I’m trying to work through making this experience into a short story, so this is going to be draft one...a partial draft. It is actually a bit of a brainstorm that needs to be deposited somewhere to collect interest and grow. I might post it multiple times with various changes, as I find that I only write well if I know there is a possibility of someone reading it.
This is an absolutely true story. Any similarity to actual people alive or dead is intended and desired. I haven’t ever written it down and don’t actually tell it to many people, but it has and continues to shape my life.
Tank Farm Road
I was playing in the back yard when I heard the sirens. They were obviously coming from somewhere on Princeton Road or near Calumet Refinery. I didn’t think anything of them. I kept playing. I don’t know what kind of playing I was doing-- I just know that’s what I was doing. The phone rang from inside the house; shortly after my mom came outside and told me to come in. She called my sister and told her to come home from her boyfriend’s house immediately. She needed us there, with her. We locked the doors to be safe. The woods held danger. The woods held our home.
We weren’t as rich as some people, but we had more money than a lot of people. Upper middle class would probably be the best way to describe my family. We had an average sized home, multiple cars, good clothes, and help. Our help was in the form of a few different permanent people and a variety of transient souls who needed a little money here and there. Helen was our help, our maid. She was not of the Alice variety, nor did she have a bedroom off our laundry room. Helen came once a week and stayed all day. My parents paid her twenty-five dollars a week to make our lives easier. They could have afforded more, and Helen could have used more. Neither party involved felt it necessary to change the status quo.
I loved when Helen would come. We prepared for Helen by picking up our rooms so that she could dust, vacuum, sweep, mop, and do any other chore that was necessary to keep our house clean. I liked the way she called me Mistuh Jason and my sister Miss Jennifer. I never thought anything of it. It was just was she called us. She was the only person that wasn’t a blood relative who ever looked after me. Her job wasn’t to babysit me, but my sister and I did get to stay at home with Helen when she was at our house. She loved us and we loved her.
Helen was terrified of snakes and was a good Christian woman. She had false teeth but never wore them to our house. She always wore a wig, but I didn’t know about it until later. I always thought her hair was real. Her skin was dark brown and smooth. Her age was a mystery, and she liked to keep it that way. She went about the day doing her job at a steady pace. I went about the day trying to find things that looked like snakes that I could hide in various places. The goal was to scare Helen. I didn’t do it out of meanness, as my family enjoys picking. It’s how you know you’re part of us. You get picked on. Being the baby, I learned the ins and outs of picking and take great pride in my ability to do so. Helen was the recipient of my picking in the form of pieces of old rope hidden in the laundry basket, a section of water hose curling out from under the stove, or an actual rubber snake tucked under my pillow. I would place the serpentine element in the desired location and wait. Sometimes I would have to wait for several minutes, even waiting so long that I would forget and go on to something else. Being in the immediate vicinity of the prank was desired but not necessary because Helen was terrified of snakes. She would scream. She would cuss. She had a script.
“Oh, shit! Ooooooh, Mistuh Jason you done made me cuss. You knows I’s afraid uh snakes.” She would let out a squeal and make me come remove the offending article. I generally only scared her once per visit, but it was always a good one.
...more to come