Thursday, February 1, 2018

Upcoming Classes: Online; Whitehead Island; Belfast, Maine

Here is a preview of my upcoming classes this spring and summer.

 On-line. Writing Place: 
Landscape, People & the Natural World.

This popular class is now available for the second year on-line from Shanti Arts. 

March 5 - April 8




Are you drawn to a certain place and long to write about it? Do you want to embed a sense of place into your creative writing?

Writing about place includes many of the elements that make a specific place what it is. It can include layers of history, natural history, human culture, the spirit world, and the built environment to bring us to this present moment. We can be advocates, critics, or lovers of a place. For many of us, specific places are connected to our spirituality and deeper self. Also, a sense of place can help us ground our writing on any topic. 

By developing our craft, we can better understand and present our world and experiences. Open to writers or aspiring writers of any level. Participants will look at readings on craft and the work of other writers for inspiration, and then practice the writer’s toolkit of image, voice, language, structure, and more. Some exercises will provide the opportunity to write in plein air or at a specific site. We will use e-mail to communicate with each other and to submit writing.  https://www.shantiarts.co/workshops/index.html#buckmaster_place

Flash Your Writing – A Workshop

Third Floor Conference Room; Belfast Free Library

Saturdays, March 10 & 17; 10 - 12:30


What can you do with 1,000 words? How about 750? Or 500? Try 250. A brief essay, lyrical prose, or piece of fiction can punch above its weight class in terms of the effect that can be packed into relatively few words. Another way to look at it is as the drop of water on a still pool that sends ripples widening from the center.

In this workshop, we will explore and experiment with the possibilities. From Virginia Woolf’s modernist “The Moth” (1,176 words) to Brenda Miller’s powerful “Swerve” (290 words) to postmodern experiments, we will use the work of others to inspire and teach us. We’ll distill the story and meaning of our writing by using compression and discernment. We’ll also consider examples of multiple flash pieces bundled to form a longer collage piece of prose.


No writing experience is necessary; in fact, this may be a good way to get you started. Experienced writers will be able to add to their repertoire and tune up their writing. You will write new work that you can perfect later. Class size limited so register by March 3. To register, contact Linda at lsbuck1@gmail.com.


 
Poetry on a Maine Island: 
 A Writing Workshop
July 26-29 (three nights) 
Registration by May 15
There is nothing like an island for writing. Come to Whitehead Island located on Muscle Ridge Channel at the entrance to Penobscot Bay to experience a classic Maine island and Lightkeepers house with time to explore, write, and relax. Maine islands have a long tradition of inspiring poets of all kinds and Whitehead is a special place for inspiration. 
Travel by private boat from Spruce Head, eight miles south of Rockland. Stay in the renovated Lightkeepers house and enjoy wonderful meals. Explore the deep spruce woods and the granite outcroppings down to the sea. 
·      Open to any poets and aspiring poets of any level who will write new poetry, experiment with form and style, and revise existing work if they have it. Small class size of 7 to 14 participants.

·      We will discuss readings on craft and the work of other poets for inspiration. We will hear about the history of the island and the mainland towns.
·      We will write in plein air among the nooks and crannies of the island and in cozy spots in the Lightkeepers House.
·      Other activities include a guided walk of the island led by Whitehead Island staff, boat ride of local waters, and lobster bake.
Linda’s classes maintain a safe, supportive environment that recognizes there is no such thing as a mistake in writing, just the next draft. For more info and to register, contact http://www.whiteheadlightstation.org/2018-writing-workshop-draft.html



Saturday, January 13, 2018

Audio Essay: "My Husband's Being Deployed on Tuesday" plus more

 "My Husband's Being Deployed on Tuesday"

I've taught in the University of Maine System for 25 years, both live classes and on-line ones. This audio flash essay was broadcast on the show "Esoterica" by community radio station WERU.   It was inspired by an e-mail sent to me by one of my students. You will need to click the tiny MP3 button under the title.

https://archives.weru.org/esoterica/2018/01/esoterica-112117-2-2-2-2-2/


"Security Clearance" 

