Friday, June 22, 2012

The Day I Cracked An Old Lady's Head Wide Open

As a child of say age four or five
growing up totally unsupervised in
North Miami Beach Florida
I was allowed/ permitted
to freely roam the back streets
and back alleys of
Larchmont Gardens
(the North Miami slum that
me and my gypsy loving
so-called family
had chosen to call home
if not by choice then by default)
as if I were a feral dog or cat
and like a feral dog or cat
I was left entirely
to my own devices
to scavenge for
entertainment and
wherever and however
I could manage to find them

I became rather good at this
feral way of life
I had learned to develop
all of my keen animal instincts
I developed the cunning of
a cornered animal that
had to fight everyday for survival
while the so-called adults in my life
(the ones who were supposed to be
looking out for my health and welfare)
were usually nowhere to be found
and I never had the slightest idea
as to where they were  or
what they were actually doing
at any given time
I just presumed that
they were off working
at this menial job or that
trying to scrape together a few dollars
to pay the motel rent and
buy us kids a few cans of pork and beans
to go with a package or two of
Armour franks
so that we could have
a real sit down meal
every once in a while

those times
were few and far between
and I mostly  survived on
the charity of neighbors who
took pity on us poor city kids
from way up north who
never seemed to have enough to eat
(we were given a lot of
American cheese sandwiches
Spam was my
favorite lunch meat but
it was too expensive
for our equally poor and
hard pressed neighbors to
hand out to feed
the likes of us
(the poor white trash
kids that they said we were)

Our empty and sometimes
bloated bellies
and our shabby clothes
(not to mention the fact that
most of the time we all
had to go shoeless)
fairly shouted that we
were being totally neglected
by whoever it was that was
supposed to be taking care of us
(namely my widowed mother and
my older sister and her
always broke ass
good for nothing
miserable excuse of a husband)

As I said
most of the time
(which meant practically
all of the time)
we kids were mostly
just left to our own devices.

One bright sunny
South Florida afternoon
I was playing with
one of the neighborhood’s
many latch key kids
and we were daring each other
to see who could throw
the biggest and
heaviest rocks and stones
over this old ugly
half falling down
cinder block wall
that stood
behind the motel
that we didn’t particularly care for
since it had a great big sign that read
post no bills and
no ball playing allowed

To make a long story short
(as my silver tongued
dear old Mum used to
like to say)
After we had tossed a
good dozen stone bombs apiece
over the top of the wall
this old lady comes
running around the corner
shouting and screaming at us
and raising all kinds of cain
for having
cracked her head wide open
with the rocks that we had thrown
(not knowing that the old lady lived there)

Truth be told
neither one of us had ever been
to see what was to be found
on the other side of that
hideous beast of a wall
and it never ever dawned on us
(precocious little geniuses
that we no doubt were)
that there might be someone
who actually lived there

This poor old woman
was running after us
screaming curses
while trying to stop the bleeding
that was running down her face
it was a terrifying sight to see
and all that I could think to do
was to run away
as hard and as fast
as I could
needless to say
I was terrified and petrified
at all of the mayhem that
I had accidentally caused
(I didn’t know for certain
that it was one of my rocks that
nearly killed the old woman
I just assumed it was me
but there was no way
to know for sure
and in the final analysis
it would not have made
any difference since
we were both guilty as hell
and we both knew it!)

All the rest of that day
I hid in the bushes
hiding from every
passing police car

(I was sure that the cops
were out looking for me
and that sooner or later
 I was going to be
arrested and thrown into jail
as I so richly
deserved to be)

I had nightmares about the old lady
for weeks after the accident
and in my dreams
I’d be running as
hard and as fast as I could
to get away as I’d done
in real life
but my legs would not move
I tried to scream but
no words or sounds would
come out of my mouth
even as the bloodied old woman
continued to chase after me
screaming at me
for blocks on end

And just before she could
reach out to grab me
with her blood covered hand
I’d suddenly wake up
in a cold sweat
with my heart pounding
like a drum so hard
that I thought it would
burst right out of my chest

I don’t know what ever
became of the old lady
and I really didn’t want to know
(I was too scared and too terrified
to ever want to show my face in that
part of town ever again)

Me and my partner in crime
were never arrested
and life resumed its
usual dull pattern
over the next few weeks
as if nothing out of the ordinary
had ever even happened

And I never did tell
any of the so-called adults
who were supposed to be
looking out for me
what had actually
happened that day
and none of them
ever even bothered to ask
though the rock attack
on the old lady was
the talk of the barrio
for a good long while

After a while
the nightmares
came to an end
and my gypsy family
moved back up north
in search of richer pickings
but no matter
how much time goes by or
how much water
flows under the bridge
I will never forget
that horrendously horrifying
day that I cracked open
that poor old
Florida lady’s head

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

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