Excerpts from Mine Alone
WENDY: Well.
DON: Well then.
ACKERMAN: I guess.
DON: Anybody watchin that?
WENDY: Oh maybe.
ACKERMAN: Watch what?
WENDY: Oh I was just. . .
When I was a kid, I thought when people left, when I didn’t see them, they just went someplace and stood in corners.
They didn’t live. They just shut off. I was the one was alive.
I guess we proceed through life on that assumption.
ACKERMAN: I guess.
DON: I wish we talk some business, Dad.
ACKERMAN: How’s your business then?
DON: Doing fine. Gettin off the ground.
ACKERMAN: Sellin boats to farmers.
DON: I don’t sell boats to farmers.
ACKERMAN: Who else in Cedar Spring?
DON: Small businessmen.
ACKERMAN: Damn small.
DON: We draw from Des Moines—
ACKERMAN: Least your wife’s got a job. Always a need for schoolteachers. People always gonna be dumb.
WENDY: It’s so strange, the stuff people believe.
There was a station in Omaha did this thing, I think it was April Fools.
They ran this announcement that the phone company was cleaning out its lines, the telephone lines were full of soot, so they had to cleanem out, they asked everyone to put plastic bags on their phones, to catch the soot.
And people did. Even a college, a shopping mall, they thought the phones would blow soot.
But it was a joke.
DON: Wendy, just . . . shut up.
WENDY: I always act so stupid.
We don’t visit much, because for a while we weren’t close by, we’d come on holidays, and then I sit there and say something dumb.
It’s hard to marry into a farm family. He cooks for her, brings her an aspirin, but Don says all his life he’s just beat her down. Some people are almost not human.
I don’t understand people like that. We always had books in the house, and Dad was always cheerful, even despite tragic things, like my brother died. . .
The terrible dreams are. . .
There’s like a shadow there, outside your field of vision, you can’t make it focus. Or the water you’re swimming. . .
My seventh graders, they watch these movies, it’s all about something’s there, it’s coming, but nobody sees, but there’s fire inside the walls, and they flick a switch. . .
They really scare me.
My father was always cheerful. He was a dentist. He never talked about teeth.
ACKERMAN: Whatta you talkin that stuff?
ESTHER: Brushin my hair.
ACKERMAN: They thought you was nuts.
ESTHER: Come snoopin here.
ACKERMAN: Missiles, mass murders, coffee on the rug—
ESTHER: These hands.
ACKERMAN: They think you’re nuts.
ESTHER: Feel arthritis five minutes—
ACKERMAN: Arthritis hell.
ESTHER: Eat the cake.
ACKERMAN: Good cake. Try it.
ESTHER: What for?
ACKERMAN: To eat it.
ESTHER: What’s the weather?
ACKERMAN: More wet. They dunno. You can’t trust’em.
They got this radar and satellites, maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that, all mixed up.
ESTHER: Like it spits.
ESTHER: He maybe told her—
ESTHER: Bout the chicken house.
ACKERMAN: What chicken house?
ESTHER: He died in.
ACKERMAN: Dad? You talking bout Dad?
ESTHER: Where he died.
ACKERMAN: You’re nuts.
ESTHER: Old rooster.
ACKERMAN: It wasn’t a chicken house.
ESTHER: Fix it up—
ACKERMAN: It was a one-room house. Whole house for himself. We scrubbed it out, we painted it, we took his meals out to him. It wasn’t a chicken house.
ESTHER: He thought it was.
ACKERMAN: He wouldn’t live in the farm house.
ESTHER: We wouldn’t let him.
ACKERMAN: We said you want to live here, you can’t mess all over, you gotta follow the rules. It was his choice. He coulda followed the rules. It wasn’t a chicken house.
ESTHER: It is if you think it is, and you’re livin there.
DON: Stewardship.
Is a concept in the church, which if you’re on the stewardship committee, means takin care of the property, or the loot.
But which is a helluva lot more than that, because by stewardship, what they say, we create the material things that serve the spirit, whatever you call it.
Whatever you call it, God, or Love thy neighbor, that stuff.
Which I believe in, and we go to church, and I don’t always agree with some of the stuff they say, like how you should run your life.
That’s not the province of religion, I don’t think.
Religion is Jesus and God.
And stewardship. And the point is it’s the same with the farm.
These movies where the farmers are losin the farm, and they’re real noble, how they love the land. That’s not him. He took the farm away from his old man, let him die in the chicken house. Money-grabbin Pennsylvania Dutch.
But stewardship. . . There’s a point bein made here. . .
I have trouble thinkin. I get so damn. . .
The minister said like, “We’re the world.”
We are the world.
We’re impelled into ways which we’re not responsible for, because one generation and the next, it’s like a digestive process. You don’t think about digestin your food, it just happens. Mouth chewin. Big red mouth.
But we’re talkin stewardship. Major responsibility for the world.
Which I take on.
DON: Dad, there’s a time for everything.
ACKERMAN: I said no.
DON: Time for livin and a time for dyin—
ACKERMAN: Goddammit no.
DON: Time for buyin and a time for sellin—
ACKERMAN: I told you specifically. I said no.
DON: Not specifically.
ACKERMAN: I said no.
DON: You didn’t say specifically no.
ACKERMAN: I forbid you to talk to the agent.
DON: But I went ahead and you didn’t say nothin.
ACKERMAN: I didn’t know you went ahead.
DON: How did I know you didn’t know?
ACKERMAN: You didn’t tell me.
DON: Somebody mighta told you. I figured, maybe somebody told you, but you didn’t say nothin, so I figured you didn’t care.
ACKERMAN: When I say no it means no.
DON: Well then stick to it.
ESTHER: I wanta know what’s happenin to me.
Frank? What’s doin?
ESTHER: Kill me. Kill me, Frank.
ACKERMAN: We done all right.
Moved in here, I built the whole back.
You member, the stairs was over there, didn’t go to nothin. I put somethin up to go to.
South field, I cleared that, they said you’ll never grow nothin, I made that grow. I stopped the wash-away.
You looked at this place, an Dad he never kept it up, you said “What you get me into? It’s an old Rag House.”
Member that? Old Rag House, cause it had up rags, papers, lath on the front, insulation. “What you get me into?”
I try to be good to you.
Time we went to that restaurant, they didn’t even have a counter, you couldn’t understand the waiter, some kinda Dago, five dollars for a shrimp? Member that? Walked outa there. Don was a little baby.
And you were in labor, it went on so long you said “Call the vet, he’ll just reach in.”
All little stuff. There in your head.
They say now you’re sposed to love each other. Don’t get married less you do. Then you don’t, you get divorced. Hit her cross the face, you get divorced.
I must never loved her. If I had, I’d left her when she got like that.
I took care. I bought her a wig. I fed her. I cleaned her off.
Won’t that do?