It was August, his first in California, and Dean had never seen the sun so angry. Outside of his shady niche it reigned, small and high in the sky like the lone eye of wrath. It had eaten a pilot a few days ago. The news said that he'd taken off from the airport and simply never came back, but it was obvious to anyone with half a brain that this wasn't the whole truth. The poor bastard had been scorched up out of the sky! Him, his plane, and whatever leftover aspirations a man who can fly holds onto: burnt up like Icarus' wings.
And here was Dean's mom still telling him to get into the water! Hell no he wasn't getting into the water.
She faced him from the bank of Lake Temescal, amongst the hordes of splashing Negro children, looking absurdly pale in her cream colored two piece. “Deany Schmitt you get out from underneath that tree and get into this water like you got some sense!” She yelled in her thick Indianan, deaf to how it made their little monkey faces look up at her – giggling – look over at him – expectant. He opened his mouth to say something but the whites of their eyes convinced him otherwise.
She shook her head and took a long drag of the ass end of her cigarette. Dean could see that in her mind she was still the Bridget Bardot of Amboy, Indiana. Here in the East Bay sun though, against a backdrop of animated, robust women the color of soil, she resembled something made from clay, a golem imitating life. “Suit yerself” she said, taking a last, frustrated, puff before dropping the butt into the water and wading in.
The lake itself was murky and full of older kids – most were blacks but there were some whites too – the adults largely stuck to the sand, supervising their little ones as they splashed underneath a thin haze of steam and tobacco smoke. His mother was by far the whitest and oldest woman in the water.
Dissillusioned, Dean stewed in his sweat under the oak trees and thought of how impossible it was that he had come from her body. He didn't even understand her body. They were hardly the same species.
He decided then, in a patch of dead grass overlooking the lake, the sounds of cars whooshing by on the freshly renamed highway above, that the lady he called mom was not really his mother after all. He looked inside of himself with the obvious question and the answer came instantly, as brilliant as the rays of the sun: Charles Ogle. The dead pilot. Charles Ogle was his mother.
He imagined his Charles mother squeezing his way out of a whole in the tiny sun, a great and mighty man burned blacker than night. His eyes were deep and dark with the promise of the unknown and though his skin was crisp black it glittered with the glowing yellows of starlight. His sheer size would block out the sun, leaving all of Oakland in a cooling darkness.
“Worry not son, for we are not of their world” his true mother would say.
And at this the Negroes would cheer, thinking that their envoy had finally come. And his skin mother would cry as she always cried over the inarguable unfairness of her life. And J. Hoover and President Johnson would come down from the old world on horseback with cries for immigration reform and allegations of ties to the Viet Cong.
“You should have come in Deany, it's something else in there” his mother said, adjusting her bathing suit bottoms.
“No. It was too crowded” Dean said.
On the way back to grandma's they got stuck in traffic. The ride was hot, stagnant, and mostly silent as their Studebaker trudged along under a haze of exhaust and cigarette smoke. As they were nearing their exit a car full of rowdy teens in bad Beatles haircuts cut them off in a red Oldsmobile. Dean's mother honked the horn hard but she spoke very softly.
“Come on” she said, “you're not the only one with somewhere else they need to be.”