FRESNO TIMES (Chapter Four) “2036 Maple Street” by Matthew Carlson

My little brother...;)

So, there we were living on Maple Street. A house all our own, with my Mother and her four sons. I loved it there, finally a place that belonged to us; home sweet home. It was a big change, finally no more moving (or so we were told.)  My parents’ divorce to one another and their subsequent marriages (and divorces) went well with the word ‘moving’  which means that we moved ALOT and frequently. However, aside from two brief moves to different cities, we usually stayed in the same flat town known as Fresno in California. Years later, we would count 23 houses and apartments , the number of places moved to (and from) while growing up. Some called Fresno the ‘arm pit of the universe’  – we called it home. Hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk during summer with house water coolers and pop sicles from Kool Aid, lots of flowers and bugs in the spring with screen doors and fly swatters (though I used rubber bands tied together), yellow, brown, and red leaves in the fall, pea-soup-fog in the winter, with frozen wind shields. I remember how Mom would, all dressed up nice for work in a pretty dress and high heels heat up panfuls of hot water on the stove (microwaves didn’t exist yet) which she would then throw onto her iced up car windows while scraping with a flat wooden kitchen utinsel. Usually four or five panfuls were necessary to get off enough ice in order to see while driving. There was nothing to do with the passenger’s side window, which was always broken no matter what car model she happened to have at the time. It would always break down while rolling it up or down and then stick that way, always partially open. A good reason to have a good heater! At least that usually worked. One year, we inherited my grand parent’s marroon colored 1962 (or 65?) Galaxy 500 . (Maybe it was 1967….) It was in excellent condition (my Grandfather did nothing else but polish it and change the oil frequently) one of those scripts that says ‘old men keep VERY CLEAN and GOOD WORKING AUTOMOBILES!’ But following a nasty accident, the right front side of the car had been terribly bashed in. We never heard the true story of how it happened, but probably something to do with old age. Why they didn’ t have it repaired galled me severely. They were so tight with their money that their glutus maximuses squeaked when they walked. I loved them but they were lost in their short sighted morality and far too distant compassion. We didn’t see them that much and they never came to see us once at our home.They were still ‘displeased’ with my Mother divorcing my Father and had never accepted the divorce. That my Mother went on with her own life without their son, well they never got over that either. Their sons’ acoholism was mostly the culprit, yet they were of old school – he was too old to have any sense beaten into him, and much too big! So help out a little bit (it was their ex-daughter-in-law) but not too much. Give her a car that works well, yet reminds her daily that there is a HUGE gash on her car visible to everyone …Sort of like the gash on their reputation and moral beliefs…repairing the ugly scar on the right front side of the car would have been too nice somehow. Too much of a gift. Approval that they wre not willing to give. Consequences needed to be paid for somehow….And maybe, they didn’t want to pay the premiums on the insurance….I’m thinking probably both reasons worked for them. Still they cared a great deal behind the nordic and protestant sense of what was right and wrong. Safely sitting behind it, unable to access something they could only partially see, yet unable to touch it. A bit like standing outside that car with its’ frosty windows, wanting to drive but only being able to watch as their ex-daughter-in-law held the wheel in her pretty hands.

Anyway, Mom continued to work as a full time bookkeeper & we went to school every day, then church on Sundays, well sometimes. That depended on the ever fluctuating moral intention of the moment. And there was my little brother, Mikael too. Somehow just naturally, I took him under my wing. We were always together and I took care of him as if he were mine. Mom was very busy and though she was a good Mom, she was tired too. Tired of having so many kids, so many responsibilities. It just worked out without anything being said. Kirk and Merk were too busy doing other stuff and being with new friends and for Kirk new girlfriend sensations…Like I’ve said before we kids had our chore schedule to follow and we played sports alot or played outside with the neighborhood kids: marbles, statues, war games, riding bikes, often directly at each other (whoever veered off first before the ultimate crash was the loser)… Throwing water ballons onto suspecting cars was a personal favorite of mine, until a black van one evening stopped and came after me! I never realized how fast I was, jumping over a neighbours 6 foot fence and hiding out in some rose bushes (ouch!)  When the van rolled by slowly I held my breath (young guys calling ou threats) while survival pumped through my veins. When we moved to Maple Street Merk had taken some distance from me, which I never understood. One day we were in the living room and he decided he wanted to change the tv channel. So he did it. I went over to the tv and changed it back. (Remote controls didn’t exist yet – you actually had to stand up and walk over to the tv & change it) I know how old fashioned, huh? Our tv was humungous in size, about one meter in all directions sitting on four peglike legs, and of course with images only in black and white. Anyway, our exchange of changing tv channels didn’t last very long as Merk punched me in the diaphram and I collapsed on the floor unable to breath!

My older brother Kirk (like Captain Kirk, but unfortunately with a very different personality) came over to make sure I was still breathing.  (Captain Kirk would have seriously been concerned about my well being). I was okay, so he said two words to Merk and it was over. It was important for him that I still be alive when Mom got home or otherwise he would be in big trouble. Aside from that, I was an utter annoyance. Something to be tolerated.

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