Friday was release day for a book I wrote called Beacon, book one of the Nation of Five series. The book is about young men and an impossible task they set before themselves. Well, I know a lot about impossible tasks. I’m a DID survivor who suffers from hallucinations. I have bipolar and Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder. Getting through a day where I make dinner, hang out with my kids, be a husband to my wife, and not end the day screaming, is the completion of an impossible task. Well, it may be an impossible task that’s undertaken in the book Beacon, but it’s only even considered because of the friendship between four boys. Four teenage boys attempt this daunting feat. Got me thinking about the boys and men in my life. And so this weekend to celebrate the release of Beacon, I will be dropping upon you chapters from Reality of the Unreal Mind. These chapters are from the unreleased third volume, titled The Keep. I start at 7:30 in the evening on Friday, and will end at 9 at night on Sunday. So follow me now into the story of the men who made me possible.
You are born into hate for this man if you are born into my mother’s side of the family. It is taught at dinner tables. It is talked about at BBQs. Private discussions with every member of the family will teach everyone to hate and plot against Uncle Savior.
See, my aunt had another husband, but she was never happy with him. Or else, the family loved him too much and she began to resent him. Or else, shit, she used him to get out of the house. Maybe she loved him dearly and one day woke up and didn’t anymore. I don’t like telling other people’s stories, especially love stories, but I wanted to butcher this one real good. I did it for a reason.
On Rose’s side of the family, they never talk about why this couple broke up, only that they never should have. They were never in that house with that woman and that man while the curtains were pulled or the company had left. Only they know what that relationship was like. I’m not even very sure they liked him, to be honest. But when he was replaced by Savior, the first husband was really easy to sanctify.
Savior didn’t take shit off of anyone. He didn’t think it was funny when my uncles cut each other down or him down. Ridiculing other members is a staple with Rose’s family. I even saw Uncle Wrath ridicule the way Uncle Ball was dressed at his mother’s wake. Breaking the confidence and the self-image of the family is all they do. Uncle Savior didn’t think that shit was funny.
See to him, words meant something. If you say fuck you to him, then you mean it. If you question his manhood with some snide comment, he will make you pay for it.
Rose’s family is not going to change. Savior is not going to change. So they never saw each other. Savior stopped coming around, so there was plenty of time to make up stories about him and theories. The devil is in the theories.
My aunt was staying with him because he got her hooked on drugs was a popular one.
She wasn’t really robbed and lost her heirloom ring, he pawned it for drugs. That was a good one, too.
But the one they hit most often was that he beat her. They had proof. She couldn’t hear out of one of her ears anymore. Had to be him. The car accident excuse was a lie. He obviously beat her.
What we do know is that Savior was loud very suddenly. His opinion of a thing would sprout from his mouth without warning. He was mean at times. His word was law in his house and my aunt did anything to please him.
Was he beating her? I don’t know and I won’t guess. Is it possible? Yes, very. Is it fact? We will never know for sure. But they can blame her death on him, and that is why they will hate me for this chapter. Because family law says that Uncle Savior killed my aunt. We will get there. Let’s go the long way around.
Now cast your mind back to Teardrop Road, when I am living in Missouri but visiting my aunt in Milwaukee. She has sent me for ketchup for the man’s dinner. I am tragically late. Savior hates what she serves, sends everyone out of the room hungry, but makes me ham sandwiches.
That is where we are going to go. I’m about fourteen. Well, we have a date that my older cousin is going to come pick me up, but two days before, my aunt comes to me.
“Your Uncle Savior is going on a camping trip this next weekend and he wants you to come with him.”
Instant terror. This man scares the shit out of me. But he is always nice to me. Laughs at the things I say. So maybe, maybe I have no reason to fear this man. But my family has taught me to hate him. I think of the other things my family hates and decide that if she can talk my mother into it, then how would it work?
“You would leave with him on Friday morning. When Less and Grasp go home, they will take your luggage. And when the weekend is over, we put you on a bus and send you home.”
Bus from Milwaukee to St. Robert by myself. Scarier, but I’m intrigued. Might be able to pull that off, but I don’t know.
“Don’t know if I could handle the bus.”
“I get it,” she said. “But if it is any consolation, Uncle Savior thinks you could handle it no problem.”
So we did it. My luggage went home. I went off with Uncle Savior. And we talked.
He was a great guy. Smart, funny, understanding. I had never been around anyone who let me talk before. No one but Tigress, Cage, or X ever gave a fuck what I had to say. My mother was always teaching class on how I should act. My uncles were always shaping and molding me into what they wanted from me. But this guy listened.
“I sent my luggage home with everyone else,” I said.
“How is that a problem?” he asked. “Just part of the plan.”