In other news, I forgot all about this: My essay, "Security Clearance," is coming out in an anthology about Florida to be published by the University of Florida Press this March! It was so long ago that I was first approached by the editor Jim Ross about including my piece in "In Season: Stories of Discovery, Loss, Home and Places in Between." You can pre-order it through Amazon, but, of course, I prefer you ask your local independent bookstore to get it for you.  https://www.amazon.com/Season-Stories-Discovery-Places-Between/dp/0813056950/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515881710&sr=1-1&keywords=jim+ross+in+season

If you'd like to read the entire essay first published in Burrow Press you can see it here: http://burrowpress.com/security-clearance-linda-buckmaster/. And here's the opening line:

“Wait here. I have to put my knives in the car to get through Security,” my brother Ric says.


"Flowering"
And last, but certainly not least, my little poem "Flowering" was read this week on Maine Public Radio by Maine Poet Laureate Stuart Kestenbaum https://mainearts.maine.gov/Pages/Programs/Maine-Poet-Laureate. You can hear it at mainepublic.org under "Poems From Here." This poem has had a life of its own and has been around the block a few times. Now, if it would only send home money  . . .





Monday, January 1, 2018

A Poem for the New Year


Return

Where the Passy meets the Bay, we come together,
gathering like ducks at Solstice: 
Barrow’s Goldeneyes down from Hudson’s Bay,
here once again in sight of the old bridge,
bobbing  and drifting, each small bird complete
but always swimming near to one another.
We, too, drift in this bright stream,
floating a life, returning to light.

Note: The Passy is the local nickname for the Passagassawekeag River that empties into 
Penobscot Bay at Belfast, Maine. It's 4:22 pm, and I think it is a bit lighter this time of day than it was two weeks ago.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Audio Essay: "Wise Women"





 This essay is from a trip last year to Newfoundland.  Although the events of the essay take place on the Northern Peninsula near the Viking settlement of L'Anse aux Meadows, the photo above is on the East Coast trail of the Avalon Peninsula.

The essay was originally broadcast on radio show "Esoterica" on station WERU on December 5, 2017. Click on the tiny gray MP3 box under the title. https://archives.weru.org/esoterica/2017/12/esoterica-112117-2/

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Audio Essay: "Bus to Dolores Hildalgo"




This little piece is from a 9-week trip to central and southern Mexico about a decade ago. The audio version was first broadcast on the program "Esoterica" on our community radio station WERU weru.org

 http://archives.weru.org/esoterica/2017/11/esoterica-11717/ 
Click on the tiny gray MP3 box under the title.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

"Fallout" Nominated for Pushcart Award


 I just got notice that my essay, "Fallout," has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Saw Palm, the literary magazine that originally published it. It is also included in my hybrid memoir, Space Heart. A Memoir in Stages, forthcoming from Burrow Press in Fall 2018 https://burrowpress.com/about/. We'll see if the essay makes the final cut into the annual Pushcart anthology. 







"The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America. 

"Since 1976, hundreds of presses and thousands of writers of short stories, poetry and essays have been represented in our annual collections. Each year most of the writers and many of the presses are new to the series. Every volume contains an index of past selections, plus lists of outstanding presses with addresses.

"The Pushcart Prize has been a labor of love and independent spirits since its founding. It is one of the last surviving literary co-ops from the 60's and 70's. Our legacy is assured by donations to our Fellowships endowment"

