It is a brick house, modest in structure and outward appearance, populated by two adult humans, two pint-sized humans, and—roughly—14,000 cockroaches. On nights when the family comes home late the father slowly pushes open the front door and enters—leaving the lights off. He leads the family, all sneaky-like, into the kitchen. Once all the family members are in their strategic positions, he snaps on the overhead light and bellows, ‘Roach alert!’ The family leaps about, landing flat-footed on roaches, trying not to look at their crushed and gooey remains. Later the family sits on the patio step, scraping bug guts off its nice shoes with butter knives, and talks about the attack.
The mother says: ‘Tonight I got seven.’
The daughter responds: ‘No you didn’t. I saw two of the ones you stepped on run into the pantry.’
It is a steamy Saturday afternoon. The family is occupied in private indulgences: the father stretched out on the couch, reading a book; the mother rearranging furniture; the two children arguing in the garage. The harmony is broken by someone yelling outside.
‘They’re stuck! They’re stuck!’
It’s Brandon, the down-the-street kid with the two fat, hairy dogs. He’s banging on the family’s front door and shouting. The mother emerges from the house. Her two children follow, wide-eyed, their spat interrupted by the hope of Something Juicy Going On. Brandon stops and points at the scene in the front lawn. The family pauses and wrinkles its noses at the sight of its dog, Thor, firmly fastened to the rear end of one of Brandon’s fat, hairy dogs.
‘Fix them!’ Brandon cries to the mother, who is faced with the prospect of explaining the situation to a hysterical six-year-old neighbor boy.
‘For no reason at all,’ the mother says lovingly, as she gives her two children a kitten each. The children promptly name them—the daughter calls hers Fluffy, predictably, and the son names his Whiskers, which he does not know is the same as naming a newborn human ‘Thyroid Gland.’ The mother is pleased and the children spend the rest of the day playing with their new living toys. Early the next morning the mother climbs into the big ugly Dodge van to go to work. As she backs out of the driveway she hears an odd sound under one of the tires. She stops the van and looks down to the pavement in front of the van, where Whiskers is flopping about in massive pain. She is terrified and ashamed.
While nobody else is yet awake on the block, she slowly advances the van, lining up the left front tire with the flopping cat-thing, and then proceeds to wheel the vehicle back and forth over the animal until it is thoroughly dead from her kindness.
There is a swimming party in the family’s backyard. In attendance are the four primary family members and the mother’s two parents. During one unhappy moment, the mother’s father takes a leap off the diving board and his swimming trunks remain on the board, though he does not.
Things are instantly different.
The daughter and her friend become environmental activists. Daily they take on a new project of preventing neighbors—from feeding mice to their snakes, from fishing in their backyard pools, from kicking their dogs, from clipping their cats’ nails.
One winter a number of frogs slip under a neighbor’s pool cover to spend the cold months steeping in slimy green pool water for warmth, food, and one gigantic orgy. By the spring their number quadrupled. The neighbors decide to drain the pool, poison the frogs, remove them, clean the pool, refill it, and invite their neighbors to swim in it.
The daughter and her friend will not stand for this. They covertly enter the neighbor’s yard, each armed with a five-gallon bucket, which they fill with frogs.
The two girls lug their frog-filled buckets to a gully 40 feet below street level. The whole way frogs bail from the buckets, left and right. The girls will deposit the frogs here, in their natural environment.
The plan fails. The frogs at the bottom of the bucket are dead upon arrival. And the buckets turn out to be too heavy to lift and overturn.
The son and his friend slip into the woods, carrying pocketknives, and carve things like ‘FREDDY WAS HERE’ and ‘JASON IS GONNA KILL YOU’ into trees.
They run, arms waving, back into the neighborhood, maniacally screaming about the presence of mass murderers in the woods.
The son and his friend discover an abandoned campsite in the woods.
They decide to tell neighbors that there was a vagrant who hurled rocks at them for invading his campsite. The neighbors will be concerned.
From beneath the gully bridge the son and his friend pump up their Daisy air rifles more than necessary and take potshots at a carefully restored vintage car. When its owners—high-school kids—discover them, they give chase, fully intending to pound the young cretins to bits.
There is a legend that still exists in the neighborhood that, even though the friend flew the scene on bicycle, the son—on foot—outran him.
The daughter and her friend sometimes dress up kittens in Barbie clothes, wordlessly canceling their membership in PETA.
Glimpses of a Redneck Childhood
Boredom, adventure, and mischief. Our writer remembers a past knee-deep in cockroaches, waist-high in foiled plans, and up to its neck in it and more.