Stronger and harder than a bad girl's dream. (lost_angel) wrote,
Stronger and harder than a bad girl's dream.

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You Can Call Me Al

You Can Call Me Al was my Uncle Ken's favorite song. His daughter Angie was five years older than me, near to finishing high school by then, and whose coolness with guys and sex and driving I sometimes coveted.

She was at my house one night in March of '93 talking to her brother and my mother and a collection of other extended family, from Tylertown an hour away, who were bedding down in Hattiesburg for the night. Even some of Angie's cousins on her mother's, my Aunt Betty's, side were there, other kids round-about my age. MTv was on in the background; Paul Simon and Chevy Chase were swinging trumpets in time to You Can Call Me Al. Angie told me that it was her father's favorite song.

I pictured him in his hospital bed in the cancer ward watching the same channel, and smiling when his familiar, favorite tune brought him comfort.

I know now, as an adult, that he was probably asleep from the morphine and the room thickly quiet with the local news muted above on the wall.

But the hush hadn't spread to our house yet, where people talked away the silence and swallowed the knowledge the death would soon come.

I brushed back the woven, 70's-orange-and-tan-and-brown curtain and looked out sliding door glass. It was snowing outside, snowing in March, snowing in March in Mississippi.

I popped the splintery wood staff from the runner and slid the door ajar. I was first out, followed by Angie and the others, squeezing out sideways without bothered to open the rest of the way. Through that opening, we billowed out like smoke and dissipated into the yard, bending over to gather a little snow in our hands and fling it high.

I made for the trampoline, running as I got closer, and rolled over the edge. The surface was slick but the snow still fresh, as much like real snow as we can get in Mississippi, where it's all gray mush and ice by the morning. As the snow came down, our laughter when up and out, past the tree tops and over the pile of split firewood that divided the yard from that of Mr. TB and Mrs. Jeane, our closest neighbors.

I rubbed the snow on my face then gathered another handful to pitch at Angie. I hoped that Aunt Betty, in her quiet fortress guarded by visiting hours and spousal sleeping cots, would draw the hospital curtain aside and see the snow, too, and describe it to Uncle Ken.

He died less than a month later, on April Fools Day.

When my mother sent word through the principal's office to gather my homework for the next few days, none of my friends believed that my uncle had died.

So my Uncle Ken has three memories of mine: You Can Call Me Al, April Fools Day, and this one.

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