Flash creative nonfiction
My Favorite Pedophile
Elvia was my first pedophile . During the early years of WWII my father worked in a Mexican Copper mine. He was a mining engineer, and we lived in a hilltop compound above the mine, near a small village. My mother taught school there in English, using the Calvert System, a British mail order curriculum that completed 8 grades in 6 years. I had been raised in many small mining towns, often with one room schools, where a curious child may tend to leap frog ahead of his years. Not quite 11, I was ready to start high school at the end of the year.
To make it possible for my mother to teach, we had a cook, whose younger sister, Elvia, was housekeeper and laundress. On weekdays both my parents left early for work, while I went off to school about an hour later. Elvia was young, flirty and playful; she soon began to ‘goose‘ me as I walked by, while her older sister frowned in amused disapproval. I found the game enjoyable, though I didn’t know quite why; perhaps the rich nerve endings about the anus are particularly sensual.
In the morning Elvia began to wake me for school, and of course, our game continued. I was beginning to be affected by early morning testosterone rushes, the sort of angry erections that mortify young boys on school buses. It soon became quite enjoyable to rub my little member up against a willing Elvia herself. There is no doubt in my mind now where that game was headed. I was probably being ‘groomed’.
But the game ended. WWII wore on. Eleven year olds were older then than they are today. I finished grade school that summer and was immediately sent to California. My Dad gave me a brief lecture the night before I left El Paso, stressing two points: First, that one has to judge others carefully; to welcome new friends, but be alert, and avoid those who would do harm; and second, to use a condom.
I had no idea what that was or what it was for, but it was something I didn’t want to talk about. He seemed to consider me much more aware than I really was. The next morning put me on a troop train headed for Los Angeles; someone stole my money but soldiers fed me, and I went on North to the Sacramento Valley.
A scoutmaster was my second pedophile. He was a music director for a radio station, able to invest most of his energies and appetites into the work closest to his heart: his scouts. He had acquired for the troop a twenty-acre piece of land on a lake near the Canadian border. To finance, build and maintain it was a year round activity requiring continuous paper drives, magazine sales, ticket sales and participation in an annual fund raiser: a Sigmund Romberg operetta.
There were periodic work trips to the lakeside camp including a two week construction session just after the ice broke up, two weeks of camp itself, and– for older scouts–a summer-ending two week canoe trip to the border waters.
I advanced rapidly through the ranks of scouting and the Scoutmaster began take more interest in me. I became an Eagle Scout by age 13. After a weekend trip to clear heavy spring snow off the camp buildings, we all returned so late that I stayed with him at his home one Sunday night. I trusted him implicitly. Moreover, he was always affectionately gruff, dominating and assertive. Again, I was being groomed.
His method was to introduce young boys to the pleasures of prostatic digital self-stimulation, as an initial step in masturbation; and as the first step to pederasty. If that is hard to picture, think of the crude expression: “sitting around with your thumb up your ass.” That best reflects my Scoutmaster’s method of instruction. (Our language contains many other more or less subtle references to pederasty: flipping bird, the fist, ‘up yours; asshole; fuck you man, etc.) Bill’s purpose seemed not to harm, frighten, or prematurely to penetrate, but to, imprint; to teach; the lesson was not at all innocent, but fortunately very brief. I did not find the experience unpleasant. And yet, what I remember most unwelcome was his full mouthed beard barbed goodnight kiss. I started college that fall, left the scouts and never returned.
Humans are normally, both innately and overtly, at least as sexual and sensual animals as any other. Our children are not asexual beings, but are simply less developed. Their behavior is partly learned, despite the current dreary politically correct cant that insists sexuality is chiefly, if not wholly, inborn, or ‘discovered’.
It is patently absurd to hold that sexuality is inborn while other measures of societal behavior are not. That dogma ignores the clear fact that we are all capable of learning many sorts of behavior; and that our earliest experience is very significant. If my second episode of pedophilia, had been my first – or a continuing– form of interpersonal sex, I am sure it would have influenced me more.
I hold no resentment for my assailants. Maybe that is because of my own good luck in escaping their potentially harmful influence so quickly. Surely they are both dead now; as surely I will follow. The Scoutmaster left me Romberg, the North Woods and Waters. Elvia left me sweet memories of cheap perfume,
Silky-cinnamon skin, and playful sensuality. Perhaps she pre-empted the more powerful and technically more skilled pederasty-devoted Scoutmaster. That is why, of the two, Elvia will always be my favorite pedophile.
