Nicky V. hustled. He went to community college and worked at the bowling alley. He’d been there long enough to be able to run the whole show. He sprayed disinfectant in the rental shoes when he had to, but where he really shined was shmoozing the moms who came in to have birthday parties for their little brats. He’d make sure the bumpers were up and that they kept off the hardwood with the pizza and soda. Nick couldn’t help but look at those moms with their shiny SUV’s and wish he had some better wheels.
In the summer months, business fell off at the alley and Nicky worked over at the Delcrest Swim Club. His cousin Jimmy “One Thumb” Valenti was officially the manager, but Nicky did the work. Jimmy just picked up a check – nine fingers or not, he had no problem with that skill. Nicky should be so lucky.
Nick was a bit of a player with the lovely young ladies at the pool. This summer was different. Nicky was tired of the teenagers, he had his eye on bigger game.
Nicky figured the woman was in her 30’s, and she had him in some kind of trance. She was built like a centerfold. Strippers should have studied the way she moved. Her name was Crystal Light, just like the diet drink mix. Funny, because her old man looked like he’d never been within a mile of lo-cal anything. Nicky looked at that fat slob and dreamed of having his life. As if having a knockout like Crystal wasn’t enough, the round man owned a classic Caddy. It drove Nicky crazy that this guy had it all, and more chins than a Chinese phonebook.
When Crystal started chatting with Nicky down by the diving well, he thought maybe she was going to hit him up to work on the Caddy. The trunk lock had been popped and it was held closed with clothesline. He couldn’t believe that tub of Beefaroni would drive a number like Crystal around a classic car rigged like that. Where was the justice?
He was trying so hard to look cool that he wasn’t sure he heard her right. She smiled, then turned and walked away to find her husband at the snack bar. Nicky tried to recall her exact words, but the sight of her walking away wasn’t helping his thought process. He was convinced that she wanted Mr. Light turned off for good.
Nick was no murderer, but he kept imagining driving the Caddy with Crystal snuggled up against him. He pictured himself pulling into the driveway of the Light’s split level over on Belmont Terrace. He deserved that life. He’d do it.
That’s how he found himself crouching in a cluster of rhododendrons at the edge of Light’s property, his fingers sweating as his grip tightened on the handle of the gun he’d lifted from One Thumb’s desk at the swim club. That 500-pounder-with-cheese was bound to come out of his house eventually, and Nicky would be waiting, swatting mosquitoes.
Nick felt the presence but didn’t even have a chance to turn around before the bowling pin cracked across the back of his skull and knocked him into dreamland.
The man stood over Nick, wearing torn jeans and a badly scuffed leather jacket, scrapes on his hands and face.
He said, “Sorry kid, but there’s already a line formed for guys who want to kill that fat bastard.”
Willie Prader pulled out a Lucky and leaned back down into the shadows of the bushes to light it without being seen.
I looked at my computer this morning. It was rife with tons of delicious new posts from many of my favorite bloggers. The only difficult challenge was going to be figuring out who to read first. So many authors, such unique points of view! Before I could make a decision on which author would get me started, I caught a glimpse of a strange looking woman on my screen. She bore something of a resemblance to Al Jolson in blackface wearing a blonde wig. Apparently the woman had been arrested after taking her 5 year old daughter into a tanning salon with her.
I knew in my heart that I should have been reading the latest literary artistry of the Byronic Man, or looking to see if The Paltry Meanderings of a Taller Than Average Woman had posted part 2 of her hysterical description of the yoga experience. Yet here I was scanning this sordid bit of scandal sheet fluff for gory details. Of course, it was devoid of much information beyond the unbelievable headline and comical photo.
Before I could get back on track to read the blogs, I was transfixed by the horrific story of the hang gliding accident where a young woman fell nearly 1000 feet to her death. Upon landing, the pilot ate the memory card from the on-glider camera! As tragic and unreal as the story was, until the laxatives take effect, there’s not much more to report. I knew that up-and-comer Shut Up Dad would be writing again soon and I really should start my day with a laugh and a sarcastic comment. Dotty the Headbanger is always good for a bizarre taste of her mental corner of the UK.
Despite my best intentions, I was grabbed by yet another outrageous headline. After picking up my jaw off the counter, I glanced at the clock and realized with a start that I was running late for work. Muttering to myself, I grabbed my lunch and headed out of the house. Instead of starting my day with the humor and creativity of k8edid, I had read a story which gnawed at me like a caraway seed lodged between my molars all day.
Apparently, a pair of grandparents, ages 47 and 49, were accused of drinking, driving and towing their 7 year old grand daughter down the street in a Barbi Ferrari at speeds of 5 to 10 milers per hour. They had tied a couple of dog leashes to the toy car and the other end to the trailer hitch on their SUV. They were arrested and charged with a variety of offenses. When the police contacted the little girl’s father, he showed up and was verbally abusive to his drunk mother. As if this story wasn’t disturbing enough, the son had disrespected the woman who brought him into this world!
Instead of spending my carefree morning chuckling to myself over the quirky musings of some of my favorite writers, I was stuck thinking about “Grandparents Gone Wild”.
I tried to wrap my head around it. Drunk grandparents – towing their precious 7 year old grand daughter without so much as a knee pad or a helmet. It was nearly impossible to really grasp it.
Maybe part of the difficulty I had was due to my family history. I couldn’t help but recall my own grandparents, with great fondness and nostalgia.
