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CONFESSIONS OF A BIPOLAR FIREFIGHTER
By James L. Nutt
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 James L. Nutt
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy Youth
It's not easy to lose all the time, but I promise you I can do it. Drew Carey, Jim Carrey, Cliff Clavin and Rick Moranis fail on the silver screen, but I have done it to myself and others throughout my real life. You know, my life would be comical if it wasn't true.
Your best bet in understanding me and how I tick will be if I start at my youth. For starters, I was a breach birth, which means I entered this world ass first. I was born in a small Northeast Ohio town that I like to call Worn Out. We get maybe 40 days of sunshine a year, and it always seems overcast. The area received more rain than Seattle a few years ago. They say the buildings used to make bombs during WWII called the Ravenna Arsenal were built in Northeast Ohio because of the cloudiness. Have you ever heard of seasonal affectional disorder? Well, some of us have it all year round. I'm not putting a blanket over everyone, so let's just say it's prevalent.
People visit from areas around the country and shake their heads at the way some of these people act. They could watch an old woman have problems with her supermarket cart and not lift a finger. A simple "Hi" or a smile is hard to come by. It's sad, isn't it? I tend to be happy and upbeat when I'm manic, and even that pisses these people off.
My family moved from Worn Out to a more rural area seven miles away named Champion, Ohio when I was 2-years-old. The new homestead had neighbors nearby but was still considered the country. I wasn't exactly sure why we moved, but I have a gut feeling.
Abuse takes different forms, but some say sexual abuse experienced by a small boy is the worst because of how the young male child's machismo is affected. I can recall one instance while living in Champion when I was passed from one man to another. I remember telling them "It hurts, it hurts" and then crying. Since I wasn't facing them, I can't remember what they looked like. I do recollect one man having a hand with his ring finger cut off at the second joint. I can also recall one of their names. This created a memory tattoo that could never wash away.
Repressed memory is a bitch. It's like you're fighting shadows your whole life, which I think is how your ups and downs start. You start reflecting back to that horror, then try to live your life, and then reflect back. Do-overs or erasers are not an option. Life travels from subliminal flashes of unimaginable pain and back to reality. Having this reoccur repeatedly throughout the course of a lifetime can be as unhealthy as it gets. There is never any sustained joy or happiness.
Out in the country we ice-skated, fished and ate wheat and berries in the field. Isn't that pretty normal? Blackberries grew in the woods in our backyard. We put them on our cereal, which I thought to be a big deal. A stream ran a few houses down and was stocked with multiple varieties of fish. My half brother Rich Jr. claimed bluegill, catfish, and a few exotic fish such as pike or pickerel were in the stream. An older kid lived three doors down from me, and he hunted with his dad. I used to see deer hanging and squirrel pelts at their house and wished Richard, who I thought was my dad when I was younger, would do that with me.
Richard worked afternoon turn at a manufacturing plant and was never home. He was the type of person to follow the carrot on the stick by working the afternoon shift for the extra 25 cents an hour, which is not uncommon today. Or did he choose the afternoon shift so he could drink after work? I do remember getting slapped and beat with a cane made from whatever wood grows in Borneo. The wood had rings around it and was four feet in length and had on one end a steel white door knob. Occasionally, I would get the door knob end.
My lifelong friend John T. used to live caddy corner across the street from me when we were younger. He told me he used to be able to hear me scream from the beatings. I would like to see the cane again just to bring back some of those good old memories. Richard would always say "Why don't you straighten up and fly right?" after he slapped me. Later in life, me and a buddy named Jim who I worked with down at the fire station used to laugh hysterically about this. I think Jim's old man used to slap him around too. You laugh to hide the pain.
I wasn't a bedwetter and didn't torment animals or start fires, but something was definitely amiss. Maybe I used to burn ants with a magnifying glass, but everybody did that. Didn't they? I recall one spring day during the first grade getting a crack or two for grinding on a girl in a sexual way. Now where would a first grader learn that? A similar thing happened again one more time in the third grade. I guess it's "normal" for kids to experiment with their sexuality, but in my case I knew it was wrong. I felt dirty, unclean, and unable to deal with it. How can a 7-year-old psychoanalyze himself and come to the conclusion he's already fucked up? I was stigmatized by what I had done and never did it again until I was in the seventh grade.
In kindergarten I always fought a kid named Paul on a dirt pile, and the game was called King of the Hill. He won most times, but I reached the top on a few occasions. We would also fight after the game, and I really hated how he won a majority of the time. From experiencing sexual abuse, losing fights was a form of male dominance I could never accept. Some males absorb the sting of abuse inwardly and some outwardly. Mine became outward to the point of being a real problem child.
