Writing Non-Fiction posted June 10, 2018


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Growing Up

by E. B. Ross


I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in the deep southern tip of Hell. My small town lazed along the murky Thronateeska River. At a young age I found out that all sparkling, rainbow-colored bubbles of thought and revelation burst on a flat surface of brown, muddy water.

Springtime in the south of Hell is hard to beat.
Despite its less desirable location, our street was pretty with large oaks growing along a wide sidewalk buckled by their roots. A row of houses coyly presented their modest charms behind fans of fuchsia and lavender azaleas that perfumed the air with gentle propriety. Proud dogwoods boasting generous helpings of pink and white competed with camellias of every variety. Even the freshly cut lawns smelling of life and hope struggled to distract the souls of those who were burning inside their homes impaled on pitchforks of worry and desire.

I remember climbing a dogwood tree across the street from our house. I was looking up at the clean sky through the sun-rimmed blossoms, and consciously froze the moment in my mind so I could keep that little pocket of happiness forever. So far it has worked.

My mother told me that when I was around the age of three I went missing. They found me across town, on the right side of the tracks. I guess that's when I started looking for heaven.

Once a roamer, always a roamer, so when I grew up I moved as far west as possible without falling into the sea. I'm a dreamer. I take medication so that my dreams won't take me. An "idea man" sounds like someone I'd cross the street to avoid, but that's me, an idea guy, a visualizer, concept boy, creative sub-genius. Thankfully, spellcheck just corrected 'genius' for me, so make that creative sub-sub-genius...and massive dork. Oh, I'm also gay. Try growing up gay in a small southern town and not end up surmising that Earth is the opposite of Heaven.

As I get older I see more of my father's characteristics in myself. He was an honest-to-God, Texas-raised, horse-riding cowboy. Sounds romantic, right? He was a mean and tired man most of the time and I don't have great memories of him for the first half of my life. Some people say being gay is a choice, if they had known my Dad, they'd know I'd never have chosen to be gay living under his roof. (I have two brothers who were also raised in the same house by the same parents, and they are very fond of the ladies.) When Dad and my mother moved from Texas to Georgia where her family was, he could not be a full-time cowboy. He worked several jobs to keep the bills paid. He was a rural mailman, did odd jobs for the city, and on weekends he worked on a farm outside of town, breaking horses and herding cattle. Dad-isms I'm finding in myself are my bad temper, usually born from frustration and control issues, my farts sound identical to his and are just as abundant, "Who stepped on that frog?" he used to say. Oh, and God help me, I have his feet...ugliest feet ever.
On the positive side, like him, I can be a real charmer...no one charms like ol' boney-toed farty pants over here!

We became good friends in the end. After breaking his hip and suffering a stroke, days before he died he vomited his own feces because of a botched "simple procedure" to fit him with a feeding tube. Hell.

I am most like my mother. She was an artist with a wild spirit and an open, intelligent mind. She also fought depression for most of her life and unfortunately never reached a truly fulfilled and happy state. My Dad worked his charm with other women and that did not help her outlook. Despite all that, she managed to fill our house with laughter. One of my favorite stories is of her being woken by my Dad one morning before sunrise. "Babe, don't use your toothbrush; I accidentally knocked it into the toilet."
Still half asleep, she mumbled, "That's OK honey, I knocked yours in last week." Admittedly, I am a Mama's boy, or was one until Cancer destroyed her brain. Only in Hell would that happen to a brilliant mind.

Now I live in the redwoods on a mountain overlooking the ocean along the California central coast, in one of Hell's best neighborhoods.

Still looking for heaven.


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