Seeing Things

Seeing Things

by Alice Mcintyre


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781462058280
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 11/04/2011
Pages: 172
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

Seeing Things

By Alice McIntyre

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 Alice McIntyre
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4620-5828-0

Chapter One

Every Snowflake is Unique

* * *

It's only a Thing. A little raggedy box Thing. But it's my Thing. And it's magic. It lets me watch people without them seeing me. And that's important cuz I need to watch people. The reason I need to watch people is cuz I worry a lot. And when I was younger than I am now, I had a lot of people I worried about. I had my mother, my father, all my sisters and brothers, my friends, my teachers, my cousins, the man who drove the number thirty-two city bus, the man who worked at the corner store, and the lady who lived alone at the end of the street. I needed to watch the lady down the street cuz she was really old and really old people die a lot. Sometimes, well, lots of times, I would walk out my front door, tiptoe down the front steps, and peak my head out from behind the tree to see if her blinds were up or down. If they were up, I sighed a big sigh of relief cuz I knew she was alive. If they were down, I stopped breathing for a minute. Then I would stand there and decide what to do: tell my mother that the blinds were down and she had to go to the old lady's apartment and make sure she was O.K. or run down to the apartment myself and do it (I knew that was a crazy idea. I could never do that. I'd be too scared. But I always put it in my mind as a choice just to see if I was as scared this time as I was the last time). Most of the time, I'd ask my mother to go see if the old lady was O.K. My mother always said, "Trina, I'm busy."

My mother is busy. She has lots of kids, and lots of clothes to wash, and lots of food to make, and lots of bottles to fill up with formula, and lots of floors to clean, and lots of tables and chairs and drawers and bureaus to dust with her dust cloth. She likes dust cloths and she thinks we should like dust cloths, too. She makes us dust things a lot. And we have to hold the dust cloth a certain way. You take it in your hand, flat like. Then you fold the right corner in a little, and then the left corner in a little, and then the other corner, and then the last corner and then you turn the whole thing over so that it looks kind of like a square with the corners cut off. My mother always says that if the corners are hanging off they'll spread the dust all over the place and then you defeat the purpose of dusting. So, according to my mother, you have to stick the corners inside so that you can get all the dust with the cloth and not have to chase the pieces of dust around cuz you're too lazy to fix the corners.

'Course my mother won't let us near a dust cloth until we dry mop the floors. You have to dry mop first cuz the dry mopping spreads the dust all over the room and the dust lands on the desks, and the bureaus, and the radiators, and well, I was going to say the night tables, but we don't have night tables in our rooms. We can barely fit the beds in our rooms, so I don't know where I got night tables. I must have read about them somewhere. But we do have bureaus and radiators and desks. Molly, one of my older sisters, had a different kind of desk than the rest of us. The rest of us have those little school-type desks that my mother got from the principal of the public school down the street. The school was closing cuz there weren't enough kids to fill up the classrooms. So the city decided to knock it down and put in a parking lot. The day before the school was razed (my mother told me that word), a bunch of people went to the school and got pencils and paper and crayons and old glue and some erasers and chalk and one mother even got a big huge blackboard. My mother got four little kids' desks that she scraped and cleaned and made sure we used only for our homework. She told us if she saw us using those desks as hampers for our clothes she'd take them away from us.

Molly was too big for a little kid's desk so she had a table-made-by-Dad desk. It was a long piece of wood on top of four wooden legs. My Dad made it for her. He wasn't a carpenter or anything so I don't know why or how he made it. But I think it was cuz my mother used her 10,000 Green Stamps to buy a high chair for my baby brother instead of buying a desk for Molly and so my father had to find some wood and make a homemade desk. Either that, or Molly would've had to do her homework at the kitchen table and my mother hates when anyone does anything at the kitchen table other than eat.

Even if it was a long piece of wood, it was a good desk. Molly liked it, even though only half of it was hers. She had to share her bedroom, and her table-desk, with my other sister, Jackie. But that was O.K. with Molly cuz she still had enough room to do her homework and if she didn't, she always pushed Jackie's stuff out of the way. Jackie never seemed to do homework. Maybe cuz she went to an easier school than Molly. Or maybe cuz I just never caught her in the act of doing homework.