http://www.pushcartprize.com/






Fallout
By Linda Buckmaster, 2017
This field trip down Memory Lane my brother Ric and I are taking is the most time we have spent together in years, decades even. At the wheel, he maintains a non-stop patter, punctuated by indignation, on any topic. We have just crossed the Indian River over the Melbourne Causeway to the beach side of Florida’s A1A, our old stomping grounds. Melbourne Beach, Canova Beach, Indialantic, Indian Harbor Beach, and our home town of Satellite Beach.  He used to be so quiet; I’ve always been the talkative one.
Now he talks continually about anything, like the news story about the ax murderer captured on videos at the hardware story buying multiple bottles of bleach and big plastic bags similar to the ones they found the bodies in. This is not the kind of thing I’m that interested in, but I say, “Uh-huh.” Maybe Ric is just nervous, I think, spending time driving around his big sister, the one whose approval he used to always want.
We’ve decided to go see our old house, the one where we grew up on Albatross Drive when our father was a rocket engineer at Cape Canaveral. We moved out in 1968 after our parents divorced and my mother married George, taking us into his larger, more grand ranch house in Indialantic. The selling point for us teenagers was supposed to be that it sat even closer to the beach than our old house, though the surf wasn’t as good down there. The surfers weren’t as cool in that town, either, since they all went to Melbourne High rather than one of the beach schools like Satellite or Cocoa Beach. They were more like surfer wannabes, my brother and I sniffed, and he made a deal to ride his motorcycle every morning to Satellite for his last years of school.
I  lived in George’s house a only few months before I left for college, and then a year after that, I left Florida for good, eventually settling in Maine. I accumulated college degrees, a family, a professional life. My brother made it as far as Jacksonville. He rarely showed up in the past when I came down for my annual visit. My mother kept me up to date on his jobs—building swimming pools, running heavy equipment, welding at the Navy Yard.  But I never could keep track of his rap sheet, which sentence he was serving for which crime for which drug. Maybe I just didn’t listen too closely when my mother called to tell me the latest.
Ric never did graduate from Satellite High. Instead, he has the unconnected fact-strewn detritus of the autodidact, information gleaned from the “History” and “Discovery” channels, Smithsonian magazine and his prodigious reading. Most of his talk now centers on the stupidity of other people, like the ax murderer, completely washing over his own as a two-strike felon and ex-heroin addict on methadone. Non-stop, I can see it’s going to be on this trip.
 *
 Seven-year-old Ricky was sleeping in the other twin bed in my room while his was being painted. We had slept in his room a couple of weeks earlier as mine was becoming a nice lavender. It took longer for paint to dry in those days, especially in the humidity, and the smell of new paint hung thickly, ominously, in the air.
Having my little brother sleep over gave me the excuse as an eleven-year-old to jump back and forth on the beds before settling down for the night. Much later, I was woken by the sound of my father’s drunken voice down the hall, not an unusual sound. I don’t remember what he was harassing my mother about this time, but he was loud enough to wake my brother, too.
“What’s going on?” Ricky whispered.
“Daddy came home.”
We both lay in our side-by-side twin beds, listening. Even though it was the middle of the night, my father wanted my mother to make him dinner. She had already made us all dinner earlier, of course, but Daddy didn’t want leftovers, he wanted meat loaf, freshly made meat loaf.
“Where’s my dinner, Thelma?” he kept saying in that wheedling nasty voice he used when he was drunk but was a gentle teasing tone when sober.  “Where’s my goddamn dinner?”
“He should have eaten his dinner at dinnertime,” my brother whispered knowingly.
I couldn’t hear my mother’s soft reply but I’m sure she was trying to be reasonable, placating.
“I don’t care if the goddamn hamburger is frozen,” he threatened in a rising voice. “I want meat loaf—now.”
Just go to sleep, Daddy, I thought. Just go to sleep.
My mother was saying something.
“Thaw it out!” he slurred loudly.
There was more quiet talking.
“I don’t care how goddamn long it takes. Thaw it out.” He threw down the words, his voice meaner than I’d ever heard before, even that time when my mother woke up the next day with a broken wrist.
 *
 “Remember when we used to go ‘moteling’?” I ask Ric as we drive by the new hi-rises.
“Yeah,” he snorts a laugh.
