Part 17

When I got across the river, I was faced with an odd sight.

Ahead of me, maybe fifty feet in the distance, was my house. There was the garage and the rose we transplanted, and I could even see my neighbor sitting on his back porch, drinking a beer. I looked behind me and there was the rest of my back yard. I was home.

Except not.

As close as I was, I found that I could not walk toward the house. I didn’t see a barrier but, as soon as I hit it, I could feel it, soft, with a lot of give, but not enough to actually let me into my back yard. I was still not in ordinary reality, but at least I could see I was very close. I felt around for the barrier and proceeded as if I were in a maze, keeping my right hand on the invisible wall between myself and my world, I proceeded to follow the wall, as it were, hoping that it would, eventually, bring me to a door or something. I despaired of ever finding the dog and seeing the house made me so homesick I could barely stand it.

Surely Bart would understand about me losing the dog once he’d heard the strange lengths I went to find Rufus.

I walked around my yard, following the unseen labyrinth, through gardens that didn’t exist on my side of the barrier, past thickets of trees too old and dense for my world. Eventually, I heard a great grunting and snorting noise and, as I walked back toward the old cow pasture, I came upon a great mastodon and her calf. The mother seemed agitated and I noticed that the baby’s head was wet.

The mother looked me straight in the face, her great eyes blinking slowly, as if she were examining my very soul. I didn’t know if I should be frightened or not. I had no idea if she was real or if I even was. Her giant eyelashes swept down and then back up and I found myself mesmerized by the slow, rhythmic movement. “Oh, mama,” I said. “Why is your baby’s head wet?”

I was overwhelmed by déjà vu. Was it not this very summer when I rested my face on Rufus’s head and, finding it damp, asked Bart why the dog’s head was wet? And had not Bart answered me that, when Rufus and Monty go to the park, one of the other of them eventually gets peed on? Why? Bart couldn’t explain it. It’s just a weird thing the dogs do at the park together. And here was this baby mastodon, large, but not that much larger than the dog. Small enough that I could imagine the two of the wandering through the field together. I could also imagine the baby mastodon putting his head down to see something more closely or to rest a moment with his new friend, and, then, yuck. Rufus had been by here, and recently enough that the baby was still wet.

“Which way, mama?” I asked, but she just snorted. I kept my hand on that weird barrier and set back to walking.

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Curses

When I think about my family, I’m struck by what a haunted house it is. Scary things go on in every room, but the noises from the other rooms make you afraid to venture out, for fear there’s worse than what’s happening to you.

It’s apparent to me now how these things go on for generations, how people get shaped into things as children and then shape others as they get older. How many fingers on how many arms would I need to point to everyone who bears some responsibility for yesterday’s debacle? And that’s not counting the people, I’m afraid like me, who sit back and do nothing.

I mean the almost nursery-rhyme level of if my father had not scared that girl and my grandpa had not beaten my dad and if my great-grandmother had not terrorized my grandfather and if whoever did whatever to her… on and on.

It feels like a curse, like a terrible thing that just comes with our family like blue eyes and curly hair. You might be a monster. If you aren’t, you might not know how to love anything but a monster.

Here’s the other thing that I can’t quite let go of. I love my Grandma A., rest her soul, with my whole heart. My dad’s mom. Every memory I have of her and me is one I cherish. I loved going to her house. I loved being spoiled by her. One of the hardest times of my life was watching her waste away but not being able to die, thinking that God had abandoned her.

And my dad also adores his mom. Doesn’t have a bad thing to say about her. Frames himself as a kind of protector of her from his dad. That gibes with my memories of her.

One of the things my brother’s girlfriend said on the phone is that it really bugs her and makes her feel like my dad is constantly comparing the two of them the way he goes on about how wonderful my sister-in-law is. My sister-in-law. A woman so vile I can’t even get into it because, if I get started, I won’t be able to make it through the day–the cigarette burn on my nephew’s forehead, the taking him to the fucking strip clubs when he was a baby, the time she threatened to kill my dog, the shitty things she does to my nephew now, and how much he loves her anyway, because that’s what kids do, the refusal to divorce my brother, etc. etc. etc.–a woman who is not allowed to know where I live and who I will probably end up assaulting at my father’s funeral, because I know she will come and try to sit with the family. Just like she tried to take my dead grandmother’s stuff after her funeral, a woman she did not know, because she was “part of the family now.”

And yes, my dad does talk about her like she farts sunshine. And he sends her money whenever she asks for it. And it is completely insane. She is objectively terrible.

It taints my opinion of my grandmother–that my dad so adores this terrible person. It makes me worried that my grandmother was terrible in some way I don’t know about because I was too young to see it when she was alive and he’s successfully rewritten history now that she’s dead.

And that kind of pisses me off. That I can’t even be sure that I really knew the people I love most.