written/non-written things by me (from 2005-2008)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Character Sketching

Sensitive and Artsy Boy, 1987

My father was a glass sculptor. That is, he heated glass till it melted then he made it drip and poked it with a rod into shapes like hummingbirds and dolphins. Then he sold them at the flea market on the weekends and during the weekdays he worked and worked and then he would come in from his workshop hot and red-faced. My mother died two years ago. That was when dad started the business. It was his dream. Dad was living his dream he said.

He would take us kids, Tom and Lisa and I, to the farmer’s market when we would get out of school on Thursdays. He would meet us at the sidewalk in front of our elementary. Lisa would run over from the middle school. She got out a lot earlier than Tom and I, but she had orchestra rehearsal after school. She would run over with her backpack full of books and it would bang from side to side, she’d have her small black case in her hand. She played the flute. Dad always wore dark sunglasses like a pilot and he would say, “Here comes your sister.” And we would all stand there watching her run across the football field.

Dad didn’t drive anymore so we took the bus together. He bought us all passes and made leather pouches for each of us to hold them in. He sewed patches on them with our names stitched in different color thread, but they didn’t say our real names. They said, “T. Wigglebottom” and “L. Lazybottom” and “H. Bumsteer.” That was dad’s joke.

We would always get to the farmer’s market an hour before the stands started closing up. First, he would by a bag of small yellow apples and then mesh pouch full of bell peppers. Dad’s favorite dinner was stuffed bell peppers. He filled them with spicy rice and onions and raisins and tomatoes and we ate them several times a week. We liked them fine. After he bought the fruits he would take us to the popcorn stand. He knew the women who made the sweet popcorn in the big kettle. She mixed the popcorn with a big wooden spoon. Since we came pretty late all that was left were the half-popped kernels, but they were extra sweet because they are at the bottom with all the sugar. Dad would talk to her for a long time and she would scoop up the kernels for us in three bags. We would stand there and steal from each other’s bag until all the popcorn was gone and she had to close the stand and we would leave.

On the way home we would play the “I spy” game on the bus. Dad would always say “I Spy” for something that was really small like a candy wrapper underneath the seat or the bus driver’s earring and we could never guess what it was. That was Dad’s joke.

One afternoon we got home from the market and Dad had a letter in the mail. He looked at the envelope for a long time before he read it. That was the night he sat in his chair with his reading glasses and listened to his records all night.


Lisa became sick when I was 12. Dad made her lots of dolphins and built a large shelf for them. He put the shelf on the opposite side of the room across from the window. The sun shone on the different glass and made strange colors on the walls. She sat in bed and wrote in a large book. She never showed the book to me, but sometimes I would pass her room at night and she would read aloud from it and Dad would be sitting on the edge of her bed.


In the backyard there is a large shed where we kept lots of different things like camping gear and Dad’s tools. When I was 15 I took my first girlfriend Sara in the shed and I held her hand and kissed her. Dad came in and didn’t say anything, but later that night he told me that he met my mother when he was in high school and he said she looked like Sara. I told him that I wanted to marry her and he smiled then said, “You need a job before you get married.” I reminded him of my lawn-mowing job. Then he said, “Well then now all you need is a house,” to which I reminded him of the shed.

Around this time Tommy and I started a band that we called, “The Torches.” The name was inspired by Dad’s glass-making tools. We played songs by the rock legends, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, those types of songs. I played the guitar and Tommy had a small drum set. We were not very good, but it was still fun and every night when I got done with the lawns and Tommy got home from his community service work we played before dinner while Dad made the bell peppers. Since Lisa left for college he had added steaks to the menu.

Our first gig was at a bowling alley. Sara’s family owned the place. We played for “League Night” in the game room. Some girls showed up, Sara’s friends. They laughed at us. We wore matching suits with top hats. Along with all the covers we played some of my own tunes. I had been hacking them out in my room for a couple months. I wrote the lyrics on the back of a paper towel during lunch breaks in the art room. I wrote about Sara and the hardships of love. I was like a real musician. Dad came to the gig, but he was bowling. He’d heard all the songs thousands of times anyways.

After the set Tommy snuck out the back to smoke. A girl from his grade followed him out there. Tommy came back inside the alley alone. That night the girl’s boyfriend came over to the house. Tommy answered the door and the guy grabbed him by the throat and dragged him out to the yard. Tommy was pinned to the ground and the guy was on top of him. Then he got off and pointed his finger at him and said, “You better watch out, you fucking fag.” The boyfriend turned around to leave and Tommy ran up behind him and stabbed him in the armpit with his little pocketknife. And the guy touched his hand and it was red with blood. Later Tommy said, “I fucked her.” Then he stole the old car that Dad never drove and I didn’t see him for 6 months. Dad stopped looking for him after 2 weeks.


I started my freshman year at the state university 100 miles from Johnson. I majored in art history and I met my best friend Roger in a poetry class. He told me that poetry is useless unless there was music to go along and I immediately liked him. He played the piano and likened himself to his idol Scott Joplin. We spent our subsequent four years smoking marijuana in his apartment and writing music. He had this big poster with a photograph of a maniacal grinning Salvador Dali, which I stared at endlessly. College was just as great as I’d imagined.

One weekend Sara drove up from my hometown. She was still in high school. I brought her over to Roger’s she sat on the couch and smoked with us. We played our music for her then she grew sleepy and dozed off on my shoulder. Roger told me that I was lucky. Later, when Sara woke up we went for a walk and we talked about breaking up. She said she doesn’t like long-distance relationships because she gets worried about me. I told her that it was ok. Then after that I didn’t see Sara again until seven years later when we bumped into each other at the Union Bank during Christmas time. She had gotten married. She held her baby on her side like a bag of groceries.


Roger and I went to Europe the summer after our sophomore year. He had this dream of meeting an Italian guy and riding on the back of his scooter through the small villages and stopping to eat grapes on the beach. I had the same dream; except I wanted to meet an Italian girl and I didn’t necessarily want to ride a scooter.

We were in a tourist shop in Venice looking at post cards and statuettes when two American students approached us with pamphlets. They said they were socialists. They were beautiful looking. The girl was blonde and fair skinned and wore her hair really short like a tomboy. The boy was dark and had long black hair to his chin and wore dark black sunglasses. We told them we were socialists too, “Well not actually but we like the concept,” I said. Roger and I weren’t very political. They asked us to get gelato with them. That is when they told us about the Socialist Party and how the capitalism is wrecking Western Europe. I told them that we were enjoying Western Europe so far. Then they paid for our gelatos and the girl gave me her address back in the States. She was from Sarasota, Florida.

When I was in Paris I called Dad. He was working on a large sculpture; a whale, and he gave me the name of a café he frequented when he and my mother lived there for half a year. It was called Café Poisson. When Roger and I walked in the light overcame us. Blue glass fish of differing variety and size decorated the shelves on the walls. We sat down next to a man writing a novel who had been there for five months already. His novel was about a woman drug trafficker living in Morocco. It was called, “Femme de la Cote.” I asked the writer who had sculpted the fish and he said that they have been around for 50 years. I wrote a letter to Lisa. It began: “Dear Lisa, Dad wasn’t kidding. I am sitting in his old café and it is full of glass fish…” Later in the week Roger met a man in nightclub and he fell in love. I wandered the Paris streets alone and wrote more songs on the back of napkins and more postcards to Lisa and Dad. It was the best part of the whole trip.


When I got back from Europe I felt pretty sophisticated.

My name is Hannah Pierce-Carlson