Yesterday my thoughts wandered to a strange time in my life, almost a decade past, where I thought it would be a brilliant idea to move North where the vast majority of my extended family lived. Sounds sort of sweet, peaceful, idyllic, a place to get back on my feet after a rough patch in my life. Who could have guessed this would have just added more misery!
I was living with my uncle, in a house my mother inherited after my grandmother died. It was a sweet little architecturally fucked dwelling, apparently the result of “four shacks nailed together” in 1944, according to my gram anyway. The bathroom was clearly an addition, with the structural integrity of an up cycled chicken coop. When you entered one of the bedrooms upstairs you had to step down into it. The wallpaper was psychedelically dazzling, a vast array of colors and bad floral prints my great grandmother had chosen. And the living room ceiling was an attraction all on it’s own. It was an ornate tin ceiling, painted entirely in neon pink… but we weren’t French. My great-grandmother insisted her taste in flamboyant colors had nothing to do with those nasty French Canadians. We were English mutts dammit! Racism in Maine apparently extended to various enclaves of white people. Who knew!
I was up there attending Driver’s Ed four times a week, a class I had to walk over a mile to. The teacher was a retired cop, a guy who really loved the Sopranos and thought it was based on real life mobsters. He liked my obvious attempts at favoritism. I felt like a spy here because I was actually… and this is God’s honest truth… a liberal. Not just that but an edju-ma-cated one! My family’s church caught onto this and banned anyone from talking to me. Apparently I was too worldly and was planted there to lead people to sin… or something.
But this story isn’t about any of them, this is a story about three feral children who used to come over to the house every weekend for three, sometimes four days. It started when they’d come over Saturday and Sunday to be with my uncle, whose relatives they were, but this quickly grew to encompass Friday afternoon after school into Monday if it was a long weekend, and there seemed to be a lot of those. They were as follows… an adorable five year old ginger boy whose sisters tormented him so relentlessly he had some serious rage issues, the middle child, maybe eight years old, who I nicknamed Prosti-Tot because she’d come over looking more and more like white trash with every visit, and my favorite, the eldest at ten – a gifted girl. All were feral. No one had bothered to properly raise them. They were hellions.
One night I woke up with my heart leaping out of my chest because I heard a pig being slaughtered upstairs. As it turns out there was no pig, just one very screamy little girl. None of these kids slept. At all. Ever. And every time they were over to the house, even though I had nothing to do with them, I was expected to keep the house clean and the kids watched — because I had tits and a twat, the two things that apparently a Mainer needs in order to take on these responsibilities. Great. I was living in 1880. Wonderful.
It got so bad I started locking myself in my room like it was a bunker. Or sometimes I’d go for a “walk” and find myself under the underpass enjoying the relative quiet of cars driving over my head. Once I even walked into the woods and stayed there for twelve hours, contemplating if I should spend the night or go home and lodge myself in the barn again. I couldn’t face being in the house anymore – not when there were screaming children dirtying EVERY dish in the house, throwing knives at the wall, and disposing of used cigarette butts in the linen closet of the bathroom (because if you’re going to hide the fact you’re smoking in the bathroom why would you throw them smoldering fuckers in the toilet and flush em’, much better to start a house fire…)
Things came to a head when not too many weeks after I moved in the kids were staying overnight, this time with two friends, because that’s exactly what I needed, more. At some point things got quiet – too quiet – so I went out to investigate and found the eldest, her two slumber party friends, and my uncle’s car were mysteriously missing.
I called my mother. She told me to wake up my uncle. He called the cops and within forty five minutes a Boy Scout showed up at the door. I think he was twelve. He looked twelve. He asked me if I had a recent photo of the missing children…. uhhhh…. no…. I had one selfie she shot after she nicked my cellphone a few days previously but being digital he had no idea what to do with this impromptu portrait. In fact he didn’t even have a notepad with him. I watched in horror as he wrote on his hand the numbers of the kids parents. No Amber Alert was issued. He told me she’d come home — as if she was a lost dog of some kind.
“What if she’s wrapped around a tree?! She’s TEN and she’s DRIVING A CAR!”
“I’ll go look around ma’am. I’m sure she’s fine.”
I don’t know how far the boy scout looked. Probably about five hundred feet from the driveway. I was up all night violently ill. No one else except me seemed to be freaking out about this. My uncle was concerned but he believed she’d be back. The father and caretaker of this child didn’t even bother to show up. The mother, who had lost custody in favor of staying with her wife-beating boyfriend, showed up for a few minutes but seemed more lost than anything. She did go out and drive around for a while – maybe an hour.
Five hours passed. I was shaking violently, physically and emotionally shattered when we finally got the news… They had driven through five towns and ended up in the city. A taxi driver called the cops to tell them of an erratic driver and when they went to investigate they ended up chasing her the wrong way up a one-way street in a slow speed chase. At the end the little varmint knew she couldn’t win by running so instead she ditched the driver’s seat and flung herself in the back where she tried to pretend she was asleep the whole time – after being kidnapped by a ghost driver apparently.
I was supposed to put in two hours of practice driving with the Driver’s Ed instructor the next morning. I called him up and said, “I can’t come in today… I’m violently shaking and haven’t slept a wink all night. I’m pretty sure that’d make me pretty fucking unsafe…” Embarrassing. Then I had to attend written classes and regale the whole class with what had happened.
I lasted in Maine for nine gut wrenching months. I survived my insane family, several creeps in big dark vans who were stalking me, a church that was shunning me, and I got to watch in the early days of the heroin epidemic as it began to hit the area with reckless abandon. I will not be going back…