Here is a rough draft–something I wrote today. I hesitate to post something in rough form, but here it is anyway. Hopefully it will format properly.
She cooks while I play. “Roast beef! Corn-on-the-cob! Brussels sprouts!” she cries. I play with my truck. I long for my other toy, my orange ball, but it rolled away, down the hill, and onto the Forbidden Road, so I cannot have it anymore.
“Look, watch me shake up the milk!” she shouts. She demonstrates holding the paper cup tight on the glass bottle, shaking vigorously until the cream cannot be distinguished from the rest of the milk, and I am saddened by this mixing of elements; it seems unfair that I cannot see the different facets of milk anymore.
“Now, I will water the plants!” She seems to be singing. “Full measure for this spider plant!” I dump a load of bricks off the back of my truck. I vroom the truck around the chair legs and toward the garbage pail.
“Quarter measure for the snake plant!”
She had warned me that the Forbidden Road was Off Limits. She said, “Only grownups can go down that road.” I figure the road has secrets, the secret to life, something one must catch onto to live well and not get teased by others.
“A bit for the Christmas cactus!” she says with a flourish. I can no longer hear the yellow plastic clock on the wall. She says, “Oh, this damned table!” My truck leaps to the windowsill. The curtain, slightly ripped at the hem, makes way for my excavation.
I long to ride to my orange ball, down, down the Forbidden Road.
She waters the African violet, the aloe, the Chinese evergreen, the jade. She switches on the classical station, loud. It is time for the news. She sorts through the mail. President Kennedy is talking about sending a man to the moon. “Temple Sisterhood. They are having a meeting. I must put it on my calendar. The corn!”
My truck climbs up the crack in the window. Commercial for luxury lighting fixures.
Rushing to tend to the corn, she grabs a pot-holder, and picks up the pot-top. Steam rises, like steam from the bathroom when they take showers. She is back to her mail. “United Way–okay. Town public works–what could this be about?” She is not expecting an answer from me; I do not give her one. Mozart piano concerto on the radio. She turns it up louder. I swish my truck to the dishwasher, which she has moved near the sink.
“No! No! Julie! No! Bad girl! Those dishes will break!” She goes back to her mail. “American Cancer Society, League of Women Voters–”
The door slams. “What’s for supper?” His voice. She quickly turns the radio off.
“Oh, Honey, we must get a round table, I just can’t stand this rectangular one!”
“What’s for supper?”
“How was work?”
“Norm’s father died. I’ve got the evening paper. What’s for dessert?”
“Norm who? Roast beef! Corn-on-the-cob–Oh, the meat!” She rushes to the oven. He sits, opens the paper, reads. She says, “The meat is a little ‘well done’! The Brussels sprouts are nice and soft! You’ve got mail! I tried to sort it.”
“Norm Kapenski. There was a march in Tennessee against segregation.”
“We gave to the NAACP last month. Julie! Stay away from that dishwasher! The Temple is having a rummage sale. I’ve got hermit cookies for dessert! Your favorite! Remember, they’re Off Limits until you eat all your main course and your fruit! Julie! Sit for supper! Julie! Now!”
I vroom my truck to my chair.
I sit on the floor. I want my ball back. Down the Forbidden Road is the secret to life, something special–for me, that they keep hidden from me. They say: “Beware the Forbidden Road!” What is so scary about it, and why is it forbidden? I remember watching the ball roll down the hill, over the bumps in our street, past the next door neighbor’s–I ran and ran–but then it rolled past the stop sign, further, further, under a kid’s bike and then onto the Forbidden Road. Somehow, I know now that the secret of the Forbidden Road is one that I will never, ever learn.
“Julie, sit! Come on!”
I do not budge. She serves him his roast beef, corn-on-the-cob, Brussels sprouts, and some for herself. “Easy on the butter!” she says to him. “We don’t want any fatties around here! Julie, I’ve cut yours up very, very small. Sit on the chair, not the floor!”
I do not move. She kneels beside me and places the plate on my chair. Cupping my head in her right hand, she spoons the food into my mouth with her left, piece by piece. “Eat your food,” she says. “Eat. Children are starving in other parts of the world. You don’t know how awful it is. Eat.”