by Cassandra Dallett
“So Cassie girl, I need me a rich woman. We’ll get this place fixed up, get some ee-lec-tricity! Or just move the fuck out to California, that’s what you wanna do? Just move, where should we move to? You don’t wanna live in Oakland do you? You don’t want to go to school there? Where do we go the city? That’s insane! Right? I can’t handle a rich lady what would she want with my ass? I’ll tell you what she would want hee hee, no but I really…. I had my share of rich girls…”
He holds a cigarette between his lips, it bobs with his words, he squints through the smoke, eyebrows rise for emphasis. He never stops talking barely stops to breathe never pauses for an answer, doesn’t hear them anyway.
“I had a girl in the nuthouse… she was…well we were at it sweating like banshees the attendant broke the door down. Boy did he get an eyeful! I just need a job. What am I going do? I haven’t had a job in….”
“My lifetime” I thought.
“Start making sandals again, I guess. You want some of this coffee? A refresher? Well it’s not that fresh I’m gonna make another, maybe I should just throw this out and start another, toss it, I’ve had enough already wheeeeweeee two pots, no this is the second, right? Here I’ll just pour this..”
He stands swirling the half empty coffee pot. Stares into it as if it will reveal its freshness to him. He walks over to me, pours some in my cup.
“I don’t even drink this much coffee.” I’m thinking.
I reach for the sugar he mad a pot just for me. He uses honey. He heads back to the stove goes into the ritual saucepan of water, paper filter of Folgers. Never stops talking.
“ I don’t know what, would I work in a bookstore I used to work in the Harvard Square bookstore some years… I sure need the money; this check goes man it goes…fast. I’m getting discustard! I’m going to finish with these dishes, then get in gear get outta here. If these pricks would just stop screwing me around. I have to get these fuckin’ taxes paid! Dear God, I have to get these taxes paid! Ten thousand bucks a month in penalties can you even believe… I just want to finish these dishes. I like washing dishes. Keeps your hands warm, ya know? Warms ya right up. I gotta take a shit before we go all that coffee runs right through me turns to liquid here it comes now, yeah. I gotta go do that sooner than later.
He trots over to the table, hand on his belt. He is undoing his belt with one hand shifting his weight back and forth one foot to the other. He reaches up under his newspaper and pulls out a fresh Playboy magazine. He’s been using it all morning to clean his weed and roll joints on it. He slides it out wipes it on his pant leg. Levis been wearing them everyday I remember. He turns and runs pants unbuttoned, out the door towards the outhouse. Our outhouse sits in the middle of the yard, People can actually drive right around it while you are going to the bathroom. Usually there are enough junked cars around it that people just park behind it. I has a door of glass panes most of them broken out I guess the idea was to have some light and a view. A glass door on something so private seems crazy. The view is of the field and a big brush pile at the end of the dooryard.
He will sit out there awhile grunting and reading Playboy “for the articles” then he’ll be back in to chew my ear off, and perform his rituals; joint rolling, cigarette smoking, dishes and coffee. He’ll cook up some breakfast. He does it everyday eggs, bacon, wheat toast, and yogurt. He makes it late in the day sometimes when I’d be coming home from school, after many pots of coffee and some Cornflakes with honey. All my life I’ve been listening to him crunch those things. His jaw makes a particular clicking noise when he chews. It’s a long process with him, preparing his food reading, letting it sit then shoveling in big clicking mouthfuls. I eat my food fast concentrated I’m always done before he starts.
I’m sitting here with nothing to do doodling on one of his pads. I’ve finished the oversweet coffee-I drink fast like I eat. I don’t know how people nurse a cup. I am bored and unmotivated this place weighs me down with it’s stuff, newspapers, junk mail, phone books, and other random crap stand piled about a foot deep on the table behind me. Somewhere in there he knows where everything is. Drives me nuts, Sometimes I get a bug up my ass and start cleaning He always has a fit I throw stuff away as much as I can and he gets all freaked out looking for this or that important artifact. I would throw everything out if it was left to me.
The radio is plays low and static on a metal shelve full of things; boxes, and machinery, seeds, gloves, flashlights, broken lamps and books. We have a TV but it’s just a little black and white thing we run it off a car battery so you can’t leave it on and waste the juice. It’s upstairs now where we left it last night. Soon he’ll bring it down and hook it up so we can watch General Hospital. He loves that show.