“Moteling” was a game my brother and I invented when I was old enough to drive and he was old enough, probably twelve, to know he was privileged to be cruising with his big sister so he had to be cool. It would have been a Friday or Saturday night. My mother must have been home if I got the car. Or maybe she was dating George by then, going out in his red Mustang.
Ricky and I would head to the strip in Cocoa Beach, where there was much more action at that time than our sleepy town. Moteling consisted of pulling into one of the famous motels along the way like the Vanguard (named after a rocket) or the Sea Missile or the Holiday Inn, where the astronauts stayed when they were in town. These were all open corridor motels—two stories high with hallways like balconies. We didn’t have any two-story buildings in Satellite Beach yet. And of course, each motel had a swimming pool, which always looked more intriguing at night with the underwater lights making them so blue. I would pull into a parking spot pretending we had a room there, and we would get out and just basically run around like the kids we were. Then we jumped back into the car and drove away as if we had done something to be guilty about.
“I loved the ice machines,” I say, remembering how we would open the big doors and get a fistful of ice to suck or throw at each other.
“Yeah, and those Coke machines where you could get a can for a quarter,” Ric says, his voice rising with excitement. The new aluminum cans with pop-tops were more exciting than the old-fashion bottles.
“And the stairs we ran up and down.”
“Remember the guy who came out in his hole-y underwear and yelled at us?”
We both laugh, the smiles lingering. Moteling was a comfort sport for Ric and me. Maybe it was because most of the time we had spent in motels, the family had been together and my father sober enough to drive and play with us. That extended journey to Dad’s temporary job in California, for example, when we took in Yellowstone, the Black Hills, Glacier National Park, and the long drive down the Pacific coast and finally Disney Land. Of course, we also had lived in a motel for six months in Cocoa Beach while our cement-block house was being built in the new subdivision.
Everything on A1A looks vaguely the same now but different, less open space, in fact, no open space, in between the miles of buildings. Before the first rocket was launched from the Cape in 1958, the area was nothing but palmettos and mosquitoes and miles and miles of empty beach. Since then, a whole world has grown up here around the space industry and tourism, expanding wildly in every direction possible on this two-mile wide barrier island.
“Oh look. There’s the old Missileman Bar,” I say. The place, tucked back from the road in what we now call a mini-mall, used to advertise strippers and now has “all-nude pole dancers.” I guess they’ve progressed. Occasionally between the towers of condominiums, a glimpse of the ocean teases and a real sea breeze drifts through.  
I tune Ric out as I watch the scenery go by. He’s just too intense, especially at close range. And even though we share some memories, what else do we share, really? What does it mean to grow up in the same home as someone whose life is nothing like yours now? I noticed last night at dinner at George’s how Ric presses his point strongly in a conversation, making himself louder to overtalk the other, interrupting heedlessly. Just like our father used to do, I realized, sober or drunk, which made him so obnoxious.
 *
 “Why is Daddy yelling?” Ricky asked from his bed. “Why is he being mean to mommy?”
I didn’t say anything. I was too busy. Just make Daddy go to sleep, I prayed. Just make him go to sleep.
“Linda,” my brother insisted. “Why is Daddy yelling?”
“He just is.”
I heard the sounds of the freezer door opening and closing and the crinkly, sticky sound of a plastic package of meat being unwrapped. “And just thaw it out, Thelma,” he said. “I don’t want it cooking until the meat is thawed.”
I could hear my father making sounds with a glass and a bottle, and my mother going through the motions of cooking. Some time passed quietly. Ricky and I waited, unsure whether it was all over or not.
“You’re cooking it, Thelma,” Daddy suddenly said in that wheedling voice. “I can smell it cooking. I told you not to cook it.”
By this time, Ricky and I could smell it, the sweetish odor of hamburger baking, the first stages when it was still raw but warm, a kind of sickening smell, not good enough yet to make you hungry, not good like my mother’s meat loaf usually smelled.
 *
 Ric gets quiet when we pull up in front of Satellite High. I tell a few happy days stories, like how marching practice on the hot asphalt lot behind the shopping plaza with the White Castle hamburger joint as a “Scorpionette” dancer for the band were the best days of my life. How riding the bus home after a night game with my best friends—the other girls on the dance squad—and occasional instrumental blasts from geeky band members made me higher than anything I was to later smoke. How  . . .  Ric corrects me a couple of times:
