills dried on the glass. We took off in a blue Chevette.
“Hey,” somebody said, “ever wonder who gasses this car up?”
After a moment of genuine wonder everyone laughed all the way to the park. Why were we going there again? Oh yea, to drive around it.
“I got it, I got it.”
She threw the seeds into the rubber backed floor mat and they soaked into the scratchy dark blue car rug. She took the red tray with the picture of the leggy girl and leaned it down toward her lap. I always liked to watch the seeds roll, and watch her scoop the gritty green leaves back up. I glanced sideways over the steering wheel. She was licking the paper and rolling it up now. Lighting up.
Then everything, all the green in the park and the blue in the sky suddenly came to life like the set of Wizard of Oz when they entered into the color and promised more than it had before. And it didn’t need more … back then.
Discussions became philosophical. Especially me. I talked and talked to hear my great ponderings and sometimes Gay just stared at me like I was nuts. Maybe turned the music up or something. Sometimes she just stared straight ahead and I didn’t know if she was listening or not.
“This is a mad world. This is all madness. It’s crazy. People are crazy,” I would say into the void. And she would just stare straight ahead at Bowen Street, which turned into the highway and you could follow it out of town. But first it passed Menomonee drive, and there we might turn right to pick up Krishna, or drop her off. And it wound around back to Menomonee Park, which we had to drive through, and then New York Avenue, which could take me home.
“Why is it so crazy?” Gay never asked these questions. But sometimes Krishna did.
“Because,” take another toke, no problem, I can answer that, “nobody knows what we’re doing here.”
Silence and then, “What are we doing here?” Krishna, never hesitant to mock pretentious scholarliness.
“These conversations never get us anywhere. They never end.”
“What the hell are you talking about,”… that would be Krishna.
I must have meant the car rides. And Gay just sat there staring straight ahead. Looking at me like she wasn’t sure what she was doing in my car.
“Can you drop me off?”
“Sure,” and now I had to drive out of town, down by that strange turn off, down where we ran over all those frogs one night, and where the lake flies were thicker than anywhere else in town, than anywhere else in the world probably.