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I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your short story, “Uni’s Street Corner” in Lake Area Business this month. Thanks for sharing this wonderful piece!! Gloria Stafford, Minnetrista, MN
Resentments (Of All Men)
By Dennis L. Siluk, Ed.D.
Three Time Poet Laureate and Andean Scholar
Parts in English, Spanish, Illustrated
Advance on the Story:
Perhaps the overall theme in this long short story is as it is quoted in the dialogue, “The Family was, and then it wasn’t” Simple as that, and to be honest, I can’t find a more interwoven one than that… Not so unusual nowadays. As far as the plots, or overall plot goes, one might find it falling under another dialogue quote in the story: “When I was poor, we were all knitted together like bees in a honeycomb, once I became rich and tried to help, they all flew away, thinking they were all innocent with their resentments.” We see five families all knitted together, in 1982, and through innocence and resentments, we see them unravel, with each chapter having its own narrator shifting from one period to another, as it progressively exiles each family from one another. And if there is to be any insight in this story, let it be Biblical: “Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment (for in those latter days) the children shall rise up against their parents….” Matt 10.
Fragility: breaking through traditional teachings to truth and the word life…
“Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment (for in those latter days) the children shall rise up against their parents….” Matthew 10-21 “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake…” Matthew 10-22 “But when they persecute you…flee….” Matthew 10-23
A Non-fiction story, only the names have been changed…
Part One of Two Parts
1970s-St. Paul, Minnesota
Narrated by: the Person Behind
They weren’t born yet, Sergei Wright, Pavlenko Wright and Natasha Wright-Hides, it was Christopher Wright, who was to be their father, a poor Midwestern boy, that is, it was Christopher Wright and his mother, Teresa Wright, whose husband had left her before even Christopher was born, the children’s grandmother to be, so by the time the grandchildren would have their own children, she’d be able to say, before she died July 1, 2003-say, what her son Christopher would be able to say, seven years after she might have said it, which he did say for her: “Once upon a time there was a family, named Wright, that lived in St. Paul, that lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, and then once upon a time they weren’t.” It’s as simple as that. But let me tell you how it all begins and perhaps we can figure out the why?
They lived in Minnesota-the three children, where their father worked as a Case Manager and Psychological Counselor, for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Separated from his wife Carla, Christopher (recovering alcoholic), lived with his mother, Teresa Wright. Carla (bipolar, and borderline schizophrenic) took the three kids, Sergei, Pavlenko (twins: twelve years old), and Natasha (ten-years old), up to 1984, and had to have them put into a foster home thereafter, each separated from the other, as it was also the year, Christopher was beginning his life of sobriety, after twenty-years of alcoholism.
It would seem, both boys became found of their foster home parents more than their blood parents, gave them the everlasting respect, they had intended to give to the blood parents, but no longer could or would, or wanted to. This was the beginning of held-in resentments towards their father, mother, innocent or not, and even grandmother.
Foster Home, 1992, Minnesota
Narrated by: Pavlenko Wright
So this is what I, Pavlenko Wright, know about what was taking place in my life, and my brother’s life, and my sister’s life, and my father and mother’s life-I didn’t know my father was a drunk, and mother was mentally ill until I grew up, and big enough to know about such things, but evidently they were both of that nature I just mentioned long before I was born. And when I got to know about them better, my father said he’d take me out of the foster care-the homes-but he lied, and never did-that’s what I know. Oh he said the house he bought for us burnt down, and it’s true, but that was just another excuse. So when I saw-I mean, when we saw, when Sergei and I had seen him-and told him we both felt the same way, I mean all three of us felt the same way-my brother and I and Natasha, my sister, it was hard for him to believe, believe that that day I sat in the car, back in 1989, and told him what I had to tell him, what was on my mind for so very long, but it didn’t come out right, it came out sideways, and I was so very angry-and then I stepped out of the car, and forever, telling him forever, I’d never want to speak to him again, never and forever.