My Dad’s parents did some driving, especially my grandfather, who drove countless miles across the midwest as a salesman. His wife, a petite, elegant woman, drove far less, and usually required some sort of extra cushion beneath her to see over the steering wheel in her cat-eye glasses, pumps and stylish dress. We lived on the east coast and didn’t get to see them as often as we liked, but they would always share the love when we did. My Gram made wonderful chocolate chip cookies and my Grandaddy would always slip my brothers and me each a 10 dollar bill at some point during their visits. He had incredible stories which I believed to be factual, despite the time honored family tradition of being bullshitters. In retrospect, the key seemed to be to weave the far-fetched ones in with actual family history. We all loved Grandaddy’s stories, partly because of the stories themselves, but just as much because of the way he told them. For all the miles he drove, I’m pretty sure he never towed any of us behind him.
My Mom’s parents were quite different. That grandfather was a quiet man. He’d had many jobs, all of them requiring hard work and long hours. He’d been working since he’d been twelve or possibly younger. Grandpa was not the type to talk about his life or how many years he’d worked; I had to get that information from my mom and Nanny. Nanny was the outspoken, extrovert of that couple. Grandpa enjoyed a well made, dry martini. Just one, savored with a cigar and The Asbury Park Press. He knew a little bit about how a well made martini should be made, as he had tended bar for years at the Elks Club in Red Bank, New Jersey. He understood drinking too; he partook of spirits in an almost reverential way. I never saw him have more than one martini, and I certainly never saw him drunk. My grandmother preferred a Jack Rose, an old-timey drink which included Apple Jack and sour mix. She too, never had more than one. Her vice of choice was not alcohol, but sundaes with some of the most improbable combinations of ice cream flavors, syrups, toppings and fruit. I won’t describe them further, as her taste in sundaes is worthy of an entire post of its own.
I don’t remember seeing any of my grandparents intoxicated. Not even tipsy. They drove for work and to get their errands done. To get from one place to another. Throughout my childhood, young adult years and beyond, they’ve been a presence for me. I’m not always aware of the strength I draw from them, or how their presence continues long after their passing, but today I’m feeling connected as I recall each of them.
I’m not entirely sure what kind of grandfather I appear to be to my own grand daughters, but I hope they feel the love when they think of me decades from now. I’ve been pretty lucky to have many good examples of grandparenting around me, including my in-laws and my own parents. A couple of weeks ago, my oldest grand daughter and I surprised my wife by putting a birdhouse up outside the window where she often sits with the girls. I wasn’t shooting to make a memory, but I might have anyway.
None of this really relates to the folks in the SUV in Florida. Essentially, I had squandered a morning’s readings of some very creative ladies and gentlemen to be lured by the garish headlines of idiotic behavior. It might have been a total loss, had I not jogged my memories of those four grandparents of my own.
It’s a shame what passes for grandparents in some quarters these days.
I was standing on line this morning on my way to work waiting to buy a lottery ticket. Actually, several lottery tickets. When the jackpot gets insanely high, it’s hard for even the mathematically savvy to avoid the temptation of buying a few tickets.
There was a woman at the counter, and from the look of her, you could tell she was no fair weather friend to the lottery. On the contrary, she appeared to have had a long love affair with playing the numbers. As I patiently waited my turn, glancing at my watch, she played the Pick 3, the Pick 4, the Cash 5 and the Mega Millions. She was playing numbers boxed and squared and speaking to the man behind the counter in a lottery-dialect which the rest of us could not begin to comprehend. I glanced at the sheaf of papers in her hand and began to worry that she might be standing at the counter for another hour.
I distracted myself from the potential of my being late to work for the first time in…well..ever, by looking at her attire. She had on a purple, black, white and pink blouse which looked like something Peter Max had vomited after too many boxes of Good n Plenties. Her pants were a shiny black and the wrong size for one of her sizeable legs, let alone both of them. Her shoes were equally garish. Her hair, in curlers, was covered by a scarf which looked to have been purchased several decades ago with Green Stamps.
As she left the store, my heart just sunk. I knew that despite my pending investment of five bucks, my long shot odds had just gotten astronomically worse. In the ridiculously highly unlikely odds that this convenience store would be selling the winning ticket to tonight’s Mega Millions, the chance it would be one of my tickets just got much worse. The perfect candidate for winning had just waddled past me.
I could visualize her standing there with her idiotic grin, her Peg Bundy wardrobe and family of deliriously happy hill-folk, holding a check with more zeros than she had teeth.
I thought of how the makers of hideous clothing would see a sudden jump in profits. How her sons and daughters would soon be festooned with more gold chains than Mr. T when he was winning big at “Pretty Pretty Princess”. The gold on their necks nearly blinding oncoming traffic as they drove past us in the Mercedes SUV’s which they had spared no expense having converted into bling-tastic monster trucks.
She’ll move out of that trailer and buy a place with some land. Her new home will be recognizable by the multitude of fountains, bird baths, those cork-screw pine bushes, and of course the aforementioned monster truck-converted SUV’s. Architecturally, the house will be a mess of styles, with Corinthian columns, turrets, bow windows and a wing which bears some odd resemblance to a Miami Vice drug king-pin’s penthouse lair.
Despite the massive amount of money she’ll win, the house will eventually be shuttered and abandoned when the unthinkably massive amount of money disappears, and our winner spends the last of her years unsuccessfully trying to sue the lottery for ruining her life. She will have failed miserably at being rich. Having as much money as the filthy rich and elite, she will have learned the hard way that it’s impossible to buy the taste, security and grace with which the truly wealthy stroll the earth.
As these thoughts bounced around in my massive bald head, I stepped to the counter and bought my tickets anyway. I drove to work without wasting a moment thinking about the changes my life would see if I somehow won. My neck is safe from the weight of multiple gold chains, and the beach realtors will not see me unless I’m renting a place for a week in the summer. On the bright side, I won’t have to worry about changing tax brackets or time zones. I was quite pleased to note that I wouldn’t be late for work.