Revenge Fantasy Island
I keep telling myself, it only seems like I’m telling the story for the millionth time. It can’t be more than, say, the three hundredth. But the kids are ruthless. Fall back on a stock phrase and they’ll eat you alive. There’s no ‘wine-dark sea’ in my living room; Homer’s grandkids were obviously a lot more easily amused than mine. Maybe they went easy on him because he was blind. I have a bad knee, but that cuts no ice with this brood.
“And he said, ‘All right, Cowboy. Let’s see what’s in your saddle bags.’ Well, I wasn’t about to let him get his hooks on Leticia’s medicine…”
“You mean drugs, right?” Eric has a hard time staying current with the story. He’s taking that medication for when you can’t concentrate. I used to have that problem too, but the only medication I got was the back of my old man’s hand.
“No, Eric,” I reply. I have to be patient without disrupting the pace of the story. If I slip, they lose interest, and the knives come out. Then it’s straight to my back garden, if I’m lucky. The last thing I need is them ripping up the terrarium. “He was looking for drugs, that’s for sure. But the only thing I was hauling across country on my motorbike was medicine for your grandmother.”
“Hold on, Don,” comes this reedy voice, a little older than the rest. Mickey. He’s a fucking smartass. He’s the only one who calls me by my first name. “I thought you were a Hell’s Angel.”
“I was! Haven’t I shown you kids my cut?”
“Only about a million times, Grandpa.” That’s Letty, named after my wife. Goddamn Mickey. He’s trying to sidetrack me so the rest of the kids get bored. He knows they’ll tear up my garden. He wants them to do it.
“But,” he sneers — eleven years old and he’s sneering already, I swear it — “I thought Hell’s Angels were, like, real bad-asses.”
“Watch your language, mister,” comes my Leticia’s voice, from the kitchen. That woman has ears like a cat. I spent six years in a bar band and twelve on the back of a hog. I’m lucky if I can hear fire engines.
“Sorry, grandma,” says Mickey, and just as I think I’ve got a reprieve, he turns those nasty blue eyes on me. Kid has eyes like Liz Taylor. Not from my side of the family, I’ll tell you that. They don’t tell you when you’re young and dumb and full of cum that if you get that frosty Nordic ice queen you always wanted, your grandkids are gonna look like they came out of fuckin’ Village of the Damned. “But, Don, I thought that Hell’s Angels did drugs.”
“Well, look. Some of them did.” Little bastard. “The bad ones.”
Liz pipes up. “Grandpa, did you run a meth lab?”
Christ. “A meth…what? Where did you hear a thing like that?” Liz is six years old. Man. She looks like Shirley fucking Temple.
“Jimmy Pritikin ran a meth lab. He got sent upstate. They busted it because he was buying a Clorox in bulk and the DEA got suspicious. That’s what mom says.”
“Who the heck is Jimmy Pritikin?”, I ask. Even I’m starting to get bored with my story. I eye the back porch door nervously. They can smell fear. It smells like rutabagas. My rutabagas.
“Una’s friend Milena went out with him for a while,” says Mickey. Una is the oldest. She’s outside smoking and reading that Zerzan crap. I know for a fact that I didn’t even hear about anarchism until I was in college. Anyway, at least she’ll just glare at me instead of trampling my tomato stakes. “Go on with your story.”
“Oh, right,” I say. I have to get my composure back. Little son of a bitch has got me on the ropes already. “Well, let me tell you something, kids. I may have been a pacifist,” and here I crack my knuckles a good one, so they can see my hands. They’re still big. Just the right size to pick some spoiled kid up by his coconut. All eyes are on me, at least for the moment. “But that doesn’t mean I was going to lay down in a fight.” They’re rapt for a minute. I get the twinkle in my eye, and turn on a little of that crooked, knowing smile that got me little Letty’s grandmother in the first place. I shrug my shoulders so that the collar of my leather vest turns just so.
“Sure it does,” comes Mickey’s ratty little snarl. “That’s what a pacifist does. He lays down instead of fights. We read all about it in class. Gandhi. And that Martin Luther Kang. What kind of a hippie were you, anyway?”
Fucking grandkids. Some blessing. When Becky and her dumb-shit husband get back from the Whole Foods, I’m gonna ask them if they ever thought about sending Mickey to military school.