I do remember some more good times. I recall sitting in a barrel playing with our dog Queenie and her six pups. Picture a sunny day and a little 4-year-old getting jumped on, licked, and nipped by these puppies. It was so cool I can even relive it today.
Near the age of five I was playing a game in our backyard. It was around four o'clock on a beautiful summer afternoon without any clouds in the sky. Our steel swing set was broken, but the A-frame was still in tact although separate from the rest of the set. I remember the steel A-frame being rusty with large ass bolts protruding from the top, like the ones Frankenstein had in his neck. My game was to lift up the A-frame, let it go, and run as fast as I possibly could before it landed on me. Sometimes I would escape to the right, sometimes to the left, and sometimes down the middle. Well, after what seemed to be a long time, I was able to beat this law of gravity with ease. If you have ever met a cocky four or 5-year-old, it would have been me. I was already beginning to challenge the laws of nature, God, science, and anything else of which I thought I was quicker, smarter, tougher, or more durable. I was a real cement head.
While running through this procedure on one occasion, I lifted up the A-frame, ran, and tripped. Bang! I received the full brunt of the blow on my coconut, saw my first set of stars, and felt the red stuff on the back of my head. I looked up and could swear I saw my mother peering out of the window almost as if she had been watching me for some time. It was a hell of a thing to think of at 5-years-old. I didn't run to the house because I thought the blood would ooze out faster. You may suspect what happened next to be made up, but the reality is I put both hands on my head and rolled uphill to the house until my mom came out to get me. I told you I'm not right.
When I was 5-years-old my mother asked me to lay with her in bed to take a nap. She fell asleep but I couldn't, so I gazed out of the window. The snow was lightly falling, and I noticed a dog two doors down. The dog was shaking its head and had something furry in its mouth. Being the curious boy I was, I put on my winter clothes and went outside to investigate. The dog repeatedly circled a brown yet quick ball. Every once in a while, the dog would pick up the object and swirl it around. The dog soon departed from the scene, and I was left in the newly fallen snow with this lifeless furry ball. I removed my glove for further inspection and slowly reached out my hand to nudge this furry entity, and the half-dead rat bit my middle finger. It stung like a razor cut and the red stuff made its way out. I didn't know then not to fuck with rats. This time I didn't roll home but instead ran while yelling for my mumsy. She was still asleep when I arrived at the door.
I should tell you more about my family dynamics before you think I'm a self-absorbed jerk. I don't want to be a loser and that too. My mother's name was Margaret, and she was the last child of three. I have a sister Bonnie 14 years my senior. At one time in my life, rumor had it that she was actually my mother. There go those shadows again. But Bonnie has a heart of gold, and it's almost as if she gets a free shot into heaven. She gave me a better childhood than my parents. I'll never get amnesia over that no matter what happens between us, be it petty or presumed big. Goodness doesn't have to stem from the intelligent, the powerful, or the rich, but can originate from a simple good heart similar to the one my sister possesses.
When Bonnie was in her early twenties, she used to take us from our house in Champion to downtown Worn Out. We would catch a bus and ride into town with brown bus tokens and all. She would stop at Kressge's and buy us Cherry Cokes and sub sandwiches, and then we'd catch a movie. She didn't make much working at St. Joe's Hospital but took us anyway. It was a big deal for me.
Bonnie is the oldest sibling and should be retired by now, but she lost a husband to drink and another to cancer. People come to see her smiling face at the restaurant she works at. She is one of the most cherished people in Worn Out. She has three adult children and doesn't have too much grief all in all. She does struggle with somewhat of a learning disability, but it only hinders the financial bullshit and doesn't inhibit her ability to read people's hearts or care for others. I'm not saying this sarcastically, but a lot of semi-important people tell me all the time what a peach she is. I'm not jealous of her, because it's too hard for me to be nice to people all the time.
I have two half-brothers. Rich Jr. is seven years older and David two years younger. Rich Jr. was babysitting me one night because Richard and Maggie weren't home, and he locked me in the basement the whole night. Never before have I been so terrified. It wasn't the darkness, because my eyes adjusted. It was the spiders.
A year before, my two buddies and I were sleeping out in a tent. Well, one of the two fell asleep with his mouth open. Sure enough, a daddy long-legs spider crawled up his neck into his mouth and never came out. When we were that age, people said daddy long-legs don't bite. The fuck they don't.
