“Experts think schizophrenia is caused by several factors …
The main psychological triggers of schizophrenia are stressful life events, such as a bereavement, losing your job or home, a divorce or the end of a relationship, or physical, sexual, emotional or racial abuse. These kinds of experiences, though stressful, do not cause schizophrenia, but can trigger its development in someone already vulnerable to it.”
National Health Services, United Kingdom.
“Satan’s sitting there, he’s smiling,
Watches those flames get higher and higher.”
Black Sabbath, “Black Sabbath”
Hey bro, thought I would write and say hello. I appreciate your visits and am truly grateful for the soda pop and candy you so graciously provide. Thank you, my brother. I look forward to our next visit.
Lately I’ve been keeping busy. Every day I run two miles on the treadmill, or at least I try to go every day. And I’ve been reading quite a bit, mostly physics. Guess that is just what interests me right now. Then there are movies and football to watch on weekends. I probably sleep too much but I’m not going to complain.
Yeah, I hope you’re adapting and adjusting well to your new job. Last we spoke you things were going alright. Keep up the good work bro. I’m proud of you going out there and getting a new job. That’s something I can do in here too, though I’m not quite ready yet. Still have to do some OSHA training and get through a little more red tape. Eventually though, I’ll be able to work. Then I’ll need to adapt and adjust, but you set a good example.
Alright, that’s about all that’s going on right now. I hope to see you soon. Tell Atticus and Brittany “hi” for me, and take care.
Hey brother – I miss you! Sorry for the delay in writing and visits, the holiday season sucks up time like a giant, decorated vacuum cleaner. But never fear, for I plan to visit you this weekend, and I’m hoping you’ll receive this letter before then. I should be seeing you Saturday afternoon, otherwise Sunday.
I’m planning to take Atticus snowboarding, probably Sunday, when it finally freakin’ warms up again. This below zero bullspit is getting old real fast. It might actually be in the 30s this weekend, which will seem like a balmy Florida beach compared to what we’ve become accustomed to. Do you still get some outdoor time in this extreme cold? Or do they cancel it? Anyway, hopefully you have enough indoor options to keep your body moving – you always come up with something, no matter the circumstances.
I went up to Spencer right before Xmas – Rick had a nice family dinner at his place, and I’m sure you can imagine the zaniness that ensued. Mom hung out, Bob showed up and Jenny made it with her and Bridget’s kids. I took Atticus and the Durst cousins on a hike down the railroad track; it was hilarious to hear them seriously discuss the Zombie Apocalypse as I strolled silently behind them.
Just gotta mention that I hung out with Joder and Juice, aka Justin. I still think it’s great that we played crochet with his grandfather when we lived on that farm outside of Spencer – and that was a couple years before I ever met Juice! Remember how their grandpa would take us on motorcycle rides on his farm trail even though he was nearly blind? Those were the days, eh?
Do you remember the Great Chicken Massacre on that farm? It involved those two crazy dogs that Mom and Gary briefly kept. What a sight getting home that day on the school bus …
Atticus thoroughly enjoyed his visit with you. I think he was intimidated at first, but fascinated at the same time, by the intense uniqueness of the Oakdale environment. And honestly, I felt that way the first time I visited you. But I spoke with him later on, and he truly did enjoy seeing you again, and wants to visit again, so hopefully he’ll be with me this weekend when I see you.
So here’s to some sugary snacks, another round of Sorry, and perhaps catching everyone off guard again as our Jenga stack crashes down … I love you Aaron, and will see you soon.
Hey bro. I’m really glad that you’ve been bringing Atticus along when you visit. We sure have fun playing Sorry, Jenga and UNO, don’t we? I look forward to seeing you both again, hopefully soon.
That man who showed up at the end of our last visit is an elder at the Iowa City congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He’ll be studying the bible with me once a week at 6 p.m. Sundays. It will help me stay spiritually strong.
Yeah, I remember coming home on the bus that day, then walking down the driveway to see mom beheading those chickens out of their misery with a small scythe. She was slicing their heads off to put them out of their misery. And those two dogs. I think they were a breed of some kinda hunting dog. I don’t remember exactly how we got ‘em. I’m thinking they just showed up on the farm on day but I’m not sure.
But man did those dogs have their way them goll-darn chickens. You see, the dogs weren’t hungry, they were just doing what hunting dogs do. Hunting dogs immobilize the bird so the hunter can find them. All them dogs were doing was making sure the chickens wouldn’t get away. I guess that’s just what they knew to do.