You're probably wondering why any of this matters—why I care about desks and homework and dusting and whether my family ever had night tables. And you're probably wondering what any of that has to do with my Thing. Well, I haven't figured out the answer to the first part yet. My mother told me I was born with a tooth. The doctors were very surprised. When my mother asked them how that could have happened, they shrugged their shoulders and said, "We don't really know." So that's how I think about my mind and the way it works and the reasons why I do some of the things I do. I shrug my shoulders and I say, "I don't really know."

The answer to the second part—how I ended up with my Thing—is pretty simple. I'm only one person. I can't worry about everything. Well, I can. But when I do, I get sick to my stomach. I wish I didn't, but I do. So I decided I needed to stop worrying. Or at least slow my worrying down a little bit so I wouldn't get sick. I couldn't figure out how to do that all by myself. I decided that I needed help.

Then I thought about who could help me. I started with my family. I immediately decided that my mother and father would be no good at that job. Like I said before, my mother's really busy with lots of other things. And my father. Well he was never home enough when I was thinking about how much help I needed. Well, not never. He was home sometimes. But my mother always said he was never home, so that's how I thought of him. He was home in the middle of the night sometimes. I know that cuz occasionally I wake up in the middle of the night. Some nights I wake up like I'm wide awake. Like it's morning. But it never is. It's always pitch dark outside. I wake up in the middle of the night often enough that sometimes I just sleep in my clothes. I do that cuz as soon as I wake up in the middle of the night, I figure I might as well get up and start the day. I can never get back to sleep. Never. Except on the nights when my father was home. I could get back to sleep then.

I knew my father was home cuz I'd hear the TV. I was happy and not happy at the same time when I heard the TV. I don't know how that works in my mind—how I can feel two different feelings at the same time. Maybe I don't really feel two feelings at the same time though. Maybe I feel happy first and then, the very next second, I feel unhappy. Maybe the two feelings happen so fast, it only feels like I'm feeling happy and unhappy at the same time. Of course, I could feel unhappy first and then in the next second feel happy. I don't know. I can't slow down my feelings enough to figure it out.

I was happy when I heard the TV cuz I knew my father was home. But I was unhappy when I heard the TV cuz that meant my father was drunk. The TV was always loud when my father was drunk. I wonder why that is—why, when my father was drunk, he needed everything to be so loud? Even though I was happy and unhappy at the same time, I always did the same thing when I heard that TV: I went downstairs to see him. Mostly I did that cuz I'm scared. I'm scared of so many things and even though my father was usually drunk, he was still my father and I figured that even drunk he might be able to make me feel less scared than I normally am. One thing that I'm really scared of is death and that's a subject I used to talk to my father about all the time.

My father hated talking about death. When I would go downstairs and ask him about death, he'd keep his eyes right on that TV. I'd talk and talk and ask him questions and eat some of his Chinese food and go on and on about why people die and whether anyone in our family would die soon and would burglars rob our house and why were there bad people in the world and how come we don't have lots of locks on the doors to keep everybody safe. Then I'd stop talking cuz he wasn't saying anything and I'd look over and he'd be asleep. I used to get mad when he fell asleep. I got mad cuz I needed him to tell me that no one was going to die that night so I could go back to sleep. So I'd say "DAD!" really loud and he would wake up and look at me and say, "Trina, go to bed. It's late." And then he'd try to close his eyes again but I wouldn't let him. I'd sit right in front of him and I'd tell him that I wouldn't go to sleep unless he told me that everyone in the house was going to live through the night; that no burglar was going to break into the house; that all the bad people would end up in prison; and that he would buy lots of locks for the doors the next day so our family would be safe. He would say something like: "Trina, no one in this family is going to die tonight. There will be no burglars breaking into our house. All the bad people are in prison. And I promise to buy more locks for the doors. Now, go to bed."

I didn't really believe what he said. Well, not all of what he said. I believed him sort of when he said no one in the family would die during the night. And I believed him sort of when he said no burglars would break into our house. I didn't even believe him sort of when he told me that all bad people are in prison. I knew he was lying to me about that one. I knew that cuz there are lots of bad people in the world and I never saw a prison anywhere. About once a month I ask my father (and my mother and my sisters—not my brothers, they're too little—and anyone else who will listen to me) where all the prisons are cuz I never see any. Not where I live. And not where my aunts and uncles live cuz we all get in the car and go visit them sometimes and I'm always looking for prisons and asking my father if that building is a prison, or that building, or that building, or that building. He always says, "No." "So if all the bad people are in prison," I always ask, "then where are all the prisons?"

