Category Archives: coming of age story

Spencer’s Story: Volume 3

“What are you doing?” Mr. Grum commanded.

Groggy, Spencer took a moment to answer, to get his bearings. “I was just resting. Just resting.”

“Well get up. Now. We have company.”

A tall man in a v-neck sweater of green stood behind his father, smiling, waiting for Spencer to react.

“Spencer, this is Mr. Blankenship. He’s with the church.”

“Nice to meet you,” Spencer said.

“Very nice to meet you, Spencer.”

Spencer smiled, looking Mr. Blankenship in the eyes. This was how it went with company. Smile politely, make eye contact, don’t step out of line. That line had been drawn in impenetrable stone for as long as Spencer could remember. As much as he tried to forget, his evolutionary mechanism aptly reminded him of its presence in times like these.

“We’re going to be using the dining room. I don’t want any interruptions. You got that?”

“Yes, sir.”

With the church, Spencer mused. It’s always with the church. He had wondered why the church took precedence over family. Why the way the family dressed for church worship services was important enough to scream about, fight over. Why Spencer and his brothers had to be so gosh darn quiet in their company. It was as though, as Spencer had thought before, their Christian development wasn’t matured, or brainwashed enough to fit in.

Frankly, he was sick of it. And he went to bed that evening with a sour taste in his mouth.

The next morning, Spencer woke before the sun came to visit. This was par for the course in the Grum household. Early to rise for chores of cleaning and dusting and organizing. While his brothers still had it in them to whine about it, Spencer had grown to realize that it was how it went. And it wasn’t so bad, he had thought. It usually gave him more time during the day to play outdoors: his most favorite place on the planet.

Later that day, after he had finished his chores, Spencer was given permission to invite his friend Garrett over. And that day, Spencer found adventure in a place hadn’t ever before.

*    *    *    *

Beyond the hill behind the Grum house, horses ran, unsaddled and free. Or at least that’s what Spencer liked to think. He didn’t know much about horses–other than what he gleaned from episodes of Have Gun Will Travel–but he did like to lean up against the fence and watch them as they galloped to and fro chasing jackrabbits and chomped on wild lemon grass in between yearnings to scratch their backs with the crust of the earth.

This one time, however, when he was eight, Spencer and his friend Garrett did just a bit more than simply watch the horses.

It was another one of those sunny weekend days in Southern California: perfect for romping around the neighborhood, exploring new trees to build forts upon, finding new ways to lend credence to the title of hooligan or scoundrel or whippersnapper, terms he heard regularly delivered by Mrs. Walden (for skateboarding “too fast” down the hill near their houses, or throwing water balloons at passing bicyclists).

“Let’s go watch the horses,” Garret said. Garrett lived in a stucco box of an apartment next to other stucco boxes, and didn’t often have the chance to be around animals. Small pets weren’t allowed in his apartment complex. Not even miniature horses.

Spencer wanted to get out of the house anyhow. Miah and Marcus were fighting over the integrity of one another’s building block castle: Miah’s being replete with moat, and imaginary crocodiles for the strict purpose of chomping on intruders, or Marcus’ wandering fingers; Marcus’ castle being the one with the highest towers, or the “better angle to shoot things in the face.” The parents were, as was the routine for Sundays, arguing over bills in their bedroom. They jabbed at each other in exasperated exclamations.

“Okay,” Spencer replied. “Let’s go.”

When they both reached the fence at the top of the hill, they leaned against it and looked out upon the roaming beasts.

“Who’s are they?” Garret asked.

“I don’t know. They’re just here.”

“But who owns them?”

“I don’t know. Maybe no one does. I think they’re just wild.”

A few moments pass before the two exchange grins. The grins, translated, amounted to: They’re wild. We’re wild. Let’s be wild together.

That, at the least, was their collective vision. However naive, it was still theirs. No rules. No parents. No brothers or sisters. Only them, and the wild beasts of the field beyond the Grum house.

Stepping through the barbed wire fence, Garrett looks up, noticing one of the horses trot towards them, only twenty paces off or so. “They’re not going to eat us, are they?”

“Um, no. No, they’re herbivores…I think.”

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Alasdair’s Maroon Mush – An Excerpt

Outside, mariachi music plays on some boom box, emanating along with the early afternoon warmth of a summer in Burbank. Must be Saturday. Those family lovin’ folk, treating each weekend day like it was a new vacation, never to return to the banalities of what the work week represented. I think, reminisce, I wish I had that. The knitted family. The carefree. The homemade cuisine I was forced out of long ago.

Grabbing the can opener from the drawer beside the sing, I plunge its metal teeth into the soft circular kidney bean frame. Maroon mush. And then tuna, packed below watery oil spotted film. With a dab of Dijon, I toss the vacuum-packed melange into a bowl and spoon complacent nourishment into my mouth.

The mariachi is still going and I take a swig of Stoli. Take with vodka, the label reads.

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Giddiness in the Stillness Before the Journey

She sits on the vinyl UFO stool, casually twisting back and forth, with her too-long legs swaying below the foot rest.

Before her, a plate of what appears to be some type of chocolate mousse, and a ceramic mug of coffee. On the stool next to her rests a backpacker’s pack – a long journey of a pack, meant for treks into the wilderness, into the great beyond, into the starry night skies of worlds unseen.

She’s alone, a traveler, but she seems to be fine with this. Content. Giddy almost. With the to and fro of her legs revealing this particular bit about her. The coffee mug at her lips is still. She contemplates its warmth. Her breath exaggerating the steam that tenderly licks her face.

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The Day I Stopped Eating – Volume One

The day I stopped eating was the day I found out my father had been dabbling in infidelity.

Or, at the very least, that’s the moment I first learned that I was to take a stab at mediating a grown-up relationship. The eating, or lack thereof, came later.

In that particular moment, we were seated at a Denny’s across from one another. I was a couple of years shy of twenty and he had asked to meet, intimating that it was important we do so because there was something he had to say. I remember driving to the restaurant thinking that it may have been of a marital nature. Him and my mom, well they never really got it right. Sure, they shared intermittent joys. But, for the most part, as I certainly perceived it, it was fairly rough.

I was preparing myself for the worst; and because of the less than stellar relationship we had built up until that point and the aforementioned inkling, I was mildly on the defensive going into it.

When I arrived, he was already there, seated in one of the vinyl booths in the back of the restaurant. When he got up to greet me, I noticed a certain hesitation, a reluctance. We said our ‘hellos’ and sat down facing each other. After a few moments of smalltalk- the smalltalk, dad and I found, to be the only meaningful discourse between the two parties; a sort of reactionary duty-  he let me have it.

He had cheated. The dirtbag.

I remember wanting to take the inexpensive, diner-worn fork and jam it into his eye. I remember asking myself why he would do such a thing; if it were a result of some level of boredom or disgust, or if it were, as my mother had said then and on so many occasions later, simply a man “turning away from god.” The former being something I couldn’t accept, and the latter being one that was any easy explanation (yet not, as I would find later, one suitable for me).

By the time I figured out he had been adulterating around the globe for the duration of their marriage, I was a staunch supporter of Team Mom.

More to come your way in Volume Two

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