Well everything’s going pretty good bro. I’m still running 20 minutes a day and biking on the stationary bike for 20 minutes too. It’s nice getting my heart-rate up there around 140 beats/minute and breaking a good sweat.
We get fresh oranges, apples and bananas. That’s two things I didn’t get that whole year in county. Exercise and healthy food go a long ways.
Yesterday I was able to watch the latest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.” It was awesome! I wasn’t sure if I would ever get the chance to see it but what do ya know. Now I feel more complete. They were showing movies for MLK Day – they always get us good movies to watch on holidays.
I’m looking forward to receive and read your latest work on the book. It’s been quite the adventure so far. You’re busier now with work so you probably don’t have as much downtime. Just do your best.
Dinner time bro, lasagna tonight. It’s usually really good. So take care and I hope to see you again soon.
Love ya bro,
First of all, I loved your letter; it’s great to hear from you in writing again. Atticus seems to truly enjoy tagging along with me on our visits, and you’re right, it’s a blast hitting the games with you. If only they had three-way chess available … ha! Might make it this next weekend, we’ll see; otherwise the weekend after that for sure. He and I went snowboarding the day after we visited you, and he totally tore it up!
I assumed that gentleman was a Witness. And you know me, all Mother Nature and stuff, but as non-religious as I am, I must say he seemed to be quite a decent and knowledgeable fellow, and I’m glad to hear you have a visitor to assuage your spiritual side.
Oh man, thank you much for the added details to what I like to refer to as the “Great Chicken Massacre.” Talk about an unforgettable memory! I didn’t remember the part about mom beheading the flopping birds out of their misery until now – damn! I do recall that her and Gary friendily adopted those dogs from some hardcore-Harley-types who lived on a farm about 5 miles away. I guess the other kids on the bus that day got a bit of a shock. The dogs disappeared after that; from what mom told me, I gathered that her and Gary dropped them far off somewhere to go their wild way. Final note: I vividly recall the dogs bounding about, grinning and slavering in the thrill of the mass kill, blood and drool dripping from their mouths.
Good to hear you’re exercising regularly and chomping some fresh fruit. Cleaning up those operating rooms has been whipping me into shape – I’ve lost about 10 pounds and have put on some muscle. It wears me out, but in a good way.
I love the “Dark Knight” movies; the first one is fantastic, and the other two are amazing as well. Try to watch the second one if you get a chance: The Scarecrow will scare the bejesus out of you! “Now I feel more complete” – that’s great, man.
Well, I’ve finally got some more writing done. “Adventure” is apt, bro – thanks for taking part in it; you’ve my main inspiration in the whole thing. OK, here’s a few pages …
After the lessons, as they all walked in a loose formation out of the building toward their beds, three black recruits who lived in the barracks next to Randy’s quickly blocked his path and stopped him.
The guy standing in the middle pointed his finger and yelled “Are you racist or what?” He seemed more than a little upset.
Randy stood there befuddled, wanting to say something, anything, to defend himself, and started to stammer out a few stunned words but the three recruits had already turned around and marched off. He felt somewhat scared by it all and didn’t quite understand why they’d be so pissed off; he had just been joking in the name of fun, after all.
Even though he’d only met a couple black people before going to basic training, he had never had anything against them. A lot of folks back in Spencer made racist comments on a regular basis, but he had never done that sort of thing, and always tried to withdraw himself from any conversation that became infected with the unpleasant taint of racism. The last thing he had meant to do was to offend anyone, but obviously he had.
Lying in bed that night, all the faces from the crowd looking up at his painted face swirled through his mind like so many disembodied heads floating above their bodies, hovering as if they were a separate creature, a mass of smiling faces. Upon reflection, he realized his face had been painted half black, but most of the smiling faces that evening had been white, and fell asleep with a multitude of multicolored faces flashing to and fro across his mind, laughing at him as if he himself was the joke.
For years, two songs would always bring the incident back into the forefront of his mind:
1. Whenever he heard The Temptations’ “Smiling Faces Sometimes,” it made him realize that maybe he held old prejudices whether he wanted to or not. And he felt as if his own smiling face would always give that away, as if now he was somehow marked.
2. He learned quickly that his accuser’s name was John Brown, and Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” would always, to him, embody the man who had yelled in his face that night.
The following week, their training started with a crash course in the fine art of booby-trapping. They watched attentively as a random recruit was commanded to walk through the first stretch of the course, then hid their apprehension with stifled laughs as he tripped a wire that unhooked a rubber log tipped with fake poison punji sticks, which elicited a yelp as it smacked him firmly in the leg.
