Saturday, April 26, 2008
Our Little Secret
I know it seems like I jump around quite a bit here, a lot like a weasel who is all war dance and no attack. O.K., alright, I admit it.
Early on in this blog, I went to writing about Aunt Sammy and got as far as telling how I left her place in Florida to return to the North, but I never got to the end of that trip; and there are somethings....something in particular........ I left out, and might better have said at the beginning, except that it is pretty damn personal and private. It makes me a little uncomfortable to speak of it even after all these years, but I am not exactly speaking to anyone as I sit here in or on my ark, and I promise to get to the matter in this entry. Please pardon my hops, dodges, and digressions; they must be in my nature.
My hen Miss Kitty always stayed quiet when she was in the guitar case, and I was wasted after weeks of digressive hitch-hiking out West, so after we finally got on the bus east, we both slept most of the way from Iowa to the Adirondacks.
I couldn't have told you whether it took a day or a week.
As a matter of fact I couldn't even have said what month it was. I had never been to Lake Bonaparte except in the summer, so, like a three year old, I more or less believed that it was always summer at lake Bonaparte. After all, it was always summer in Florida.
So it was another rude awakening when the bus driver put me off in Harrisville where frost- crabbed maple leaves scuttled down the street and sailed down the Oswegatchie River.
I walked all five miles to the lake and not a single car passed me going in either direction. Hardly anybody actually lived year round at lake Bonaparte in those days, the Summer people had gone home, and the hunters weren't yet in the woods.
The swim raft had been pulled up onto the neck of beach that connects the Loon Island to the mainland, and I found that the boats were hoisted in the boat house.
In summer the canoe would have been pulled up on shore by the dock, and I had intended to paddle across to Priest's Marina where Doc and Lillian parked their trailer, but the canoe was not there. It would be on saw horses up at the main camp. I supposed I could drag it down the path easily enough, though it would be hard to get it back up.
As I headed up the path , two grouse exploded out of the leaves right in front of the little log sleeping cabin half way to the big camp.
I stopped where the grouse had flushed, and I stared in the cabin window.
I remembered standiing in that same spot some eight years before when I saw Aunt Sammy wave and then motion me toward the door on the lake side of the cabin.
I had hardly thought of her since leaving Florida. That was not because I had been unattached to her. In fact, I had left Rooster Hammock because of the soft prison which my attachment to her had become.
And here I was back where it had started. The thing I had left behind. The thing I have never mentioned to anyone. Our innocent secret. This bush I am weaseling around.
I had been snorkeling off the boathouse and was headed up the path for lunch. I was probably still wearing my swim fins, as usual, though I don't remember that detail.
I never made it up to camp for lunch that day, nor would I be missed: often enough I got my lunch from the lake bottom. Clams, cattail hearts, and crayfish tails, and stuff I had taken from the kitchen and squriled away in the boat house.
Maybe my lips were blue like Sammy said, as she opened the screen door and let me in. Probabally not. She always thought I was cold.
She toweled me off, calling me her poor little fish.
Then, all of a sudden, she held me to her, and I could feel her sobbing.
She lert up a little and said she was sorry and she asked if I was alright. I said it I was alright and patted her head, but obviously she was not quite alright herself.
It took a while with me patting her hair for the tears to stop, and then she asked if I remembered.
Remember your mother, she said.
It was very long ago. Many years she said , that I lived inside her, long after she had known my father. Many months and years even, I lived and swam like a tiny fish in her, until finally I found the heart of her, settled there, and began to grow.
I grew in her for many years while she never knew it. Until one day as she took a bath, out of her swam this small boy fish . She got out of the tub and held this thing that would be me until she was sure I was dead, but still she couldn't let me go, so she put me in a cake box and put the box in the refrigerator.
Everyday she took the cake box out of the refrigerator and opened it to look at this cold hard thing that would be me, until one day it seemed like I moved. She could hardly believe I had moved or that I lived, but she held me to her again, as she was holding me now, held me until I squirmed and squeaked like a mouse and her milk began to flow, she said, and as she told me, I could feel that her blouse was wet, and I could smell her milk.
Then and there and back when I was little more than a fish, she fed me from one breast and then the other, and though I almost remembered, even then I didn't really believe her story. Yet I'm sure she did believe it herself, and I can't deny the miracle of her milk.
There you have it. I spilt the milk.
I have never told anyone about this because I have no complaint to make, and while Aunt Sammy lived, it was our secret, but now Sammy is long gone and I myself have grown old and shameless.
Our secret sessions continued that summer and each summer and then steadily for the year I lived with her after wandering away from the Warrens so often.
I neither believed nor disbelieved what she told me; her breasts were the facts. She was as much my mother as any woman could ever be. One thing for sure is that without Aunt Sammy feeding me, I would not have survived as indepedantly on mostly foraged food, as the Warrens and others believed I did.
But on my return that fall day, the cabin was empty and I was truly on my own, in a place Summer had left.
An East wind had come up, with a white chop that would make it hard for me to get across the open water to Priest's Marina, but I finally realized that Doc and Lillian would be gone for the season down to St. Petersburg.
What I didn't know at that time was that even that summer, due to a falling out between Doc and the Priests which I never understood and which probably also involved Aunt Sammy and her taking me to Florida , they had not parked their trailer at Priest's that season, but rather on the other side of the bay at the new Marina.
Right then, I was hungry as a weasel, and Miss Kitty would be too.
I went on up the path, got the hidden key and let myself into camp,
The fridge was unplugged and propped open, the towel drawers inverted so the mice wouldn't nest in them, and all the canned goods removed from the shelves. There was only sugar and rice in jars.
I made a fire in the wood stove and put some rice on with spring water from the jerry can.
I dug some worms for Miss Kitty and then went to the boat house and scooped a can of bats from behind the cork floats in the boat house where they huddle in cold weather. I would have prefered frogs with my rice, but they were down in the mud in that season. I don't eat bats anymore at all, and not many frogs either. I have become too soft hearted.
I slept on the floor in front of the fire place with Miss Kitty roosting on the mantle beside the stuffed owl, and the next morning, I walked out to the highway, headed downstate to Ithaca, the breast of the Finger Lakes.