Our hero, whom we now know was oftentimes called the Pinch Hitter of the longwinded home-run, petunia-scented sentences that soon enough disappeared behind Heaven’s Rickety Gate, along with many a conjured stadium where they grew and flew with the imaginary breezes he created with his sharpened, wooden bats and the quick twist of his manly macho torso (of which he was inordinately proud, inordinate, he thought, only because on a recent Wednesday afternoon in summertime his bathroom mirror cracked as the result of so many close-inclined visitations by one or the other of P.H.’s muscled shoulders.)
Of course, he was named P.H. by the haughty, as yet only semi-successful, self-published, yet ever-struggling in their own minds to become accomplished artists, artists especially of The Fast Food Fanciers Who Love Their Minds and So Let Their Bodies Go movement nowadays popular in the Pine Barren campsites that pepper South Jersey.
Linguistic artists, all — they said they were, anyway – that is to say that they repeated such praiseworthy mantras only after healthy, gulped doses of poisonous wine, and while gathered among others of their skillful acquaintance who shared their general level of inebriation and sober incompetence, incompetence borne of imitation, that imitation itself borne of too many critique group competitions. “If you’d follow my rules, the current rules that is, for constructing not just sentences, but also for creating the overall arc of your story, well then you’re bound to become just as popular as I am, no more and no less, of course.”
After hearing too many of these self-absorbed and arrogant training sessions – he was after all P.H. of the flappy eared variety, so no important, or even self-important opinions of the self-appointed experts escaped the range of his hearing.
After hearing all of that and more, P.H., exhausted and sickened by such behavior, sat down on a bench in the woods.
There, surrounded by the side of Nature that excludes the chickety chick chatter of vacuous human beings scraping gravel from the bottom of a birdcage, our hero decided for a time to rename himself AVT, perhaps because that was a name his mother gave him. An evil woman, she was, who beat him while naked, with straps, sticks, and pancake turners; and who bit him with her rat-sharp teeth until she broke skin and drew streams of blood.
One such chewy tooth time that he remembers as if it might happen again tomorrow involved his never guilty beast of a mother who sat across the pink Formica table from his young self. She growled and roared, and thus explained in grumbled and fractured excuses for words that she despised Baby AVT, that she wished she’d never got fat and painful with his crawling carcass.
And then, as if to emphasize and conclude this hateful eulogy prepared ahead of the proper ceremony, she bared her fangs, grabbed his hand, and ripped into the tender web between thumb and index finger.
Baby AVT stared at his bloodied hand and thought to himself, “Oh good, Dad will come home after his day of hard labor and finally, at last he will see evidence of how she wounds me on the outside.” The inner wounds, figured our future hero of the baseball field, the stage and the page, might well take years to pound into his cowardly father’s head.
But she, the wolf beast, continually rubbed Noxzema Cream on his wound. Whenever AVT surreptitiously wiped off the burning white ointment, his Mother, who was meant never to care for children, slapped another sloppy slab back onto the wound. Blood continued to run, turning the cream into whipped strawberry pudding
Dad came home, yanked off and dumped creosote-stained overalls down the cellar steps, then walked into the kitchen where beast and hero sat.
“He fell and scratched himself on our cement sidewalk. I’m treating him with a healing cream.”
A scant glance between cowardly Dad and his little boy. Tears poured down and burned our baby hero’s cheeks. Please, Dad, he said in silence, through the breath that heaved and twisted like a tornado inside his chest.
“Good thing your Mother was here to help you, son,” he said.
Dad would repeat similar sentences throughout his lifetime, and so throughout AVT’s young life of torture. Young AVT, like so many others, was robbed of his childhood. But not just neglected by a runaway parent or parents. No, his child was not neglected and not, dear God, not “abused.” That word, “abused” has been employed so many times throughout the years since baseball hero AVT grew old and stubborn, and determined never to forgive the wolf, that it has been softened into an almost acceptable form of criminality.
A somewhat younger adult version of AVT, hero of the imaginary baseball field that replaced for a while the torture of his putative childhood years, responded to an impulse to become responsible for his own fate — that notion, itself a contradiction — applied for and gained employment in a chic coffee shop that sported a hidden dirty kitchen. He worked there hard and loyal for perhaps the better part of a derelict month. But while he labored there, his flappy, linguistically inclined ears heard the pips and pops of puffed-up conversations more than they heard the percolations of twice-brewed coffee. He grinned at customer and colleague alike, but his smiles – even he realized – were empty of empathy. So, before his manager, kind Caroline Varelli, whom he wanted to fuck — with love, of course, always at the center of his urge — before Caroline could damage what remained of his feelings by firing him, he quit.
For a few months afterward, AVT visited a lush hillside in California. Cool water that appeared to be blue when the sunlight struck its surface at an exact angle.
AVT enjoyed the solitude there, but California never was his home. Hillsides were a foreign anomaly when compared to the flatland landscape of South Jersey. And so, after a few bored weeks, AVT changed his name a second time. In actual fact, he reassumed the name he’d always known belonged to him, that of Tex Buffalino. Tex took up residence far from the overblown beauty of California. He came to live inside a muddy, Jersey marsh, protected by the reeds, plenty of food growing and roaming for the taking.
And instead of flapping and flopping around with pretty women who could not appreciate his earshot linguistic talents, Tex Buffalino wed a muskrat, his closest and most loyal friend.
Chapter 4 might arrive . . .