The breakfast table in Katy’s kitchen had been passed down to her from at least two generations prior. White worn laminate dressed over pressboard with shiny metal legs holding it up. We were finishing off Bisquik pancakes and homemade maple syrup. I had already learned my first lesson. A napkin was not a “nakin.” Katy was busy cleaning up the kitchen when she turned and leaned her waist into the white matching countertop. Her eyes sparkled. She didn’t say a word, just stood there looking at us. “You three need new clothes.” She popped around, took off her apron and headed down the hall giving orders to her daughter Charlotte and Karrie to get us all ready to go shopping.
Globe looked a lot different in sun light. The main road ran along a riverbed that was fed from the creek near Katy’s house. It was as if a curtain had been lifted off the town from our first night here. Standing outside the store while Aunt Katy placed the shopping bags into her car, I could feel the cool Autumn air on my face. I turned to face the wind. Oblivious to anyone else I outstretched my hands and fingers at my side. Cold air swirled in between my fingers and around my body. The sun was in my face. Orange, red and brown leaves leaped from their bonds and danced to the ground. I could hear river water flowing to nature’s rhythm downstream. I had not a care in the world and answered to no one. In truth I was hurting inside. The sun had risen, whitewashing all that I was. Dad said it was for the best. God had blessed his decision to take us. I still had to survive and he was my father. He may have broken some law or something but he was still my dad. He wouldn’t put us in danger, would he?
I had been magically whisked away to a new home, a new life. Was this a dream? Was I back in my bunk bed asleep with nightmare ridden dreams? Or had I always been in Globe and finally woken up from a dream? Everything was so strange. My Father was not the man I had always known. He was different now. Untouchable, nervous, he even seemed to no longer have all the answers I remembered him having. Sammy was continually upset and crying. Karrie seemed angry and I was somehow to blame. Always Kenny, my fault, like I was the reason for all that happened. She held a grudge over me. Her pain had a voice in my physical punishment.
I was here now; standing with the sun in my face. The air crisp and cool blinding what I really felt. The leaves scraped the pavement after they leapt from their homes in the trees. I did like it here. Aunt Katy was nice. Her home and yard bumped up to a mountain that resembled the fairytale stories my Mother read sometimes at night.
My sister’s elbow nudged me into the car. It was a huge beast. It drove like a boat and smelled like my Aunt’s cigarettes. Aunt Katy was driving; Karrie sat in the middle front seat. Charlotte hugged the other door and Sammy and I were in the back. I just sat there listening. You learn to do that when you’re the middle kid. The three of them in the front talked and carried on like it was a fieldtrip. I peered at them with half cocked eyes under my coat hood. I despise you, all of you! Karrie had betrayed my Mother. She was betraying me.
I remembered that she had another brother, Billy. He lived with Karrie’s Mother, Janet. She had chosen to live with my Mother after the separation from my Father. I thought at first it was because she loved us and didn’t want to be apart from Sam and I. I now knew that was just not true . Her loyalties lay else where. That was obvious.
The drive back up to Aunt Katy’s house was not as dark and scary this time. The entire trip we chased the river upstream until it forked. We then followed the road and path to her house. The river had become a creek. The creek flowed downhill from the Pinal Mountains. Aunt Katy’s house was just off the road overlooking the creek. I enjoyed the drive. I enjoyed just sitting and being quiet. Aunt Katy would occasionally look back into her rear view mirror and look at me. I kept my eyes from her. I didn’t want her to see what I was thinking. I was mad. I was angry. I was also happy when she looked at me. She would smile with her eyes but I wasn’t about to let her know what I thought. No one would know, never again! I looked out the window. The trees flew by and I tried to count them.
We arrived back at Aunt Katy’s house. Karrie grabbed her bags and the two of them headed off into the house. Sam was out of the car and probably kicking rocks. Aunt Katy handed me a bag. She stood there looking at me. She didn’t say anything. She just looked. She tried so hard to get me to say something or look at her. I refused her request. I did not want anyone to see me cry. I liked her, I really did. I just wanted my Mother. I wanted to see my Papa and Nana. I wanted to go out to Norco, CA and see Papa’s horses. He had a beautiful white with spots one. My Father put me on it once.
