When I was eight years old, my mother took in this guy named MacLean. I don't remember his first name. He was a patient from the Veteran's Administration hospital in Bedford where my mother worked at the time. He looked mean and middle-aged, haggard, with a prominent jaw, and was going gray. He was in the hospital because he was a hardcore alcoholic. My mother took pity on him and figured if he wasn't in the hospital all the time he might have a better chance of escaping the depression which was allegedly the cause of his drinking. When he wasn't sitting in our apartment there were outings with his friends from the hospital, many of whom were missing body parts; these were invariably fishing trips. He seemed like a nice enough guy when he wasn't loaded, at least relatively. When he was drunk he became surly and belligerent, and also became violent, towards inanimate objects at least. The day following one of these episodes he'd be abjectly apologetic and swear it would never happen again. I think he was just desperate to stay out of the hospital. And my mother was all too ready to believe him. A smell of bloody puke and piss and cigarettes gradually overtook anyplace he inhabited. He gulped from countless Maalox bottles to keep his ravaged guts from eating themselves; other than his clothes and his drugs, his possessions consisted mostly of gambling paraphernalia and girlie pictures and other sleazy detritus.
He was also an amputee, missing his right leg below the knee. Because he'd been in the Korean War and was in the VA hospital I assumed he'd lost it in battle. Much later I found out he'd gotten drunk and tried to kill himself by jumping off a bridge-- he failed but lost the leg. The way my mother said it suggested that he was a loser because of this, but it might've been the result of post-traumatic stress disorder, so maybe he was a hero in the end. Occasionally he'd get so twisted on Budweiser that he'd have to drag himself around, unable to negotiate his prosthetic. I remember once he was on a rampage and snapped off the end of my beloved toy M16 rifle-- there's a weird kind of convergence there, a crippled war veteran smashing a toy gun as the Vietnam War grinds itself to a conclusion. He scared me, but not so much that I couldn't hate him.
The stump would creep me out... he would put this thing like a skullcap on it before putting it in the artificial leg. Do they round off the bone so that it doesn't stab through the flesh when you put pressure on it? He also had this lotion that he put on it, Keri lotion. Four out of five alcoholic amputees recommend it.
One day I was alone with MacLean in the living room. He was sitting in this late 60s ultra-modern chair my dad had left behind, which MacLean adopted as his own and ultimately destroyed. He had his pants and his artificial leg off, and was putting lotion on the stump. My mom wanted me to get over the fact that I was now sharing the house with a guy missing a leg... I'd made it clear more than once that the amputation stump scared me. So I was encouraged to help him put lotion on the thing so it wouldn't scare me as much.
After he'd done with this, he got his underwear down and started rubbing lotion on his cock, masturbating, not especially concerned that I was there. I didn't think much of it myself... there'd been an 'anatomy lesson' with my father one evening when I was even younger, with my mother present, so the adult male penis wasn't completely alien to me, and I hadn't been taught to think of it as dirty. This was just a continuation of the degenerating freakshow that was MacLean.
Then MacLean tried to talk me into rubbing lotion on his cock. I was leery of this, and yelled to my mom, who was in another room, asking if it was okay to put lotion on him. As near as I can figure, my mother got some wires crossed and thought I was talking about the stump, and said yes. I found it decidedly preferable to touching his amputation stump. So I squeezed some Keri lotion onto his stiffening prick and rubbed it in with my small hand.
I took great care not to touch anything with hair on it... I didn't like pubic hair, which I also thought was creepy. I actually started to enjoy it a little, until MacLean wanted me to put the lotion on his balls, and somehow he coaxed me into doing it-- I think he yelled to her that I wasn't being cooperative, and I complied --I distinctly remember the texture of his wrinkled, hairy scrotum against my palm. I winced as I grudgingly rubbed the lotion into this thing like a saggy, overripe fruit, its surface convoluted like a miniature brain. Then my mother came in and saw what was going on... or maybe she didn't. I don't remember her being especially horrified or frantic about it, but she made us stop. I was never expected to help him with his stump again.
I realized when I grew up that I could have been seriously messed up by the experience, but at the time I only thought of it as icky and a little weird, not traumatic or abusive. It was just a strange episode from my childhood which had no particular significance at the time. When I was in college I reminded my mother about it, and she denied that it had happened... she said that MacLean had tried to get me to play with him but she'd intervened before anything took place.