“Uncle Ball gave me a few Hustler magazines. I left them in my bags. Do you think my mom will find them?”
“Oh yeah. Your mom? Yes. The moment she gets your bags home she is going through them with a fine-tooth comb. She will say it is to take the dirty clothes and clean them, but she wants to know what you have. They are gone. You might get an ass whipping, too.”
“Hey, never be afraid of an ass whipping. Just take it without complaint. They can’t break you unless you let them. Your parents have you for another four years. Not for the rest of your life. Try to remember that. Four years.”
We had a canoe tied to the top of the car, and we would stop every time we saw a lake or a river. Pull over, get out the canoe, and he would fish.
“Why did you come out here?” he asked. He was starting to realize I didn’t want to learn how to fish.
We were floating for a while as he cast a few times into a shady piece of the river.
“You want me to catch a fish?” Teth said. Being out in the open in the wilds of upper Wisconsin had brought him out.
“I was thinking you could catch at least one,” he said.
Without warning or looking, Teth’s hand shot into the water and he jerked a pike right out. It was about a foot and a half long. Green and beautiful.
Uncle Savior started. The canoe almost tipped and he stared at me. He stared at the fish. He could not make words.
“Got a fish for you,” Teth said. “Now what?”
“Put it back, I guess,” he said when he could talk again.
I put it back in the water gently and he looked at me for a few seconds before shaking his head. “You are exactly what I want you to be,” he said.
“What do you want me to be?” I asked. I was so scared of his answer. Did he see something in me that I didn’t want to be there? This man was supposed to be evil. Was I somehow marked with some curse that would shame me and drive me from my family’s embrace? Was I like him?
“What indeed,” was all he said.
Every night we stopped and camped. He put the tent up himself. Seemed like he could take that tent down and put it up in a matter of seconds. One night while lying in the tent, I’m on top of the sleeping bag because it’s hot. He’s about to fall asleep, or maybe he’s not. In the dark I hear him say, “Jesse, is there anything you want to tell me?”
I answered. It was something about failing to protect Less and how I’d never forgive myself. He didn’t comment. He just let it go. But I think somewhere inside of him, he knew Char had gotten to me. This was just his one chance to find out. And I can’t help but feel like I let him down.
I’m about sixteen when my aunt comes to Waynesville for her annual visit. She comes every Easter. For one week she will be in town, then she is gone again. He is not welcome in anyone’s home, so he always stays home. But he reached out to me that year from Milwaukee.
My aunt grabbed my arm. “Come on, honey, we need to talk.” She pulled me into the bathroom and closed the door. “Time for you to shave.”
I rubbed my face and nodded. I was supposed to be using an electric razor but it gave a shit shave, so I gave up.
“Now Uncle Savior made me watch him shave for two weeks straight so I would know how to shave a man’s face. He told me to show you how to do it. He can’t teach you himself, and he knows no one around here will. So this is from your Uncle Savior.” She pulled out a bottle of shaving cream, a razor with disposable heads, and a bottle of Old Spice aftershave.
So she taught me on his command. And from five hundred miles away, my Uncle Savior taught me to shave.
You guys know about the car he was building for me. You know my mom destroyed that dream right away.
I told Rayph if we ever get rich, I’m going to give him sixty thousand dollars so he can build me that very car. It won’t be Uncle Savior’s car, but it will be something.
My aunt killed herself. She started her car in a closed garage and she passed. It broke everything about her life. All of her children were tossed into chaos. The story goes like this.
Now, I was not there. I am building from what I was told by the man involved. I am not taking this story from Rose’s side of the family. They simply weren’t in the fucking house. They have no idea what they are talking about. They can’t even get her side of it.
He was gone for a week, no phone call, no letter. Uncle Savior and my aunt had been having troubles for years, and he had found another woman and had been staying with her. He came home one day to get ready for work, and him and my aunt fought.
He told her he was leaving her. She could keep the house, it was paid off. She would be set. He just wanted out.
She screamed and begged him not to go.
He decided that day at work to come back and try to work things out with her. The cops stopped him at his job a few hours before he got off to tell him that his wife had committed suicide.
A few weeks later, his girlfriend moved in and changed everything about the house. She painted murals on the ceiling. She changed everything.
She looked a lot like my aunt.
Uncle Savior got into drugs really bad. He lost everything and was not there for his children at all. The last time he was seen, as far as I know, he saw his grown daughter walking home on the street at night. Pulled up to her, asked her if she had some money so he could get some cheeseburgers up the road. She said no and he drove off.
Was Uncle Savior a monster? Well, I don’t know. To my family, he was. Was he the love of my aunt’s life? Maybe. Did he make her happy? Who knows? All I know is that she chose him. There had to be a reason for that.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.