(Long hesitation, taking in a deep breath) At first, back in 1984, we all thought father was trying to set things up to take us, and perhaps he was. Whatever the case, we didn’t know any better. It wasn’t until we grew up that we realized that that object of alcoholism was his soul excuse to unburden himself with us-and I remember thinking: So, since pa has failed to do what he says he wanted to do, promised us he’d do, I’m the innocent one here, the only uncontaminated one, I was always faithful to his scheme, believing him to the bitter end, God forbid the bitter end. It was me, I was the bereaved, the betrayed son, waiting, and waiting, and forgiving for the sake of hope, I was a child, then a teenager, then an adult, still waiting, and then at sixteen, he said “Okay, I’ll now take you,” the second time, and he was in an apartment, so it couldn’t burn down and he’d have an excuse not to take us, to take me, and I said “No need to, I’m happy where I’m at,” he was surprised, and Sergei said the same thing: oh, yes, Sergei and I felt the same way but he wouldn’t believe Sergei would feel the way I felt, but he knows know I didn’t lie.
Well he said, I think he said, “You can’t get blood out of a turnip,” or maybe I said that, thinking he said that, maybe I dreamed he said that, or whatever he said, he meant that-and I just looked at him, I was on a roll, talking faster than I could think, I often did that back then, until I got my medication. “I did the best I could with what I had at the time,” he said. Well it wasn’t like it cost him anything to say that after the fact, now grown up. But I still felt after a while of waiting he had no use for us kids, never had, never will. Oh yes, it was pa, he had the whole world on his side now that he came out with it: that he was a recovering alcoholic, and if there was any hope before, ever was any, it was gone now because his sobriety was priority. And he was a Catholic, and now he was turning into a Baptist, and in-between he was some kind of Jesus Christ freak, and made sure all three of us kids got baptized, and took us to church-like it or not, but he said it was his duty, like it or not, and we all wanted to appease him, so he’d take us, but that too didn’t help either, it was sobriety now that was priority-oh I said that, already said that. And I suppose because of all this, I don’t have any use for him now. I guess some folks just have different ideas of honesty, like my father. He did the best he could-he said, he said that a few times, but for it to have been the best he could do, it would have had to have been stopping his lying to take us-that would have been better than hope. I can hear the words he said clear as I can hear the birds chipper in the trees out at the Como Park, as I can hear these voices in my head: “I’m working on it son, it’ll take a while.” Then in 1988, he said “Okay, I got an apartment, you can move in?” And I said to him, “No, I’m happy where I’m at,” a few years too late. Without a loss, I now could tell him what I couldn’t tell him before, he missed the cue, if you know what I mean, and it was too late. And it’s not everybody can make up for their mistakes, when they no longer are needed, and he wasn’t needed any longer.
Narrated by: Sergei Wright
Pavlenko and I met last at my wedding, in Columbus, Ohio, he was all dressed up and danced a lot with his newlywed wife, they had been married less than a year, back in 1994. I came over to him, said: ·Paw’s going to be here soon, he called awhile ago, he’s at the motel.”
“I don’t want to talk to him,” Pavlenko said to me.
“So just don’t talk to him, but don’t cause any fuss on my wedding day” I said. We all knew how Pavlenko felt about paw, I mean I knew, and my second wife knew and my sister knew. So did paw. And he knew we all knew. And we all knew he also knew, or did know. So that was fine. So Pavlenko’s part in my wedding festivities was set.
The wedding was held at the old redbrick Episcopal Church, in the mid part of the city’s residential center here in Columbus, and downstairs was the reception area. In the backroom was the dance floor. No windows at all in the lower section of the church, just all duplicated sunlight, lots of overhead lighting I mean. When my father came, he said something, introduced himself over the microphone, said hello to Pavlenko, and his wife, and they hesitated but said hello back-I was a little surprised, and on the dance floor paw tried to take his picture, and that annoyed Pavlenko. I was still staring straight at Pavlenko not to make a fuss. Down the road a few months, he’d demand from Natasha the pictures he took and gave to her, she wasn’t mad at him, at that time, at paw or Pavlenko, but that caused some friction. And she told him not to act like a kid, and that annoyed him even more, and Boris told him the same thing, and that annoyed him beyond reproach. Boris is my sister’s husband, big bulky guy, looks like that guy that is always fighting Popeye, I think his name is Brutus. And paw showed up at the dinner, didn’t eat much, I don’t know why: and I thought right then and there, as I’m thinking now: for all those years of carnal sins, lies and more lies, as if he was building a pyramid to stack them on, condoning his lies-he must have had a good memory back then, to be able to recall them at will: not realizing how alone I felt all those years, wishing he was there, I can’t stop reminding myself, forgiving him, he chose our death before taking us. I know now people can really be unkind.
