Not that you need to be rich and run the show nowadays to have Channel 1.
Take me, for instance.
I’m not rich, nor do I run the show, but I do have Channel 1, regardless.
I love Channel 1.
I live for Channel 1.
I can watch Channel 1 until the cows come home.
I watch Channel 1 for one reason and one reason only: the temperature.
Why am I interested in the temperature, you ask?
Let’s just say I like to keep up with the trends, okay? And whenever something big happens, I like to write down what the temperature was the moment it happened.
That’s what I wrote down when the first plane hit.
Fahrenheit, that is.
Said so on Channel 1.
I don’t know what the temperature was when he did the thing with the belt.
We had an upstairs and we had a downstairs, but were never rich, so we never had Channel 1 back then.
* * *
Say what you want you to say about him, but when it came to shutting a door, my brother could shut a door with the best of them.
He would never say hello, what’s up, how’s it going, or how’s your day. He would just barge into the house, head up the stairs, march into his room, and shut the door behind him.
Sometimes he would say a few words before he shut the door. Sometimes he would say words like seachange or transformative or groundbreaking, or he would say a sentence or two about us not being rich, but after he finished saying these words and sentences, he would always march up to his room and shut the door behind him.
Then the banging would begin and all hell would break loose.
I mean, the sounds he made with those drums – man, he could have killed somebody! No sense of rhythm whatsoever. If you ask me, I think he hit them that way on purpose to drive us all bonkers.
The nanny asked him one time what it was he was playing up there, and he said it wasn’t anything in particular, just something he was working on.
He said it was avant-garde what he was working on.
That was another word he liked saying.
I can tell from the way he said it that he liked the way it sounded when it came out of his mouth.
The nanny liked the way that word sounded, too, when it came out of his mouth.
She liked it when he banged away on his drums.
At least she pretended to, anyway.
He’d be up there making the racket he was making, and she would hum right along with the racket, and when all his racket finally ended, she would go upstairs and applaud for him outside his door.
“You a true ah-dist!”
True artist or not, the nanny’s girl couldn’t hear any of this racket going on, and I say more power to her. This was one of those instances where I would have traded my conflicts for her problems any day of the week.
But she always knew whenever he was banging away, regardless. She would see me covering my ears with my hands and that’s how she would know. This always made her laugh. She had one of those mouthy laughs that little girls sometimes have when they can’t hear or talk.
That was another thing about the nanny’s girl. She could laugh and make other sounds with her mouth, but she couldn’t make words or sentences with it.
I once asked the nanny about how this was so, but she said she had no idea how. She said she had no idea how, but that one day her little baby girl would talk and the whole world would listen.
Here’s where I am going to tell you that never happened. The nanny’s girl never talked, so no one ever listened to her.
Not on my watch, anyway.
Sorry if this dashes your hopes, but that’s the truth of it, plain and simple.
* * *
Now, don’t get me wrong -- I was real sweet on the nanny’s girl. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know what I would have done in that house.
I mean, she never had a father and I never had a mother, so I guess, at least in some regard, we came from the same place.
I mean, we both had eyes. We both knew what a nipple looked like.
But she couldn’t hear jack, so she couldn’t hear what I heard on Channel 33 when we watched it together all scrambled up.
Not that there was much to hear on Channel 33.
Just some moaning and groaning, mostly.
And when they said something that wasn’t just moaning and groaning, when they said actual words instead of sounds, it was usually the same three words.
Yes god oh.
That’s what the people who moaned and groaned said a lot of on Channel 33.
Yes god oh.
They would say it over and over, and they would say the words so loud that I would have to get up and turn the volume down.
It was a small house, our house. It had an upstairs and a downstairs, but it was a small house, regardless. It was small enough that every sound made inside it could be heard from anywhere inside the house.
She would laugh every time I got up to turn it down. I mean, she couldn’t hear jack, but she knew the score. Everyone knew the score when it came to Channel 33, but not everyone knew how to descramble Channel 33. It took someone who knew a lot of jack to descramble Channel 33.
I was that sort of someone who knew a lot of jack – even if I was only a kid.
I mean, don’t get me wrong – I knew what was going to be in store for us once we descrambled Channel 33. But I was only a boy back then and there was a lot more I needed to know and wanted to know. I wanted to know what those people who said yes god oh looked like, and more than that, I wanted to know what those people who said yes god oh looked like when they said yes god oh.
She had no idea they were saying yes god oh.
She couldn’t hear jack, remember?
But even though she couldn’t hear jack, I knew that she wanted to know just as much as I wanted to know what those people who said yes god oh looked like when they said yes god oh. We wanted to see what would happen to their faces – their mouths, their eyes, their cheeks, their noses -- when they said these words. We wanted to see where they put their hands, their hips, their legs, their faces when they said these words.
