Family and Relationships
Once there were two hogs and a sow who lived in a sturdy pen outside an old man’s hut. Then the old man died. That morning, no one brought food to the pen; the next morning, no one brought food to the pen. By evening the animals were panicked and ravenous, the bottom of the trough licked smooth as tile.
The man who owned the dairy farm on which the Fair was held was named Max Yasgur. He was born in New York City to Jewish immigrants from Russia. He owned 650 cows. He was forty-nine years old. When he saw how many people had shown up, he instructed his children to give away all the milk and dairy products on the farm to help feed the crowd.
One time for no reason at all my kid brother and I decided to ride our bicycles from our small brick house all the way to Jones Beach. We got maps out of the family car and pored over them and concluded that it was about four miles to the shore. He was twelve and I was thirteen.
The short story is my brother got arrested. Again. In Pampa, Texas, this time: possession of marijuana and driving under the influence. “A total violation of my rights” is how he put it. They took his passenger into protective custody — “they” being animal control, since his passenger was a snake.
Being left at a gas station, staying at a Howard Johnson’s, watching the sun rise over the glistening Himalayas
That fall my brothers and I would be sowing the fields on our own for the first time. Dad was working extra shifts at the ceiling-tile factory with the threat of layoffs ever present. One night he sat us down and said, “Wheat’ll be yours to get in the ground. Work together.” That was it.
My younger brother, Michael, takes offense when I remark that our once socially adept, ninety-two-year-old mother has all the conversational skills of a windup doll. I’m referring to the supply of one-size-fits-all phrases she uses to hide her dementia: “Fortune favors the brave,” “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken,” and “Every silver lining has its cloud” are her three favorites.
I’d broken up with my boyfriend, and my sister had broken up with hers and sprained her ankle. She was furious and weeping and mad at herself for weeping, because her mascara was running. She sat in front of her mirror and stroked on fresh mascara, picked up her false eyelashes and stuck them on as if she hated them, slapped her cheeks with her powder puff so hard that powder floated around her in the air.