MOMENTS WITH YOUTH
Flying Bird’s Nest
I sit in my father’s chair and stare at my feet, imagining my foot bones the way they appeared in x-ray machine at the shoe store. My mother is in the kitchen checking the items in the grocery bags against the receipt. My older brother is out with his friends; my father in the bathroom, the smell of his aftershave wafting over the classical music he plays on Saturday afternoons.Here he comes. “I’ve got to get a haircut. I’ll be right back, son. Then we can go and get those ice skates.”
“I thought we were going now?”
“I’ll only be about an hour.”
While I wait, I go outside and shoot hoops. My brother and I put the basket and backboard on the roof so it hangs over the alley. One after another I chase down jump shots.
* * *
I walk up the hill at the treatment center surrounded by six boys. It’s a nice fall day; geese fly overhead. Our feet slip slightly on the stones. I move closer to a couple boys who have a tendency to run away along the tracks on the other side of the hill. They seem okay.
“I hope we have hamburgers,” Johnnie says.
“Yeah, me too,” says Nick.
“Did you see the game last night?” Ricardo asks about the basketball game on T.V.
“Yes,” I say.
“I want to play pro ball some day,” Bobby says.
I start to say you better have some other options then stop. It feels like a moment for dreaming.
We enter the double doors and begin to climb the stairs. The smell of hamburgers comes from the kitchen
We sit down around the small table. Groups of six and seven other boys are sitting around other tables with their workers. We did into the burgers and chips.
“I have a home visit this weekend,” Alan, one of the boys, says.
“Your dad probably won’t show,” Ricardo, another youth responds.
“Asshole!” Alan reacts.
“Watch your language,” I say, and “Ricardo stop jiving Alan.”
“You workers never do what you say you’re going to do,” Joseph says quietly.
“What Joseph?” I ask.
“You never do what you say you’re going to do.”
“What do you mean?”
“You said you would find me a foster home so I could leave this dump.”
“We’ve been trying.”
“I know, you keep telling me that and that I’m ready to go, but I’m still waiting.”
I pause, knowing that it might be a while before we can find foster parents who will take older boys like the ones at our center.
Alan puts his thumb in Ricardo’s burger. Ricardo backhands Alan across the top of the head.
“Knock it off!” I say…
* * *
I play until the sun gets low in the sky and the melted snow freezes and makes it too slippery to play then go in for dinner. My mother makes bologna, beans, and fried potatoes for dinner. Afterwards she knits while I read about horses and my older brother makes a model airplane, cutting and gluing pieces of balsa wood to a tissue-paper pattern. Later he will bake the paper skin tight around the frame in the oven. And in spring he will go into the attic, start them on fire, and throw them out the window for me to douse on the ground with the garden hose.
Before I go to bed, I do a flying bird’s nest on the gymnastic rings my brother and I made in the attic. Back and forth I swing inverted with my hands and legs behind me in the rings like a bird over old photographs, appliances, and clothes in boxes…