Fred was a little yappy dog. I think he might have been a Scottish Terrier, but am not certain. He was small, easily held by someone even five years old, so we're not talking about a big threatening Dane or any such thing. No, Fred was tiny, and loved attention.
The incident in question occurred on the front lawn of the house Fred lived at. I was visiting him, and he was getting a bit rambunctious, but I was playing with him at the time. He was standing over my feet, and I lifted my foot until it was against his belly, and lightly hoisted him in the air up and back. It was a lesser equivalent of lightly tossing a baby in the air, with no harm expected to come to the baby. Well, no harm came to Fred either, but all of a sudden I was hauled away to my house by Fred's owner while she screamed bloody blue murder about how I kicked her dog. This was total nonsense, not the least of which the insinuation suggests that I would ever be deliberately cruel to anyone's pet, and anybody who actually knows me even a little bit would know just how truthful that idea is. No, I was playfully lifting the dog and moving him backwards a bit. In fact, if memory serves me correctly, I had been doing this with a wagging-tailed Fred a few times before 'spotted' by his owner. Either way, my mother did exactly what you would expect her to do - believe the dog's owner without ever, for my entire life, hearing my side of the story. Not only would she not even ask me what happened, she refused to ever let me bring the subject up, and she died without ever caring enough to hear her child's explanation. This was the family I grew up in.
There were times that I thought were great, at the time. I once watched an episode of Sesame Street which had this kid climbing the stairs at his house as though they were a mountain he was scaling, and so I asked my mother if she would give me cookies for my ensuing long climb up Mount Denham, and she obliged and watched me make my climb as she cooked dinner that evening. Of course, when I got older she made a point of saying, and I'm quoting here, that she "often capitulated to my requests simply to keep me quiet." I thought when the actual fun happened that it was a kind of bonding thing going on, but apparently it wasn't. Even before going to school, which became a debacle all on it's own, I was aware that my mother had a special kind of loathing for me, even though she tried to hide it under disguises of caring and affection. Looking back on it now, I can see the telltale signs that most of it was forced. Thankfully, as unaware as I was, I got her back a few times for things, but never purposefully. However, the incident in particular that I am referencing didn't happen until I was in grade school, so that will come up in later posts.
We had a dog of our own at home, a Labrador Retriever named Duke. I loved him a lot, but an incident with him changed my childhood quite a bit. I was trying to get him to lick my hand one day in the living room, and I kept offering the back of my hand for him to lick. At some point, something happened, and Duke bit my hand. Blood everywhere. Stitches, scars, terror. I never looked at Duke the same way again, but we kept him and my mother blamed me for constantly pestering him and basically making him bite me. For the rest of the time he was alive, he worried me. At least once he went after my mother (good dog!), but talk of him being removed from the home never came up. When we'd go out on a road trip, Duke used to lie on the back seat with me (we were in a station wagon at the time), stretched out and with his head tucked behind my back. I guess it was some sort of endearment, and if the biting had never happened I probably would have loved him for it, but it made me quite uncomfortable when it was happening. I've never really missed Duke until now, writing this. I wish things had been different. He was diagnosed by a vet as being schizophrenic, which explained the biting, and my mother blamed her cousin Gloria for that, possibly rightly, saying it was caused by a staring contest she had with Duke and which threatened his dominance. I never found out the truth of that, but to this day don't attempt to stare down any of my or other people's pets. I am an animal lover, in spite of what Fred's owner thought.
I remember my first big word. My father was home, sitting in his chair in the living room, and I was trying to describe a house I had seen, either on television or on a road trip. I struggled with words to describe it, until I finally blurted out 'dilapidated.' My father understood what I meant, and that confused me. I was under the age of five, for crying out loud, and as far as I knew I had just made up a word. When I became aware that this was in fact an actual word, I wondered exactly how the hell I had come to be saying it. To my knowledge, to this day, I hadn't consciously heard the word before, and still wonder where I picked it up from. I don't kid myself that I somehow was a genius and discovered this word without having heard it first, I just have no memory of having heard of it before I said it. Just a weird situation I experienced when little.
Not as weird as the one I'm ending this entry with, however. The house at Denham was a split-level, with each floor really only taking up half the footprint of the house. Including the basement, this made for three levels, with the bedrooms directly above the basement towards the back of the house, and the main floor, with kitchen, living and dining rooms, at the front. There were only five steps separating the main floor from the bedroom floor, but the basement was a full flight down. Basically, it was a two story house missing half of one story to crawlspace area. Excuse the crudity of the following Paint drawing of the two levels of the house, but it'll make things easier for upcoming posts if I have a map now:
|Denham Floor Plan, crude outline|
As for the weirdness, one morning I was sitting at the dining room table doing a jigsaw puzzle. I had my back to the left wall, so I was facing directly into the living room area. Suddenly, without any noise or lead up, the lamp in the living room came on. Just turned itself on, with nobody else in the house even awake. Scared the crap out of me, and it took a lot of guts to get myself into my room, the one directly at the top of the stairs nearest the bathroom. When my father woke up, about an hour or two later, he told me that it must have been on all night, and for some reason the light just popped back on this morning. At the time, and still to this day, I call 'bullshit' on that suggestion, and as a result I consider this my first encounter with a ghostly presence.