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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-12-17 15:01:53
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  Brian and Lori and Maureen and I got into more fights than most kids. Dinitia Hewitt and her friends were only the first in a whole line of little gangs who did battle with one or more of us. Other kids wanted to fight us because we had red hair, because Dad was a drunk, because we wore rags and didn't take as many baths as we should have, because we lived in a falling-down house that was partly painted yellow and had a pit filled with garbage, because they'd go by our dark house at night and see that we couldn't even afford electricity.

  "I'll feel better knowing you have this." He pressed the knife into my hand.

  "Cats don't like to travel," Mom explained.

  "Don't let it," Dad said.

  There were street brawls, bar stabbings, parking-lot beatings, wife slappings, and toddler whalings. Sometimes it was simply a matter of someone throwing a stray punch, and it would all be over before you knew it had started. Other times it would be more like a twelve-round prizefight, with spectators cheering on the bloody, sweating opponents. Then there were the grudges and feuds that went on for years, a couple of brothers beating up some guy because back in the fifties his father had beaten up their father, a woman shooting her best friend for sleeping with her husband and the best friend's brother then stabbing the husband. You'd walk down McDowell Street, and half the people you passed seemed to be nursing an injury sustained in local combat. There were shiners, split lips, swollen cheekbones, bruised arms, scraped knuckles, and bitten earlobes. We had lived in some pretty scrappy places back in the desert, but Mom said Welch was the fightingest town she'd ever seen.

  I had always wanted a watch. Unlike diamonds, watches were practical. They were for people on the run, people with appointments to keep and schedules to meet. That was the kind of person I wanted to be. Dozens of watches ticked away in the counter behind the cash register. There was one in particular that made me ache. It had four different-colored bands梑lack, brown, blue, and white梥o you could change your watchband to match your outfit. It had a price tag of .95, ten dollars short of a week's salary. But if I wanted, it could be mine in an instant, and for free. The more I thought about that watch, the more it called to me.

  "Honey, you ain't getting him nowhere like that," a man behind me said. "Here, let me give you a lift home.""I'd appreciate that, sir," I said. "If it's not out of your way."Some of the other regulars helped the man and me load Dad into the bay of the man's pickup. We propped Dad up against a tool chest. It was late afternoon in early spring, the light was beginning to fade, and people on McDowell Street were locking up their shops and heading home. Dad started singing one of his favorite songs.

  WE WERE ALWAYS DOING the skedaddle, usually in the middle of the night. I sometimes heard Mom and Dad discussing the people who were after us. Dad called them henchmen, bloodsuckers, and the gestapo. Sometimes he would make mysterious references to executives from Standard Oil who were trying to steal the Texas land that Mom's family owned, and FBI agents who were after Dad for some dark episode that he never told us about because he didn't want to put us in danger, too.


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