Right before my Dad took us we had gone up to a little town called Oroville, CA. Papa had bought forty-nine acres on the side of a hill. We spent the whole week living in their RV. My Uncle Bill and Aunt Marcia Thomas came. My Cousin Scotty was there. He was two years younger than me. We had so much fun. My Uncle Tommy was there. He was seven years older than me and tried scarring us with stories of Bigfoot. He told us he could see one across the hill with his binoculars. We were scared but it was fun. I missed all of that. I wanted to go home, to that dream. That night sitting by the fireplace I didn’t say much and nobody really asked me why. Sitting next to Katy’s fireplace in silent protest, I drew further in. Silence is golden. The warmth of the fire comforted me.
The next morning after getting up and eating breakfast my Father took us into town. My Aunt Katy had set up a meeting at the local Catholic school. Holy Angels Catholic School promised to help hide us from any prying eyes. They did not have to notify state or local law enforcement of our enrollment. No one would ever know. Dad had pulled off the biggest coup over my mother and her family. He bragged that with all of mom’s family money no one would ever see us again.
Karrie and I sat there in the van waiting for what seemed an eternity. My Father came out of one of the buildings with a woman that could have been a man she was so ugly. She wore a black dress, black funny hat on her head and it was tipped white. Her name was Sister Paula. She wore little wire framed glasses that moved when she spoke. Never had I seen such an uglier and scarier woman in my life.
She was going to be my second grade teacher. I was terrified of her. There was the van, there was me and there was her. I couldn’t even get a word out. I just nodded as they spoke to us. Karrie would have to go to that school too. She would be in Charlotte’s class. Sammy would go to the “Tree House” day care facility. It was just up the road past the fork heading from Aunt Katy’s house. It had a huge tree house for kids to play in.
Inside the school was a uniform store. Boxes lay all about the floor and shelves. We were given the forced option of white, red or blue button down shirts. The ickiest thing I had ever seen came next. In complete disbelief the warden, produced Ronald McDonald pants. I would need a black belt to divide the warring parties I was wearing. I was seven but I knew this sucked. Prisoners were not this humiliated. Just last week I was wearing OP, Hang Ten and Vans. I was cool. In style. Well that’s what my Mother always said to me. I couldn’t wear my regular shoes. Completing my costume was a pair of black shoes missing their leg braces. I would not have worn these things to church.
Time went by and I settled as best I could in to this new life. Father would disappear in the middle of the night sometimes with my brother Sam. Sam would cry like a banshee. At times like this dad would pace about talking to himself. I had learned more than once not to approach him while Sam screamed like this. Later after mom got us back the truth would be learned. Dad would leave with Sam and drive to some distant location. There he would call my mother in the middle of the night. She would sing Sam to sleep and calm his little nerves.
The fear of God had been put inside me to maintain silence over our past. It was quite clear; others knew what he had done. I on the other hand did not know who they were. I did not want to be spanked or punished for telling on him. What would happen if I did? Where would I go? Globe was a big place to a child. He was my security blanket. I needed him to survive. All children need this; even if we hate who or what is taking care of us. I needed love too and if I did what they wanted; I would get it.
I made a couple of friends. Burt was my best friend. He had black hair, a big nose and black/brown plastic glasses. I had another friend named Jeremy. Everyone called him Germmy. They never asked questions and I never volunteered either. Jeremy and I both were not born Catholic. Together we made fun of anything we could. I found the back end of a ruler more than once. I had to be here. They knew it, I knew it but what could I get away with? Passive resistance was the game. You can take away my voice but you can not take away my silence. I grew up learning about the 60’s revolution. It was not all that difficult to practice what my parents preached.
Outside on the playground on occasion I would see my sister. There was a big tractor tire from the coalmines that was filled with sand and we would all scramble to climb up it. The bigger kids would knock us down and be the “kings”. My sister was a “big kid”. Karrie enjoyed knocking me around, tire or no tire.
After a couple of months the sisters started taking me and a couple other boys aside to the nuns’ private chapel. My Aunt Katy requested that while we were attending Holy Angels we would receive Catechism. My father would not know. He, like my mother, was Evangelical. Catholicism was as far from Evangelical as east is from west. Katy did not care. We needed a solid spiritual foundation and she planned to give it.
When you entered the little chapel the first thing you saw was a dark room illuminated by light. On the wall directly behind the altar was a metal golden sun. Rays of metal light streamed from it in silence. A small water bowl stood adjacent the entrance door. Our first lesson was to dip fingers in this special water and smear it on your forehead while making a plus sign across your body. If you were a smarty you made fun of it like me and got hit with a ruler or long stick.
