Memory Dresser

My dresser for my entire childhood.

My dresser for my entire childhood.

This was my dresser for my entire childhood — from day one until the day I moved out as a young adult. It contained many memories. I remember digging in the bottom drawer for shorts to wear on the first hot days of summer; and the top left drawer with socks, folded in the special, partial inside-out way my mother used to fold them that made it easier to put them on. I remember hiding cigarettes in the bottom back corner as a teenager. And some other stuff, too.

One particular memory I have is of the time when I was about 13 that my friend Les Wood damaged the dresser. Les was a strange sort of friend. He was in 9th grade when I was in 7th grade. Les was a little scary. He had a streak that was half thrill-seeking and half sadistic. So, periodically I would have to endure some harrowing experience like being being burned on the forearm with a red-hot butter knife while cooking together, or being hiked on the back of a paper bike and plowing through a row of rose bushes.

On the occasion of the damage, which was around the Fourth of July, Les showed up at my house one day with some fireworks. While I was not looking he dumped out an entire box of snakes on to the top of the dresser and lit them. Within moments the room was filled with a choking sulfurous smoke. The snakes curled out into a monstrous heap of twisted ash and burned through the top layer of the dresser, leaving a shallow crater and wide burned area on the top. I was pretty damn mad; even as a teenager, I had a sense of propriety and pride of ownership.  My parents, needless to say, were furious. Les just laughed his little sadistic laugh, his small teeth peeking through a thin-lipped grin.

Les’s attitude and behavior never really improved. Two or three years later, when I was about 16 years old, Les had been kicked out of the house and was living around with different friends, or just in the Chevy Vega he drove, and selling drugs for money. During this time, he gave away or sold almost everything he owned. He sold me his once beloved stereo system for about $20. That was my first real stereo, and I set it up on the top of my dresser. One night, I saw Les and Greg Baker, who had been hanging out together, at Geno’s Pinball Palace. Geno’s was a stoner kids’ hangout in Fresno in the mid-70’s. I saw Les outside in the parking lot drinking an Old English 800 Malt Liquor and extremely high on LCD. At one point he was sitting on the curb  holding is head in his hands like a vice, his face red and sweating, trying to not freak out.

A few minutes later he was fine, walking around and laughing. Not many people tended to laugh with him. He asked if anybody wanted to go for a drive, go out to the fig orchards that were once plentiful in northwest Fresno and “go figgin'”. That meant driving out into the powdery soft dirt in the orchard and spinning the car around in circles, raising plumes of dust in a whirl of teenage entertainment. The only taker was Greg, who was probably equally high.

They next day we found out that the Vega had hit a giant fig tree at a high rate of speed and exploded on impact. Les and Greg died nearly instantly, we were told. We never really knew whether this was a drug-fueled accident, or Les’s intentional, final act of  defiance against a world he didn’t like and that didn’t much like him back.

In any case, we had a yard sale last weekend, and while the dresser was not for sale, it was out because we used it to display other things that were for sale. I had started to refinish it over a year ago, and simply never got the momentum up to finish.The  knobs were off, and only the drawers were really done. Three people asked me if it was for sale and offered to buy it, and by the third, I was starting to think that it probably made sense let it go, and do what we were out there to do: lighten our load. The other furniture had not even gotten a second look. I sold it to a woman for $50.

I guess I’ll have to find something else to keep my childhood memories in.