Mary led me out to a small enclosed porch off the kitchen and closed the door. We started to talk about my uncle and my relationship with him. I had never spent a lot of time with him, except once when I was little I stayed with his family when my parents took a month-long trip to Italy. I was only three at the time, but Mary went after my recollections one at a time. At first I only had really vague pictures in my mind - the house and yard, the aroma of onions and garlic and my uncle's cigars.
Mary was very good about getting me to expand on each mental image, prodding me to look closer and remember more. Things started to come back to me little by little. Scents and colors came first, then shapes got clearer. I was remembering the furniture, the decorations, even the layout of the house.
It was harder with people and events. The sounds of voices weren't too hard as it was a very loud house, but I couldn't remember any words that were said. I did have dim recollections of my aunt cooking and my uncle reading at the kitchen table. I remembered more about being outside. The house was built on a steep hill. I was a short, round child, and remembered fairly clearly falling and rolling all the time.
Jimbo and Ken brought us plates of food, and we kept talking while we ate. There was something else - something very close to the surface - something just beyond my grasp. Mary sensed what I was feeling and said that trying too hard wouldn't help. She was reassuring, saying that memory from that age wouldn't be perfect. We just had to turn on the right circuits and it would all be there, imperfect maybe, but all there..
Suddenly I remembered what I'd been grasping for. It was a family joke, and I didn't have to go back all that far to think of it. My aunt laughed about it all the time. I was such a little butterball that she was afraid I'd roll right out into the street and get run over. She didn't want to keep me indoors all the time, but she had her fears about me being in the yard, so she made my uncle take me to the park a few times a week so I could play.
The park! Now I remembered the swings and monkey bars, the see-saw and the sandbox. We brought old bread and fed the ducks in the little pond, watched people playing tennis and volleyball. We got hot dogs or popcorn or Italian ice from the vendors. I told Mary all this even while I couldn't think why such a happy memory should seem so important, though I sensed that it was. She thought everything was important, and started to ask me about my uncle.
I'd always liked him even though my father fought with him all the time. I'm going to blush even writing this, but he always called me his 'Little Bimmy'. I guess I was a selfish little twat even at a young age, and that's how I pronounced 'gimme' at the time. As loud and crude as he could be, he'd give you his undivided attention when you were talking to him. And he listened to what you were saying, even if you were just a babbling kid. I didn't take his advice very often; it was usually something like 'shoot the motherfucker', but I did appreciate his attention.
I never really knew what he did for a living. It was always just 'business'. Mary asked a lot of questions like what did he look like, how did he dress, did he listen to music or read or watch tv, what kind of car he had.
I answered what I could, but we'd been at it for hours and I was getting really sleepy. We decided to call it quits for the night and go to bed. It was almost midnight. Mary wanted me to concentrate on the park when I got to bed. Just try to keep the images up front and hope they turned into a dream that might tell us more.
Barry and Tim were the only ones up. They were playing Scrabble in the kitchen and asked us how things were going, then Barry showed me where I was sleeping. It was a room with three bunk beds. Ken, Jim and Don were already asleep and somebody was snoring. I took an empty lower bunk and climbed in after taking off only my shoes. I was beat. Tim and Barry were going to finish their game before going to bed.
I was trying to picture the park. The playground. The ducks. Dose ain't ducks, Bimmy. Dere swans. The tennis and volleyball games that people were playing. I don't know what gives wit dose jerks. It's too fuckin' hot for dat shit, Bimmy. The food. Bimmy, dese are da best hot dogs on earth. Next time you gotta try some onions on it. You got room for lemon ice? Oh, yeah. Lemon ice. It was put here on earth just to prove there is a God. Shit, Bimmy. We're late. Gotta pick up dat kid at da doctor's.
What kid? Oh, yeah. On the way to the park.
Just a little detour, Davy. I gotta pick up another boy and bring him to da doctor. Don't pay no attention. He's gotta get a needle in the ass and he ain't in a good mood.
I had to be asleep and dreaming now. Unky pulled his Cadillac up in front of a house. There were three people there, a man and a lady, and a boy much older than me. He had to be at least ten. They were in a huddle on the front step. Uncle Sal yelled out the window and they pulled back to the door, tightening their embrace. He got out of the car and grabbed the boy's arm, pulled him to the car and shoved him into the back seat. Don't worry, Bimmy. He's just scared is all.
"MARY!" I woke up screaming. "MARY, Oh, God! MARY?" I was absolutely terrified!
There was a lot of clunking and thunking and swearing as everybody tried to get to me. Ken reached me first and put his hands on my shoulders. "Jesus, Dave! What is it? Are you dreaming?"
"I need Mary," I sobbed. "I just dreamed it. I saw Artie with my uncle!"
Ken felt my forehead. "Somebody find Mary! She's next to the bathroom. What was it Dave? Just a dream?"
"It was so real. I need to tell Mary before I forget".
Someone turned the overhead light on and it hurt my eyes. Mary came running in wearing a bathrobe. Ken moved out of the way and she took over, hugging me. "Tell me, David. Tell me about your dream".
I did my best, right in front of everyone, since I'd woken the whole house. Mary kept prodding me to remember more, and I did. Uncle Sal picking up boys and bringing them to different 'doctors' on our way to the park to have fun.
I think people are born with good, or at least hopeful, feelings and perceptions about other people. Just look at the love and trust in a baby's eyes. It can't just go away. If it does go away it has to get turned off somewhere along the line. As a three-year-old I saw fear in those boys faces on the way going, and pain coming back.
I was too young, too easy to be lied to. These boys weren't going to the doctor. They were being stripped bare naked in front of a camera. Pictures of their young bodies were being sold for profit, offered to whoever would pay for them. The pictures could be sold and traded forever, long after these children grew up, even grew old. What's wrong, Bimmy? Don't worry - they ain't nobody. They ain't family.
Yes they are, you sick fuck! They're my family now!
... to be continued
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