once been a member of the very far-right John Birch Society and maybe
always was (we didn’t keep in close touch). In our years together, when
the Cold War was still on, my father took pride in never being duped by
the insidious plots of those trying to turn the US into a socialist hell, a
pride that rode on urgency. Every day he woke up to important work.
The sticker did not look that old, actually.
My mother was now long since married to someone else, but my sister and my brother lived nearby. How green and hilly the countryside
looked, how pretty these older suburbs seemed. The maple trees in the
front of our house had grown into vast leafy giants. I’d flown in from another continent, and when they saw me, my sibs said, “Oh! You’re here!”
as if they hadn’t believed my voice on the phone. We were gathered on
the front porch.
I was glad enough to see them. Cecie, my sister, was looking a little
dried out but not bad, and my brother, Dillon, was portly in a friendly
way. “This is it,” Cecie said, which meant she was really very sad.
“It is it,” I said. He was my father; I had my sadness too.
“He had the life he wanted,” my brother said. That was enough, we
didn’t need to go any deeper into it.
I was the youngest, and my parents’ marriage was already in trouble
by the time I appeared, so my father neglected me a little, which was a
good thing. I knew from what he said at dinner that a dangerous New
World Order was being planned by people who might seem nice. It was
1961 when I started first grade, and the Iron Curtain was still down. I
was too shy to be a pain in elementary school, but I must’ve uttered these
opinions enough that people knew what I was.
My one friend was a boy named Will—we were Will and Bill—whose
parents were in the thing too. We were obsessed with cars, both of us,
and all we wanted to do was play with all the toy ones we had, race them,
make champions of them; sometimes we gave them names and had stories for them. We went through a phase of constructing model ones too,
a hundred plastic parts to be glued and painted. We were little pedants
of the auto industry, we knew a lot. I had a dream that someday I’d drive
a car in a secret army that shot at the hidden communist enemies of my
country; I’d fire with deadly aim and speed away.
Before seventh grade, Will’s family decided to move to California.
We said we would write, but we didn’t. I had no other friends, and I
was suddenly lonely in a way I hadn’t been before—the nights were the
worst—and that was when I became a reader. Technically, I was only