Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage/Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage/Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage/But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to.
“You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” – Roger Miller
I stood there, fists clinched, back rigid, glaring at my father. Equal parts fear and anger filled my 17-year old body. Anger and fear at the man in front of me, veins threatening to explode from his forehead, his upper lip twitching as he struggled to keep from erupting into a tornado of violence.
Anger and fear at myself for what I’d just done, struggling just as hard as my father not to meet force with force. I had no common sense at that point – I wasn’t afraid of him, or at least that’s what I kept telling myself.
My dad and I had had some monumental fights in our days but this one was about to be certified epic in proportions.
Hold on…to really get at this, we’ve got to rewind about half an hour or so from that moment.
Fade in – log house, somewhere in nowhere Alaska. It’s dead of winter sometime in February and the sun is at its zenith – this isn’t saying much as it’s winter in Alaska after all. Young buck, otherwise known as Ben, is fighting about something with old buck, known as Dad.
Those little scribes of history who write everything down for posterity’s sake? Even they don’t recall what this fight is about – they just remember it was big – HUGE. The dogs in the house had all sought refuge under beds and the rest of the children were peering through the barely opened doors of their bedrooms. There – scene set, let’s move on a little bit.
At this stage in my life, 17 years old and a rebel just looking for a cause, my dad was my favorite target. I don’t know why. Yeah, I do, we’ll get into that later.
“You think you got this whole fucking thing figured out, son?” my father screamed at me through clenched teeth. “Fine, then why don’t you just get the hell out of here and go do it.”
We were already many hours into this fight and getting closer to that moment, the moment that would change things forever and set about a course of actions that would guide me for years to come.
“Fine,” I fired back as I grabbed my wallet and car keys off the kitchen table. I stormed out of the house, slammed the big metal door, shaking the entire structure, and ran to the little tan Plymouth Colt my parents were letting me use.
I’d already dropped the transmission on this one in my efforts to learn a standard. I jammed the key into the ignition and without dropping the clutch, I jammed the car into reverse, slamming my foot on the gas pedal. The little hatchback screamed in protest as I whipped around my mom’s white GMC Safari van. My eyes closed in anger, the car shuddered for reasons I didn’t understand – I pressed my foot harder on the gas pedal, nearly punching through the floorboard, but the car wouldn’t move.
A scream erupted from my mouth and I opened my eyes to see the driver’s side door, a door I hadn’t closed, bent backwards running parallel to the side of the car – the snow pack. In my anger and frustration and rage I hadn’t taken into account the snow pack and how close my car was to it. I’d angled the car all wrong and nearly torn the door off its hinges.