A Prairie Christmas Chapter 6 Part 1

That night at the dinner table, the moms try to squelch our performance plans.
“Tim, you don’t understand how hard it is being two women together in Iowa.”
“Molly, my best friend in Miami has two moms. They had to leave Texas because of the prejudice and abuse.”
“I’m glad you don’t feel uncomfortable about it. But we try to fit in here as best possible.”
Mom pipes up, “We’re so worried about that jungle song you want to perform downtown. We don’t need criticism that we’re raising our kids improperly.”

“Don’t worry, Wendy,” Amy pipes up. “We already decided to do a different song. Andy invited the football team to the performance. We don’t want to seem immature, jumping all around.”
“Andy?” both moms ask. Tim 402
“That’s my new name. I already told y’all. We’s Amy, Angie and Andy – The Triplets.”
“Ever’one ats school already’s callin’ ‘im Andy,” Amy drawls.
Molly puts her foot down. “Stop fracturing the English language. I won’t have you girls sounding like ignorant hillbillies.” Tim 234
“That’s jist how people really talk, Ma,” Angela protests.
Molly’s mouth drops open. “Please don’t call me Ma.”
I realize I’m just part of the family now, subject to the disputes and hurt feelings of everyday getting along. The honeymoon is over.
“How about we use proper English at home but kin be speakin’ New English at school and whens we be outs and ’bouts.”
The four of them look at me. First the girls burst out laughing. Finally the moms join them.
“What’s this New English?” Mom asks.
“Just more relaxed with no stupid rules to make it be stilted and stiff, like Modern English. It’s how you speak when you’re not trying to impress everyone.”
“You should always try to make a good impression.”
“I got in a fight today for using a four syllable word with a jock.”
“We don’t want you fighting,” Molly worries.
“It wasn’t a real fight, Mom,” Amy remarks. “Andy had Brock arm wrestle him. Now they’re best friends.”
“We had to sit with all the jocks at lunch,” Angela complains. “And we have to go to the football game on Friday night.”
“What about your performance?”
“It’s after the game, so all the jocks can come.”
“My goodness, next you girls will be cheerleaders.”
“That’s a great idea,” I blurt out. The girls gave me a really nasty look. “Well, that’s up to you two. Any more of that cake left?” I change the subject.

I come up to the third floor and get icy looks, as if I’ve intruded.
“Maybe cheerleader is a step up from choir girl?” I suggest.
They bombard me with pillows in mock feminist fury. I lay back and enjoy submitting to the abuse. After they calm down, we go through their record collection for a new song to perform. Their taste in music seems pretty generic. They even have Bobby Sherman. I’m back in Junior High reliving the horrors of dating the soc’ queen.
“Don’tcha have sumthin’ new and different from what ever’one already likes?”
“Sorry y’all find us borin.’”
“Maybe the moms have sumthin?’”
They give me a mean look. We run downstairs and go through the other record collection in the house. It’s all hippie and folk music from the early sixties – Dylan and Joan Baez. They only new record is Janice Ian. I find ‘Alice’s Restauarant’ 

 

and start telling the girls about hanging out there in Stockbridge. I can’t believe they think it’s cool.
“Well, it ain’t like there’s anythin’ cool ‘bout growin’ up on the Plains where the only music is by a cowboy who leaves his girl fer a horse,” Amy jokes.
“Oh my gawd, y’all knows real cowboys?” I kid her.
“Jist their horses,” Angela scoffs.
We look at each other and break up. The moms come home, perturbed to find their records all over the floor. The girls explain that we were looking for the perfect song to perform.
“How about Dylan? Protest songs never go out of fashion,” Molly suggests holding up ‘Highway 61’.
“Dylan’s a protest poet but that movement ended with Vietnam. All those people are now burned-out Viet Vets, pig farming hippies or welfare mommies,” I argue.
“We could do a protest song and ask where has all the idealism gone,” Angela is serious.
“That is so spot on,” I kid her.
“I’m serious, we’ll be singing to college kids. All they want, it seems, is to get a good job, settle down, and raise kids.”
“Yeah, what happened to ridin’ off to the coast in a VW van?” Amy adds.
“I know exactly what you need,” Molly starts going through her records, finally pulling out Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction. “It makes all these predictions in 1963, but none came true.
“Yeah,” as I start singing the song from memory.