The Ides of August 1945
I’m in the front seat behind the bus driver leaving Carson City for Eureka. Shortly after we leave town the driver breaks out in a rash of Western Music. At first I’m intrigued:
Don’t Flush me Down the Toilet of Your Heart (Originally it was the Bathroom- Johnny Cash- But the toilet is a more striking metaphor).
Open up that Door, and let me in, Babe, I’m mighty sorry that-a’ made you cry.
Clear Cool, Water, and a hodge-podge of Spike Jones
The songs repeat but are never quite the same; while variety and inventiveness have appeal, I think of the mine where my father is working, and my mind soon slips away to memories of a miner’s life– ceaseless travel from mine to mine, country to country- where the parallel worlds of a miner and a miner’s child are very different. I recall Nevada City, CA; Noranda, Quebec; Sudbury, Ontario; Balatoc, Baguio, and Tayabas, Philippines; Holden Washington ( twice); Tonopah, Manhattan, Nevada; Santo Domingo, and Hacienda Robinson, Mexico.
Eureka will be my 13th mine. Growing up with constant change arguably promotes adaptability, independence, and resourcefulness. I still enjoy exploring a mountain or a culture or country alone, aware every stranger and every stream is company. Itinerancy bred into me a peculiar ignorant but confident precociousness. Yet I did have a default home; four times, when there was no school available, I was sent briefly to grandparents in Northern California. I can think of no greater advantage for the child of a miner, soldier, sailor, or diplomat, than four grand parents, a remembered language, culture, home, and homeland.
At age 11 Dad took me from Chihuahua, Mexico, to El Paso, Texas and a journey to my small California town where there were only 5 boys in my freshman high school class. I recall the El Paso Hotel room where my he schooled me thoroughly about life before putting me on the troop train to Los Angeles; sending a child alone by train had not yet become abusive. I most remember two things he said:
1) “Most people are good, some are bad. You have to make judgments.” He was not given to banter; or I to questions. That night the troop car windows were open to the desert night, and I slept soundly to the music of the tracks- only to awaken to the truth of what dad said. My thin billfold with $5.00 for food was missing. Yet soldiers fed me til LA and left me with $3.00 for the trip North to one of those quaint little stations that speak of a time when time and travel were slower.
2) “Use a condom.” I had no idea what he meant but didn’t ask. That was partly because I feared to talk about what I vaguely suspected shouldn’t be confessed.
Arriving in Durham on the Ides of August*, I’d be there for the next and year and a half, considered a prodigy, because I’d come up through the British Calvert system of mail order schools. I became a coddled high school student taught advanced math and English in the principal’s office. Time would prove to me I was just a lucky kid!
After Fallon, Spike Jones predominates, though he probably couldn’t recognize himself. I doze fitfully. At hour 5 we park in front of the Eureka Hotel. The entire ground floor is a bar; rooms are upstairs, kitchen and laundry a lean-to uphill in back. I can’t imagine what is in the full basement; maybe that’s a good thing. The ingeniously named Main Street is lined with solid attractive brick and stone buildings including an opera hall, bank, several bars, a store operated by a bandit, and a small bowling alley.
Ruby Hill Mine is visible on the hillside to the South, and in between is a disparate collection of houses, weed and junk decorated lots, a fire station, a school, a small movie house, a wooden church with a bell and steeple, and a graveyard with some pretensions of a cemetery.
It is August. This is the first place we have ever lived with a Boy Scout troop, and I am of age, so my father gets us both involved. In an old ritual, I must invade and prove myself worthy to the in-residence group of boys. I attend patrol meetings, work on merit badges, and make my own back pack. My arrival, and perhaps the role my dad assumes as an active father, rankle one tough scout in particular. He’s a solid, box-built kid, with a genuine barbershop haircut. I’m taller but slender with hair my dad cut. The first night at the movie he taunts me. I ignore him. During the film he sits behind me in the darkness, and pokes my shoulder. Turning around casually, I learn that, especially in the dark, cigarette tobacco can be an effective weapon: Roll a cigarette between your fingers, extruding a small pile of ground tobacco into the other hand. Blow it into the wide open eyes that look at you in the darkness; it will blind them effectively for many minutes.
The next weekend our Scout Patrol travels to a nearby lake for an outing. While swimming, the tobacco warrior, who doesn’t swim, walks out over his head and begins to drown, alternately sinking, coming up, yelling, coughing, and sinking. I am nearby and swim down beneath him, stand on the bottom, and push him progressively toward shore. By the time one of the men reach us he is on his feet. Aside from the two of us, no one knows what happened.