The rest of them had to watch for punji-stick traps as they cautiously made their way through the course, avoiding trip wires that would set off imaginary grenades and crouching and ducking as pseudo-snipers shot at them from behind trees.
Randy breathed a sigh of relief after managing to make it through unscathed.
Hand-to-hand combat training marked the beginning of their final month in basic. One morning, the men were ordered to stand in a circle and pick out a fighting partner, who they would battle with a pad-tipped pole representing a bayonet. The men were to stand on two railroad tie-sized structures and fight with the oversized Q-tips until only one was left standing.
Randy chose one of the biggest guys from his barrack, nicknamed Bubba, as his partner; he figured that way he’d look tough in front of everyone else whether he won or lost. And sure enough he lost, but he did manage to hold his own for a while; it took Bubba six giant smacks with the bayonet Q-tip to knock him down, and Randy got a couple of quick hits of his own in before going down. He lost the fight, but enjoyed the sense of relief that washed over him as sank into the mat, flinging his Q-tip pole to the side, satisfied that he had represented his skinny-ass self as best as he possible.
With about three weeks left to go, physical test-time confronted them on a Monday morning. Their challenge involved a quick-and-steady march through a 20-mile course while carrying fully-loaded backpacks, including their M-16s and other gear, then setting up camp and roughing it for the night.
“This is going to be murder,” Randy murmered to his hunched over, heavily-laden comrades as they hiked away from base. Several of them grunted briefly in return. Within five minutes, rain began pouring down on them, which inspired the drill sergeant to yell out: “OK, boys! Let’s pick up the pace; I want you to run for the next two miles!”
A few of the guys fell behind within the first half-mile, but the majority of them stayed in a group, keeping up with the quick pace. Randy felt tired as hell 10 minutes into the jaunt, but forced himself to handle the strain and hold his pace to stay with the pack.
After about 10 tortuous miles, they finally took a short break. Randy leaned back against his bulbous pack, lit up a cigarette, and concentrated on relaxing his overtaxed leg muscles. Then he opened up his C-Rations with the P-38 can opener he had been issued, and gulped down that day’s lunch of pork, beans and corned beef hash as if it were the finest tasting caviar ever served. Every swallow tasted obscenely delicious and fully stimulated his deprived palate. He leaned back and lounged contentedly for the rest of the 45-minute break, dozing in and out as his comrades did the same.
Shortly after the final stragglers stumbled in, the sergeant decided to be an asshole and make up for the lag time by having them run for the final 10 miles.
“Get up off your asses boys – let’s make double time! MOVE IT! MOVE IT! MOVE IT!”
The recent arrivals looked petrified, like sad deer caught in a semi’s headlights, and tried to rapidly finish off their C-Rations as everyone packed up and started hoofing it back onto the trail. The sergeant rounded them up, barking like a mad dog, forcing them to get started again with the main group.
Randy concentrated on staying in the middle of the pack of exhausted joggers, far enough ahead of the sergeant to avoid his direct attention.
A heavier recruit, Trooper, was pulling up the rear. He had fallen behind in the first half, and after only a short break and a couple bites to eat, was having a hell of a time trying to keep up with the rest of the men.
The drill sergeant had fallen in directly behind the straggler, and about once every minute would lean forward and scream: “GET YOUR FAT ASS MOVING TROOPER!”
Randy looked back once as this happened, saw that the sergeant’s face was close enough to Trooper’s that spittle was splattering against his chubby cheek, and determinedly picked up his own pace, resolving to stay as far ahead of the sergeant as possible, despite the howling pain in his legs and lungs.
Trooper never did catch up to the rest of the men, but he didn’t fall too far behind them either with the sergeant hounding him the whole time.
They finally arrived at the 20-mile marker around nightfall, and the rain was pouring as if they were in an Amazonian rain forest. Every inch of their skin and clothing was soaked, and dryness was scant even inside their tents once they had set them up.
Only then did their drill sergeant finally tell them a bit of relieving news: Army trucks were on their way to pick up the men and take them back to the barracks since the conditions were too much to deal with.
“So tear down those tents and get ready to ride!” he yelled over the din of large raindrops splattering like exploding dimes over every square inch of ground.
