—Wallace Stevens, "The Auroras of Autumn"
When the boy awoke in the soft, already warm September morning, he knew he wouldn't get to go to the fair that night. He wasn't sure he'd be able to go at all. He'd thrown another "fit" the evening before. That's what his mother called them. He'd learned long ago that silent obedience got him nothing from his parents but more denials. And what he wanted increased each time his parents tried to appease him.
He'd written that down last night. In his notebook. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease," his mother had said. "A lie," he'd assured himself on the back page. "A squalling kid beats out the wheel every time."
"And we're not about to take you nowheres if yer going throw fits like that," his mother had threatened.
His father spat out obscenities and pushed away from the dinner table to light a Salem. "Just once I'd like to eat a goddamn dinner when I come home from work without hearin you two cussin and fussin." He blew out a halo of smoke and sucked down the last drops of sweet tea.
The boy thumped and pounded on his bedroom wall while his parents tried to watch their favorite evening TV programs. His door locked from the inside. Then he stopped and sat down beside the window facing town, watching the fair's lights, listening hard for screamers on the rides.
The day before his "fit," he'd found his father's lemon-flavored gin and poured it down the sink. To spite his father, who'd already refused to take him to the fair and who liked a slug of gin after work. The boy wanted to punish him. He'd seen his mother do it many times.
He'd hidden in his tree house that afternoon and listened to his mother scream out his name from the back porch facing the creek woods behind his house.
"Barry! Barrrrry! You better git yer ass in this house fore yer Daddy comes home."
He'd just sat there, thumbing through one of his monster magazines. Her voice grew louder, more shrill, as if more volume would substitute for an authority and respect she was certain she possessed and her son seldom showed her.