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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Unsettled Chapter 9A "It Was That Awkward Age"

There I was standing at my school locker dialing the same combination that had worked all year and yet for some reason it would not open. My situation was worse than that. Much worse. I’d been trying the combination over and over for two hours, missing my first two classes--I never missed classes--and in just one minute I’d be late for 3rd hour, but what I needed was inside of my locker--or so I thought--and if not, I was pretty sure I’d just squeeze inside, pull the door behind me, and wait out the day.
The nameless faces jostled by paying little attention. It was as if I wasn’t there, which suited me fine. But it also made no sense. Surely at any moment someone would notice. Someone would point me out, and then everyone would stop and stare. I could feel the storm of humiliation gathering over my head, waiting to rain down--not because I couldn’t open my locker but because I was standing there in my underwear. No T-shirt, just the briefs, and yet all morning, even the eyes that met mine seemed completely nonchalant about my white Fruit-of-the-Looms.

There I stood like one of those kids in the Sears catalog who smiles at the camera as if it’s perfectly normal to sport your whitey-tighties for all the world to see. Who were those catalog kids anyway? Where did they hide for the rest of their lives? Can you imagine transferring from school to school, having to move each time the other kids figured out you were the dweeb in his underwear on page 34? Well, not me. No way. I did not want to be that kid in his underwear. Yet there I was, trying to act normal. Smiling at passers-by as if to say, "Buy the three-pack and save."
[I realize this picture is not from the right page in the 1971 Sears catalog, but there is no way I'm putting the right page on my blog.]

24 left……14 right….17 left. Please, God, let it open this time, but no…

“What’s the matter, Tom? Can’t get your locker open?” the voice came from over my shoulder. It was Camille Petropoulos, the pretty Greek girl in my journalism class. “Mine does that sometimes. Let me try. What’s your combo?” I told her.

The traffic in the hall was thinning. There I stood in my underwear beside a girl who flirted with me in class the way my sister’s friends did, as if I were too young to take seriously, a nice boy, fun to coax a smile from, but completely “safe” to joke with because (A) these girls all had boy friends, and (B) I was a half a foot shorter than them and clearly still a “boy."

It was that awkward age....I was what some adults euphemistically called a late bloomer with a "growth spurt" lost somewhere in my genes. Before graduating, I’d grow seven inches, but for now, I was the third smallest guy in my grade level (of about 400 students). I had never shaved and would not need to shave daily until my junior year--in college! There were sparse, struggling hairs under one arm but nothing under the other. I loved P.E. class but hated the required showers afterwards. Need I explain? Awkward age indeed! I was surviving sheepishly among a growing population of Neanderthals.

Don't let this snapshot fool you. I was not a wimp--quite the opposite. Thanks to two older brothers and Dad giving us all boxing gloves years before, I was scrappy, and held the school record on the gym wall in pull-ups and push-ups. That year, I was allowed to practice with Dave's wrestling team over at the high school and even wrestled in "exibition matches" when they faced schools that included 9th grade in their high school. A full year later, I'd still wrestle in the 98-pound class--weighing in fully dressed. My brother Dave and most of the team had to cut weight each week and weigh-in… in their underwear.

Camille pulled the handle up and the locker opened, “There you go. See you in class,“ she smiled, as if nothing was wrong.

I looked inside the door, hoping to see my clothes, but nothing. Nothing but books. The hall was nearly empty, except for two guys running to beat the bell and a couple kissing in the corner who had not been on time to a class all year. The bell rang. In fact, the bell kept ringing as if it were broken, as if the janitor was trying to muffle it with a mop. Then the hall went dark. I fell backwards to the floor and sat up reaching for my locker door and felt nothing but the soft blankets of my bed.

Dad’s Big Ben alarm clock was ringing in the next room, muffled by his fingers as he reached for the off switch. I plopped back down in my pillow. "How is it?" I thought, " that the sounds of real life provide perfectly timed sound cues in my dreams?"

That bell meant it was 5: 00AM Saturday. It had long become my custom to roll over in bed until Dad stepped in and said, “Up and at ‘em, Tom.” But this morning I did not have to wake up. I was not going to work with Dad and Dave and Paul until after lunch.

My brother Paul had a Detroit News paper route that he‘d passed along to Dave the year before. They still did the route together on Sunday morning, but Dave did the route most of the time. He hated it, and took a lot of guff from his friends, but the route had been in the family for many years, and Dad figured it was my turn to take it. Truth is, Paul and Dave were bigger and stronger than the 98-pound runt of the family. So Dad decided I’d stay back and deliver the route and then come out with Mom when she brought lunch.

[Factual changes in the paragraphs to follow were made 4-4-09 and are in this color.]