Anyhow, he crossed the floor to dance with my wife, as if gravity lifted him up, very light on his feet for his age; he was a good dancer, better than I. And I saw him coming out of the bathroom as Pavlenko was coming around the corner, and he was mad as hell because paw wanted to somehow talk to him, but Pavlenko wouldn’t, or couldn’t because of his anger. Oh, Pavlenko didn’t, wouldn’t admit it was because he didn’t take him when he could have, he pretended like I pretended it was for other reasons-we even came to believe those other made-up reasons. Because admitting not taking us, was too hurtful, too shameful, too much to endure, too belittling. He didn’t realize when we went to school, we had to tell everyone something, make up something why we couldn’t be raised by our own parents. Anyhow, between the shadows on the dance floor, I lost track of pa, then I heard he went back to his motel. That’s when I got wondering-thinking dad was too confident and comfortable not knowing I also was angry at him, not just Pavlenko
Pa. Pa. Pa.
St. Louis, Missouri, Ohio-2010
Narrated by: Karin O’Hara-Wright
Pavlenko and my father are sitting in the living room. Pavlenko is fiddling with the television hand controls again, pa is lighting up a cigarette, holding it in his right hand, watching Pavlenko fiddling with the controls-I’d wish he’d not do that, he drops it all the time, and the batteries fall out, and I’ve had to tape it a few times back together, I’ll have to buy a new one sooner than later, not sure why he does that. They see me pacing back and forth from the kitchen to the living room-they don’t know I’m thinking, at least my husband don’t know what I’m thinking although maybe my father does, I’ve talked it over with him: Pavlenko, he told me a while ago, and it sticks in my mind, that he went to see his father one time at the hospital, back in ’94, when he was dying, and he sat out on the stools outside his room and his father asked for him to come in but he didn’t, I just came upon the reason why: he didn’t really come to see his father, for exactly the reason to see his father for the last time he came to see his father-to hear about his father that he was dead, once and for all, now I know, and believe: because he couldn’t have forgiven him of those lost childhood years without him saying something to me, he even tried to stop himself from going to the hospital, but that failed, he wanted something, perhaps to be part of the inheritance, he was well off and not married, worth a million dollars or more.
I brought them each a beer, then some popcorn. They kind of watch me; I think pa wants to talk to Pavlenko alone. We’ve had some separations in our marriage, like Pavlenko’s father and mother had, he’s been gone a good while, and I’ve had to support my daughter on my own; he’s just like his father, and too close to the woods to see the trees.
“Where’s Mary Ann?” Pavlenko says.
“She’s licking the cake mix,” I tell him. When I was a child I loved doing that, especially with the frosting. It always tastes better in the batter, than before it’s on the cake, I wonder why?
“Your father and I need another beer?” says Pavlenko to me.
Especially at night, the frosting is better than in the morning for some reason.
“Waiting!” says Pavlenko. He drinks when my father is here because I won’t say anything, and he knows he shouldn’t drink with all that medication he’s on-he’s like his mother somewhat, it can trigger a relapse. I wish Mary Ann was bigger, and then I wouldn’t have to worry about both of them. Pavlenko used to take care of himself, now he’s fat and unkempt. You can’t preach one thing, and do another, I mean, you look worse than the person you’re talking about, and it makes you think he’s living a secret life of hate, and if he can hate so easily, and not forgive, how can he expect to be forgiven for his misconduct? After his father’s gone, if or when it happens and I’m around, and Pavlenko’s around, I becoming convinced something will have to be done, he will be free of his hate, but I think guilt will set in. If only he could give up and surrender and do away with his resentments, he’s no longer that innocent boy. How can his child need him, or I need him then? You don’t need to need. It’s a choice. He doesn’t see, got to be a strong woman-any woman married to him would have to be a strong women. Otherwise, you’re lost. I thought.
