An 11-year-old boy and his bike

Author Josh Deutchman contributes a piece of short fiction to West magazine in the Los Angeles Times that evokes the freedom to roam of boyhood in the Valley. There’s a message in there too about appreciating what you have. Here’s a snippet from I Remember Rosemary Fishman:

Nineteen eighty-one. If you were an 11-year-old boy, and you lived in the San Fernando Valley, and you owned a dirt bike, there was nowhere you could not go. You could ride to In-N-Out and buy a Double-Double with cheese, stop at Moby Disc for a new cassette, head north on Sepulveda to Castle Golf and challenge the chain-smoking, mustachioed high school dropouts to a game of Galaga or Centipede. You might have heard of other places—Kapalua Bay, Acapulco, Vancouver, Napa—but what did you care? You rode a Mongoose, whose prismatic decals glittered in the sunlight. And with your tube socks pulled halfway up your torso you were a valiant knight in pursuit of everything you did not know, and as yet mostly unconcerned with and uninterested in the fair maidens who roamed the Galleria and Topanga Plaza in satin shorts, the girls whose dresser drawers contained Lacoste shirts of every hue (jade, rutabaga, sunset, cocoa), folded diligently by the domestics who traveled with Windex spray guns and transistor radios tuned to frequencies playing mournful canciónes. There were tubas and incomprehensible vibratos. Desert melancholy.Most of all, there was dry and searing heat, until you cannonballed into the swimming pool, coming up only for the lemonade that you held with fingers as swollen as prunes. “Marco!” you shouted. “Polo!” came the gleeful reply.

Later, as you got older, following your college seminars in Lacan and Derrida, you would mock your beginnings—not realizing how foolish you were for failing to romanticize everything you subsequently reduced to a provincial backwater. You returned from Berkeley wielding words like “metatextual” and “semiotics” as if they were switchblades, and felled capitalist after capitalist at the Thanksgiving table. There they were, faces planted in the stuffing, dripping with cranberry sauce. And you were triumphant, having slayed the Romanovs. Without apology, you pocketed the brooches and bracelets, the diamond rings. It was only moments before the day laborers would forget their sorrows and inhabit the homes they had helped to build, one Spanish tile at a time.

Then I was 36 again. My lunch with the client had ended. I drove east, the bay, blue and languorous, in my rearview mirror. I thought that now, what struck me more than the ghoulish cop savaging the lizard was Rosemary Fishman, how she pulled into Du-par’s parking lot in her cream Oldsmobile station wagon and, upon witnessing my bandages and bloodied knees, said, “Jared, sweetie, my God you’re a mess!” On the way back to Woodland Hills, Neil Diamond promised that she was the sun and the words (he was the moon and the tune). Rosemary sang along until she looked over at the bewildered child riding shotgun.

“Oh, sweetie, it’s OK. You can cry,” she said. “You can cry all you want. I won’t tell.”

Deutchman’s writing has appeared in the literary quarterly Prairie Schooner.

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