Aunt Jane’s House, 1949: By then I had a sort of radar that scanned people thoroughly to determine if they were a threat to me. I was always on the lookout because I fully understood that adults had two personalities. One when they were drunk (very dangerous), and another when they were sober (less dangerous).
But Jane seemed kindly, sympathetic, even a bit pleased that I was a new addition her family. She wasn’t moody and volatile like my father and uncle. Rather she resembled grandma, who fearlessly and confidently bossed people around. Her glasses were just like grandma’s: squarish lenses, no rims. Her belly was big and round underneath her flower covered housewife’s apron.
My father said he was late, he had to go back to the bar on Mahoning Avenue he and Alex had just bought, he just didn’t have time. She said, “You’ve always got a lot to do, right Chet?”
She lowered her voice and said something I couldn’t hear, and he flashed his dark, cutting eyes at her as he got out his wallet, counted some bills, handed them over. Then he went out the door, and walked rapidly to the car. It seemed to me he always was itching to go somewhere. I could tell when he was about to depart. His eyes would dart back and forth, and he’d look nervous. He couldn’t stay with me because he had ants in his pants.
Jane took my hand, led me down the hallway past a dining room on the left and a living room on the right, all the way to the back door, and down three steps to an enclosed porch. On the concrete floor was a quilt. Asleep on it were three kids: Howard Jr., Dennis, and Jane Emma.
“It’s nap time,” Jane said.
I had never taken naps, it seemed to me strange, a waste of time. I wasn’t sleepy, I was wide awake, eager to explore this new place. But Jane repeated that I had to take a nap.
“Understand? That’s the rule.”
So I flopped face down, and closed my eyes, imitating the other unconscious kids. Jane went up the steps, and back into the house. I smelt peaches. I looked around. There was a wet spot beside me on the quilt, and under a fold was a slimy gnarled peach seed. Apparently before naps, Jane gave her kids peaches.
Where, I wondered, was mine?