When we left Fairburn, we moved into a rented house in Douglasville. It was a three bedroom ranch at the top of a tall sloped driveway in a small subdivision. We moved in June and so I spent the summer getting to know kids in my neighborhood. And there were kids! My age. And kids my sister’s age and we made a lot of friends. We lived in Douglasville almost 3 years. The longest stretch I had ever been anywhere. It was almost heaven.
My mother and step-father were getting along great. They made friends with a few neighbors, too. It was such a relief to be somewhere normal. We felt like a regular family. My sister and I visited my father and step-mother every other weekend. That part wasn’t nearly as pleasent. My step-mother didn’t like us. My father was working nights, so we didn’t see him until Saturday morning. He would have a couple of cups of coffee and then open the first of a six pack of beer.
I was a student at Fairplay Middle School for 7th and 8th grade. Two entire years at one school. I made actual friends. People that I spoke to for more than a few months. It was amazing. My grades improved. I was actually in the Mathletes geeky math club in 8th grade. Somethings about school were still difficult. I never had a proper environment at home for homework. If I couldn’t finish work at school, it pretty much didn’t get done. My parents weren’t really open to buying supplies for school projects either. So, there were some things that were tough. Science especially because 7th and 8th graade involved several projects.
We did have a bad scare soon after moving to Douglasville. I guess it was September or October of 1983. My mother got bit. She got sick. She ran a high fever and her arm turned funny in less than two days. The bite site was just below her elbow on the inside soft part of her forearm. It made a blister and then it caved in. The blister went away and the meat of her arm turned really red and looked like it was going bad, like bad beef. My step-father took her to the hospital. They theorized that she had been bit by a spider. but they had to run a lot of tewsts to find out which one and administer the right anti-venom. She was hospitalized for two weeks. It turned out to be a Brown Recluse bite. Also called a fiddleback spider. A tiny little brown spider with a dark brown design on it’s back. The time she spent in the hospital was so frightening for my sister and myself. We both ended up with spider phobia. For a few years, my sister’s was so bad she would scream and freak out and try to get away from any bug she saw. No matter how small or familiar. No matter where she was. Even in the car. It will totally freak the shit out of your parents if you start screaming bloody murder and trying to open your door while they are driving.
We had a reasonably good lifwe in Douglasville for about a year and a half. Then, we noticed that things were changing. My step-father had always drunk a bit and used recreational drugs. But, he started being actually drunk sometimes. And noticably stoned or high. He acted different. He stopped wanting to teach us chess and he stopped coming straight home from work. He lost his job because he stopped going all the time. he got a new job, but the hours were unpredictable. At least that is what we thought.