“It wasn’t a White Castle. It was a Royal Castle. There were no White Castles in Florida. One time when I was at a White Castle up in Georgia  . . .”
We both agree the skinny hamburgers on the gummy rolls were awful as we head back out to A1A. The road is so cluttered by new businesses, neither of us is prepared when the turnoff to our old neighborhood appears suddenly on the left. I had wanted to check out what had been the little sandy pullout at the top of the street on the right, my access to the untouristed beach, the place where the world suddenly opened up when I crested the dune. The Domino’s Pizza now where the pullout used to me throws me.
As we try to remember who lived where, we exclaim how narrow the street is; it’s easy to see how our dad almost drove his car onto the neighbor’s front porch that night, we agree. We pass the cutoff path to our elementary school, now paved and with an anti-drug dealer warning sign.
It’s still a rather plain neighborhood of one-story cement block tract houses (four models available), the latest modern in their day in the squat style of Florida ranch houses. Those, like ours, that had a jalousie “Florida room” were almost the top of the line. The attached enclosed garages were a step up from the more proletariat carports of other developments.
The buildings must have been better built than might be assumed by the rate they were constructed; they seem to still be in good condition after fifty years. The neighborhood looks more working class than it did, though; the space engineers’ families like ours, moved on.  Pickup trucks are now parked on lawns. The rough, wide-leafed St. Augustine grass runs ragged along the street edge. Some of the garages have been turned into living spaces and even home-based businesses. There still are almost no trees, just a few scraggly cabbage and palmetto palms—straight barrel trunks with green ruffles on top.
We round the corner and stop two doors down in front of 180 Albatross Drive, our old house. It looks much smaller, of course. The little porch—the apron of the cement slab one step up from the grass—looks hardly big enough for me and my dolls, never mind the Moxley girls from down the street with theirs. The imaginary wagon train we traveled on as hearty pioneer women would never fit into the front yard.  
Ric and I comment on how large the three palm trees have grown, even the one the dog chewed down to a nub. In all this time, no one has added any other landscaping, at least to the front yard. The cement-block decorative wall off the end with the attached cement planter looks just like it does in all those photos of us in Easter outfits.
I don’t tell any happy days stories here. I can’t think of any, although surely there are some. Ric is quiet. I might have imagined that people in this kind of situation would tell stories like, “remember the time . . .” and then laugh knowingly together. Instead, Ric and I just sit in the car in the middle of the street, two middle-aged people looking to the left.
            “All set?” Ric asks.
“Yup,” I say. And we drive away.
 *
 Some kind of movement started up again in the kitchen like someone bumping into the dishwasher with a clink against its metal side. “You know what this is, Thelma? This is my belt,” Daddy said. “You know what happens when I take off my belt?”
I didn’t understand. This was actually a kind of family joke with us kids. “You know what happens when I take off my belt?” he would say in his teasing, fake-mad voice.
“Yeah! Your pants fall down!” we would shout and laugh, and he would look sheepish as if he just heard the joke for the first time. As far as I knew, my father had never hit anyone with a belt before.
But then I heard the sound of leather on a body, not a very hard slap but repeated smacking. At least, that’s what I thought it sounded like—like hitting, but that didn’t make sense to me. What’s happening? I don’t remember if my mother cried out, but then I realized Daddy was hitting Mommy over and over with his belt. I held my breath. How can he do that?
I could feel Ricky in his bed frozen like the hamster always was when the cat came into the room. I suddenly had to go to the bathroom really bad, an inside pressure pushing on my bottom. I worked on stopping the feeling since I wasn’t going to get up. We all knew the same thing: If we were very quiet, it would all go away and be over, all the yelling and bad words and threats. He would fall asleep eventually and it would be over.
Then it was quiet for a while and I let out a long full breath, the first one since I woke. A breeze rustled the crocus bush outside my window. The insects never faltered in their nightly hymn. But I heard the slapping sound start up again, not as loud or strong as before. Oh gee, I thought, and pulled my breath in.