 

 

The eastern world it tis explodin’,
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’,
You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’,
You don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’,
And even the Jordan river has bodies floatin’,
But you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Don’t you understand, what I’m trying to say?
And Can’t you feel the fear that I’m feeling today?
If the button is pushed, there’s no running away,
There’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave,
Take a look around you, boy, it’s bound to scare you, boy,
But you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Yeah, my blood’s so mad, feels like coagulatin’,
I’m sittin’ here, just contemplatin’,
I can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulation,
Handful of Senators don’t pass legislation,
And marches alone can’t bring integration,
When human respect is disintegratin’,
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’,
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Think of all the hate there is in Red China!
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama!
Ah, you may leave here, for eight days in space,
But when your return, it’s the same old place,
The poundin’ of the drums, the pride and disgrace,
You can bury your dead, but don’t leave a trace,
Hate your next door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace,
And you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Songwriters: SLOAN, P. F.
Eve Of Destruction lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

The moms are amazed I know all the words to their music. Tim 352
“Just immersion of the media culture,” I explain. “When you’re young everything is absorbed. It’s a matter of regurgitating it.”
The moms are whispering between themselves. I know it’s about me.
“What? I know you’re talking about me.”
“We can’t tell if you’re trying to snow us with big words or if you have to dumb-down your speech at school. What’s the real Andy like?”
“Y’all be surprised.”
The girls are all ears, too.
“You’ve been here just a week. Life has never been this interesting before. You ready to talk about yourself and why you’re here?”
“No secrets with me. First, I really am happy to be here. I really want to fit in. I never had sisters before. In Miami I had guy friends; we treated each other like brothers. It just seems natural to treat the girls as sisters. We fight, make up, and laugh at each other. We all love singing. It’s fun teaching them the guitar. The doctors say I have multiple personalities. As long as I know it, I can keep all the different me’s from being overwhelming. I get emotional and cry a lot. I guess that makes me weird.”
The four of them pay full attention, letting me gather my thoughts. I figure they want to know what happened to cause me to arrive at their front door in a state of collapse.
“If you’re wondering how I got so exhausted, it was because last summer all I lived on was catfish chowder. I was hiding out in the Everglades. I escaped from a crooked drug program with my little ‘brother,’ Tommy. We called ourselves Tom & Huck Tim 445 and pretended to be hayseeds whose parents had let us go on an adventure once the crops were in. We were adopted by a campground of hippies on Alligator Alley, where ‘gators make people disappear. That was our adventure. My story at school about ‘Gatotsaurus is essentially true. Tom did add some embellishments. The hippies learned we were fugitives so we couldn’t stay there. We lived  out in the swamp where no one looked for us. Last month. Tommy got an infected foot. He had to go to the hospital. His brother showed up, trying to beat on Tommy. It blew up Tim 395 and I had to leave Florida. I hitched-hiked to Alabama, which was no fun. I realized I needed Mom. My friend Jay got the address and a bus ticket. He let y’all know and had my schools records transferred. Now I’m Aiming high.”
“Who’s Jay?”
“He’s our assistant band manager. He’s the only person who helped me while I was hiding out. He’s 23.”
“What’s it like in a  band?” Amy wants to know.
“The drummer’s dad is a lawyer. He is our manager. Jay works for him, so he has to take care of all the details. He’s great. I should call him.
“And who’s Jace?” Mom asks.
I explain the Teen Jesus legend, how it grew and the climax at Easter Mass when Jace was resurrected. Tim 228 They don’t really believe all of it. Teen Jesus is like ‘Gatorsaurus.

