he'd take a nap in the afternoon, most afternoons. &
mostly that wasnt no problem, seein as how he
didnt work for nobody else, just himself. so he could set his
own hours, which is how he liked it. bern always liked havin
things his own way.
my mom didnt like him sleepin in the daytime tho. but then,
my mom wasnt round no more to yell at him about it. mom was
spendin time in the county jail cuz of writin bad checks –
for, i dunno, like maybe the fiftieth time – so she wasnt here.
which meant bern could pretty much do as he liked.
i didnt have much say about it either. since mom'd been gone,
i'd sort of taken her place around the house in alot of ways –
but not to the extent of bein able to tell bern what to do. to
be fair, i guess he did his part. i mean, i was the one who did
all the cleanin, plus the laundry, plus the cookin – but
bern was in charge of the yard work for instance, also of doin repairs
on the house. not that he had all that much to do. out
front there was this big old scrubby pine tree, & the needles it
dropped kept the grass from growin in bout half the yard, which was
tiny enough to begin with. out back there was this old junker
truck that took up a good hunk of space, & he didnt seem to mind lettin
the weeds grow however high they wanted to along the bottom of the chain
link fence we had there, or round the sides of the house neither.
still, what lawn there was he mowed regular, plus he kept the drainpipes
clean & stuff like that. also he was the one providin the main
source of income we had comin in – somethin he didnt
ever let me forget.
bern fixed cars. he'd made kind of a home business of it, &
he must've been pretty good cuz he almost always had someones car parked
out in the driveway, plus another one in the garage waitin to be worked
on. he did other stuff too sometimes, like little paintin jobs
maybe or plumbin or electrical work if it wasnt nothin too complicated,
or sometimes he'd offer to haul peoples junk away for them or help them
with movin from one place to another – stuff like that. mom
never liked him doin those kind of jobs tho, she was always suspicious
of what he might be gettin up to with the women whose houses he worked
at. mom was very jealous that way, what with bern bein younger
than she was, so well built & sooo good lookin . . . so she
said. & he was i guess, sorta, in a sleezy, ratguy kinda way.
anyhow, whenever she'd start into complainin bern'd just laugh her off,
or else he'd maybe say how could he ever want anyone else but her? &
then he'd call her his "sugar babe" & start into huggin
& kissin her, & she'd just melt in his arms like butter. sometimes
tho, if she nagged at him too much, he'd blow up at her & tell her to stop
talkin shit, this wasnt the good old days he'd say & the women whose houses
he went to were all mostly at work, or if it was an inside job their
husbands was almost always around, & most of the women whose houses
he went into was too ugly for him to want to be botherin with anyways.
& if they wasnt ugly, he'd say, they probably thought themselves too
high & mighty to wanna be messin around with the likes of him.
then he'd put on his little-boys face, his vulnerable tough little-boys
face, & my mom would go over & start into huggin & kissin him
. . . it was like this regular little dance they put on, nite
anyhow, since my mom'd been gone bern'd started feelin free to go on
takin these naps in the afternoon. this would be after i got home from
school. he'd come in from the garage & tell me to do somethin quiet,
like maybe wash the dishes or pick up around the house & dust, or get
started in on fixin dinner if it was gettin late, meantime he'd go
into my moms bedroom & take a nap for an hour or so, at which point i
was supposed to go in & wake him up. so i'd make myself busy for
awhile & when it was time i'd have to go knock on the door & stand
there til he said "ok, i'm up" or somethin like that, altho
sometimes after i'd knocked he'd just go "what" like he
was mad at me just for disturbin him. "whad'ya want" he'd
say, & i'd go "well jeez, bern, you told me to get you
up," & he'd mutter somethin like "alright"
or whatever. but sometimes he'd say somethin jerky like "yeah, well
– fuck you too" & i'd wait a minute & then i'd hear
the bed squeak like he was turnin over & goin back to sleep again.
so i'd figure, if he dont care why should i? but then if i didnt
get him up on time he'd be all pissed off with me, like it was my fault he
couldnt get his lazy ass out of bed. then he explained to me that
if i didnt get him up on time he couldnt get to sleep at nite when he wanted
to & that'd make him sleep in too late the next day & his whole
time schedule would be screwed up . . . all of which would be my fault
frankly he was kind of a bozo. at first i just took it when he'd start
in yellin at me – but after awhile it got so i'd yell right back at
him. that'd make him even madder of course, & a coupla times i
had to laugh right out loud cuz his face would be all smooshed lookin &
puffy from sleep & when he got mad on top of that he looked like he was
about five years old. i mean he had that kind of face. he could
look really tough sometimes but like i said sometimes his face got this pouty
little-boy look to it too, & i couldnt help it if it was funny.
"what're you laughin at!" he'd holler, & i'd put this real
serious look on & say "nothin, bern. nothins
what i'm laughin at." cuz thats just what he meant to me –
nothin. then i'd go back to doin my housework or whatever. he
never could seem to figure out if i was insultin him or not. usually
he'd just give me a mean look & mutter somethin i couldnt quite make
out under his breath. or maybe he'd go "oh yeah? well how
bout you just try keepin your mouth shut, you little fucker."
he liked callin me that. like he'd say "c'mere, fucker," or
maybe "c'mere, fuckhead" or "you little fuck-up."
i'd look around me real bewildered, then point at my chest like, "who,
me?" sometimes he took it ok, other times his face would get red
& he'd look like he was thinkin bout slappin me around a little.
when he started lookin like that i'd know to back off quick. i'd seen
him hit my mom a coupla times & i knew he hit mean, so when he got that
look on his face i'd shift my eyes down to the floor & do whatever he
told me to fast. cuz he was a strong guy. i remember my
mom talkin about it to one of her girlfriends on the phone once. she
goes "i know he's a jerk. but goddam – he's built like a
brick shithouse!" & he was. still, every
once in awhile when he was threatenin me i wouldnt back down. i'd
just look him straight in the eye. i wouldnt say nothin
maybe but i'd look him right straight in the eye, cuz i wanted him to
know that if he ever did try anythin i wasnt goin to go down without a
fight. usually then he'd just go "i said, c'mere,
fucker!" or whatever, & i'd do it just to keep the peace.
anyhow, cuz he kept oversleepin in the afternoons what he started doin
was he'd leave the door open to the bedroom a little. that way i could
see if he got up or not, & make sure he did. cuz that was
one of my jobs, one of my duties as he called them – to
make sure he didnt oversleep even when he wanted to.
& i suppose thats how it all got started really, way back in the