Entering the room the first time gave me a feeling that it was very holy. Incense filled the room. The sister’s would turn the light up to a dim. Over the next few months I learned to respect everything I had made fun of. I learned what holy water was. Why Catholics used it when entering a “holy” place. I learned why they recited after the priest when praying. In all this insanity I found some peace. There in that room I would take of my first Eucharist and Catechism. Regardless of what happened in my life I would remember Holy Angels Catholic School.
My Father some twenty years later would deny that he knew anything of what Katy did. Sunday nights and special events like “Revivals,” we attended my father’s church. I had become accustomed to my school religion. My father’s evangelical church was much different. People spoke in tongues and were knocked out in the spirit. If you were sick the hospital was not an option. His pastor would lay his hands on us and we would be healed. Spiritual intervention through my father and his church was all “we” needed. Maybe it made him feel better about what he had done? Maybe it still does? He needed that confirmation of acceptance. I never said anything, but his church frightened me.
My Father found a job as a plumber and carpenter. After Christmas 1980 we got a home across the creek form Aunt Katy. We had a three bedroom house. It was one of five houses side by side. Ours was the end home. Behind our home was another hill that had a large three story home on it. The home belonged to Aunt Katy’s Mother. All of the homes in the area were either owned or leased by relatives of Katy and Larry Hall. We were well secure in Father’s bunker in case someone came snooping.
My father, being a carpenter, would bring home lumber from job sites. We built a tree house in the backyard. It had green carpet. In front of our home within feet of our door was the creek. Trees covered it on both sides. I would go down there many times and play. I had made a friend named Todd. He lived within walking distance from my home. His family was close friends with dad and Katy. We would build forts together and climb the mountains behind Aunt Katy’s house for hours on end. No one asked and I didn’t care to tell. Occasionally I would have to call upon my aunt’s help. Katy being a registered nurse, and me a magnet for cactus thorns, she found plenty of time to practice removing thorns. Between my rump and my face I kept her busy.
Sometime after we had arrived in Globe, my Father had finally made his promise of a surprise come true . I am sure it was a welcomed gift to him and in many ways to Sammy and me as well. My Grandfather Connelly came. He had been in Boise, ID. The FBI had been there looking for us around my Father’s other family. He had said on many occasions he had seen my Mother sitting in an unmarked police car waiting. We were supposed to laugh at this with all the grownups. Being a coward in time I did too. I really wanted to see her.
Everyone did their part in letting us know how much a tramp, whore and slut my Mother was. She was a bad parent, a drug user from the 60’s. She was going to HELL one day for every sin she had committed on my Father. I heard these words daily. Like a mantra or prayer spoken by my father. Slowly they wore me down. I was here, she was in California. Father did his best to prove his point. Everything I had now he provided. Was it really all that bad? I missed her. At night I cried but it became less and less. This was my home now. I had some choices while I was here.
My Grandfather was like a cool nanny for an eight year old. He baked pies every day. He sewed, cleaned, cooked and even turned the backyard into a garden. He loved squash. Eight year olds don’t. I joined a T-Ball team called the Mariners. Papa Connelly would spend hours in the backyard teaching me to hit the ball. I was one of two “home run” hitters on my team. My father would even attend many of my games.
From the outside I was a very happy and a normal boy. Inside was different. No one knew that part of me. I had promised myself that way back when he first stole us. Nighttime was different. I showed the world what was really going on inside. Sleepwalking and night terrors haunted me every night. They were passed off as demons and devils trying to torment me. My father’s actions could of course not be the blame.
I was treated like the little boy who was too young to understand. I was too young so best keep me in the dark. My father’s mother ran off with another man. He had been raised without one. What was good enough for him was good enough for us. My grandfather had raised him and his siblings. He was proof that women were not needed for raising a healthy child. Now my Papa was raising us the same way. Dad had a great teacher. Now that wise teacher’s hand could be seen and felt in us. Slowly my Mother, Nana, Papa, Uncle Bill, Aunt Marcia, Aunt Rhonda, Uncle Mike, Uncle Tommy and my cousins were erased from my memory. I was given new cousins, uncles and aunts. Aunt Katy’s family saw to that. Aunt Katy even became my Mother in many ways. She told me that and I believed her.
