A year later and the year following, he picked fruit with his father between the school bus runs and the hoeing and discing and irrigating in the vineyards he was learning to do by watching his father and asking questions and seeing how it was done rather than being told, which was learning that didn’t last; he had to do it himself to know. They didn’t teach him like that at school. There, it was called “doing problems.”
The next year he took the red-haired voluptuous Mary Jane to the downtown movie theater, to see Knock on Any Door, and he thought she would ooh and ahh at young John Derek in his first role. She seemed more impressed with Humphrey Bogart. Remembering now, he realizes the guy she married looked a lot like Bogie except you could tell the guy never read a book or, for that matter, was ever sweet on more than one girl. And now Mary Jane would not permit Father’s only living son’s hand to reach between her legs. When he took her to her daddy’s door she kissed him lightly on the lips.
The best thing that ever happened between the ages of eight and sixteen, between helping his father and working in the canneries and potato warehouses, was Irene. You’ve heard so much of her you don’t need more. She was my first love in more than the one way I had known until then. She taught me to love her and I loved her back and we should have kept on, I sometimes think, but then remember . . . What I’m talking about here is how my father taught me to work. I went to work every day I wasn’t in school. When my last year began I became a linebacker and that spring a pitcher. I did well. One night I made my father proud standing on the fifty-yard line.
I realize now I talked about all this in the other stuff I wrote about Irene. I loved her last name, Castenada, with a tilde over the “n.” I’ve described her enough; it doesn’t help bring her back, and besides, my love of fifty years is the most beautiful woman to look at and the most impressive to listen to, the most beautiful and the most brilliant; so I love to say, especially when I think to tell her. She comes up and kisses and offers other amenities. She’s the best lover and best cook and she never stops working toward the book she needs to write as she works to keep me alive to write this one. Is that what I’m doing? If I were, why wouldn’t I be writing in a more consecutive fashion, where being born precedes crawling, which comes before walking, etc. . . .
(23 May 2013)
copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander