by Kenneth Pobo
He made me call him Pap. When I was ten Pap left. Mom told us never to mention him again. I never did while she stayed with us, but when she evaporated, leaving us in the care of Grandma Kate, I mentioned him. No one listened.
My friends at Micah High had magnificent lives attending basketball games, church, and predicting who would lay who. My predictor was off. I didn’t see that Greg Swampus was doing Greg Gerton even when I saw them kissing in the bathroom. “Scuse me,” I said.
Basketball creeped me out. Poor ball, tossed from one player to another, dribbled, thrown at a basket. And of course saying nothing, its opinion ignored. People file out the gym, go home. The next thing you know someone plans nuptials, a baby shower, a funeral.
Or someone plans to leave. Like Pap and mom. Or maybe without plans. Maybe a wind lifted them up and out of the house. They’re blowing across the country, leaf people.
I didn’t like church except for a few people. Glen Causman got me into pop music.
“Oh Mama Cass, I love her. I want to marry her,” he’d say.
“I hear she loves Denny.”
“You take that back. She’ll be mine. I know it.”
Glen’s mom made him wear a blue suit with a clip-on red bow tie each Sunday. If he didn’t sing loudly, she pinched him. He’d mumble “On a hill far away/ stood an old rugged cross…” then the pinch and “THE EMBLEM OF SUFFERING AND SHAME!” I knew Glen was singing “Words of Love” inside his head.
Speaking of emblems of suffering, the church itself seemed to be one big ache, the building sagging a half an inch each year. Each spring the basement flooded routinely, one time soaking fifty Bibles and twenty-five Harp of Ages hymnals.
A few months after I graduated high school, I found a magic necklace in False Nancy’s Resale Shop. I dropped it on the corner of Dilberry Street and Harner Street. Micah became a breadcrumb I fed to a pigeon. It flew away.
Like Pap. Like Mom. And now me, headed for Louisville, dithering my way to San Francisco.
My hometown was named after a Biblical prophet who thundered about bad leaders and idolaters. We still have bad leaders, idolaters--and the Internet. It’s better living today. Micah’s not on any maps since the pigeon got it. So what? Most maps don’t say what we really need to learn. They show roads that break and connect, break and connect--keep going--no matter what.