James Giago Davies: How to think about others first for a change

The following opinion by James Giago Davies appeared in the Native Sun News. All content © Native Sun News.

James Giago Davies
Think of others first
How did little Marty get so selfish?
By James Giago Davies

For those of you who don’t know, Terry Gwinnett is an iyeska from a parallel universe, and it is amazing how often life in his universe mirrors life in ours.

In Terry’s universe the working class poor often live in trailer parks, and that was where Terry’s dad Shorty Gwinnett was living the summer Terry stayed with him. Terry slept on the top bunk over his step brother Bobby, who snored most nights, but Terry didn’t mind because the trailer wasn’t far from his job at the mall and he was trying to save up money for college.

On the west side of Terry’s trailer ran the railroad embankment, on the east side was another trailer. A young single mom, named Irene, lived in that trailer with her boy Marty and her biker boyfriend, Speed. Irene and Speed fought a lot and a couple of times Terry woke up to see police lights flashing from their trailer.

An inordinate number of visitors came and went from Irene’s trailer and Terry knew that meant Speed was dealing, mostly weed and white cross in those days. Terry had said hello to Speed one day and all he got back was a hard look, so that was another good reason to keep to his side of the fence.

Life is like pet hair, it gets all over your clothes and furniture, and one drizzly morning Terry looked out the window and saw an actual pet across the street, a little puppy, wet and cold, and whimpering. Two preschoolers were picking the puppy up and repeatedly dropping him into a muddy puddle. He’d try to run off and they’d yank him back by a short leash and roll him back into the puddle again.

Terry stepped out the door to holler at them to stop, but the neighbor boy beat him to it. Marty walked over from Irene’s, scooped up the puppy, and handed it up to a woman who came to the front door, and Terry could hear her say “thank you so much, Marty” and then she scolded her preschoolers and ushered them back into the house.

Marty looked to be maybe 10, and although he was a tall, skinny, tow-headed boy, Terry could tell by his mannerisms he was part Lakota. Marty had on a Twins hoodie.

“Only good player Twins got left is Rod Carew,” Terry said to him.

“I know,” Marty said. “I don’t even like them, but my gramma gave this to me for my birthday. I like the Pirates.”

“That’s my team, too. Who’s your favorite player?”

“Roberto Clemente.”

“He’s dead,” Terry said.

“I know, but I just like him.”

Thing was, Terry didn’t know any other person who gave a rip about baseball; it came as quite a surprise that this little guy’s favorite player also happened to be Terry’s favorite player. When Terry got home from work Marty would be waiting with his newest baseball cards or a ball and glove to play catch.

After a time, Terry realized Marty was knowledgeable about a whole lot more than baseball, and so they started talking about those things. First, it was just Marvel Comics, but then it was Mark Twain, and Issac Asimov’s I Robot, because Marty was smart, and what he didn’t know, he was eager to learn, and that was rare indeed in the world Terry Gwinnett lived in.

One thing Terry couldn’t do was see and hear through those trailer walls. Most of the time Speed was high, most of the time Irene was drunk, but there were days when Irene felt deeply sentimental, because she did love her son, and she would snuggle up next to him and show him the $200 check his Gramma sent every month, and she would tell him, “This is your money from Gramma, Marty. This is how much she loves you.”

When Terry got off work one day, an excited Marty was waiting on the porch steps. He had an advertising insert from the paper, because it was late August, and he had circled all the school supplies he would be needing for the Fifth Grade; all practical stuff, no candy, no toys, no comic books. He wondered if Terry had any suggestions.

About that time Speed and Irene pulled up on Speed’s big, loud bike. Marty tried to show Speed the insert but Speed ignored him, and so Marty followed his mother into the trailer, pointing at the insert, trying to get her to look. It was a hot day, the windows were open, and just before Irene turned on the fans and drowned out their voices, Terry heard her scream, “Marty, knock it off! There’s no money for any of that!”

“But you got Gramma’s check for me yesterday,” Marty said. “I saw it.”

“You selfish little bastard,” Irene said. “I need to make Speed’s motorcycle payment with that! Think about somebody besides yourself for a change!”

The weekend came and went, and Terry stood on the porch, waiting for his dad to finish up at the breakfast table, and give him a ride to work. But something about the trailer next door just wasn’t right. Outwardly, it looked the same, but there was something missing, and Terry thought of the husk of snakes and insects, how sometimes they look like snakes and insects, but they’re just husks. Terry peeked inside a window and saw the house was cleared out.

“They moved out over the weekend,” Shorty told him, as he clambered up into his pickup.

There was no time for Terry to ponder the loss of Marty, Shorty was running late, but Terry noticed something in the grass. It was Marty’s baseball, scuffed and dirty, because Marty had wanted it to look like something Babe Ruth would have smacked. Terry picked it up, cocked his arm way back, and imagined Roberto Clemente deep in right field, and then Terry watched Marty’s baseball soar as far beyond the railroad embankment as he could throw it.

(James Giago Davies can be reached at skindiesel@msn.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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