I hear a car in the distance, must be coming here. We live so far from a main road you can usually tell if it’s someone coming even who and what they drive by practiced ears. I walk or used to walk, a mile and a quarter to the school bus stop. One day I just stopped. I lay down on the grassy lawn of the Porter sisters found a little body size indentation in the green and slept there until dad drove by. After that he just started picking me up I wish I would have known it would be so easy a little sooner. The Porter sister’s is the closest house to us. It’s just a summer house a couple of old maid schoolteachers. I’ve actually never seen them but we used to have a party line with them. That means sometimes when you pick up the phone they are on it and you have to wait to use it. A guy named Frankie that used to log here called them old bitches and told them to get off the phone it caused quite a stir.
I walked down this hill through rain, snow and heat. Got myself up at six washed my hair and clothes, sometimes it was so cold the hair froze on my head, icicles swung from my scalp, if you missed the bus it was long walk home. These days he gets up with me drives me down in the Blazer. I get on the Yellow bus in front of our neighbor Nina’s house she’s an old friend of Dad’s, moved up here from Nantucket, a big Russian lady likes to smoke pot. Dad drops me off and heads in hooks up our TV battery to the charger in her woodshed and goes on in for coffee and smoke. She is always running out of rolling papers and calling asking him to bring some if he’s out they use Tampax wraps. They are known for their gossip she is brutal rips people to shreds funny as shit, I used to love hanging out with her she has really good taste these really soft good smelling comforters and nice food. But her constant shit talking, which often involves my mother, her boyfriend, or me, has burned me out on her. They get really raunchy she’s always talking about Tom Selleck her and her husband Brownie don’t fuck anymore I guess so she is ranting about Tom’s Kielbasa. I think Tom Selleck is repulsive I’m really not into the whole body hair thing. My idea of fine is Sid Vicious smooth wiry and bad. My ex-boyfriend says he was in Nina’s kitchen one morning and she picked up a rolling pin waved it around and proclaimed that is what she masturbates with. He claimed to be permanently traumatized.
I was the second person picked up by the school bus Baron Johnson was first, unless I caught the bus on its way out. Baron and I hated one another; we were in the same class the two tallest. He was real goony looking pure white trash glow in the dark white skin, white platinum hair, pale eyes and big goofy spaces between his teeth. He was ugly we used to fight over the back seat now we just ignored each other. I ignore everyone lived in my punk rock fantasy world imagined my upcoming life in the city.
Dad came back in the door happily carrying his Playboy and declaring, “Boy do I feel better, too much coffee today. So I hear somebody, whodoya think probably Psycho Bill. He said he was gonna cut some more of this wood, I can’t keep paying him for this shit I hope he knows maybe he just wants to get away from the old lady for awhile. Is that his…”
He trailed off into the bathroom, I mean technically it is a bathroom it has a bathtub in it, just not a toilet it has a sink too one of those old jobs with hot on one side cold on the other you move your hand back and forth alternating between scalding and frost bite. There is a washing machine in there but no dryer we still go to the laundry mat it’s sort of an event around here he takes his dates with us we eat at the diner maybe catch a movie. The washer was left by someone that lived here, an old guy and his wife Dad took in Chuck Plant was his name the wife and I used to hang she tried to perm my hair didn’t work never did take a curl, we’d watch all the soaps and talk about V.C. Andrews books. There was usually some one living here over the years there had been Kenny a little toll looking dude covered in black hair with these glowing gold eyes. I kicked him flat on his ass once just to let him know how things went around her e he was kind of a child molester type but at 5’11 by eleven years old I was never worried. He moved into a van in our field and got a girlfriend eventually. She went to school a couple grades ahead of me definitely under age and gross, real fat, real redneck or a hick as I called them, but I’m sure living with Kenny who adored her was a step up from sharing her bed with her step dad back at her place.
Then there was Bob The Slob he had a dog-named Rufus used to get sodomized by one of Dad’s girlfriend’s Doberman. Bob was always cooking us Sheppard’s Pie it was pretty much all he knew how to cook and that was supposed to be part of his job living there. He wore overalls and once said he’d like to give his own sister a tongue lashing, he wasn’t talking about a talking to either-nasty! I guess Bob was on the run cause one day the neighbor called to say the militia was on the way up to our house. Ten cop cars showed up in the dooryard, Bob hid out in the woods Dad talked the cops into believing he wasn’t living there kicked him out after that.
It was Psycho Bill already out of the car and walking in the door. I liked Bill and I didn’t like most of the people Dad collected. Psycho was a biker dude, long black hair and bright blue eyes, beard and mustache. I don’t think he even owned a Harley, and he had this skinny stringy haired wife she had a bunch of kids. My mother thought she looked like a vogue model I thought she looked like a skank and the kids would get on the school bus in these ancient dirty 70s coats fur lined hoods all matted, looking all uncombed and greasy. For some Reason he was cool with me we talked about drugs and stuff. I had a crazy urge to seduce him don’t really know why I hated older men and pretty much anything.