On Wednesday August 15, 1945 the Japanese surrender unconditionally. There is jubilation, wild abandon. Boilermakers- a shot of whiskey in a mug of beer- are free, at least for the adults. Music blares. People crowd Main Street shouting and cavorting. I join a bunch of boys who go to the tumbledown wooden church and ring the bell; but no one seems to notice so we quit. The tobacco kid is there too. He avoids my look, and doesn’t speak; and that is a satisfaction for me.
January, 2012- 67 years later- my youngest son and I drive back to Yosemite where he lives, after visiting family in South Dakota. It’s a long, long drive. We had gone East on traffic clogged Highway 80 in a blizzard, so on the return we take off-80 roads whenever we can. They are invariably traffic free. At Wendover, Nevada, we escape to the South, to reach Highway 50, which takes us past Eureka. Ruby Hill Mine calls to me.
The old town experienced long years of decay after the mine failed. Water brought my dad there in 1945. While Nevada may seem dry, almost no water ever leaves the state. It collects underground. The remaining deep Ruby Hill gold is still there today but no one has yet been able to control the water. When the price of gold exploded recently, Barrick Gold opened up a new open pit mine, lower down, to the West of Eureka. The town is alive again, though barely, and now hopes to re- establish itself for tourism like so many other abandoned mining towns: Aspen, Taos, Telluride.
We find the house where my family lived. It has been beautifully restored. Likewise the Opera House has been resurrected, as an active theater and community center. The main buildings on Main Street are in mint condition – or better. The old church bell we rang when ‘The War‘ ended, is enshrined in front of the museum.
Opera house and old Eureka Hotel Bar, now a Cafe…
Some girls walk by and we ask about the mine.
“ Oh, it’s been closed forever. Nobody can go there. There’s a guard and locked gate. It’s just up there, see? About a half mile above the high school, and the new gold mine temporary worker housing.
“ Haven’t you ever been to the mine?
“No… no one ever does.
The mine calls more insistently. We drive up the snow-covered road. The place looks empty; no cars no lights, a single set of snow filled tire tracks where a pickup backed out . It is well below zero. Dry, light windblown drifted snow leaves scattered bare spaces. We have warm coats but only tennis shoes and cotton socks. The sun is low in the West. In the distance the Barrick open pit gold mine leers at us over a colorful cyanide tainted tailings pond. To the right are a storage building, and administrative office buildings. There is no wind. A few foot tracks are filled in by blown snow. We walk to the storage shed. Everything is wide open. It is filled with thousands of 1 x 1 x 2 ft cardboard boxes, each containing several thousand envelopes, packets of finely ground rock; they are samples taken from diamond drill cores, ground for assay. Each has information on the source of the drill core, the date, and the analysis of the rock found.They whisper faintly about what it takes to find and extract metallic underground ore.
The nearby administrative office has been left as if at mid work day. Appointment calendars are pinned to the wall. Crusted coffee cups sit at engineer’s drafting tables and desks littered with plans. Chairs and tables, bookshelves in disarray, a small radio, a coffee-maker, ashtrays with butts, a bottled- water holder- all is abandonment, disorder. Down the hall are other offices in a similar condition. I’m reminded of Pompeii… yet I know this to be the standard way a mine looks when it dies- As if it might be resurrected any moment, or it is too remote to scavenger. Ruby Hill Mine is, in effect, every remote abandoned mine.
- We look again at the hoist, and the mine shaft which still holds the metal cage that miners rode down and down to- where?- 2000 ft? More? This is only a very tiny mine compared to the world’s largest . Yet this is one of my father’s mines; he rode the cage, he walked the tunnels, and worked the charts. We laugh about his condom wisdom and I tell my son of an old ‘skin’ from my father’s father’s father’s billfold
Back in the car, expecting to find soggy wet socks, even though we haven’t felt wet in the snow, our shoes and socks and pant legs are completely dry, due to the exceedingly arid cold Nevada air. I reluctantly abandon the Ruby Hill mine like its former owners, look a last time at the mill, hoist, shaft, cage, and offices, expecting we shall never meet again.
* Ides are traditionally the 15 of Mar May July, and Oct; or the 13th of the other months.
No Stinkin’ Green Card
My first appointment is with Leopoldo Gomez, age 49, a right-handed man who complains of right shoulder pain. He has completed a detailed intake form in English impeccably; the reason for his visit is five year’s shoulder pain.
