(30 September - 12 October, 5 December 1993) after Eugene Field

I wasn’t a malicious boy; I didn’t pull the hair from my sisters’ dolls, or put dirt in my brother’s sandwiches, but I wasn’t entirely conscious either. The things I wasn’t punished for bother me the most. When I was five or six, I peed in the sandbox in the trailer park where we lived and got my breeches warmed. This must have been the year Mom taught us kids about gardens. She had us plant radishes in six-inch plots in her flower bed along the fence. After we planted the seeds and my brother and sisters had gone, I patted down the soil in their plots but not in my own, although I didn’t know how it would matter. Later, maybe from guilt, my radishes seemed bigger than theirs. My siblings accused me of cheating at board games and cards because I would win and pretend not to take it seriously. But I was fiercely competitive, especially with my younger brother, who must have tired of coming in second. When we were we fighting over the rock pick did I hit him in the forehead with it? I loved and competed with him like I couldn’t help it. A part of each other, we would fight to be treated differently, although we were both to blame in all our scuffles. At least with other boys, I shared whatever mindless cruelty would pass the time. We experimented with frogs and garter snakes— to see how many frogs a snake could eat and how long a frog would suffer before it died. At home, to clean Mom’s silver candlestick, I scrubbed it with the pot scrubber, which bared the silver to the bronze, so I worked on it until it was bronze all over, and didn’t say a thing to Mom. At school, I was quiet, hurt, or bitter. I was more comfortable in the library or in class than on the playground. Socially, I couldn’t fit in. I didn’t understand why other kids said the things they said or did the things they did. In the big world, I lived in a little cave made of the things I understood, but I was always full of explanations. Was I much different from other boys? It’s easy for me to explain but not to compare myself to others, because I never would have asked and no one would have told me unless I could have asked. When called to task, I was usually confused, but it didn’t matter. Mom and Dad never tried to establish malicious intent. If I couldn’t look Mom in the eye and say it wasn’t me, I was guilty, but it was always me; I was there. Mom demanded, “Did you ever stop to think!” and I couldn’t say, although I knew I had been thinking all the time.