Sunday, September 02, 2007

Faith and Spare Change

I often speak of the farm where I grew up. As many fond memories as I have of that place, my family moved away when I was in the eighth grade. They had been renting the farm for as long as I could remember, (it was a 55 acre farm, and rented for the ridiculous price of $175 a month) and my parents had saved up some money to buy their first house.

The new place was a serious dump at first. My father is an extremely handy guy, very knowledgeable in roofing, decking, carpentry and all manner of construction, but even he almost laid tire streaks trying to run away from it. But my mother saw the vision of what it could be, and so she convinced him to buy it.

For about a month over summer vacation, my grandfather and I drove up every day, cleaning the place up and trying to get some things in order while my parents worked day jobs.

There had been a man living there when they bought the place; illegally, I might add. The buildings had been abandoned for a long time, and this guy just sort of... moved in. A squatter I guess you could call him. His name was Jack Lease.

But this guy wasn't just your ordinary squatter. Jack was certifiably insane and the icing on the cake was that he was enormous. Intimidating doesn't accurately describe him. The building he lived in was a small trailer, and he'd gathered up three huge oil drums to put inside. I've no idea why, nevermind how in the hell he was able to carry them inside. There was also an arrangement of six foot wooden sire spool/coffee tables, and cut off telephone poles to act as makeshift chairs. It smelled like an animal den inside his trailer; an odor like something had been hibernating for a long time and had woken up pissed at the world. You seriously could almost smell the madness.

I found roughly twenty-nine dollars of spare change in a coffee can stashed on the roof of his trailer. He had envelopes with maps of almost every state on the east coast with odd navigation lines criss crossing them,

Piles of clothes and paper and junk everywhere. Good Housekeeping would've put him in handcuffs. There were notebooks and little scraps of paper scattered around; strange drawings and lists of names with the headline: "These can be eliminated."

Jack's cheese had slid off his cracker. He was nuts. Wait... is that politically correct? We'll just say "reality challenged" and leave it at that.

My mother, whom I love and have the greatest respect for, is the person who bought me my first Monsters magazine. She bought me the original Clive Barker's Books of Blood. She didn't so much lead me, as much as let me walk the path that has put me where I'm at now. And so she has a slightly twisted sense of humor that I've obviously inherited. I now see it in my daughter as well... apple doesn't fall far from the tree and all that.

So as fate would have it, one day my mother and I were in one of the other buildings on the property (the place looked like the Waco Compound when we first got there, and we had to clear out everything). The garbage and wet clothes and other assorted trash was shin high, and as we picked it up and stuffed it into trash bags, my mother told me some of the other things she'd heard about Jack. He'd spent some time in an insane asylum in Maryland. The kind of place they don't put ad execs with nervous break downs, but instead the guys who are running through downtown cities yelling about the large white worms chasing them. A place for the really, truly crazy.

Rumors from the realtor that there used to be an old woman that lived with Jack on the property. People used to see her sit outside and watch the cars go by on warm days.

And one day, she just wasn't there anymore.

No one really pays any attention to an old lady and a crazy man watching traffic, so time went on, and no one bothered to ask, and after all this time, no one really knows what happened to the old woman.

"Maybe he ran out of groceries over the winter and ate her," my mother said.

"Maybe she's buried somewhere on the property and we'll find her skeleton." I replied.

"Or, you never know." My mother smiled. "Maybe we'll find her head in all this trash we're picking up."

She reached from the floor and made a wide sweeping gesture with her arm toward me.

And that's when it happened.

My mind saw what was coming toward me. It was a decapitated head with darkened roots of gristle and spine dangling from its base. The bleached face was bloody, and time hadn't treated it well. The skin had cured and become mottled, picking up an odd texture of whatever it had been lying against all this time. Brunette hair splayed out at odd angles away from the face, its eyes closed placidly, red lips pursed tightly shut.

And my dear, sweet mother had picked it up and thrown it at me.

I screamed like a girl in her first year of Catholic School, and dislocated my entire spine as I attempted to twist and dodg the severed head.

My heart was thudding so hard against my chest I expected to see my shirt rise and fall with the sound.

My mother was laughing so hard I thought she may need a change of pants.

The head missed me and landed in the pile of garbage behind me and I looked at it more closely.

And the magic was gone.

It was a cheap styrofoam mannequin head, complete with wig and painted lips. A mixture of rotted vegetables coated the base of the head, and I stared into it's pre-formed eyes and tight faced expression.

Along with my mother's words, my mind had made it real.

My thoughts, my faith in it, had turned it real... if only for a split second.

It's what all us "scribblers" are still trying to do – deliver some words, faith, and a little magic to make our stories real for others. Hopefully a lot longer than a split second though.

It's like that with everything else too in life.

Reality starts with your mind and heart. Let your mind think it into reality.

Have faith. Believe it'll happen. And it will be.

It will be.

And the universe will start agreeing with you and make it happen.

I never did find out what happened to that old woman though.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like a Catholic School Girl, huh?
I've always loved your Mom.

9:12 PM  

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