He is married. The Gomez’ have lived in the US for over 30 years. They have four grown children, all college graduates, all employed, and 6 grandchildren. His recent family history includes a diabetic brother, and a maternal aunt who died after gallbladder surgery. The remote family history reveals no documented chronic health problems except people who died of ‘old age’, and several violent deaths incurred in the Mexican revolutionary turmoil of the early last century; in many ways it is the history of a USA created by immigrants.
He and his wife have ‘green cards’ and their children are native born citizens of the US. He came to Arizona at 19, speaks with a very slight accent; he uses rather stilted, studied grammar, so carefully constructed it is slightly distracting.
He has always worked in construction. His wife was a full time homemaker when the children were small, but now works regularly cleaning houses. They have never had health insurance, but have lived cautiously, avoided risky behavior, and been fortunate; no one in the family has experienced costly illness or injury. The Gomez’ appear to be an integrated and acculturated immigrant family; they are Americans.
We review his history together and address the chief complaint:
Right shoulder pain, worse with activity, off and on, gradually improving over 3-6 weeks, but easily re- injured.
There has been no history any specific injury.
“It gets better if I rest the shoulder and worse if I do overhead work. Sheet-rock? Overhead painting? Forget it!
Examination supports the history, and is clearly consistent with a chronic rotator cuff injury. A finger-stick blood sugar is 102 two hours after carb thick breakfast.
“Did you ever hurt it at work? Or report a work injury?
The country is experiencing another quadrennial zoonotic outbreak of politics, and he refers to it obliquely, saying:
“No. If nominated I won’t run, if elected I won’t serve.
But I am too focused to pick up on the humor and reply dryly,
“Why? You have that right. Also, if you are not able to work, you’re entitled to disability insurance payments.
“For a minor injury, Worker’s Comp, even if I could get it, won’t pay my overhead; house, car payments, travel, food. You know the drill.
“I don’t have unemployment insurance.
“I thought everyone who works has comp injury and disability insurance.
“I’m paid in cash. During the past few years, since ’09, I don’t ever confess to having a green card. Never. So I don’t pay disability insurance.
“I wouldn’t get the job. And they’d deduct taxes, unemployment, disability, social security, and some other stuff I can’t keep track of.
“What if you get injured at work?
“I can’t afford minor work injuries like this one.
“I can only get work here and there, short periods, for different employers. If they decline responsibility for minor injury, so does their insurance. I’d have to find a lawyer to accept the case without a big payout. Ha-Ha-Ha.
“What about more serious injury?
“Like losing an arm or breaking my back? Illegal or not, it’s covered. Not that it’s any bargain.
“Well, it’s something, don’t you think?
“It can be. But I know people with significant but not totally incapacitating injury; they, go through years of delays, denials, and a long series of waiting rooms-medical, chiropractic, physiotherapy, lawyers- all likely to cancel an appointment without notice or any consequence except to the injured worker, who is powerless.
“Yes- I sometimes see the evidence: a 2 inch high stack of tattered and worn business cards from lawyers and bureaucrats and ‘providers’.
“What you don’t see is the years of family stress related to loss of income, maybe bankruptcy, maybe depression, divorce.
I reflect that my failing to report a possible work injury may be illegal too. Yet my patient objects to the report, and the work relation is uncertain, so abide by his decision.
We review the common ways to control Leopoldo’s symptoms by avoiding work that makes them worse, by using injections or medication, and physical therapy. I give him a brochure about exercises for rotator cuff injury. I advise ibuprofen prn and provide on line sources of information, suggesting he return whenever needed.
Now when I see people in a Home Depot parking lot seeking work, it reminds me that perhaps the ‘illegal’ worker, and his ‘illegal’ employer have an illegal advantage during these hard times. It is as if they were to say:
“Green Card? We don’ need no stinkin’ Green Card!”
But Leopoldo would use proper English. Better than me. OK, better than I.
My friend doctor Erlich is a big man with curly red hair and by sharp contrast, a black beard. He’s stolid, muscled, and speaks with a faint E. European Yiddish accent that adds a patina of culture and history to his persona. A very organized man, he religiously leaves the Bay Area twice a month to make a weekend California mountain-top pilgrimage. He often goes alone; sometimes I accompany him. This time, however he plans to introduce his young son to mythic Yosemite Half Dome. He knows I had introduced all my children to the mountains at a very young age. At best (or at worst) I led my four year old son by the hand on a long slow 22 mile three day hike into Emigrant Basin; now my sons return the favor. In retrospect, maybe Dr. Erlich suspected that sort of challenge would be of a different order than simply dominating a resentful if inert mountain. In any event, he called, and I agreed to go along.