 *
 “Let’s go see if the Brugenheisser’s fallout shelter is still there,” Ric says as we pull away from our old house .
“What fallout shelter? And who were the Brugenheissers?” I ask.
“You don’t remember Heidi Brugenheisser? She was a friend of yours. Her father was one of those German engineers who came over after the War and became a citizen so he could work at the Cape. I can’t remember her brother’s name. It was on Sixth Street, Northeast Sixth. It was one of those above-ground ones.”
“Are you sure about this?”
We have reached the end of Albatross Drive and are poking down one of the numbered streets, stark and plain yards with the grass drying under the brutal sun. Just twenty miles from Cape Canaveral, we would have been a prime target for missiles from Cuba. The “Red Threat” hovered over our days. Those missiles carrying atomic warheads capable of arching over the curve of the earth might smash into our homes without warning.  I have no recollection of a fallout shelter anywhere on the beachside, and as an anxious child always worrying about “what next,” I would have loved to have a fallout shelter in our back yard.  
“Yeah, yeah,” Ric continues. “Remember, the Girl Scouts had a Halloween Party in it. And Mom and I came to pick you up so I got to go inside.”
“My Girl Scout troop had a Halloween Party in a fallout shelter?”
“Yeah, they decorated it with fake spider webs and everything.”
I look over at Ric driving. How does he remember all these things and I don’t? He remembers details about my dance recitals, and who said what when, places we went when we were kids like to Weeki Wachee Springs and who was with us. I don’t remember half of it. I forgot he was the pitcher on his Little League team—even though they were in the State finals. I forgot he even played Little League for four years. And I certainly don’t remember a friend named Heidi Brugenheiser or any fallout shelters. Where was I when I was growing up? I wonder.
 *
 This time I heard my mother above the belt slapping. “How do you like it? Huh? How do you like it?” her voice warbled through tears over and over. My eyes darted to Ricky, whose glance grabbed mine at the same moment. I didn’t know what to think—was our mother using the belt on our father? Even as an eleven-year-old, I could hear her voice of frustration, of impotence, of repressed anger, like the wimpy kid on the playground who finally gets pushed too far and starts flailing wildly. My father was very quiet for a change.
“Daddy doesn’t even feel it,” Ricky said in a soft, proud little-boy voice, but a hesitant little-boy voice, a questioning one as he stared at the ceiling.
I was annoyed Ricky could be so dumb. “That’s because Daddy’s drunk,” I said,
“Daddy’s drunk?”
“Yeah, he drank too much booze.”
My brother didn’t say anything else after that. I didn’t either. We seemed to be listening to each other listen. Eventually my father must have passed out somewhere, and it got very quiet all over the house until I heard my mother moving in the kitchen. She clicked off the oven. The oven door creaked open and she slid the pan across the bumpy metal rack. She pulled open one of the drawers and I heard the rip of wax paper along the jagged box edge. It crinkled as she folded it over the meat. The refrigerator door opened and closed.  I heard her turning the lights off one by one and finally the last one in her bedroom. I heard her lie down. The crickets chirped peacefully outside, and I could breathe now. But it was too late.
 *
 Suddenly Ric says, “You know, I couldn’t stand the smell of wet paint for years.”
            “Yeah. I felt the same way about meatloaf cooking,” I say, looking out the window for a fallout shelter.
The things I do remember about Ricky, other than the pesky brother parts, the kinds of things my mother would still tell stories about, were his inventiveness. Once before he was even a teenager, he traded his home-made skateboard for a mostly broken-down air conditioner that he refurbished for his bedroom, its noisy grind echoing down the hall every night. And then he rigged it and his bedside lamp and maybe something else to a piece of plywood wired with a master switch so he could turn every thing off and on from his bunkbed.
But those stories were overshadowed a few years later when my mother came home from work to find him sniffing glue on the Florida room couch, the plastic bag next to him and his voice unnaturally high. Or when he and Ricky H
askins broke into the back window of the drug store in the shopping plaza up the street to steal some kind of drug. Family counseling was ordered, and my brother and mother went a couple of times. My father refused to go. “I know what they’re going to say,” he told my mother. “That it’s all my fault. It is my fault.”
