November, 1998.

There are no easy answers. It was apparent that something had to be done, but perhaps an internal censor regulates the appearance of uncivilized means in my mind, resulting in sudden shock, fear, nausea. It was at night, a few hours later than this; a few degrees of latitude to the south, one day by car (but it's a hard drive) and it was at night that they were let into his house, burst into his room, subdued him and took him away. My cousin was stolen and I will never see him again.

There are no easy answers. When the youth terrorize their elders something is wrong. Children have to see their parents wield some modicum of authority to learn to respect them. This cannot be put off until later. Despite the thoughts of some, you cannot pay men to wield authority on your behalf later on. You can fool yourself, however, into believing this for years of faulty peace-of-mind until a stranger comes home for the first time, more malformed or deformed than reformed.

This is America, and in America there are no easy answers, only easy transactions of money. This non-crime (not a crime because it's not a kidnapping of a minor if it's done with the complicit consent of the parent, spawner of property not human life with all its troublesome attendant rights and freedoms) ultimately seen as a boon by the shareholder - my aunt - because the private radical christian reformatory destined to turn my charming cousin who really got away with too much (but not this time) into a strait-laced, clean-cut law-fearing God-fearing mother-fearing noise-in-the-night-fearing young man will prevent him from being forcibly taken to the public state-sanctionned legal reformatory destined to turn him into a hardened criminal, albeit a charming one.

There are no easy answers. There is little a parent can do to instil respect for society-as-we-know-it in a child which not only witnessed her wanderings with drug lords through South America In Search Of Jesus but was in fact an illegitimate byproduct of it. The child not only pays the sins of his parents but they've managed to fool the parents into paying for it too! There are no easy answers. These are not easy images. I want to believe that she kissed him good night before abandoning him to his tormentors. I want to believe that if I sent him a letter of support he'd receive it, which of course wouldn't happen because the location of the compound is kept secret, a counter-non-kidnapping preventative measure. I want to believe that this couldn't happen to me - I want to believe that it didn't need to happen to him. I want to believe that saner alternatives might have been valid. I want to believe that someone made a horrible mistake. I want America to be a bad dream, and I want some easy answers, damnit.

from A Grandpa's Notebook, Meyer Moldeven

The next morning we're back under the palms. Suzanne takes up the story.

This is about what happened late the same night we hiked to Point Nemo. As with the other nights, we get into our pjs, brush our teeth and wash our faces. We hug and kiss Mother and Dad and I pick up our flashlight. The tent doesn't have electric lights, so we have an electric lantern that we hang from a hook in one of the wooden rods that hold up the tent.

We take our flashlight along to see by as we get ready for bed. As we move the light around it makes shadows on the tent walls. The shadows jump in all directions, stretch tall and shrink short, first on one wall, then on the other.

Roger waves his arms, jiggles his fingers and twists his body, which makes his shadow twist and shake, too. It's weird and very funny. We laugh at the shadows.

After a while, we stop, crawl into our sleeping bags and zip them up. I reach out and turn off the lantern. A faint glow comes in from under the flaps. Everything is normal, just as it's been since we arrived at Snug Harbor. I guess we fell asleep.

Suddenly, I'm wide-awake. I hear Roger sleep-breathing. That can't be what wakened me. I listen hard. There it is again. The sound is like someone shaking and rustling paper bags. Then another sound, like tin cans rattling. I'm curious.

'This needs to be looked into,' I think.

I unzip my sleeping bag, reach over and tap Roger's sleeping bag.

'Uh,' Roger says sleepily. 'Is it morning already?'

'No, silly,' I whisper. 'Keep your voice down and listen.'

We lie quietly in our sleeping bags. There it is again, soft rustling and scratching sounds and, now and then, rattling.

'What do think it is?' Roger asks, now fully awake.

'I don't know,' I reply. 'Shall we check it out?'

'Let's do it,' he answers.

Very quietly, we slip out of the sleeping bags and crawl to the tent opening. Roger opens the flaps a crack and peeks out. I get above him and look out over his head.

There's just enough moonlight to make out the trees and the nearby tents. We can see Mother and Daddy's tent in front of ours. The sounds are coming from off to one side.

I look down at Roger. His eyes are wide. So are mine, I guess. 'Are you game?' I ask him.

'OK,' Roger says.

I lift the lantern from its hook. I don't switch it on; there's enough moonlight so that we can see well enough.

Opening the tent flap just enough, we slip out, stoop far over, and tiptoe in the direction of the sounds. We're very quiet and don't even whisper.

Up ahead, among the trees, is where campers bring things they don't want, like empty tin cans and dinner leftovers that can't be saved until the next mealtime. The sounds are coming from that direction.

Soon we're among the trees and near the large plastic containers where the trash is stored. We're close enough to a container to touch it, but of course, we don't.

Roger and I hear loud rattling. We whirl in the direction from where it's coming and I switch on the lantern. Ahead of us are three trash containers, and they're overturned. Paper bags, tin cans, and bits of food cover the ground in all directions. Nosing about among the trash are dozens of small animals, picking at scraps. We make out squirrels, chipmunks, porcupines, woodchucks, and even a rooster and a chicken. They're bleating, yapping, squealing, chirping and clucking as they nibble and peck away at the leftover food.

'It's like a zoo,' Roger laughs.

'It's good that our table scraps aren't wasted,' I say.

'Yes,' Roger adds, 'but it'll sure be a mess for someone to clean up in the morning.'

The animals don't seem to mind our watching. They go right on scrounging and eating.

'Let's go back to the tent,' Roger yawns.

'I suppose we'd better,' I say, 'or we'll be too tired for tomorrow's adventure.'

'Right,' Roger yawns again, 'That's one I don't want to miss.'

Nor do I. I' m really looking forward to it.

Back in our tent, I hang the lantern back on its hook and switch it off. We crawl back into our sleeping bags. Roger yawns again as he snuggles into the softness.

I think of the little animals having a feast among the trees, and feel glad they can get at the food. I slip down so that my head isn't cold, pull up my knees and wrap my arms around myself. I feel cozy.

***

'What happened the next day?' I asked.

'Wait and see,' Roger grinned.

(Back) (Index) (Next)

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.