013: Rainbows (Chapter 1)


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Eric Barry Writes: Poetry, Short Stories, and Writing


This is a very unique episode, featuring an early preview of the first chapter of the novel I'm working on, "Rainbows." I would really love your earnest thoughts, which you can send to ericbarrywrites@gmail.com, or on instagram @ericbarrywrites, and twitter @ericbarry. -- When you first find out about death, the whole deal seems pretty rotten. And once its knowledge touches you, it’s a grasp you feel right until the end. At least that’s how it was for me. Maybe that’s where the loneliness started. The understanding that this was all going to be for naught. That we were brought into a world filled with pain and loss and sorrow, told to chase the joy, the shiny things, told to manufacture and lust for happiness. Knowing the whole while that inevitability and time would slowly pluck it all away. And in the end, we are all truly alone. Left to the worms and mites, as impressions fade through generations until our name no longer finds residence in the air, and the sun scorches our earth lifeless. I don’t mean to be bleak, but it’s a lot to take in when you’re seven.   The woman with the angular haircut and glasses began pumping her feet and hands, and the organ music—the kind you associate with Sunday morning headaches and car sickness as you stare with your head pressed against the car’s rear passenger window—began to fill the room. That’s pretty much how it went every Sunday morning. Our church was called the Covenant, and as far as I could tell it was non-denominational, which did seem a bit more welcoming than the alternatives. But nonetheless, khaki pleated pants and ill-fitting powder blue dress shirts and ugly dresses and outdated hairdos knew no denomination. The most horrendously boring people gathered every Sunday to cross another chore off the weekly list. In a way, I don’t blame people for believing in a god. It certainly helps with the dread, and though my own beliefs have wavered through the years, I always got the impression I was seeking to anchor them to a deeper truth than sheer existential peace of mind. Not that I consider seventeen old, but I feel like I was never afforded the youth of my peers, my mind and heart plagued with the gospels of a reality they may never discover no matter how old. I also know this makes me sound like a little shit.   The church tip jar was passed around, and I placed the seventy-five cents reserved for my post-sermon doughnut into it. Here’s to you, God.   “Chase!” The sound of my mother calling my name was never a welcomed one, her voice walking an impressive line between nasal and shrill as though she were imitating a dying crow. She was 42 at the time. I would later learn from my father that I was an accident. He had been led to believe my mother was on birth control, when she surprised him with news of my conception on Christmas morning, disrobing to reveal me growing inside her. The next week he lay on the operating table, ready to have his ball bag sliced open. My mother called the surgery center and implored the nurse to run into the operating room and stop the procedure to no avail. At least that’s what he told me. I stared, thinking things children should not be thinking of their parents. My mother was not a fat woman, but two children and a food addiction had taken their toll, and her own parents never gave her the self-esteem necessary to combat the effects of time. She could hardly see without her glasses, which never helped in the many moments she struggled to find them buried deep somewhere in her purse, or car, or or the couch cushions, or her other purse. I could never quite place her hair: some days it seemed burgundy, others it reminded me of strands of orange pulp found at the bottom of a can of juice concentrate. She claimed her hair had been permanently fried in a salon accident after she fell asleep in a dryer chair, her hairdresser making friendly with one of the husbands in the bathroom. What my my mom lacked in eyesight, self-control, and sherbet hair, my father made up for with being hard of hearing, spartan discipline, and a hairline that looked like it was seceding from his forehead. He was tall and fit, but awkward in control of his body and personality. I never understood what it was that attracted the two of them to each other, and admittedly would often resent them for my own physical shortcomings, but I guess the deaf leading the blind is the most romantic of the configurations. “Chase! Come say hi to Greg’s parents.” Greg Pierce was my same age, and looked and sounded much like that kid from the “You on Kazoo” videos, to help paint a picture. He had a sister in the fourth grade, Lindsay, who even at nine was insanely hot. The kind of hot that was so penetrating you knew this wasn’t just a kid phase, she was in this for life. She was blonde, skinny, and had a propensity for lifting up her shirt to show off to the boys. I understand you’re not supposed to talk that way about a nine-year-old, but for chrissake who do you think seven-year-olds are ogling anyhow? The three of us attended Tad Newton elementary school in Redwood City, a middle class city halfway down the San Francisco peninsula. I stood by my dad’s side as polite conversation took place, wanting nothing more than to be out of the stuffy church that smelled like bus seat fabric. “How are things at the firehouse?” Greg’s dad asked. He was a tall, lanky, all around dork. With a mustache. His name was Don. Very 80’s. My dad gestured to me. “Yep, he sure is getting big.” It’s hard to explain the feeling one has as a child when you’re embarrassed on behalf of your parent. It’s as though you want to reach out to the other parties and assure them that you’ll be okay, that you’re aware of the situation at hand, and measure will be taken to address it. Greg’s dad powered through. “If you and Lynda wanted to go looking at houses, Chase is welcome to come over and play with the kids.” “Do you want to go over to Greg’s, Chase?” I spotted Lindsay through the glass wall of the church, running in her sundress on the grass field, taking care as not to let her bare feet step on any hidden rocks. “I’d like that,” I replied.