Thursday, March 22, 2012

1,000 Pets

I saw one of my two crazy brothers today. He was walking between rooms in my Mom's house in some sort of fugue state, seemingly doing nothing. Possibly he was carrying invisible objects.

He told me that he pets his cat 1,000 times each day. He counts the petting out loud. My mom confirmed this. He asked me if I pet my cat 1,000 times each day. I said "Sure."

My mom rolled her eyes. He was married once to a sort of stray, some girl he rescued from a mob goon. Actually, that's the romantic version he tells. The Rescue. He didn't really rescue this woman. The mob guy was his racetrack buddy and this mob guy basically gave her to my brother. I think he did this because he was afraid he would kill her. The mob guy said he had never been involved with an intelligent woman before and it was freaking him the hell out. He had already broken her nose and one arm.

She appreciated my brother's kindness in taking her in, and I was happy we suddenly had an intellectual in the family.

She liked cool things. Like George Romero and getting high and gay people and Laraine Newman and New York.

I was ten so I needed this woman in my life. So bad.

I remember when I met her she told me all about her first broken nose and how it had happened. It was the goon. Tony. She warned me to stay away from the Osteopathic hospital because they had fucked up her nose. See?

Her nose used to be beautiful.

She wished she had her high school yearbook to show me.

But that was back in Pittsburgh where she could not return, for reasons which she always declined to share.

She was very intelligent and she would help me practice my vocabulary, which was one of my favorite things to do, sit around and memorize lists of hundreds of words. This didn't weird her out like it did everyone else that knew me. And my gayness didn't bother her.

She was the first person I ever came out to.

She had let me sip her wine one night while we were sitting on my parent's couch watching S.N.L. My brother was at work. The wine went to my head and I came out and told her and then buried my head in a round cushion in shame.

She stroked my back and told me she didn't hate me and it was okay and that God wouldn't burn me alive for this. She wanted to tell me she was an atheist (as if I hadn't guessed) but she played along.

So I was happy when my brother married her. Now we had her in our family forever. I'd never be lonely for an intelligent, literate person again. That was the plan anyway.

Her favorite author was Kurt Vonnegut so I read him too. I think I had read three of the novels before I turned eleven. I think Slapstick was the one that made the most sense to me.

Later, my brother's wife worked for R.C.A. (I think she was twenty-nine) which at the time was working on Defense Department commissions, computer programs that would assist battleships in continuing on their missions in executing nuclear strikes even if every human being on board had been killed. Say by radiation.

At least that's what she told me. She could have made that up. She was pretty imaginative. But she did work for R.C.A. I remember everyone in my family marveling that the company that put out such great records was also helping to plan the end of the world.

I don't think she was supposed to even tell me she was doing that. I mean if she really was. Doing that.

She was suddenly making a shitload of money unlike my brother, who still did make very good money on the railroad. But nothing like she was suddenly making. It wasn't a problem for him. Her making more money. My brother wasn't a typical male. He was very docile and loving then. He's a Virgo, I think. He was always such a kid before her love. He was probably too deferential for her tastes. I think she hated that she was attracted to men she perceived as brutes. Maybe I'm just thinking that now. But she did have a history with such guys. Later I found out her father had sexually abused her. I have no idea if that plays into it or not. Maybe she just grew up watching Marlon Brando movies.

My brother only fell in love twice in his life.

Both loves ended up as photos propped up on a dresser in a very small room.

Who does that?

Anyway, when his wife started making all that money from the job at R.C.A., she opened a secondhand record store in a pretty tough Philly neighborhood. They lived in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, so this wasn't very far.

When I would visit, she would have me tag along to her store and I would help in sorting and pricing the records that came in. I remember I would get her to let me play all my favorite records in the store for the customers. Like Queen and Supertramp.

She started sleeping with some younger employee from her record shop. A handsome black guy. It didn't take me long to figure out what was going on, though they tried to hide it from me.

I never told my brother.

I felt bad but I suppose I loved her more.

My brother found out and held a gun to her head one night in their bed while asking her what love is. He asked a very long time.

She tried to do damage control then, but my brother was irreparably broken. Funny how it fell to her to fix things. I guess because she was the "guilty party." Conventionally speaking.

My brother was terrified of how close he had come to pulling the trigger. Blowing out the brains of the angel he had rescued.

And then she vanished.

She told us we'd never see her again.

And we never did.

Many years later, my brother pulled a gun on me one night too.

My gun was aimed more at my liver.

We get along enough for casual conversation now. Though it wasn't always so.

I think he still believes that I was an evil child. I think he thinks I defected and I guess I did.

I kept looking for the cat but didn't see it around anywhere.

I wanted to see if it was missing fur on its back from my brother's hands.


  1. Compelling story: I was distracted by my own cat, while reading it, but I couldn't pull my eyes away. I, too, like all the things in this list: "George Romero and getting high and gay people and Laraine Newman and New York." =grin=

  2. Thanks. Some of it is actually true.

  3. And Fi just saw your comment. We are obviously kindred spirits. I to am slave to cats. Two of them.