I did not like delivering the 52 papers any more than my brothers did. But at that minute, hearing Dad whisper “Up and at ’em, boys!” to Paul and Dave in the beds beside me while I got to roll over and drift back to sleep, I did not mind the straw I’d drawn. After two years of getting up early to go with Dad, I did feel a little guilty as their silhouettes grabbed clothes in the dark and began slipped out the bedroom door. Some time later, Dad came back to began pulling the door shut.

“See you at lunch time,” I whispered, wanting him to know I was awake.
“Yep. We’re starting the well today.” His voice was wide awake.

"I know. How deep will we get do you think?”

“Oh, I’m hoping two crocks down. We’ll see. If you don’t fall back asleep, don't wake the others.” he whispered, pulling the door shut. I heard the other two bedroom doors shutting beyond mine, and then, a moment later, the back door of the house made a soft thud behind them.

Mom was still asleep in the room to the right of our bedroom door; Kathy and Jimmy were asleep in the room to my left. Kathy, being the only girl, had always had her own room, but Mom and Dad moved Jimmy's crib to her room about a year before.

I was in the top of a bunk bed set we had just bought used from an ad in the paper. My little brother Jim, who was now three years old, was asleep below me. Paul, Dave, and I had shared a room for nearly ten years, but when Jim moved from his crib to share a bunk bed with me, we got our own room, and Paul and Dave set up their beds in the basement. There was no bedroom there. We just had the beds set up at the far end around the corner by the furnace room. It would be that way for four more years.

I rolled over and went back to sleep, half afraid I’d find myself back at my locker standing in my underwear, but I didn’t. Instead I dreamt the paper route in my head. I was happy to see I still knew it by heart, and even happier that I was fully dressed as I rode my bike from door to door.


Anonymous quilly said...

I'm thrilled that I clicked on the link and the story was really here!

I know we have all had dreams like this, but not all of us can tell about them the way you do. I know just how you felt wanting to crawl in that locker!

26/11/08 12:13 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I'm glad to hear others have had such dreams. I have had it more than once but not for twenty years or more. I really could fit in my locker back then. I may add a picture of me in my wrestling suit if I can find it this weekend.

I'll "proof" this in the morning and probably makes some changes, but yes you caught the draft post and I just left it up.

Since this may be my only post for a day or two, I really should say Happy Thanksgiving!

26/11/08 1:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If dreams could only be interpreted (as they were in the Bible). Your dream reminds me of one of mine...only in mine I'm sitting in the bathroom and people keep coming in. All various people..male and female and I'm wishing for privacy!!

Oh the frustrations and all of the emotions we feel and they can transcend into our waking up...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family as well!!!

26/11/08 11:28 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I had a student tell me once that if it had been a habit in our family for men to wear pajamas, then such dreams would be in pajamas. So hopefully that's all it means. I had a teacher in college who said dreams were a natural way of sorting out issues of life. Even when we "don't remember" them. So when people say "sleep on it" who knows? Maybe dreams help us make better decisions.

All of my siblings are at my mom's house today, picking up where we left off two months ago. It's "blue" work but much better to do when all the kids are working together. We were playing Christmas music, which was only "hard" as we were sorting out old Christmas ornaments. These ornaments are 50 years old--the ones we used to put on "real" trees when we were kids. Even Mom had not used them for many years. They are not particularly pretty anymore, but it was good to handle them again. I think I'll do a photo essay of them in a few weeks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

26/11/08 9:07 PM  
Anonymous mommyknows said...

I love it! Where are the first nine chapters?

Are they listed anywhere?

Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving.


28/11/08 12:22 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

POI readers are very patient with me. I began this "story" last summer. I'm "Unsettled" on the title and since it was about an "unsettled" time when we were settling some property that eventually became our home, I've been working with that title. The purpose of the story is to leave a draft of the "book" with my mom's house when the time comes to sell it. My siblings and I have been working on "sorting through" and settling the estate at a "family pace." (see Friday, September 19, 2008) For instance we spent yesterday there at the house that was eventually built over the well that these chapters are about.
Chapters 1 and 2 are in July 08.
Chapters 3-5 are in August.
6-7 are in September.
8 was on October 20.

Like I said those following this story have been patient, but I hope to finish well before Christmas.

28/11/08 12:37 AM  
Blogger JR's Thumbprints said...

Locker combinations and paper routes ... small and big tasks. A real nightmare on Elm Street, Roseville.

30/11/08 4:43 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I love that some of readers here actually know Roseville. That's not far from your stomping grounds. The Walking Man lives about two or three miles from my old house.

Hey, TWM, are you out there?

30/11/08 7:15 PM  

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