When I open the envelope containing a notice from the Diocese of Oakland that my EX of several years has petitioned for a Declaration of Invalidity, my first reaction is to laugh and toss the paperwork into the recycling bin. But the words toll like solemn bells throughout the day. Ecclesitasticum, Ajudication, Decree of Constitution. In the grip of the language as I had been some twenty years ago when I made the mistake of converting to Catholicism, I retrieve the paperwork.
He ordered a scotch and then broke the news that his appeal for a new trial had been denied. We were in the lounge of the Thunderbird Hotel in Miami, the baby upstairs in the room, asleep. “Twelve years. The judge threw the book at me. I did my best to charm him, but it didn’t do any good.” They’d used everything they could against him, including the time during the Depression when, at the age of five, he’d rapped another kid in the mouth with his shoe-shining kit for taking over his corner.
I initially judged The Home for the Friendless by its cover and expected a story like that of Annie. I pictured the Home for the Friendless as an orphanage, and I thought I would be reading about all of the children living there. However, I soon discovered that the facility was merely a temporary home for author Betty Auchard and her two younger siblings and was written about as a small memory intertwined into hundreds of memories. I never expected to learn so much about a poor girl’s faith in her family as well as rich historical details about the war and the Great Depression.
At the train station, Amber greeted me with bells on. Underneath a school-girl uniform, crotchless panties tinkled the chime of a lone brass bell. I spun her love atop my fingertip, dribbled between my knees and launched the fadeaway jumper. Returning from dinner, she asked, “How come you don’t hold my hand anymore?” I called her a bitch. The comparison of a lover to a female dog conjured a deeper truth.
My friend Danna Ephland’s pink flamingo earring hung from my rearview mirror. When my hound dog Truffle and I had visited Danna in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on a cross-country road trip, she had gone upstairs and rummaged around to find a pair of pink flamingo earrings. She and a friend had bought them on a road trip to Florida back in the eighties. Danna handed me one and kept the other. “This way we’ll always be connected,” she said.