So there we are – hope you appreciate it. I’ve written out a couple more pages, and as we know, the next part ain’t pretty. But here’s how I have approached it all: There’s a great story here, and it’s affected me/us heavily, but it’s interesting to lay it all out there and look at it all from an outside perspective … Disassociation, I guess, or simple emotional detachment from it all perhaps.
Anyway man, I’m looking forward to seeing you again soon. Take it easy, but keep exercising your ass off.
Hey my man! Good to hear from you again. I’m glad you guys could make it up to visit on Sunday.
I’m reminding you here to send me that dark, morbid poem that I sent you when I was in county. Just send me a copy.
Everything’s going pretty good here. Today I ran on the treadmill for 20 minutes; it said I went 2.5 miles. Then I rode the stationary bike for 20 minutes and logged 5 miles. So I’m staying in shape.
Later on today, I’ll be going to the Art room, where I can play an electric guitar for a while.
Those few pages of the book you sent me are excellent. I mean it, too: they’re gripping. As I read I’m able to easily envision what’s going on, and I like that you reference the songs Dad listened to. You’re doing a great job. I’ll be looking forward to the next time you send me more pages.
Atticus was a good sport even though I beat him in chess. He made some really good moves. The reason I didn’t take it easy on him was because I think he’ll learn better if I play my best.
That was fun winning at King’s Corner, going out on my first turn both times. I’ll be ready to play more cards with you guys again soon.
Alright bro, keep up the good work and I’ll see you soon.
Love you bro,
P.S. Make sure you keep the book on regular paper. That way if your computer goes down you’ll have a copy.
Our visit was great – I loved watching every move you and Atty made during the chess game. It seemed like you were holding back just a tad, perhaps even inadvertently, enough to encourage him to develop his strategy a bit further. Perhaps he’ll draw out the game more next time.
Oh yes, the dark poem … I’ll send a copy of it along with this letter, but also will include a copy of the happier song you wrote while you were in county, “Stir Stic.” A good balance of dark and light, you see.
It was good to see you’re staying in shape; I’m glad you have a few options for indoor exercise, hopefully you’ll be running on the outdoor track here again soon once it warms up. Also, I know Oakdale has a huge garden area … you should see if you can volunteer to do some gardening work this spring/summer. Dig your hands into our state’s rich, dark earth and all.
I love it that you can rock out on the guitar in the Art room there, and I liked how you were telling me about the background electronic drumbeats you’ve been able to explore. Be sure to share any new songs you end up writing as a result please, but I know you will.
Atty and I will be visiting you again here in a week or two … more card games and snacks for sure. It’s always a pleasure to see you, and I’m very pleased that you and Atty get to hang out again regularly. He really enjoys the visits, I can tell. (Update (2-18): I’m planning to visit you this weekend, but I think Atty will be out of town.)
Thanks for the reminder on printing a hard copy of the book; I have it saved on different hard drives, but a good printed copy can’t be beat. In fact, that’s what I’m working off of: my old printed copy of Dad’s writings that I typed up. But also, since I’m writing the blog I told you about, it’s all saved in cyberspace.
Here’s the latest, by the way. And beware, this is the darkest part, as you well know, so brace yourself mentally and remember, it’s all in the distant past and there’s no point in taking any of it personally decades later. But you already know the story …
Randy told Rose all about the wretched hike the next afternoon on the pay phone outside of the barracks. She said that it sounded like torture, but that she knew he could handle it.
“My belly’s getting a little bit bigger,” she said.
“Really?” he said. “That’s great; we’re going to have a beautiful baby.”
“I know, I can’t wait!”
Rose told him everything was fine back home, and Randy said “I love you” three times before their call ended.
As he headed back to his building, he noticed John Brown and a friend walking the opposite way. He tried to play it cool, acting nonchalant while automatically offering a slight nod of respect. Their paces slowed, and John nodded back as they stopped.
“Hey there, what’s happening?” John asked.
“Not much,” Randy said. “Just recovering from that hike.”
“Tell me about it,” John said.
John’s friend, who everyone called Jones, said “Hey man, you want to get a beer or two later on at the Men’s Club?”
The question caught Randy off-guard, but with his “Mammy” moment lingering like a slow-flickering firefly in the back of his mind, he knew he couldn’t so no.
“Well, I have barracks duty at 8:30 tonight but I could have a beer before that.”
Jones smiled, “Cool, that works, we’ll be back before then.” He extended his hand.
They all shook hands as he and Jones planned to meet outside the barracks at 6.