An amusing footnote to this adventure is that years later, when I started to masturbate, I first used Keri lotion to lubricate myself. They say that if you hook somebody on a brand when they're a kid they're a customer for life....
At some point I discovered that MacLean left cash and lots of change in his pants pockets. I think he'd given me some change when he moved in, and I took this as a sign to start looting his clothing whenever possible. I did not and do not consider this payback for getting me to jerk him off. Before long he noticed that his money was disappearing and told my mother I was stealing from him, and I naturally denied it. I kept doing it; I had a taste for cash now and I knew no charge could stick. Even as a child I displayed an aptitude for crime. One time my thievery yielded a 20-dollar bill, a sum so unfathomably huge I was afraid to spend it, and I stashed it in the garbage beneath my bed, soon forgetting about it.
Nobody could stop me. I had more money than I'd ever even seen before... I could and did buy anything I wanted... I hoarded candy bars and the cheap toys you find in grocery store impulse racks. I was out of control. Meanwhile MacLean was getting more and more pissed off, something for which he normally needed no excuse. I probably aggravated his alcoholism as he attempted to reconcile himself to being robbed by a little kid. I didn't care how much he yelled... as far as I was concerned any money he had in his pockets was mine. He was an intruder in my home and this was the toll he had to pay.
My life of crime came to an end when my mother cleaned under my bed and found the wad of bills I'd stashed there. She was pissed; I suppose she'd actually believed I was innocent until confronted with the truth of it. I find myself smiling at her naivete. For my part I was upset at being yelled at by my mom, but wasn't repentant. I missed the money, too.
In November, about three months after MacLean moved in with us, we left the apartment my mother and father had gotten together, where I'd spent my entire sapient life, and moved to a nothing town called Billerica, over the border in Massachusetts. Other than my home life, the things I remember most vividly about Billerica are that I got a serious concussion in the schoolyard there, found a dollar bill frozen in the ice that winter, and bought one of the first bags of Funyuns ever produced. That pretty much encapsulates the Billerica experience. It was a shit town that treated me shittily and I hope it's been paved over by yuppies commuting from Boston.
My mother rented this enormous house. It had rooms we didn't even use, and quite a bit of furniture was already there when we moved in. The master bedroom was done in red and pink and had this huge round king-sized bed. It was basically a fuck room. I suppose my mother and MacLean fucked in it. I don't recall him having his own room, and even today I am at times singularly oblivious to the fact that my mother was sexually active while I was growing up. But I'm not going to think about creepy amputee sex if I can help it. I understand that it's a legitimate fetish to some people, but not when it involves a grizzled, sloppy drunk.
The house was on a dirt road that went through the woods, and the only place within walking distance was the convenience store down on the main road. I hung out in front of the store a lot and ate a lot of junk food, including the aforementioned Funyuns, which I thought were near-inedible... since then America has acclimated to more than two decades of shitty food. Funyuns are the least of our problems. The store, my house and the road between were my whole world when I wasn't in school.
I remember almost nothing about school there, not surprising since I spent less than a semester of fourth grade there. I'm not sure it was much more than a month. I had no friends to speak of, since I was the new kid and weird as shit.
One day I was out in the schoolyard during recess, and the bell rang. I turned and ran for the door, and wasn't watching where I was going. There was this one big kid who had decided it was his obligation to fuck with me, the new kid, and when I turned and ran he put his leg out in front of me. I actually flipped up and over until I reattained a vertical position, only upside-down, and landed on my head. I don't remember much after that... I threw up, and slipped in and out of consciousness while I lay there on the pavement. I distinctly remember staring at the blacktop a few inches from my face, my cheek pressed into the cold, pebbly surface, while the teachers waited for the paramedics to come. Eventually I woke up at home. I'm not sure what happened to the other kid. I don't think he got caught.
The only other thing I remember about school in Billerica is that I had this checked cloth coat, and would put it on the radiator to dry during school. One day I had some of those sugar-water-filled wax bottles in the pocket, and when I put my coat back on to go outside, I found the wax had all melted and soaked into the bottom of the pocket and resolidified in a disconcerting lump.
