August 7, 1997, Thursday
Today was Don's "Big Day" as every Thursday is. That's the day my parents give him about 25 dollars of his Supplemental Security Income to spend any way he wants to. He usually blows it all on food while touring Staunton's American food restaurants, particularly the fast food franchises. His last nickels and dimes typically end up in gum ball machines. Any money brought home on a Thursday evening he considers a measure of failure.
Don is rather outgoing for a semi-autistic certified lunatic. He has befriended many of the neighbors that my parents ignore, avoid, shun, or loathe. One such woman is old Mrs. Wright. She lives a quarter mile down the road on the route into Staunton. She was ancient 21 years ago and hasn't changed visibly in that time. My brother chats with her when he sees her checking her mail.
Most of the gossip concerned the notorious Smith family. The Smiths were a large family of desperately poor people who lived in a weathered old house across the road from Mrs. Wright. When I was a kid of about eight and nine I used to play with them because they were the only children my age within walking distance. It was at this time that I first learned the shocking basics of redneck life.
Mr. Smith was a car mechanic of sorts, but long before I met him he'd thrown out his back. So the family lived on his disability check. He spent his days covered with grease playing with old cars. The driveway was dirt paved with old motor oil. The do-it-yourself septic system surfaced as grey water in channels on either side. To this day if I smell the odour of old motor oil and dilute sewage I experience a flashback to my childhood.
In the winter time, a wood stove provided the heat. Sometimes the Smiths ran a little low on wood and somehow managed to us gasoline or fuel oil instead. One such time the stove burned so hot that, according to son Terry (who had a tendency to tell tall tales) it glowed red and "didn't look like a stove anymore."
Mrs. Wright says that Eddie (the crazy Smith) has had two wives already and now has a little daughter, who is, she says, remarkably "clean." I would have expected him to be on death row by now.
My mother told me a disturbing story about my oldest cousin, a straight-talking woman in the navy. She has one of those tough guy navy husbands, exactly the sort of person I most despise. The couple visited Staunton some years ago and the husband seemed to my parents, well, kind of obnoxious. The news is that he beat the hell out of his little five year old son and now the kid is blind and brain damaged. I hear about such things all the time, but it's hard to imagine it happening in my own family.
Matthew is back to his usual intelligent interesting self again. It's so nice to finally see his pupils. If I didn't like him so much, all that crap in New York City wouldn't have been so disturbing.
Today Matthew got a job as a prep cook at the Blue Bird Café. He's excited to be moving beyond the dead-end career of dishwashing.
We both are disgusted with Monster Boy's progress in finding a real job. Matthew is also disgusted that Monster Boy didn't let him use his ID last night when they all went to a bar.
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