Randy had kind of a funny feeling about the whole deal. He certainly didn’t want any enemies, but why was Jones being so friendly? Maybe he was just trying to bury the hatchet or touch base or something, but Jones was a big, strong guy, and Randy couldn’t help but worry about the possibility of resentment rearing its ugly head. He’d never been to the Men’s Club either, and wasn’t sure if he was even old enough to get in.
Back at his bunk, the radio brought Rose back into his mind as it crooned “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone …” He missed her so goddamned much; he only had two weeks left in basic, but with no chance of seeing his love, the time loomed over him like an eternity.
Years later, the song’s lyric “I oughtta leave young thing alone” would remind him of John and Jones, as if the singer was speaking directly to them, telling them to leave Randy alone, since he was so young and had never meant to raise anyone’s ire.
Jones walked up as Randy was finishing a smoke in front of the barracks.
“Hey, let’s go,” Jones said.
The chitchatted as they walked toward the Men’s Club. Jones told him he was from Chicago, and after getting in trouble with the law a couple times, had taken an option to join the Army instead of facing a year in jail.
“Easy choice to make,” he said and laughed.
Everything seemed friendly and cool between them as strolled up to the club.
“Hey man, do you mind waiting out here for a few?” Jones said. “I don’t think you’re old enough to get in here.”
Randy didn’t know what to think.
“Sure,” he said.
He lit up a smoke and shot the shit with the guys going in and out of the club. He was about ready to leave, or test his luck with the doorman despite Jones’ warning, when Jones finally came back out. It was around 7 p.m. and nearly dark out already.
“Hey, I gotta get back before long,” Randy said.
“That’s cool,” Jones said, “but I got some friends who are bringing some whiskey down here and want to meet up in the Airborne shack for a quick drink.”
“The Airborne shack? Where’s that?”
“Right over there,” Jones said, pointing behind the club.
Randy pressed his right hand against his forehead and squinted. A small structure lurked in the distance of the evening’s dimming light.
“We should go,” Jones said.
“Sure,” Randy said, “but I’ve only got time for a quick drink.”
“No problem,” Jones said.
Apprehension filled Randy’s mind as he followed Jones toward the shack. He knew he wouldn’t stand much of a chance if Jones picked a fight or anything, especially if he was outnumbered. But he didn’t see anyone else around as they approached the door.
“They’re not here yet,” Jones said, opening the door and stepping back. “Let’s wait inside so nobody sees us out here.”
“Okay,” Randy said, peering as he stepped inside, trying to make something out of the murky darkness. Before he could make sense of what was happening, Jones suddenly slammed the door shut and grabbed him from behind, wrapping him up in a tight bear hug and pinning Randy’s arms against his sides.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Randy yelled, trying to break free from Jones’ grasp. “Let me go!” He tried to figure out what the hell was happening – what the fuck was Jones was trying to do … beat him? kill him? – as he struggled against Jones’ tightening hold.
Jones replied with nothing but slight grunts as he tightened his constrictor grip and used his hips to shove Randy up against a table by the back wall. Randy kept struggling, but to no avail.
“Just stop!” Randy yelled, scared as hell, as thoughts of what it might feel like to die raced through his mind. “What the hell do you want?”
Panting heavily through the cloud of his whiskey-tainted breath, Jones’ said “You can either suck it or let me get you in the butt.”
Randy shoved backward and felt the back of his head smack Jones’ face, then nearly broke free as Jones’ grip loosened for a split second. But that only made things worse; next thing he knew Jones had a hand on the back of his neck and Randy could see nothing but a small, darkened stretch of the old wooden tabletop his face was pressed against. Tiny wooden slivers scraped into his cheek as Jones pinned him down even harder than before.
“I ain’t suckin’ nothin’!” Randy uttered between his ragged breaths.
He was scared for his life – he just wanted to get away from this time and place and be safe back in the barracks, or anywhere else. Jones was definitely off his rocker, maybe some sort of pyscho, and big enough to snap Randy’s neck if he wanted to.
The pressure on Randy’s face eased up as Jones loosened his grip slightly.
“Pull down your pants.”
Randy wanted to run away from that moment more than he had ever wanted to run away from anything his entire life. Desperate thoughts of trying to fight flashed through his mind in millisecond-time, but any further attempts seemed hopeless and likely to do nothing but make things worse.
“Please …” he began.
“Pull down your fucking pants!” Jones yelled, retightening his grip and pushing Randy’s face back down into the tabletop.
Randy wanted to survive to see the next day, so he did what he was told. At this bruising point in time, he felt he had no choice. His stomach was squirming like it was filled with worms and acid.