After my father reassured me about death and burglars, I'd go back upstairs to my room. On my way up, I'd open the bedroom doors and look inside to see if everyone was in their beds, alive and breathing. My mother gets really mad when I do stuff like that cuz I always wake someone up. I usually wake someone up cuz I'm not always sure if they're alive even if I see them lying in their beds. If it isn't too dark, I look at the blankets and see if they're moving up and down, up and down, up and down. If they are, I know my sister or brother is breathing. If I don't see the blankets going up and down, up and down, up and down, then I tip-toe over to the bed and stick my head close to the face of my sister or brother, turn my head so my ear is really close to where I think their face is, stop breathing for a minute, and listen really hard. I also pray when I'm doing this: "Please God, let my sister be breathing" or "Please God, let my brother be breathing." The problem is that their heads are sometimes buried so far down under their blankets that I can't hear anything. Instead of my head being really close to their face so I can hear them breathing, my head is an inch away from their arm. But I don't know that when it's happening. I think that my head is near my sister's face and that she just isn't breathing.

I panic every time that happens. I forget to think that it's the arm I have my face so close to. Instead I tell myself: "They're not breathing! They're not breathing!" And then I shake them and shake them and start yelling their name and screaming for my mother and father cuz someone is dead!

That's when my mother wakes up. And she runs into the room I'm in, grabs me by my hair, and drags me into the hallway telling me that she's going to lock me in my bedroom if I keep it up. As she's dragging me back to my bed, whoever I woke up starts yelling, "Get her out of here. I'm gonna kill her. I swear to God, I'm gonna kill her!" Then my mother turns her head towards the room and says to whoever yelled that, "Do not swear to God. Do you hear me? I never want to hear you swear to God."

I have never quite figured out why my mother hates when we swear to God. I figure that if you're Catholic, which we are, that you're supposed to swear to God. Who else would you swear to? But my mother hates when we swear to God. She hates when we swear at all! Molly always swore and my mother would yell at her, make her go to her room, tell her she could never go out again, and sometimes, she'd kick Molly right out of the house. One time Molly told Jackie to "screw" and my mother went crazy. She shoved a whole bar of soap down Molly's throat. Just like that. She ran up the stairs, grabbed Molly by her shirt, dragged her into the bathroom, and shoved a bar of soap so far down Molly's throat that Molly started gagging and gasping for breath. My mother didn't even care. She'd rather see you gag than hear you swear. My mother never swears. Never. My father did. He swore a lot. He said really nasty things, too. I think my mother would have stuck a case of soap down his throat except he was stronger than her. But she did get back at him for all his swearing and carrying on. She'd do things like throw his clothes out the window; smear paint all over his car; rip the telephone out of the wall when he was talking on it; and sometimes, she would just wreck his bedroom. (For a long time my mother and father slept in different rooms. My mother fixed up the basement and slept down there. She called it her bunker.)

My father didn't stop swearing cuz my mother did all that. As a matter of fact, it made him swear more. And it made him really, really mad. And when my father got really, really mad there was no telling what he would do. Except you knew he was going to do something bad. Something that would frighten everyone. Sometimes, he'd hit my mother and tell her she was a *$@*%! (I can't repeat what he said cuz my stomach gets all nervous and stuff when my mind thinks of those words. And if my mind starts to tell me to say words like that so I can make people understand me, I still can't say them. I let people use their imagination. I love that word: imagination.)

I used to imagine what it would be like if my father died in a plane crash. I'd kneel down at night, next to my bed, and I'd hold my glow-in-the-dark rosary beads and I'd pray: "God bless Mama, Daddy, Jackie, Molly, Reba, Cat ... (Every couple of years there'd be a new name cuz my mother would have another baby. She had nine babies altogether.) After I named my mother and father, all the kids in my family, everybody I loved, and the people who were hungry and homeless, I'd kneel there for one more minute and wonder what it would be like if my father died in a plane crash. Not that he flew in a lot of planes. He didn't. But one day he got a new job and he stopped wearing work clothes and construction boots. Instead, he started wearing suits and ties and once in awhile, he would fly on an airplane. So I would imagine the plane flying over my house and then crashing somewhere that I couldn't see.


Excerpted from Seeing Things by Alice McIntyre Copyright © 2011 by Alice McIntyre. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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