The Baggage of Youth

At the hospital on that critical night, the doctors stitched up my left arm—and they rushed. Wentworth into emergency surgery in an attempt to save his bloody life.
The following morning, a police inquiry began sorting out what happened—and why. They questioned my mother, my grandparents and our neighbors on all sides. Later on, I learned they also checked my record at Washington High School and at The Oregon Journal.

They talked with me, too, for what seemed like hours. I still remember the bleak interrogation room at the police station: drab walls, lightless windows, gray metal desk and hard, metal chairs. Yet the two interviewers, a woman from the juvenile division and one older detective, turned out to be surprisingly sympathetic and supportive. They patiently pulled the stormy details out of me, including my earliest awareness of Wentworth’s abuse of my mother and everything I could remember about that final, explosive night in our Clay Street living room.

The police never revealed this to me—but following the initial investigation, they told my mother privately that if Wentworth lived, they planned to drop the case, without filing any charges whatsoever. No juvenile court hearing. No record. On the other hand, they said, if Wentworth should die, the situation “would become much more complicated” and they advised her to get a lawyer.

Wentworth fought a grim, ongoing battle for his life. Under intensive care, he squirmed on his back in the hospital. I confess I felt no remorse.

Eventually, he pulled out of it. He survived and we never saw him again. Sometime after the divorce, my mother received word that he had landed a job in Pittsburgh, California.

***

Three or four of us hung around the Gilmore truck stop every afternoon, pitching pennies and waiting for the delivery truck to drop off our bundles of papers.

We chalked a line about five yards out from the station’s back wall. Then we’d take turns tossing a penny in a spinning arc towards the wall. At the end of each round, the kid whose penny landed closest to the wall won all the cash.

I filled my Log Cabin Syrup penny bank to the roof with pennies I won in that innocuous paperboy pastime.

***

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