“Come out and get the beer yourself, if you want one!” I say. He’ll go on talking to my father, complaining about his dad-some more, I met him once, he said hello to me and Pavlenko, he didn’t seem all that bad to me. He doesn’t let Mary Ann write him on the internet, like her cousin, does. And now I understand Sergei Jr., and his grandfather stopped writing one another-not sure why, maybe it’s a Wright trait.
“Come here, Karin!” Pavlenko says.
“What for?” I ask.
“I’m hungry, that’s why! I and your pa want some more popcorn!”
“Make the damn popcorn yourself, pa don’t like popcorn like you do! You lazy son of…you know what I mean.”
“Why are you getting so mad?” asked my husband.
“What?” I exclaim.
“Mad, mad, why are you so mad?”
“Don’t mind me. Besides, I don’t like football, perhaps that’s it! Just eat your popcorn and drink your beer” I say, more calmly now, now that he’s named my behavior, must have learned that from his psychologist father. I think of what we’ll do, when my daughter is all grown up and gone and she has children of her own. We don’t have anything in common, and I don’t care to take care of someone who can hate so long, so hard, so carefree. And then what, what will take place with my grandkids? He has me to where I’m afraid to contact his father to open up a relationship between my daughter and him-he doesn’t even know I’d like to try to do that. What will happen if he dislikes my daughter’s selection of husbands (?) I think often, if I’m curse with this in the future. My father has asked: “What right do you two have not to share your children with his father? How do you know he doesn’t want to have a relationship with his granddaughter? Just because he says so, Pavlenko says so, doesn’t make it so, or make it right.” Then my father also says, “What goes around comes around,” and I’m afraid of that also-since I’m supporting his behavior unwillingly, encouraging it, enabling it by saying noting, and going along with the program, his program. I mean, he didn’t seem like a bad person to let your child get to know-not any worse than his son, when I first met him. I couldn’t even talk to him to get to know him, lest I start trouble with my husband. His hate has to be my hate that is what he was saying-indirectly and silently saying without saying a word, and that is what I’m really mad about, and can’t say to him, just like he couldn’t say to his father why he was really mad. You see, it’s contagious.
St. Paul, Minnesota-2005
Natasha Wright-Hides & Carla Lawson
((Ex-Wright) (Natasha’s mother))
(Talking-to her mother by phone)
Pa, He could have done so much for us-or maybe more, we all wanted more of him I guess, more than he could give to us, had to give, or didn’t have time to give between his drinking, and working and seeing us, and putting up with you mother, and then the separation, and then came the foster homes, for my brothers and me, he did take me for a year when I was sixteen-years old, and then I got pregnant, and he told me not to have an abortion, it was against God’s laws. And the abortion clinic and the State of Minnesota Social Worker all wanted me to kill it-and mother, you didn’t care, and didn’t seem to care, one way or the other. He persuaded me, not to get one, not you or the social workers, he said in essence: “You’re quite young to make such a decision, a kid making a kid’s decision, but just remember, whatever decision you make you can live with, because you make have a long life ahead of you,” although he didn’t insist, or force me to have my first of two children, gave me a choice, that-for that reason, I’m glad my two boys are now eleven and twelve years old; I’m thirty. So if you’re wondering why there isn’t any room in me for him for him, he just wasn’t that important in my life ma. He just made sure nothing happened badly-when he could, when he was around, and if it didn’t interfere with what he was doing at the time he was doing it, that is, if he wasn’t drinking or sobering up, and he was either drinking and sobering up all the time, but I suppose as he once said, “I didn’t have a father around he left when I was too young to remember, but from what my mother says, it was better that way, and as I look back now, it is better to have no father than the wrong father.” For me, he wasn’t the wrong father; he was to the contrary, the right one, just under the weather all the time if you know what I mean: hammering away at trying to succeed. Whatever breath he drew at the time, it didn’t do us three children any good, mentally all that much good, I know now he paid his child support, I think and we had insurance I think he paid for that, he told me once he did. If he knew he was about to take us, he’d be in a panic everything wasn’t’ perfect, he felt if it wasn’t perfect, that it all would cave in on him. We all waited, I was even fanning myself, waiting, so it seems. I said: if he’d just leave us alone, we’d forget he was around, but all of a sudden he came knocking at the doors of the foster homes we all were at, keeping his path always clean so he could move fast when he got a weekend to take us, oh he took us many a weekends, I suppose we all forgot that, if