He told me he’d hurt his back carrying the TV up and down the street where the pawnshops did business. He went from place to place, he said, trying to get the best offer.
I got up early every morning and went to work and worked hard all day. When I came home I plopped into the big chair and just sat there. I was so tired it took me a while to unlace my shoes.
Once, long ago, when I used to think like a man about these things, I threatened to kill that guy. But that’s neither here nor there. Besides, I was drinking in those days.
But he was the first kid in the family, on either side of the family, to even want to go to college, so everybody thought it was a good idea. I thought so, too, at first. How’d I know it was going to wind up costing me an arm and a leg? He borrowed left and right from the banks to keep himself going. […]But after he'd borrowed everything he could, everything in sight, including enough to finance a junior year in Germany, I had to begin sending him money, and a lot of it. When, finally, I said I couldn’t send any more, he wrote back and said if that was the case, if that was really the way I felt, he was going to deal drugs or else rob a bank—whatever he had to do to get money to live on.
That’d be the big thing. It was going to require a special kind of sitter, seeing as how the hours would be long and the kids were hyper to begin with, because of all the Popsicles and Tootsie Rolls, M&M’s, and the like that they put away every day.
Everything in the trailer. Every stick of furniture was gone when she came home from work after her first night at the cannery. There wasn’t even a chair left for her to sit down on.
This was a materialist society, and he simply couldn’t take it anymore. People over here, in the U.S., couldn’t hold a conversation unless money figured in it some way, and he was sick of it.
Then I did let go. I turned loose and held my arms out to either side of me. I kept them out there like that for balance. My dad went on walking while I rode on his shoulders. I pretended he was an elephant.
Drinking that whiskey was the thing that scared me. That was the worst thing that could have happened. That was rock bottom. Compared to that, everything else was a picnic.
Hell, I didn’t want to go to Australia. But once I understood this, once I understood I wouldn’t be going there—or anywhere else, for that matter—I began to feel better.