Things I'd forgotten, that my multimedia piece stirred up in me, my mother, or my sister:
-Most of the neighbors who were terrorizing my family during my youth are dead now. Some of them were killed even then—car accidents, fights, knifings.
-My sister ran into the surviving one years later. Billy was delighted to see her. He'd seen screaming all night in the yard and fighting not as a bad thing that hurt others, but as good fun.
-A different neighbor had been with my mother and sister when they were jumped near the ball park, and that neighbor just split when the others attacked. She had run home and hid. She didn't call the police. She just wasn't equipped for this kind of urban nightmare. My mother had to call the police from someone else's phone.
-There was another time when my sister went ballistic over all the bottles that the trashy neighbors had thrown into our front yard. She went out into the yard and threw a Jack Daniels bottle back into their yard, yelled "Keep your trash in your own yard" and turned around to come back into the house. But she'd hit Billy in the head with the bottle and cut him. This resulted in a fight, and in the process of fighting, Billy ripped (not on purpose, I think) her shirt off. He knew this was trouble and started yelling "Patty, come out here and get this girl off of me."
Or at least that's what my sister says. But she forgets that I was there. I watched the whole thing. She was fed up with them terrorizing us. She picked up a baseball bat, smashed out the glass in our front screen door in anger (um, that is our property, duh, why'd you do that?) and then went after Billy. She threw the bottle AT HIS HEAD on purpose, and seems to have been stunned that it actually hit him. Maybe she thought it was an accident.
But I was there. And I vividly remember it. It was no accident, just a surprise. The police came and took my sister downtown, where she reported that they howled with laughter that this 17-year-old girl had hit Billy H****** with a bottle. They let her out immediately. My mother was pissed. She'd thought the police would be sterner, maybe teach my sister a lesson. Instead, she got a heroes welcome.
-The neighbors' ultimate insult for us? "The Dictionary People." Yeah, that's us, the friggin' geniuses. Sis says: "I can remember Patty making fun of me saying "where'd you learn to talk like that, in school" because I was actually presenting an argument and making points instead of exchanging f*ck you, no, f*ck you."
And we all had the same reaction to the audio recording. Took us right back, in an instant. We knew the voices so well. After all, we heard them screaming outside in the night for more than a decade. I felt a twang of fear, then remembered: They're all dead. You don't have to shrink up and quietly turn near-invisible as you'd learned to do back then. They aren't here. Anyway, they taught me skills that have enabled me to move among cultures quietly, to hover above the fray and avoid dipping into it. Currently, more a hindrance than a skill, but sometimes quite useful.
Then there was this: "Marie, do you remember the time you broke your arm at the playground and your father still left and went to the turkey shoot? We had to get a neighbor to drive you to the hospital."
Oh yeah. But one can o' worms at a time, please...