“You really played at St Patrick’s Cathedral?” Amy is amazed.
“Yeah, and Abyssinian Baptist, plus lots of other places. Once you start playing, you just get into the music. You forget about who’s there.”
“When we play, I just watch you and try to follow,” Angela notes.
“Once you have more confidence, you will follow your heart, that’s where the music is. Playing together means all our hearts are united.”
“I feel I am being hugged when I play.”
“That’s Teen Jesus.”
“I actually am feeling him?” Tim 389
“When you open your heart to him, it makes him so happy. Like when someone smiles, you can’t help smiling too.”
“It sounds like a cult,” Molly is skeptical.
“Cults are in your head – someone telling you what to think and do. Jace is in your heart showing you how to feel.”
“Still sounds like a cult, if you have to stop thinking to believe in it.”
“Jace isn’t saying to stop thinking, but to put faith in your own feelings.”
“Look where it got you,” Angela snarks.
“I can’t deny that – the most beautiful family in the world. I always Aim High.”
My sarcastic hyperbole is wearing thin.
“Don’t you worry the constant jokes you play will come back to bite you?” Angela remains on the attack. “The  football players plan to be on the Bowling team this winter. There is no bowling team.”
“You’re right. That explains why I was in so much trouble and ended up here. The band is finished. The law is after me after they shot and killed Jace’s dog and endangered my friends. Dad refuses to back me up against the police. My lawyer says I’m unsupervisable. So, here I am.”
“Well, you are welcome here. Just don’t play jokes on everyone. The girls are really looking forward to singing in public. We are concerned that running around acting like monkeys will create the wrong impression,” Mom sums up their concerns.
This new, involved Mom is throwing me off my game.
“We’ve already scrapped the monkey song,” Amy takes my side.
“It is silly, but a protest song may be too serious. We don’t want the college crowd to see us as just kids.”
“The whole point is to express our true feelings. If we’re posing as pseudo-intellectuals, no one will take us seriously.”
“So what is the point of doing an old protest song?” Angela asks.
“It was written when the times they were a’changin’. Now the times have changed. We’re questioning what our role is in a new world. The Sixies are over. What’s next?”
“Do you believe that you’ll get what you demand?” Molly is the voice of reason.
“Your generation ended the war, made 18 the age we get rights to vote, drink, and be adults. Feminism and integration are human rights now. Where are the new battles or do we just kick back and enjoy our new privileges?”
“You will have your own challenges, just wait until you grow up,” Molly demands.
“That assumes we can’t do what we want now. What you’re suggesting is we be a Lost Generation.”
“That’s what we were in the Fifties. We felt lucky until the Sixties kids were so angry about the state of everything.”
“We just want to challenge the crowd to think about what kind of world they are entering. As entertainers we can speak and sing about these challenges.”
“What’s the plan for Friday night?”
“We’ll do ‘Eve of Destruction.’ Then talk with the crowd. Maybe we’ll get to do a second song, depending on the reception we get.”
“Can we attend. It sounds pretty interesting,” the moms ask.
“It’s got to be exciting, too. But not in a silly way, like the monkey song. The three of us have to figure out what song to do at the end our performance. We want you to come and to surprise you.”
“I feel better about your motives. No mother wants to see her daughter acting like a jungle bunny,” Molly concludes.
“That’s kinda racist, Molly,” I accuse her.
“Well, you’re being sexist,” she rejoins.
“My, what a terrible family we’ve become,” Mom jokes and everyone laughs to break the tension.
“We’ll be on the third floor, working on a second song”

First I decide to call Jay. I needed some male reassurance in the face of all the female bonding in my household.
“You’re no longer Mr. deBowser?” he jokes after accepting the collect call.
“Actually, I’m now Andy here in Ames.”
“What can I do for you, Andy Ames?” we both laugh.
“I miss you Jay. You did so much for the band. All summer, hiding out in the Everglades, you were my only contact with the real world.”
“Just trying to be a good assistant manager.”
“I felt it was more personal. I was only half-kidding when we flirted with you.”
“You two were so cute. It was more fun than anything. How’s it going up in Iowa.”
“Except for having a nervous breakdown when I finally got here, it’s working out great. I’ve started a new band with my twin step-sisters; we’re the Triplets, Amy, Angie and Andy.”
“The Hillbilly Brothers are history?”
“Life moves on. Any word on how Tommy’s doing?”
“He calls me all the time – something about now that he’s 15, he wants you to call him. Other than being lovelorn, he’s doing well with his foster parents; they’re older and let him do whatever he wants. We still need him to testify about the abuses at the Program.”
“Those people are perverted, masochistic crooks.”
“The State’s Attorney has investigated all the kids who were institutionalized as hopeless psychotics. Almost all of them were found to be normal, other than the trauma of being locked up for life. The Herald had John do a series on them. He’s no longer a cub reporter.”
“I’ll always call him Jimmy Olsen. Let me write down Tommy’s number so I can call him. I had told him we couldn’t be boyfriends because he was too young. He pointed out that Jace was 15 when he was my boyfriend. We just had fun, being Tom & Huck, living in the Everglades, as kids.”
“Anything else I can do for you?”
“Oh, yeah. Can you get a script for the TV show ‘Little House on the Prairie?’  I convinced my English teacher to let the class put on a performance. The best episode from last season is ‘The School Dance.’”
“That sounds awfully ‘normal’ for you, Tim, er Andy.”
“That’s me, just trying to fit in.”
“Well, don’t change too much, you’re a tremendous kid.”
“Don’t worry. I’m saving myself for you, Jay, when we’re both in our twenties.”
“Well, you’ve got competition. I got married this summer.”
“What, you’re not gay?”
“Just with you two and only on the phone.”
“Well, congratulations. Another of my youthful dreams shattered. I swear you were leading us on.” Tim 399
“You were unstoppable. It was fun being the object of your attention. I always felt comfortable teasing you.”
“One last thing. Can you call the Stones and find out if Jack is coming home for Christmas?”
“Sure thing. But don’t try coming back to Florida until your 18.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Jay.”
I run upstairs where the girls have been waiting for me. They have all their records spread out on the floor, searching for a song they already know, to be the second song on Friday.
“Anything seem appropriate?” I ask.
They are flummoxed, with no clue what we are looking for.
“It has to be a song that challenges all of us, high school and college kids alike
“All these songs are sappy love songs.”
“We’ll have to get outside your comfort zones, otherwise it’s not challenging.”
“Like disco? We hate disco.”
“Why?”
“The way people dress and act. It’s so gay.”
“So, you’re into heavy metal? – that’s the opposite of disco.”
“We like music that makes us feel good, like the Beatles.”
“How about Church music?” Amy suggests.
“Is that why you don’t like gays because the Church says it’s bad?”
“What about people who smoke? That’s bad for you.”
“I guess smoking is a challenge. It’s hard to stop.”
“Maybe there are more important things than personal habits,” Angela says seriously.
“Ah, the choir girl speaks,” I kid her.
“Well, we can’t preach to kids older than we are. We can do a gospel song to indicate that spirituality is important.”
Have I unleashed an angel or a prophet?
“We can finish with ‘Spirit in the Sky,’” Amy suggests. She goes over to the piano in the corner and plays the opening chords. I show Angela the A major chord that is the foundation of the song, strumming  to get the spooky sense of the song. Amy starts singing, with us joining in.