I was the golden girl of the family, the smart one, the mouthy but well-behaved one, the star of my dance school with good grades. Ricky was the picked-on one, constantly verbally harassed, what I would call now the projection of my father’s self-loathing.
Over the years after I left home, I would hear dribs and drabs about Ric  from my mother, although she and George didn’t hear much either—maybe just a middle-of-the-night phone call for immediate money to pay an “electricity bill” that needed to be paid right then. Years later, those old photos of his little boy buzz-cut head always made me sad, too sad to look at. Even though he was always smiling, I would feel a little sick to my stomach, especially after I had my own son. I couldn’t bring up a picture of him as a happy child.
Ric came down from Jacksonville after my father died. No one really knew how to get hold of Ric in those days so he could be at the hospital at the end, but somehow a message eventually got passed along by his roommate or someone.  We gathered at my Dad’s house, really his wife Mimi’s house, although gathered is too formal a word. We were there hanging out in the living room—Grandmom Buck, Mimi, a couple of Mimi’s sisters, Ric, and myself with my five-year-old son, Eben. And my mother was there, inviting herself to accompany me although no one had a problem with it; after all, she had known Dad and Grandmom Buck her whole life. She had even cried when I had called to tell her he died—almost twenty years after the divorce. “He did it his way,” she said, quoting Frank Sinatra. “He always had to do it his way,” she sobbed.
Now Ric was playing the prodigal son, arm around my mother and grinning hugely for the camera, answering questions in this chatty way I had never seen before. I couldn’t help noticing he disappeared a bit often into the bathroom for periods of time, but everything was good. After all, my mother hadn’t seen Ric in several years and she was delighted to find him alive. He had even brought along a big three-ring binder filled with memorabilia of his life as a competitive surfer. Turns out he was the East Coast Champion in the Master’s class one year with sponsorships from major surfboard makers. Who knew?
 *
 It was too late to change anything that night of the meatloaf. I squirmed under the clinging sheets, kicked them off, and lay rigid on my back, not daring to look over at Ricky’s bed. Now that we had witnessed this together, it wasn’t just my shame anymore. Now it also belonged to a little seven-year-old boy who still sucked his thumb. I felt like I had taken away my brother’s innocence by telling him Daddy was drunk.
Big sister that I was, I told. I told him what was wrong with our father, his father. Daddy acted like that because there was something wrong with him, a reason that might explain some of the sounds Ricky must have heard before, confusing, scary sounds for a kid alone in his bunkbed. But explanation didn’t make it better, didn’t return us to before or even past it. I told—his daddy wasn’t the perfect, strong, smart daddy little boys were supposed to have. It was like I had torn a big rip in his innocence against the sharp edges of a wax paper box.
It was all right for me to know. I was older. I was the girl, the smart girl. I could just wait it out, “what next” hovering like the sickening smell of meatloaf thawing. I felt cold now and pulled the sheet back up.
I could never take it back, I realized, not like those cruel things you might say to your girlfriend and then later say you didn’t mean them. Big sister that Ricky had always believed, I told. Smarty-pants Linda. Big mouth Linda. It was all my fault my little brother now knew about our father. It was all my fault and I could never take it back.
 *
 The new Pineda Causeway runs behind the old neighborhood where we look for the fallout shelter on Northeast Sixth. The street itself turns out to have more vegetation on it than the rest of the neighborhood, at least in the backyards. Live oaks and banana trees tower over the one-story houses. Untrimmed crocus bushes scramble along the house sides. The perfect symmetry of a Norway pine shades the corner of one of the driveways.
“We should be able to see the air pipe sticking up over the house,” Ric says. “I saw a documentary once on old fallout shelters, and the airpipes on the above-ground ones were over a story high. The program was about these guys who look for old shelters across the country. One of them had been turned into a restaurant.  I think it was in Louisiana.”
Looking through to the back of the long brown house with a two-car garage and manicured front planter, we can see something a bit rusty sticking up above it all. “There it is!” we exclaim together like a couple of kids. Ric stops the car and we stare at the house. That just might be an air pipe, we agree—the air pipe for a fallout shelter.

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