A Walking Crime Scene
Sickboy, Feb 15, 2005
Location: San Francisco, California
1 of 1
There is a world I am a part of in memory only. These
are the stories my mother tells me of my father,
Richard W. Barrett. I know from photos and from what
my brother Joshua has told me that my father is a very
tall man, not as muscular as he was in his prime,
still tough though - like well-tanned and hard-worked deer
hide. Dumb as a brick when it comes to people, amazing
with machines, strategy and logic. An Irish immigrant
and a veteran of the United States Marine Corp., he
served his government during the Vietnam War, much
like his ancestors did during the Civil War. Following
the example those distant relatives set, he fought
well, he worked hard and was rewarded by coming home a
mentally and emotionally unavailable human being.
My mother met him at the caf� she worked at in
Seattle, he drew boats on napkins, sailboats were his
favorite, he can design ships to rival the Titanic. He
is an artist to this day though not paid or famous, he
can draw anything you thought you couldn�t imagine, he
likes to map blueprints for ships too large for the
ocean and design weapons that have yet to be
successfully built without violating strict international laws
and putting a quick stop to the population explosion.
I still don�t know to this day exactly why my mother
married him, why she loved him so much and continues
to, or why she spent so much of our conversations
trying to convince me that he was fundamentally good
and that he loved me. I know that my father doesn�t
love me, that he only loved my
mother, he loved her so much that he couldn�t bring
himself to leave when she asked him to, not without a
fight. He put up one hell of a struggle, I�ll say that
for him; it took about ten guys from the VA to hold him down
and put a pistol to his head BEFORE he finally signed
the divorce papers. Catholics are funny that way. Only
my father wasn�t in possession of a sense of humor,
not WHAT we human beings recognize as such, things he
jokes about would make Steven King go into therapy.
Very few people will understand my father in this
life, or the next; I am not one of those few, nor will
I ever be. This is not for lack of trying.
It�s simply impossible to know a man second-hand.
It�s like falling in love and then marrying SOMEONE
over the phone. I just can�t make it feel genuine or
substantial, so as a result, my last �conversation�
with Richard Barrett was DURING MY sophomore year just
after my fifteenth birthday. I was at a boarding school in
Sitka, near Ketchikan where I lived, in Southeast
Alaska � Mt. Edgecumbe High School, named after the
active volcano it sat beneath, I still can�t believe
those people called themselves educators.
My roommate came in to tell me I had a call. I walked
down to the payphone and picked up the receiver, my
father immediately started to tell me that he didn�t
want my forgiveness as he didn�t feel he deserved it
(which he didn�t for completely different reasons�)
and piled on a couple pathetic excuses about doing his
best. Then as it always did the conversation started
to veer over to his favorite topic, my mother. So you
know, thanks to my father, I know more about how
amazingly skillful my mother is in the sack than any
child should know. In fact I know more about my
mother�s sex life than someone who�s actually
currently fucking her.
Things like this don�t help the already strained and
painful exchanges I had been trying to maintain with
my father. Who by the way, had obviously lost his mind
a long time before I came around; I never apologized
for hanging up on him that day and never tried to
call him back. He needed to call my mother because
that�s who he wanted to talk to, not me � not the
mistake he made on his less than graceful exit from
I say that because prior to my father�s shotgun
divorce, he came to my mother�s residence very much
intent upon taking a �husband�s right� and my dad
isn�t a man you say no to if you�re smart; however, if
my mother had her sawed-off handy I wouldn�t be here
and wouldn�t be writing this. I cannot begin to
understand what that man was thinking, I�m sure not to
be alone in this, but the end result wasn�t what he
expected. The end result was me. His second son. The
fruit of his loins but far from the apple of his eye.
I was what remained after the fact. Evidence.
Criminals usually come back to the scene of the crime,
that�s how they get caught; at least that�s what I
read in detective novels and heard on NPR.
My father returned once, I caught him red-handed. I
was three years old and we were coming off the Marine
Highway�s Flagship Columbia in Seattle, we were going
to visit my Nanna. My brother, our mother and myself
took the ferry down from Ketchikan; it was my first
trip to the continental united states, though I never
understood why we weren�t part of it, we�re connected
to the continent.
I don�t remember this, my mother told me the story as
usual � my mother is a wonderful story-teller, better
than any I�ve met in my whole life � let that be said
at least once in all of my writing. She gave me my
love of words, my respect for literature and my
dysfunctional relationships with women. So she gets
her own paragraph, see ma, I do love you.
As my dad came down the gangway Joshua ran ahead and
hugged him straight-away, doing that stupid father-son
dance you tend to see in McDonald�s parking-lots
Friday after school, when kids are given over
like rent-a-cars for the weekend. I crawled down from
my mother�s arms and strolled up to this man. This man
who�d married my mother, who�d left without me, this
stranger, who my brother missed so badly. I asked him
if he was my dad, then after he responded that he was,
I told him that real fathers didn�t leave so he was a
fake dad and no good at all. I stick by that.
Richard W. Barrett � the fake dad - showed up again
after I had been at my grandma�s for about a week, he
drove a gray van and had a woman with him who was
blonde and smelled sweet, but she wasn�t. We went with
him for the day, which was the last time I saw him.
We had burgers and I tried to run away and got lost.
Bambi, which could be her name for all I remember of
her, was his girlfriend and asked me not to call her
mom because she�d feel old; I told her there wasn�t
much chance of that happening with any child around
That summer we slept on the hammock on the porch
because Washington is hot in the summer unlike Alaska.
That was the first time I realized my brother didn�t
always see people for the monsters they were. I heard
him crying next to me for three nights in a row �
after that, he was a machine with no emotion and stayed that
way for twenty years � he never made that mistake
again. Last I spoke with Joshua he expressed how good
it had been to see me and talk for a while like
adults, friends and brothers. He told me he loved me and
was appreciative of a chance to rebuild our relationship.
I�ve been waiting all my life for two things: My
brother to love me and my father to take
responsibility for his children. One out of two really
isn�t that great, but when that one is my brother,
it�s more than I could have asked for.
I am a bastard child, a child of rape � a reminder of
what happens when a twisted mind and heart distort
love and devotion into something sick and harmful. I
am not ashamed of this, even when people are ashamed
of me. There are things that people in the past have
died to keep hidden: incest, illegitimacy, rape,
interracial marriage and molestation. Well, hiding
someone isn�t as easy as hiding an act, especially
when it�s someone like me. Someone who believes
they�re meant to affect people and someone determined
to be of service to their world; someone with a voice
and an obligation to speak � someone who feels it�s
worth their pain to end another�s needless suffering.
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