“Hey Good Morning” Bill said striding in he was pretty much always smiling. He pulled out a dilapidated but solid wood chair and sat.
Dad was pacing around, he came out of the bathroom slash storage junk room. The whole room was full; chainsaws, gas cans car parts, and cat shit. He scratched his chin, “I was just heading into town” He said in a irritated way, “I have to run by the bank, Dente’s, (his favorite store, good magazine selection, I guess)“ I have to get some hit done” He was really talking to himself out loud trailing in and out of thoughts getting a plan for his day going. “I gotta get some money, cut this wood, fix the car” He walked over to his chair. He always had his own chair at the table if you sat in it you moved when he came around. From his chair he could reach the phone heavy old rotary number black and dirty, his important papers, mail leaning on the lamp, lists and reading material; Valley News, times Argus, Penthouse, National Geographic, Time, Rolling Stone.
He loved magazines. Bought them at Dente’s or Baker’s General store ordered subscriptions trying to win the lottery form Ed McMahon. A Shimmelpennick box for his refer, Zig Zags, a toke tube, (his invention a true John Dallett original, a metal tube dented in evenly on both side all the way so you could hold it comfortably and the roach would never get sucked in and swallowed, and your lips wouldn’t burn) He also used to make belts with a nice metal buckle that popped a beer bottle top off like nobody’s business) his coffee cup, or Coke, address book (a leather book rubber banded together and full f contacts from the old days and many slips of paper, receipts, and cards.) underneath he kept a clean pad habitually making lists misspelling everything. Talking to himself he would frequently pause to ask how to spell the most basic of words to add to his list, of things to do or buy. Beside the pad a nice selection of pens. He likes his pens and buys the good ones. Sometimes he’ll give you one if you admire its smooth roll. He’s probably spent a fortune on pens and pads alone.
The table is older than me he’s had it everywhere he’s lived it is covered in burns, watermarks, scratches, words designs carved into the soft wood. In the center a fist sized hole is burned out so he’s fixed it with a Mexican tile there and that is where the kerosene lamp sits. Everything salt, pepper, soy sauce, toothpicks, and bills revolve around that. I often carve in the table with a steak knife.
The wood powders up like driftwood and I leave patterns of barbed wire and jagged punk names. He yells at me to “cut that shit out” and I laugh get all sarcastic like “yeah this table looks so great I’m really messing it up.”
“Hey I’ve had this table twenty five goddamn years leave my table alone” he says, not really angry, just giving me the business on general principal I don’t give a shit, and don’t’ believe he does either. The underside of table is sort of a work of art maybe at sometime back in the 60s the legs were white but dirt and food have speckled it into a grayish brown. I’ve been under there used to like to sleep there as a kid be in the middle of the action with my blankie, I fucked under there once a piggish act with lots of dirt and spit very hardcore I loved it but wince thinking about it now. We were drunk what can I say, real drunk and it seemed very punk rock.
“We better stop and get some milk down to Carriers’, when we go to town, I have to see how much money is in there, I gotta talk to the lady what’s her name Karen Miss Karen, She’s got a fat little…”
He trails off again bordering on the x rated. If you’ve ever imagined every thought in your head spoken out loud, that’s what it’s like hanging with Dad. He talks about women incessantly. It is often graphic and no woman is exempt. Comments about tits and kids and what she likes and how big she is and if you didn’t know how non-discriminating he is you could get offended.
I roll my eyes at Psycho Bill, He laughs I think that’s one thing I like about him he’s pretty mellow. Dad is stalking away jotting things on his yellow pad in his atrocious handwriting spelling each thing aloud. I feel a cat brush my leg, working its way over to the food bowl. There are lots of cats around. He feeds them all wet and dry food has a couple bowls over on a chest by the sink. This one must have missed feeding time when they crowd round like water buffalo to a watering hole.
I know Dad isn’t going to be ready to go for a long time and Bill is probably here to ask a favor further delaying departure so I stand stretch and yawn.
“I’m going to go lay down” I head towards the other part of the house I’ll go watch some soaps or something he is slow as molasses and will think of a dozen more things to do before hitting the road. He’s just getting warmed up.
I had all that coffee too but I’ve been smoking the weed with him and I’m speed balling off the combination. Lazy I head up the stairs dust bunnies blow with every step. I used to clean it believe we would finish building get electricity fix it all up. Now a days I’m just waiting to get the hell out of here.
Cassandra Dallett lives in Oakland, CA. Cassandra writes of a counter culture childhood in Vermont and her ongoing adolescence. She has been published widely online and in print magazines and reads often around the San Francisco Bay Area. A full-length book of poetry Wet Reckless was released by Manic D Press in the spring of 2014.
photo by Bruce Stockwell