Person, Place, and Song


This writing exercise calls for a specific format, involving citing the first time a song is heard and describing a particular scene.   It’s a lot harder than it looks.


The first time I heard the Star-Spangled Banner — at least, the first time I remember — I was sitting down on a shag rug in front of a 17 inch TV with half-devoured chips and wings and open Budweiser bottles on a coffee table behind me. The ball game was on, and Dad had already told me to shut up twice, but Frank was cursing at the screen like Herschiser had already given up a home run. I don’t know where Mom was. Maybe she was a the store, or maybe she had already moved out, but I do remember she wasn’t home whenever Dad has his friends over.

The carpets smelled like dirty dogs and Doritos, but there wasn’t any room on the couch to sit, so I leaned back against the table and tried not to nudge it at all. Dad told me to shut up again, even though I hadn’t said anything since the game started. I decided to get up and check on my sister in her bedroom since it had been a little while. She had stopped crying, content with vigorously sucking on her pacifier and standing up in her crib, wearing the same pink My Little Pony pajamas she had on last night. I wanted to take her out, but Mom had told me I wasn’t allowed to pick her up anymore, so I didn’t.

I think it was around the third or fourth inning when mom and Dad were standing up and yelling. The bowl of chips was empty, and a can of Fritos bean dip was upside down on the floor. John turned up the volume just enough to hear the crowd noise and Vin Scully over the shouting. I heard a lot of worse I was told never to repeat, and Frank was clapping really loud, and that’s when mom grabbed my wrist and pulled me outside without a jacket.

It was getting dark. I remember a warm wind and cold rain, which looked like falling needles against the porch light, and Mom was walking a lot faster than me across the grass, making her purse swing and hit my chest.

“Put your seatbelt on.” She shut the door before I could ask where we were going, and she went back inside to get my sister, running back out so my sister had to hold on tight to her neck. When they got in the car, she sighed really loudly and fumbled with keys and a cigarette and the handbrake and the seat belt, and we finally started moving and she turned the radio down and blew the smoke out the window and asked us if were were okay. And I nodded.


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