I had turned eight only a month after my dad ripped us from our mother. Time had passed and a new year began. January, February and March I slipped deeper into what was my new life. I never forgot my mother. However, there was no going back. I smiled when it was warranted and laughed to make others feel good. Each morning I put on my clown’s make-up. At night was a different story. Often I would fall asleep to be woken up screaming and shaking. A little boy lost in a nightmare that I could not escape.
My body would be turning inside out. My skin felt weird and bubbled to monstrous size. The taste in my mouth was strange. My tongue swelled to almost choking. I was trapped in this hell. Papa or dad would hold me as I clung to them. One of them would get out olive oil and start praying over me. The other would grip me tight while casting out imaginary demons that they believed had been the culprit. This went on night after night. I feared sleeping. I dreamed that I was tied to a stake in a sea. The apostle Paul and another person were tied in agony as well. I woke up and began to tell my dad the dream. He would tell me it was the devil trying to trick me. I should not worry. God was in our home protecting us.
At night Papa and dad would wake to find me opening windows and doors. Asleep, my mind tried to call out. I was keeping everything in. I was the weird kid. On one occasion I crept into the garage opening the garage door and exposing the van to the entire world. I did not remember this. I was sleepwalking. One morning Papa would tell me he had woke to find me trying to leave the house and cross the creek to my friend’s home. This was very dangerous besides the shear fact I was asleep. The creek during the spring would run very high. Flash floods could strike without warning. Dad began to lock our bedroom door.
During the day I could see grey shapes walk the house. Just out of the corner of my eye. Things slithered on the carpet but I could never make them out. After a week long church revival I lay in bed. The sermon played over in my head. The Anti-Christ, Revelations and the end of the world was coming. Those who did not obey God or their parents would be left alone to suffer Satan’s wrath. Lighting and thunder rained down. The house shook from the tremors. The sky was black and filled with dark shapes. Was God coming tonight? Had I been good? Was I going to hell? Maybe I was the Anti-Christ? I was an evil person. I knew it. Why would God allow this? I must have deserved everything that was and had happened.
I lay there face down on the bed. I was hiding my face and begging God to take me to heaven if He was coming. Let me see the next day. Let me play with my friends. I promise I will never tell anyone. I will be a good boy. I will obey and not tell a soul. I fell asleep sobbing in my bed. Morning would be better, it had to be better.
Uncle Larry was a voluntary firefighter for the county. He had a good reputation among local law enforcement and community leaders. A union steward for the local mines Larry had earned a great reputation among his peers. My father was immediately plugged in to the community. He had Larry and Katy’s reputation to back him with who ever he met. Dad was introduced to a secretary/clerk at the sheriff’s office. Her name was Kim. When they were together they would kiss and it was very obvious that they were dating.
In the early part of 1981 a marine who had been a hostage in Iran was returned home to Globe. The whole city put on a big parade for him. Our school would be present waiving yellow ribbons. Sam’s preschool had a float and he would waive as it passed by. Dad had made many friends and was asked to drive the truck that the soldier rode in. Karrie and I sat on the side of the street waiving as he passed by. Dad was trying to duck under the steering wheel. Cameras and reporters talked with everyone and took many pictures of the returned soldier.
Dad was afraid for his freedom. He let us know that he was a fugitive and that he did not want to have his face put on the news. What would happen if someone saw him and knew he was a criminal? Friends made him feel at ease knowing that the news would report it only locally. Instead the event made national circulation. He laughed and bragged that here was a war hero and a fugitive both in the same vehicle parading through downtown Globe, AZ.
When the story was printed in the Phoenix news he cut out his picture. Sam’s float made the local newspaper. Dad placed them in his red picture album. Years later it gave him his bragging rites. Dad was Jesse James, Cole Younger and Billy the Kid. Between God and his newspaper clippings he was invincible. He was not a criminal. He was the savior of all men that had been dumped by ex-wives.
Time carried on, spring became summer. School was out for break. So much had happened to me. So much had been lost. I looked back into my memory. I would have been at the beach surfing and making sand castles. My mother would have been there. Smiling and laughing. That was all gone now. It did not matter. I had to put it further behind me. Still, in my heart I had died. I missed something. I did not know what it was anymore. I missed that smell, her smell. The smell of my mother had left. She was gone now. I was all alone. Her special first born and she never let me forget it. She had given birth at eighteen. My father was close to ten years her senior. His first wife had left him. She had been his high school sweetheart. The court had given him custody of his daughter. God had given him Sam and me.