Bile riled up in his throat as he heard the sound of Jones spitting into his own hand. He tried to focus on anything else – the moonlight, the design of the wood so close to his eyes – as he felt Jones forcing himself inside him, moving around, trying to get in further.
“Jesus, take it out – that fucking hurts!” Randy yelled as his entire body contracted. Jones held him down, rubbing himself between Randy’s thighs until he was satisfied, then backed off and let him go.
Randy pulled up his pants as he turned and backed away. He felt hurt, not only on the outside but also inside his head, more than he’d ever been hurt anyway before. He was full of shame at the mere fact that this had happened, but resisted the urge to strike out at Jones, whose shadow filled the room as he turned the door handle.
“If you ever tell anyone about this, me and my friends will get you and we’ll all do this to you,” Jones said. “Understand?”
“I’m not saying anything, just leave me alone.” Randy waited in the dark corner, rigid with fear and hate.
“Just remember,” Jones said, “keep your mouth shut,” The door closed behind him.
After stumbling back to the barracks in a daze, Randy laid down, buried his face into his pillow and cried quietly in utter despair. He pulled his blanket over his head to hide from ev eryone else.
He focused on God, and tried to open up his mind the higher power. God seemed to be the only one he could communicate with at this moment, and between sobs, Randy kept asking “What should I do, God? What should I do?”
He finally got up and went straight to the shower, where he stood underneath the soothing pulse of warm water, eyes closed, lathering and rinsing, lathering and rinsing, lathering and rinsing.
Sitting back on his bunk, a sense of relief washed over him. He felt like he was coming back to his senses … he had lain all of his troubles at the feet of God, and now it was all out of his hands.
He had to stay up all night for his shift as barracks guard. Standing outside in the moonlight, he kept reminding himself that in two weeks he would be away from it all. Jones and his pals would be buried in his distant past, and he would never have to see them again.
Pacing back and forth in front of the barracks, he decided he would never tell anyone what Jones had done to him. He figured that if he did tell someone, they might end up making fun of him. He didn’t want to be marked as a fag or a queer. No one else could understand how this had affected him … and if word spread at all, people were bound to turn his experience into some sort of cheap joke.
Besides, the last thing he wanted was for Jones or any of his buddies to hassle him anymore. If Jones ever heard that he had squealed, lord knows what he might do.
Besides, Rose was going to be moving to Germany with him soon. Any shitty news like this could end up interfering with all the good times they were bound to have there. “So it’s final,” he thought to himself, “I’ll never tell anyone.”
It was way past curfew, but Randy noticed some music playing. His job was to watch for intruders, not to keep on eye on fellow recruits, so he wasn’t about to do anything to stop it.
As he moved slowly toward the sound, he noticed it was Black Sabbath.
“What is this … that stands before me?” the song asked, “Figure in black … which points at me.”
The lyrics conjured up the image of John Brown, standing in front of him and blocking his path, yelling “You’re prejudiced!”
“Turn around quick, and start to run,” the song said, “Find out I’m the chosen one … Oh no …”
All this had happened just because he had laughed at himself like a fool with his painted face. If only there had been some way for him to escape that night, if only he could run away even right now and just leave it all behind. Why had he been chosen to be the victim? Why did Jones pick him and not someone else? What was the fucking meaning behind all this hell?
“Big black shape … with eyes of fire,” the song said, “Telling people their desire.”
It became clear to Randy as he stood in the black night that people would look at him differently now … this experience and its pain was some sort of sacrifice … his soul had been charred to make up for atrocities lingering like misty spirits from the past.
“Watches those flames get higher and higher,” the song said, “Oh no, no, please God help me!”
The lyrics described exactly how Randy had felt during Jones’ attack, and how he still felt now. His heart welled up and he bent over bawling for a few seconds before he collected himself, standing up straight and breathing in deeply. He needed help, he felt, not from any other person, but from some higher power, from God.
Whoa, deep breath. This was not an easy part to write at all, but I’m still impressed that Dad had the guts to spill all this out onto paper as part of his story.
Anyway, that’s everything I have written at this point in time. So now I need to get busy and move on to the next parts of the story.
Hey man, I hope you enjoyed watching the Super Bowl, blowout that it was, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing you again soon. Stay strong – spring (and sunshine!) are right around the corner …
[Editor’s note: The “Smiling Faces Sometimes” video included here is by The Undisputed Truth, not The Temptations, and is the version of the song I believe my father would have heard on the radio.]