it had just been permanent, he even took on special trips alone, he took me to Bayfield, and Sergei to Gull Lake alone, and Pavlenko to West Fargo, North Dakota alone. He had promised us he’d take each one of us on a special trip, and he did, he kept that promise. And you mother, when I was with you, it would be just me, and you on a rolling rock, as if on a rolling rock falling down a hill into some kind of depression or dreamland, throwing fits and I was so young I didn’t know what to do. You were no better. But I was, or felt I was, alone. If I could just feel better about him it would be different-although he used to take me to the movies and plays down at the theater downtown and concerts, and then I didn’t feel alone. And you ma, had all those fits and spells and would pass out from that illness you have-I can’t even say the word you call it because it’s too big, and you’d do strange things, like opening up car doors that were not your car and the police would ask “What’s wrong with your mother?” then look at me strangely and say “She is your mother, isn’t she?” and I’d be crying, and we’d be on the street all alone, just me and you and the police, and I felt as if I was taking care of you, not you me, and the officers and the police car and the parked car you were trying to get into were on the streets and I was so young, and I even called dad up a few times, and most of the times he’d come and see that all was well, he even seen you in the hospital a few times, and took us kids home with him. And one time the boys went with him and I had to stay with one of your sisters while you recovered in the hospital. And I would have to write the policeman a note saying “I’m slow.” Father didn’t know all this was going on when it was going on. I told him when I saw him on those weekends.
He just sold the four-plex we live in, I’m glad. Boris got him in a bear hug a few months ago and squeezed the daylights out of him, and I was afraid he was going to kick us out of the apartment, and then he sold it. He owns half the neighborhood, Boris calls him the landlord king, used to work for him, they’re kind of mad at each other now. He says when he dies he’s going to give me his gold chain, but I don’t think he will any longer. Boris says he’s going to spend it all before he dies and we’ll get nothing.
The trees in the back yard look like naked chickens, they’re bare already, and it’s just the beginning of winter. I’m getting fat again ma. The squirrels run across our back porch all the time now, looking for food. Pavlenko doesn’t call us anymore, he and Boris don’t get along. Sergei used to call, but seldom calls anymore. The kids are getting too big to play with, and I’m thirty-year old now.
(It was just me and him, me and dad living in the apartment on East 9th Street, before I got married. I like it there, it was peaceful, no worries. Picking me up with his car and taking me here and there and was so proud to have me. I even remember telling him once, ‘I don’t want to be married anymore with Boris, he’ll never amount to much, and dad said, ‘If it comes to that, you can stay with me now, and the boy also, but give it a second chance, if you feel that way later, fine.’ I think he meant it, but I still think he was fearful of it. Funny, my mind never goes quiet anymore.)
Carla Lawson (Ex-Wright)
I got my own troubles Natasha…are you there? Wake up!
1) I got to pay the electric bill here at this home, or apartment.
2) The apartment is so small I can’t even exercise in it.
3) In this house, or building people are coming and going all the time, and I have to be ready at 12:15 p.m., to eat each morning, and have to buy my own supper and breakfast if I want those other two meals. And I smoke so much my throat hurts.
4) I hear people in their beds all night long crying, and complaining, talking, some even have lovers. And I hear people in my head that aren’t really there.
5) I’m tired.
7) I got fish, three goldfish, and now I want to flush them down the toilet, they’re too much work, too much trouble, every breath I take I think about those gold fish that have no memory of what I do for them, feed them and keep their water clean, and warm-not too warm, and I tell them, told them “Go somewhere else if you don’t like it here!”
8) It’s really a daily job here, I have to clean up the room, empty the garbage-take it down those flights of stairs and go around to the back of the building and throw it in the high trash dispenser. I also take care of some events here for the building and its residents and that takes a lot out of me, and they inspect my room, and I have to pay one forth of my welfare check to live here, so don’t complain to me about this and that, this is a hole, it just doesn’t stink, plus in this place the people are uptight all the time, two thirds of them. And some of the older men sit around the lobby like buzzards and look at you as if they want to rape you: just give them the chance. Be happy your father wasn’t like them. You always did like him better than me anyhow, but I always wanted you more than the boys because we understand one another better.
(Click: the phone is hung up…!)
write by Michael Riemann