When I die and
They lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place
That’s the best
When I lay me down to die
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go
When I die
When I die and they
Lay me to rest
I’m gonna go to the place
That’s the best
Prepare yourself
You know it’s a must
Gotta have a friend in Jesus
So you know that
When you die
You’re gonna go to
The spirit in the sky
Gonna go to the spirit in the sky
That’s where you’re gonna go
When you die
When you die and
They lay you to rest
You’re gonna go to
The place that’s the best
Never been a sinner
He never sinned
I got a friend in Jesus
So you know that
When I die
He’s gonna set me up
With the spirit in the sky
Set me up with
The spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna
Go when I die
When I die and they
Lay me to rest
I’m gonna go to the place
That’s the best
I’m gonna go to the place
That’s the best
I’m gonna go to the place
That’s the best
Songwriters: GREENBAUM, NORMAN
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Jace suddenly appears, my personal spirit in the sky. I had thought he was busy with his other soul partners. The song must mean something to him. I’m singing to him, which the girls noticed.
“Are you in touch with Jace,” Amy asks once we finish.
“Yeah, he appeared once we started this song.”
“Sounds like he approves,” Angela agrees. “Can we see him, too.”
My heart skips a beat as they are saying they want him in their hearts.
“Let’s sing it to him. Usually you have to feel him before you can see him,” I suggest.
We restart the song, everyone singing from the first line. I swear it sounds even better. As Jace hugs each sister, we all start to glow. Of course, the tears start flowing on my part, getting worse as the song continues. Tim 190 As we finish, both sisters come over and hug me. Jace joins in and all of us are crying. Jace’s wispy white tears float down on us. The girls and I are enveloped. They try to hold the silver tears but they pop like soap bubbles when touched.
“He’s in your hearts now, for sure ,” I declare.
They are speechless until Amy asks, “What does he look like? Will I ever see him?”
“It’s just a matter of time. I think he’s the most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen. Not pretty, just rough features with a long face surrounded by long blonde hair. Konstantin02 His eyes are sparkling blue with long lashes. His hands are long-fingered, perfect for guitar. When he’s happy, he has what I call the goofy grin.”
“You love him, don’t you?” Angela realizes.
“When he died, I couldn’t let him go. He was always with me until Easter service when he was absorbed into the Teen Jesus legend. When I was locked up, it was like my heart was locked up too. Even after I escaped, I couldn’t reach him. Only since I got here has he returned.”
“You escaped from jail,” they both exclaim. “Why were you locked up?”
“That’s a long story.”
I relate the Tom & Huck adventures on Alligator Alley, repeating the ‘Gatorsurus tale I had told Brock and omitting the horrors of ‘On the Road’ with the truckers. They are incredulous about their role in my dream before I came to Ames.
“Before it gets too late, we need to go over the songs we can play on Friday,” I try to get us back on track.
“The point is to get the crowd thinking about how our generation differs from the 60’s protesters,” Angela summarizes.
“We’ll talk with them and try to get them to suggest songs that speak to their collective unconscious,” Amy states.
We both stare at her, shocked that she sounds so erudite.
“Gosh, Amy, do you even know what the unconscious is,” Angela challenge her.
“It’s what you’ll be when I knock you out for thinking I’m just an airhead.”
“Whoa,” I intercede, “let’s keep our act together. But, she’s right, Angie. We’ve got to wake them up. A little shock value may do it.”
“I’m not doing some song like the monkey dance that makes us look foolish.,” Angela objects.
I think for a second. Then I start the chords on electric guitar for my favorite Stooges song, ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog.’
“That’s pretty heavy metal,” Amy worries.
“Wait ‘til I sing the words,” I warned them, doing my best Iggy impersonation:

“Come on
So messed up I want you here
In my room I want you here
Now we are gonna be face to face
And I’ll lay right down in my favorite place.
Now I wanna be your dog
Now I wanna be your dog
Now I wanna be your dog
Now I wanna be your dog
Come on
Now I’m ready to close my eyes
Now I’m ready to close my mind
Now I’m ready to feel your hand
And lose my heart in the burning sand.
Now I wanna be your dog.”

Songwriters: OSTERBERG, JAMES / ASHETON, SCOTT / ASHETON, RONALD / ALEXANDER, DAVID
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

The girls are in hysterics. I tell them I’ll crawl around. They can put a dog collar and leash on me, leading me through the crowd while I sing.
“What kinda message is that,” Angela, always the literalist, says.
“Pure nihilism. It’s what happens when nobody has a clue of what they want.”
“A dog’s life?”
“More the oppression of the leash,” I joke.
“So instead of putting your faith in Jesus, you end up on a short leash,” Angela sees the point.
“Reading left to right, it’s god; right to left, it’s dog.”
“That’s too simple a solution. There must be an alternative.”
“How ‘bout Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door?’” I suggest, playing intro.

“Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can’t shoot them anymore
That long black cloud is comin’ down
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door”

Songwriters: BOB DYLAN
© BOB DYLAN MUSIC CO

“Cool,” Amy decides. “It brings us back to 1963 and the protest movement. Can we rewrite history?”
“All you can do is learn not to repeat it,” Angela repeats the school lesson.
“Hope and despair. It’s all how anyone plays it.”
“We are so deep,” Amy states.

We spend the next two hours teaching each other the chords and words. The girls run downstairs and come back with a dog collar and leash. They revel on leading me around the room, making me sit, roll over and beg, all while I channel Iggy Pop. Max is watching from the corner, with his paw over his eyes. Tim 317
“Have you heard the new Paul McCartney song, ‘Let ‘em In?’” Angela asks. She goes over to the piano and knocks it out, playing and singing.

“Someone’s knockin’ at the door
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
Someone’s knockin’ at the door
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
Do me a favor
Open the door and let ’em in
Someone’s knockin’ at the door
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
Someone’s knockin’ at the door
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
Do me a favor
Open the door and let ’em in, yeah, let ’em in
Sister Suzie, brother John
Martin Luther, Phil and Don
Brother Michael, auntie Gin
Open the door and let ’em in, yeah
Sister Suzie, brother John
Martin Luther, Phil and Don
Uncle Ernie, auntie Gin
Open the door and let ’em in, yeah
Someone’s knockin’ at the door
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
Someone’s knockin’ at the door
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
Do me a favor
Open the door and let ’em in, ooh yeah, let ’em in
Sister Suzie, brother John
Martin Luther, Phil and Don
Uncle Earnie, uncle Lin
Open the door and let ’em in, yeah
Someone’s knockin’ at the door
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
Someone’s knockin’ at the door
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
Do me a favor
Open the door and let ’em in, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah”

Songwriters: MCCARTNEY
© Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

 

You play keyboards?” She surprises me. “That’s so great.”
“You think we’re just mindless choir girls?” Amy laughs.
“That’s five songs we can do Friday.”
“Let’s just do ‘Eve’ and see how it goes from there.
“We’re totally prepared. Do I have ta wear the dog collar all night?”
“Of course,” they both agree.

Next: https://timatswim.com/a-prairie-christmas-chapter-6-part-2/

 

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