Eleven year old Josh has been a gifted child since long before conception, and remains so today. No one, including Josh, has much doubt he will be a gifted man as well. Like his father he is, and artful, sometimes deadly, intellectual, and fearfully energetic. Unlike Dr Erlich he is, at least for now, slender and rather delicate looking.
Not the least of the joys of hiking with a child or with friends is that time moves slowly, but uninterruptedly, allowing enjoyment of an aspect of that living seems scarce: idle conversation. Ordinarily there is no purpose to such talk, but of course, when an intellectual and ambitious father and son are together, that may change. So we often speak about B S: Big Stuff, like politics and government. Erlich suggests-
“In an ordered society, only government can freely act in ways illegal for the rest of us.” Josh responds:
“In wartime wouldn’t it better to flee to the enemy, so one can be accorded special privileges there as a dissenter?” Erlich replies-or evades- Josh’s comment,
“That depends on what country and what war. But I think if one is a citizen of the country of God or of Time/Space, one’s duty is to survive as long as possible.” I risk weakly,
“To survive in WWII Poland it might have been necessary to abandon dogma and loyalty by siding with either Russians or the Germans at different times.” Erlich agrees:
“ Right. Josh’s grandfather was a skilled mechanic in Poland during The War. In the Soviet-German division of Poland, he was conscripted to work on Russian military motorized equipment. When Hitler took ‘the Soviet half’ of Poland he worked for them; and when suspected of being Jewish he escaped to Russia, was imprisoned in Siberia, but escaped the holocaust, and was allowed to emigrate to the US later. That is why Josh and I are here today.”
“It’s is almost mathematically impossible that any one of us be collected from the dust of gazillions of dead stars, accrete here on earth, and actually become a single survivor among trillions of gametes.” I thought,
‘Eleven? It’s a lie. When I was eleven I had an argument with a friend where I claimed women had cloacas like birds; ( Josh would have said, ‘no, cloacae!’)’ So that’s how it went. Erlich and I are very libertarian-conservative, if there is such a thing, and Josh is- well, from Berkeley; we avoid that sort of politics. In desperation I cleverly begin to point out different trees and shrubs and flowers, trying to make the presentation almost academic, with some success.
From the outset we make frequent rest stops, to the visible but unspoken dismay of the Doctor. As the morning grows short our pace slows even more. Erlich becomes rather more disillusioned when an octogenarian grandmother hobbles by at one of our rest stops with a clutch of her descendents. We can’t be sure she will fail to reach the top of Half Dome but vaguely hope so; but she claims she has been climbing Half Dome every few years- forever. Bummer, Granny, as they say.
Ex-and-now-again-Governor Jerry Brown passes us at the million dollar half way toilet above the long series of giant steps leading to NevadaFalls. There solar panels fuel an underground pump that sucks noxious all -too-human fumes down past the seated guest and deposits them somewhere only Wiki-leaks knows. Sitting or standing there with fresh mountain air whistling down the hole makes one suspect that occasionally an ‘investment’ of taxes might be defensible; even though the pipe could end in someone’s back yard. Preferably it would go to Yucca Mountain.
A few hours later, we are still quite a way from the long series of high rock steps that lead to the infamous metal cable on the face of Half Dome; many people are going by in the opposite direction: returning. Maybe it is mainly because of our situation, but we notice and speak with a significant number of father-son pairs, who dejectedly confess they have not made the top of Half Dome, and are out of sorts with one another. Usually the effort has failed because of exhaustion, or a plain and simple child’s deep seated fear of the steep open rock face and cable.
Erlich himself now starts to complain frequently of the need to rest- which makes no sense to me, knowing him to be a man-mountain lion. But I keep it to myself. It becomes very clear that we will not reach the top of Half Dome, so the Doctor suggests they eat lunch and I simply go on ahead, and meet them at the base of the cable, or somewhere else on the way down; he apologizes profusely for being too tired to continue.
In short order I reach the cable. There I proudly pass the grandma, rush up to the top, eat my snack, chat with the folks nearby, walk the dome, survey the view, and descend. Late in the day, back at Happy Isles Nature Center, I find Josh and Dr. Erlich waiting. Both are energized, animated, and exhilarated. They are talking BS and planning other climbs. The Dr. has completely recovered from his exhaustion. Josh relates the details of their day eagerly.
I have never climbed a mountain without hearing its voice telling some unsuspected timeless truth. On that day, on that mountain, beside the Merced (Mercy) River, my strongest and fondest memory is of that father and that son, who acted together in a living parable about family values; about fathers and sons.