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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-12-17 15:03:57
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  I thought the Joshua tree was ugly. It looked scraggly and freakish, permanently stuck in its twisted, tortured position, and it made me think of how some adults tell you not to make weird faces because your features could freeze. Mom, however, thought it was one of the most beautiful trees she had ever seen. She told us she had to paint it. While she was setting out her easel, Dad drove up the road to see what was ahead. He found a scattering of parched little houses, trailers settling into the sand, and shacks with rusty tin roofs. It was called Midland. One of the little houses had a for-rent sign. "What the hell," Dad said, "this place is as good as any other."* * *The house we rented had been built by a mining company. It was white, with two rooms and a swaybacked roof. There were no trees, and the desert sand ran right up to the back door. At night you could hear coyotes howling.

  "Don't think about things like that," Lori told me. "It'll make you crazy."And so I put it out of my mind.

  The judge sent Maureen to an upstate hospital. She was released after a year and immediately bought a one-way bus ticket to California. I told Brian that we had to stop her. She didn't know a single person in California. How would she survive? But Brian thought it was the smartest thing she could do for herself. He said she needed to get as far away from Mom and Dad, and probably the rest of us, as possible.

  "We have to do something about the porch situation," I told Mom. "It's getting downright dangerous to go to the bathroom at night." Besides, the toilet under the house was now totally unusable. It had overflowed, and you were better off digging yourself a hole in the hillside somewhere.

  To distract us kids, Mom got us singing songs like. "Don't Fence Me In" and. "This Land Is Your Land," and Dad led us in rousing renditions of. "Old Man River" and his favorite. "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." After a while, I forgot about Quixote and Tinkerbell and the friends I'd left behind in the trailer park. Dad started telling us about all the exciting things we were going to do and how we were going to get rich once we reached the new place where we were going to live.

  "Lori's doing the right thing," she said to me. "Sometimes you need a little crisis to get your adrenaline flowing and help you realize your potential."Mom and Tinkle moved into the van with Dad. They lived there for a few months, but one day they left it in a no-parking zone and it was towed. Because the van was unregistered, they couldn't get it back. That night, they slept on a park bench. They were homeless.

  Mom was sitting on the sofa bed, eating the piece she'd cut. "Mom, that ham's full of maggots," I said.

  We had fifteen minutes to gather whatever we needed and pile into the car.


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