Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains:
Knatz.com / Personal / Friends, Family /
My sister Beth is older by eighteen months. Beth is female, I am male. Beth will always be older, I will always be younger. I was real skinny, Beth was … well, fat. Beth had learned to thrash her way around, clearing space for herself in her environment, I hid in the cracks and hoped to survive.
I begin my “Beth” file with one story in particular:
I can’t say exactly how old I was when my mother threw my father out. It happened at least one time more than once, so: there was a time in my life when my father was around more or less regularly: like other American dads, then a time where he was sometimes around, then a time when I saw him rarely. This story I believe comes from Period Two: we were no longer a “regular” family but Dad wasn’t yet exactly a stranger. He had some client who was just building a home in Smoke Rise NJ. Residents had to have a least one acre of land. The roads meandered through woods instead of being staked out like rows and columns on a chess board. There was a lake. … Hubbard the guy’s name was: knickname Cornie. Had a factory that did something with felt: maybe manufactured it. In Butler NJ. Whole town stank of burning rubber. So this capitalist smelled rubber all day. Now he could drive home to an illusion of wilderness. Lucky Hard Working Cornie Hubbard. Somehow the fractured family made a weekend of it. Dad visits Dad’s client/friend with Mom and the kids for a weekend in the “country.”
We go for a walk around the lake, Dad, Beth, and Paul, Dad in the middle, Kids on either side. Wham! My sister’s fist swipes across my skull. Oh, Doh-Dey-Doh, dopey dumb little me just keeps walking. Wham! Beth reaches around her big father’s middle and abrades another scruff of Little Paul’s crew cut.
Flinch. Regain balance. And I keep walking.
The Three Stooges could have done this. Only one stooge is real big and the other two are different scales of little. Laurel and Hardy could have done this: only they’d need a heavy three times the size of Oliver Hardy to walk between them. We walk along, walk along: Wham! Walk along: and Wham! again.
We were all a few years older than in this picture.
Finally my father says, “What are you hitting your little brother for?”
And Beth says:
He’s thinkin’ bad thoughts about me.
PS: You know? she could have been right! Here we are six decades later and I think bad thoughts about everything!
I can’t say today how well I would have remembered the above had it not been narrated to me decades later by my father, the comedian narrator. Dad always cracked them up before he puked and passed out: on some woman other than Mom. The story today is as vivid as it is because of Dad’s styling. Yet I believe that Dad’s style recreated by pk captures the essence of the real events without grossly misrepresenting them. These days Beth and Paul are reasonably mature adults who relate reasonably well together. Sometime within the last decade or two I reminded Beth of the incident, making it clear to her (as I have meant to here) that I was repeating Dad’s version. Beth did not recognize the details but certainly recognized the characters and the accuracy of their portrayal. So this story, as told by the heavy, has been accepted by both the Laurel and the Hardy.
PPS: I have one or two other vivid memories from that weekend independent of any reminders from August Senior (August Paul Knatz, Jr. being my full certified name). I remember coming across a brook on Hubbard’s property. I remember encountering a chipmunk. But best of all I remember Beth and me, put upstairs above the community lake-side rec hall bar to a bed from which we’d have to be moved later, slipping half-way down the stairs, past 10 PM, as a Joe Louis championship bout came on the radio.
What did we kids know about boxing? Nothing! But we knew that Joe Louis was a hero! (Even, I now know, the garden variety racists new that.)
told at K. 2002 12 26.
2013 01 30 Here’s a different Beth memory, one I don’t want to blame her much for this half century later, but I do want to portray a power scramble in a disrupted family with a skewed gender, age mix:
One time in grade school I’d been home sick, boy was I miserable, slept all day, was still sleeping. Mom finally came home from work, was now going to spend some quality time with her suffering son. Beth joined us at my bed side. Mom comforted me, or tried to, Beth say by, raking a comb through her long brunette kinks. Hair would rip off her head and clog the comb. Beth had brought a glass of water in which to lubricate the comb. Unknown to me the glass was clogging with ripped hair.
All this social effort was making me realize how desperately thirsty I was. I’d had a glass of water at my bedside, but was too weary to partake: time to correct that. I fumbled, found a glass, picked it up, drank … and alarms went off. I was being coked by a wet hair ball, the hairs far too long to swallow. I dimly realized that I was drinking Beth’s hair from Beth’s dipping glass, not clear water from my water glass. I started to bawl and caterwaul. “Beth …” I choked.
Mother didn’t know what I was complaining about, she ordered me to leave my sister alone!
Gradually the long string of hair tangles cleared my throat and descended to my gut. And I slept for another twenty-four hours or so.