If I had to choose an iconic symbol of my childhood, and I wasn’t allowed to pick that game of old maid I once played with Squeaky Fromme, I would choose the old sycamore tree that stood at the top of Wilson Hill. The tree overlooked Wilson Creek just at the end of Wilson Ct. and within earshot of the Wilson Memorial Dog Pound where there were a surprising number of dogs named “Wilson”. It was under that tree that I smoked my first nudie magazine and read my first cigarette. In the fall, I would eat the apples that fell from that tree. In the summer, I would eat the bananas and pears. We built a clubhouse in the mighty boughs of that tree and fueled by our imaginations, we would pretend for hours to be kids in a treehouse eating fruit. My mother, in fact, grew concerned that so much pretend would distract us from our chores. But, after the horses burned down, we really didn’t have many chores, besides carting the ashes down to the old mill. The old mill was where everyone brought their ashes. It was there that I met the girl who would later grow up to be an adult…
People say that your college years are the happiest years of your life. They were for me because I enjoy depression and loneliness. During the day, I was learning how to go into the real world and become an engineering student. At night, I delivered pizzas to students who weren’t poor enough to be able to work through college. I could see the envy on their faces as I delivered stack after stack of pies to them. I’d like to say that I could identify with them… show some empathy… but, the fact is, I’ve never had to live a life of affluence and I’m not sure I ever could. It made them seem stronger, in a way. But, at least I spat on their pizzas.
Everyone has a favorite pet of their youth and mine was a boxer named “Pennysworth”. We came up with the name when we decided to all go out and watch Stephen King’s It; but, then we decided to all stay home and name the dog. My dad got the dog pretty cheap because it was the runt of the litter and it was born without eyelids. I’ve found that most creatures who, as a rule, have eyelids, feel their absence pretty acutely when they are gone. Pennysworth always had a surprised look on her face, like she was showering in a motel and she suddenly smelled Anthony Perkin’s aftershave. Anyway, she was my constant companion from when I was five to eleven… always keeping an eye on me because—what choice did she have?