UNCLE MUSTER’S EXPERIMENT
I can’t believe she actually tried to kill me with a friggin’ axe! Of course it’s all Uncle Muster’s doing in the end. But if he always liked me better like he says, then I don’t understand…
He calls this Stage One of the “Incarceration Experiment”.
A “Social Experiment” he calls it. He locks us both in his ring room and then he tells me to write. ‘Write jes’ like you always wanted to,’ he croons, stroking my hair with his good hand and bending to kiss me on the forehead. He takes a big hefty breath of my hair as he does it too, just like always. Then he steps back and hands me this bag full of lined paper and mechanical pencils and tells me to go sit in the corner of the boxing ring and start. It would be dark in here during the day except a few years back he put in skylights so that no matter where the sun is in the sky it’s always in the right place like there’s a spotlight shining on the ring.
‘And when you’re finished,’ he tells me, ‘show it to Teresa. But take your time Sugar,’ (that’s what he calls me when he’s feeling all steamy under the collar) ‘you’re gonna be here a while.’
Ever since I was seventeen and momma died and Uncle Muster married Teresa she’s hated me. Teresa was my aunt when I was born but when momma met Uncle Muster back when I was ten I called him ‘Uncle’ right away. He and I would come out to the ring room alone and have long talks about how he knew I was special and I was better than the life my momma gave me. That was when I told Uncle Muster I liked to write. Then, close to when momma was going to die, she asked her sister to come and stay with us. Teresa and Uncle Muster started sleeping together the night of the funeral. A week later they were hitched.
‘How is it,’ I ask him once I’m settled down in my corner of the mat with my writing tools, ‘that we’re not gunna be missed if we‘re staying here so long?’ He comes and sits cross legged in front of me, adjusting himself as he sits. He knows I know what he wants whenever he does this. Teresa is in the other room and I can smell burning as if the stove that the kettle is on has something spilled on it. She’s clattering around, grumbling to herself with the occasional ‘F**k!’ mixed in.
‘I told ever’one in town that you were going to visit that fancy university,’ he tells
me. ‘And no one’s gonna miss Treese,’ he says rolling his eyes up until his pupils disappear. It’s true ‘cause Uncle Muster proved it. No one really pays any attention to her, except Uncle Muster when they first met. When she got to town she was always dressed smart, as if she worked in a lawyers’ office or something. Then when momma was gone she spent about a month wearing nothing but a robe. When she did try to get dressed again (when Uncle Muster finally let her out of bed) all her clothes were gone and her suitcase too. She had to wear Uncle Muster’s clothes which were WAY too big for her so she could go to the store with the twenty bucks he gave her to buy a whole new wardrobe. She’s been dressed in a twenty dollar wardrobe for three years now.
‘Where the f**k are the spoons?’ It’s Teresa yelling at Uncle Muster.
‘They’re where they always are,’ he yells back at her. ‘And stop swearing you stupid f**king c**t!’ Uncle Muster doesn’t like it when we swear. I never do but Teresa never wants to behave the way he wants her to.
Teresa should know where to find the spoons. We’ve been here dozens of times over the years, mostly when Uncle Muster was hiding out from his drug ‘buddies‘. I don’t know why he calls them that.
It was the drugs that did momma in, in the end. Uncle Muster was her dealer, even though he never seemed much of the type. Around me he puts on this fake accent and he’s always dressed like a hillbilly. ‘You’re so purrdy,’ he tells me. When I asked him once, why the accent he said he just wants to be smooth as cream to go with his Sugar. Then my eighteenth birthday rolled around and I found out all about his cream.
It was when he knew one of those drug raids was coming up and he told me he wanted to take me to the ring room alone. We’d always taken momma with us before and it was about the second or third time since she died. The raids happened maybe ten times a year. He said he was going to try an experiment and he called it his “Societal Worth Experiment”. It was just the first of many. In this one he thought it might be fun to see if Teresa was as invisible to people as he thought she was, so he left her at the trailer. When we came back two days later the trailer was trashed just like always but Teresa was fine. Not a scratch on her. As far as I know that was the first time Uncle Muster hit her. When I asked him why he told me that he was mad at her for not being me.