By a couple of months or so after I got home, my parents got the idea I wouldn’t be going any place soon. I had no prospects and had apparently gone insane. In the south, there’s a tradition of taking care of insane relatives. Joe, who came back from the war addled in the head because he had seen all his colleagues fried like so much chicken when their tank blew up, would be stuck back in a room someplace and pretty much left alone, until he died or blew his brains out with a shotgun.
My brothers had the rooms in the house, one just a kid, and the other in high school. So the old man decided to build me a room outside the house under the deck that extended from just outside the screen door to the dining room slash tv room. The deck was kept aloft by block on four sides. Down below there was a door that went under the deck. You entered and saw dirt and all kinds of crap thrown under there. The old man had in any case been thinking of putting in a bit of basement. So we dug out the leche and poured a footing on two sides and built up walls out of block. Then because the roof was a bit low, we dug out dirt from the bottom and poured a concrete floor that we painted with a green water retardant paint.
That was my room from the winter of 69 to the fall of 76. Seven fucking years in the hole, as I like to say. Seven fucking years like a fat slab of meat ripped straight out of the middle of my life as I lived in a hole with a two windows and a green floor. The old man never threw anything away. So I got an old dinner table, stuck my Smith Corona on it and it became my desk. I got a box springs and mattress from the shed out back and that became my bed. I managed to drill some holes in the block and set up a couple of levels of boards for books shelves. For closet space I used the room itself and a steamer truck I got for nearly nothing that had shelves and hangers in it for clothes.
I had privacy too. My door opened out on to the great outdoors, meaning the strip of dirt and fucking ice plant between the parent’s house and the house next door. If I needed to take a leak I could go down back or through a door in the room to an area under the house with nothing but dirt and junk lying all about and piss in there.
Seven years of piss produced quite a fucking stink.
Lights out, I could hear the mice running around in the rafters and the cockroaches would spread like a hoard down the walls. These were big, black suckers, long as your thumb and about as thick. Sometimes, when I was sleeping they got in my hair. Usually that would wake me up and I got so I could grab them and throw them hard so that in the morning there would be bits of dead cockroach hanging there on the wall.