25 Jun

We moved to a trailer in a desert with no television, radio or reason to live.  Surely, tribes in the outermost reaches of a Brazilian jungle had better accommodations.  My parents plied us with comic books, novels and a monopoly board.  This, of course, did not take the place of a working television.  I was hoping our “real” family would rescue us from this psychotic set of parent’s clutches.  Instead, we suffered in the heat, whining we were bored.  My mother in her infinite wisdom decided to send us out into the scorching sun so we could no longer interrupt her daily sobbing spells.

So without the benefit of sunscreen, we huddled beneath the scarce pine trees looking for shade and watching the other similarly abused children hide beneath decks and cars until the sunset and we could go back inside for dinner.  The funny thing about the desert is that at night it was cold.  Therefore, you spent all day frying in the sun and then at night you covered yourself in layers of blankets.  To this day, I am not sure how long this torture continued.  I just remember one day we were in the desert and then it was time to move to the mountains.

The Superstition Mountains of Arizona were beautiful, majestic and full of things that given the slightest chance would eat you.  We were in a trailer at the foot of a tall hill and at night in the pitch-black darkness, you could hear the howling of the coyotes in the distance.  Except some nights, they were not so distant.  They were roaming in the alfalfa fields on either side of our trailer.  I would have been frightened by their presence, but I was more concerned about the mouse living in the bathroom.

This trip to the mountains was also the first time I contracted strep throat.  I remember this distinctly because as my parents hacked their way through two packs of cigarettes each daily, I could no longer breath in the confines of  the smoked filled coffin we called home.  One night delirious with fever and unable to swallow, I remember lying on my side in the bed, the light from the bathroom illuminating the tacky tile floor and there was the mouse.  Scurrying along and then pausing to look at me.  I would have screamed in fright had any sound been possible from my swollen shut throat.

A trip to the local doctor, a shot of penicillin and bed rest, and that is where I lay for a week watching that mouse watching me.  At the time, I did not think about bubonic plague or the diseases they carried.  I simply did not want it in my bed and snuggling on my pillow.  Night after night, I watched that mouse unable to sleep until finally I told my parents about it.  A quick snap of a mousetrap and it was gone.  I had been responsible for its demise and I was racked with guilt.

When I was better, we began taking weekend trips into the mountains for rest and relaxation.  For one, there is no rest.  You must be aware of your surroundings at all times.  If you wonder why, refer to the list of things that will kill you.  The woods contained all elements of danger.  Half-fallen trees called widow makers, the tell tale rattle of a rattlesnakes nearby.  Tracks that could belong to any type of hungry carnivore.  A great place for a picnic.

Relaxation is subjective.  I was not relaxing when sliding down hillsides onto trucking roads with my male cousins.  Not relaxing trying to jump over a rushing creek only to slip and fall in and have to drag yourself to safety.  Not relaxing when stepping onto a red anthill and enduring their sting.  There was an incident when I lost my shoes.  It is a miracle I made it out alive.

On a side note, even in the city life was dangerous I told myself.  There was a time when I was following my cousins on a big wheel and they lost me in the dark.  I pedaled around the ever-darkening streets of the apartment complex until a man found me crying and unable to find my way home.  In a stroke of sheer luck that would indeed follow me my entire life, he picked me up into his arms and carried me home.  He just so happened to know my aunt and where they lived.

I began to embrace the dangers of living in the mountains.  There were things you did and did not do.  My hair was bleached white and my skin a golden brown.  I was beginning to get the hang of living like a savage.  Then in one moment, my father helping to put a roof on someone’s trailer distracted me, and I stepped back onto a nail.  A rusty nail.

I remember my mother being angry I was so careless as I sat in the doctor’s office having my wound cleaned and receiving a tetanus shot.  My foot was bandaged and I was told to hop around for support.  In other words, I was house bound in that trailer for another week.  I almost missed that mouse.


  1. Nancy Merriman June 26, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    Your stuff is a good read. Your borderline sarcastic look on life is not painful to read, but I suspect you were a very old 4 year old.

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