Holding my first love's hand gave me joy. Just hearing the sweetness of her voice for the first time helped ease the emotional stress I was going through. But in a flash I felt a bit embarrassed about my crying.
I hadn't noticed my preschool neighbor entering the yard thru an opening in the back fence. At the sound of her sweet voice I took my tearful eyes off my prey. I stared at Joyce's adorable face for a short time before taking off at a run, sobbing as I ran to and into house. I found it hard to cope with the death of two babies.
Bernard might be alive today if only I had told my sister about his screams from the room below mine. I cried upon hearing mom talk about Bernard's death due to his head getting stuck between the slats of his crib. His parents had left him with a partially deaf elderly woman who fell asleep listening to a radio that might have been a little too loud. Surely not as noisy as Bernard's mom after she found her baby's body hanging along the side of his crib. Mrs. Zonfrillo's screech scared the piss out of me. Well, my sheets and mattress were probably already wet at the time, so I shouldn't blame my second floor neighbor.
I recall Bernard laughing and enthusiastically flapping his arms as he sat in his highchair. He eyed the toy stuck to the tray and watched as it moved in all directions. Every time I pulled back on that little figure glued to a spring and released it, he would laugh out loud and wave his arms as if he was trying fly.
Before going to the baby’s funeral my mom let me go outside. As she drove away a loud and continuous rapid rat-a-tat-tat sound caught my attention. I turned toward the tall tree rooted barely on the other side of a chain-linked fence. After looking up, I focused my bright blue eyes on a Hairy Woodpecker, a black and white bird with a red patch on the back of its head.
A wonder of nature can captivate a five-year-old, but not for long. My fascination over the bird lasted about a minute. I reverted to my favorite pastime: throwing stones at tin cans. After six Campbell’s soup cans were placed upright on the ground by the back fence, I proceeded to gather stones that fit comfortably in my hand and placed them into my pant’s pocket. While doing that I noticed a living thing watching me.
Its black eyes peered out from under the porch. When I came within ten feet of him, frightened, he made his move. His tiny pink feet moved fast. It scurried rapidly toward the back fence.
Instantaneously, I eyeballed my target and made a side arm throw in front of my body. The rock hit the mouse on the back of his head. It stopped. Bright red blood oozed out from under the gray fur.
Cautiously, I dawdled over to the lifeless rodent. I bent down to examine my kill. His black eye appeared to be staring at me. He didn’t move. After realizing the mouse was dead tears started to flow down my cheeks and I began to sob. I must have wept for several minutes before my first love spoke to me.
About halfway up the second flight of stairs I decided to return to the scene of the crime. Too late! The blue-eyed blonde with a stunning face had gone home, but returned the next day. We spent most of nineteen-fifty-two and the following year together.
Back then I planned on marrying Joyce. That dream ended by a stroke of bad luck, a misfortune by virtue of mom's hanky-panky.
Shortly after my sixth birthday, mom divorced dad to marry Jim. Moving miles away from Joyce to live with that crude southerner brought about unpleasant experiences. Such as those loud disgusting munching sounds he made while chewing his food. More incredibly annoying were disgusting noises coming out a wide open bathroom door while he sat on the toilet. Just seeing him sitting there grinning at me was appalling. Even worse had to be Jim pulling down my pants to spank me without probable cause every chance he got. That embarrassment upset me more than the painful spanking. The gleam in his eye whenever he mistreated and teased me indicated his immense pleasure.
Jim's cruelest taunt came shortly after I turned seven. He told me a school bus ran over Joyce's head. By the look on his face I could tell that amused him.
“No sa,” I replied angrily, knowing he hated me for not eating broccoli and other stuff he tried to force down my throat before whacking the back of my head.
Grinning, he held up 'Life' magazine and pointed at a shocking color photo of a child wearing a brown velvet bodice and a satin plaid skirt. A big puddle of blood was where the girl’s head should be.
"That's not her." I crossed my arms, pouting. Something I did a lot as a child and only once while married. "You're lying," I muttered looking down.
The sound of the magazine slamming onto the coffee table startled me. With a fearful grin I peered up at Jim. His hard backhand across my mouth knocked me back against the sofa. Stunned, I held a hand over my bloody fat lip for a few seconds prior to heading for the bathroom mirror.
“You better not tell your mother - you little bastard,” he yelled, slurring his words. Jim was what some would call a 'bad drunk'. So bad he even raped a seventeen year-old girl while he was twenty-three stationed in Germany. While drunk, he and his buddy used their guns to break into a house and rape the girl and an older woman. Both were convicted in nineteen-forty-five and sentenced to life in prison. They agreed to some experimental drug testing and were released after serving a few years in the poke. I doubt if mom knew about the rape.
The reflection in the mirror upset me. It looked horrible. A large piece was missing from a front tooth. Jim’s wedding band had chipped it. That open space between the teeth looked hideous; worse after a bright silver cap covered that chipped tooth. My days of smiling ended until I had it replaced. I have no idea why it didn't matter to Joyce ten years later.
Somehow we recognized each other midway through my sales pitch. She looked fabulous! Thank God for that after school job that got me to go knock, knock, knocking at her front door. Even with my hideous silver front tooth she agreed to go on a date with me.
I had the time of my life for almost a month. If she hadn't died, I believe I would've married her. She had stopped her car on Pawtucket Ave. in Pawtucket, waiting to take a left turn when the truck hit her from behind. I heard she died instantly from a broken neck. I still remember her first words to me. "Everything is going to be okay. He's gone to animal heaven."
She was the first of my three loves to die. My eyes water when I think of them. Lately that's followed by a smile while imagining the bliss of joining them in paradise soon. Although I do hope my doctor is wrong.