When I was little I loved cats. That's an understatement, really... I wanted to be a cat. I acted like a cat. Whenever I moved somewhere I inevitably was called 'Catman' because I was a little freak who acted like a cat. So when I learned our neighbors further up the road had a cat I tried to befriend it.
My idea of cat ownership at this time was that you went to the pet shop, got a kitten, and the kitten grew up in your house and you fed it and it was your cat and it loved you. I didn't realize that when some people said they had a cat, what they meant was that a stray cat had come along and claimed the family and their home as its rightful possessions, and that the creature was essentially a wild animal.
So I encountered my neighbor's cat along the dirt road my house was on, and since I loved cats I wanted to pet it. And the cat seemed to enjoy this at first. Just as I felt I'd established friendship with the animal, it whipped its head around and buried its teeth in my left forearm. I was so surprised I didn't even react at first. Then I screamed until it let go... the cat trotted a few feet away from me, looking confused. The way it looked at me made me angry so I stomped my feet until it ran off into the woods.
I went home to bandage my arm. I felt terribly betrayed. I had been friendly, it had been friendly to me, and then it turned on me. I wanted to kill it. After I bandaged myself I got a pair of scissors and went back to find the cat, to stab it to death. I followed the road until I got to my neighbor's house; the cat was not there but the neighbors were. They asked me what I wanted. I was evasive. I was sure they could read my thoughts, and I didn't want to get in more trouble than I already had, so I went back home. At dinner that night my mother asked me what I'd done to my arm. I didn't want to tell her because I knew I'd catch shit for it, but she made me take off the bandage and admit what happened. We went to the hospital for me to get shots.
Not everything about Billerica was horrible, though. The road I lived on skirted this sort of low hill, and once you got up through the woods that edged it, there was this plateau which was nothing but huge, round rocks, going off into the distance as far as I could see. They had been left behind by the glaciers that once entirely covered New England. I thought it was the coolest place. It was like another planet. I only got to play there once until the neighborhood kids decided they hated me and wouldn't let me around there anymore.
MacLean would sit in the den and get boozed up and watch TV. He was supposed to be recovering; that was the whole point of this endeavor, the reason I had to tolerate this puke-smelling monster in my home. But it was not happening. He was getting beer from the nearby convenience store. He'd decided my mother was a pushover and that he didn't have to worry about being sent back to the VA. One night in December my mother confronted him about it during a particularly heavy drunk, and eventually it turned into another argument and rampage. MacLean talked tough but he was basically a pushover, you might say; once he had enough beer in him he couldn't stand or even get the artificial leg attached, so there was no way you could take a punch off of him unless you were sleeping or yourself inebriated.
He and my mother screamed at each other. I was hiding upstairs but could hear every sound. Someone, MacLean presumably, was throwing all kinds of shit around in the kitchen, breaking stuff. At one point there was a huge thud of something heavy hitting the floor, which rattled the house, and then it got really quiet. I heard my mother sobbing. I was very afraid... I thought MacLean had hurt her. I thought he had knocked the refrigerator over onto her. I crept down and peeked around the bend in the stairs. There was food and broken-open containers all over the kitchen carpet, green jello being the most notable substance, and Budweiser cans here and there. He'd also trashed the Christmas tree.
My mother came up about that time and found me watching... she was physically all right, and although she was visibly upset she tried to be calm for my benefit. I learned the noise was MacLean's drunk ass falling on the floor... he'd crawled off into the den to pass out. She called my grandmother, who lived in New York, about three hours away, and told her we were coming down. Then she spent the night packing.
The next day MacLean was repentant as usual, and had attempted to clean up the mess he'd made of the kitchen. He knew he'd fucked up badly. But that was the end. We were out of there. I never went back there again; my mother went back to deal with the rest of our stuff and the rent, as well as having MacLean readmitted to the VA hospital, but I never saw Billerica again. I also never saw MacLean again, although my mother dealt with him a few more times. I was horrified to learn that he'd gotten my grandmother's number and had called a few times, and he'd even turned up in New York, wanting to see my mother. I was deathly afraid that he was going to find us. I couldn't believe she went to visit him after that, but she did. After a while she managed to fend him off. I think she was actually sorry to have to part with him.