WORDS

BAKERSFIELD

I remember Bakersfield. 

1976...I’m going back. I’m eleven years old. Summertime. Bicentennial time. Family vacation. Always hated them.

“Lucille, Christ almighty will you get the goddamn kids in the car? And where the hell are my cigars? You left ‘em on the sink?.Oh, you asshole.”

 

I remember Bakersfield. We brought our recently widowed neighbor, Mrs. Winslow with us on this particular vacation. She belly ached about everything.

“Dick, you’re driving too fast. Dick, you’re driving too slow. Dick, your cigar stinks. Dick, don’t drink beer while you’re driving. (I agreed with her on that one) Dick, why doesn’t the car have air conditioning, it’s August for God’s sake?

 

Bakersfield-hot town of heat. A hamlet like heaven above.

Bakersfield-river of dust, showering big dreams and love.'

 

I remember Bakersfield. People talking with drawls, farms, shopping malls, movie houses and skateboard parks. The heat ungodly. No smog, but dirt and hay dust coat your lungs and you want to die. 

I went into a cool, dark movie house one blazing afternoon and saw The Giant Spider Invasion starring William Shatner and Alan Hale Jr. (the skipper from Gilligan’s Island)...great flick.

 

I remember Bakersfield. Nighttime, hot as the day. Like dog breath. The adults playing poker and getting drunk inside the house. The television’s blasting but no one’s watching it. I like to hear them laugh and swear. It makes me feel like a part of some bigger thing. But, separate too, cause I’m so small.

 

I remember Bakersfield. Another hot night. Sitting in an antique motor home that’s up on blocks out in the& backyard. My sister and I are playing Monopoly. The crickets are loud and electric. A Coleman lantern spills its greenish glow over the game. We’re having fun. The lantern buzzes with the crickets and the two sounds are good together. 

Sis wins and heads back to the house for a couple of sodas. Suddenly, Mrs. Winslow appears at the door of the motor home swaying drunkenly, trying to stay on her feet.

I say, Hi.”

She stares at me through hate slits. “You’re a fat, ugly, little bastard,” she says.

I look away and stare at the Monopoly board.

“Fat, little boy,” she says and stumbles back into the dark.

 

I remember Bakersfield. But, that was all a long time ago. 

A couple of months back, my mom called me to tell me that Mrs. Winslow had died. 

“That’s too bad,” I said smiling to myself.