I mean, say what you want, but if you never had a mother like I never had a mother or if you never had a father like the nanny’s girl never had a father, you would have wanted to see it all, too, believe me.
* * *
He says some of my conflicts come from my never having a mother.
Not all of my conflicts, but some.
I don’t know.
Maybe he’s right.
I mean, of course he’s right – he wears everything in black every day, and he’s been in the business for thirty years, for crying out loud, so who am I to question him?
If there’s one thing I learned it’s that when it comes to questions, you never question a man who wears everything in black every day – especially, if he’s seen it all and heard it all like the guy I come around to see.
* * *
Here’s something you should know about me: I wear a cape to bed every night. It reminds me of who I was, who I am, and what I am here for.
Besides, you never know when duty calls.
Hey, you know what they say: they say you can’t save the world, but you can save yourself.
Me, I can’t save myself to save my life.
And maybe I can’t save the world, but who’s to stop me from trying is what I say.
I mean, after that thing with the belt, I’m sure that needs no explaining. Then if you throw my never having a mother into the picture on top of that, everything starts to add up, right?
Sometimes I have these dreams where I’m flying with my cape on. I dream of flying all the way up to the sky, past the moon and stars, to where the mother I never had is waiting for me to rescue her.
I once told my brother about this dream when I was a kid – that’s when this whole cape thing got started.
He said, “Listen up, you, and listen up good.”
He said, “Dead mothers don’t go waiting up in the sky after they’re dead.”
He said, “Dead mothers don’t go waiting up anywhere after they’re dead.”
He said, “Dead mothers are dead mothers and only dead mothers, and that waiting up has nothing to do with being a dead mother.”
Then he marched off to his room, closed his door, banged away on his drums, and that was that.
I mean, you had to hand it to my brother – the guy was one hundred percent right. I think I knew he was one hundred percent right even back then. But I also knew, even back then, that when it came to waiting, I could wait the best of them, and that was a gift that didn’t just fall from the sky – it came from someone or something, and that someone or something knew a thing or two about waiting.
* * *
She says, “I can’t believe you’re making me do this to you.”
She says, “Doesn’t it burn back there when you’re making me do this to you?”
She says, “What would that guy you come around to see say about your making me do this to you?”
She says, “You’re really sick, you know that?”
She says, “You’re a sick sick sick sick sick sick man.”
She says, “To even think of having me do this to you, you got to be really sick.”
She says, “I’ve known some pretty sick people in my life, but you, my dear, take the cake.”
She says, “Well, aren’t you going to say something?”
She says, “I’m all ears if you want to say something.”
I say, “My mouth.”
I say, “It’s my mouth. It hurts. It still hurts.”
She says, “You and your mouth.”
She says, “It’s always you and your mouth.”
She says, “Lord knows where you and your mouth have been.”
She says, “If you’re thinking about telling me where you and your mouth have been, just do me a favor and save it, okay?”
She says, “You and your mouth could have gone to hell and back, for all I care.”
She says, “Speaking of hell and back, how much longer do I have to do this to you?”
She says, “How much harder do I have to pull?”
She says, “My hand.”
She says, “It’s my hand. It’s tired. It’s very tired.”
I say, “That fence. It’s that fence. It’s all about the fence.”
* * *
The plunger – that was another thing that made her laugh.
The plunger is something I got to talk about.
That goes without saying.
I mean, if I’m going to talk about the belt, the cape, the baggies and everything else, then I got to talk about the plunger.
It’s only fair.
So, let’s talk about the plunger.
We had a plunger.
I mean, sure, we were never rich and we never had Channel 1, but we had a plunger, regardless.
Whenever something needed some plunging, whether it was upstairs or downstairs, I was the one they always sent in to go plunge it.
When it came to plunging, I could plunge with the best of them.
She liked to watch.
The nanny’s girl, I mean.
She liked to watch the way my hands gripped the wooden handle. She liked to watch the way my hands thrust the wooden handle up and down, up and down. She liked to watch the way the water sank down into the hole, the way it took whatever was in it down with it.
What I liked was the sucking and swishing sounds. To me, the sucking and swishing sounds were the best part of the whole thing.
I also liked how she always laughed while she watched me plunge. The mouthiness of her laugh always ended up making me laugh. We would laugh, the two of us, together, while I plunged and plunged, and every time I finished plunging, she would jump up and down and clap her hands. Then she would clasp her hands together underneath her chin and smile at me with her little gums sticking out.
Look, maybe she couldn’t hear anything and maybe she couldn’t say anything, but you can bet your bottom dollar that when it came to plunging, the nanny’s girl knew a plunger’s plunger when she saw one.
* * *