When I was down in the basement, I'd feel spider webs across my face each time I climbed the stairs to try and escape. I experienced terror and promised to kick Rich Jr.'s ass when I got bigger. My fear of spiders is alive today only it has developed into arachnophobia. Supposedly the cartoonist Gary Larson was once locked in a basement, and he now credits this incident as the source for his imaginative talent when doing pictures and cartoons. Gary used the experience for good humor. The only thing I could picture was putting my hands around Rich Jr.'s fucking neck. And so it goes.
We went to church sporadically, and David and I used to walk two miles during the summer to Sunday school. Maggie didn't go but would give us money for the offering, and we spent it at a Finnish Bakery on the best cream sticks in the whole world. What kid could turn down one of those?
David looked up to me and would steal vitamins, booze, and clothes for me. I protected him, which was needed at our schools back then. I only had to go to battle once or twice on his behalf, and no one fucked with him because they feared the repercussions from me. David wasn't a troublemaker and had a decent and kind heart even before he received Christ.
He did take a few beatings from me. I couldn't stand him wearing my clothes, especially my underwear. I didn't like the looks of his underwear. Let's just say he only wiped twice. I wiped three times. I used to skip school with girls and wanted to impress them with my clean underwear. I noticed one day before school he had on a pair of mine, and I went berserk. He arrived at school black and blue, and they called me into the office to investigate. I admitted we fought at home. What business was it of theirs? I should have told those creeps David left skid marks in my skivvies and to get their noses out of my personal life.
David was way deeper than me. One reason was because our next door neighbor in Worn Out named Dennis, who was David's best friend, died of leukemia at age nine. It affected Dave so much more than I had realized. I loved Dennis too, but the two of them were inseparable. I wasn't much of help for David because I was only 11-years-old and already starting to battle mental illness. How do you tell a 9-year-old about death?
Rich Jr. and Bonnie were both mentally slow and graduated high school in their early twenties. They struggled every night with their school work, and Bonnie would cry and carry on just to get it done. They simply didn't have the mental makeup to go to senior high school. Honestly, I think their inabilities stemmed from the deficiencies on the part of not one but both of my parents. Richard was the last child of nine, and I believe he was 39 when I was born. I could be wrong, but it seemed to me as though I was beaten and slapped significantly more than my siblings. I know of others in this world who have had worse childhoods than mine, but deep down inside I knew I was treated differently relative to my brothers and sister. An underlying family secret was that Richard more than likely wasn't my genetic father, so I took the brunt. I tried to piece together my family tree after his death, but it was to no avail.
Richard was stuck in a job as a foreman at Wean United that was way over his head, and this caused undo pressure and an alcohol problem to filter down into the family. Combine those two things with his work schedule, and it's no wonder we didn't do many things together. Whenever Richard was on a binge, it seemed as though he always took it out on me as if he knew I wasn't from his loins. He would give me here a slap, there a slap, everywhere a slap to the tune "The Farmer in the Dell". And he would never, I mean never, get me the Christmas gift I asked for. He played head games even a 7-year-old could pick up on.
Richard would come home drunk and wake me up at two or three in the morning on school nights. He would tell me about his two bosses who put the shit on him all the time. He would bitch for a while and I would lose sleep. The next day I felt like I had ten pounds of shit strapped to my back before I even got out the door. Kids are supposed to go to school with bright eyes and clear minds. Not happening at my house. It got to the point where one of his bosses had a kid my age who I wanted to jellyroll stomp just so I didn't have to hear those drunken speeches. I figured the message would get back and his boss would leave my pops alone. This began my train of thought to use acts of violence to ease my pain. Killers aren't born; they're made.
When sober, Richard was one of the nicest guys you could be around. But he was short on confidence, which created a big problem. He let people intimidate and manipulate him and wouldn't stand up for himself or anything else, and this weakness was a stench to me. The closer I looked at his personality, I realized he was a docile pushover, and that grated my very being. I recognized this at a young age and promised myself no one was going to push me around when I grew older. I watched men such as mechanics, coaches, and repairmen interact with him, and when my dad wasn't looking they would smirk or make a face behind his back. It hurt me to the point where I wanted to drop them where they stood.
When I walk into a place today, people get nervous and edgy because of my reputation. I know it's wrong, but sometimes it feels as though I'm getting back at all of those people who treated Richard like a bitch. It provided me another reason to choose violence over common sense and love. At one point in my life, I would rather have people fear me than like me. Living unbridled can be devastating, and it sometimes shortens your life.
Excerpted from CONFESSIONS OF A BIPOLAR FIREFIGHTER by James L. Nutt Copyright © 2012 by James L. Nutt. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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