Chapter 25 - Meanwhile Back on the Ground
The next morning, I crawled out of the back of my dad's truck in the morning to find Pop standing there unshaven in his blue and white spotted pajamas and orange bathrobe holding two cups of hot coffee. I could see the steam rising up out of the coffee. I jumped down from the bed to the ground, and he handed me one of the cups. It had a small crack and featured a picture of Fred Flintstone on it.
I was more than a little bit puzzled. My dad wasn't at work. He was always at work. I handed him back the cup and turned to let down the tailgate, and we sat down on it and I took back the coffee. "What's this all about, Pop? Why ain't you at work?"
He sat down beside me, took a sip of coffee, then answered , " I called in this morning. I got some business I need to take care of today."
"You never call in. And you never brought me coffee before. What's up with that?"
"Well, Danny, it ain't every day that your boy returns home from a trip to outer space.'
I shrugged, " I don't know about that; I've done it every night this week." I paused and took a drink of coffee myself, "I know it looks kind of crazy, Pop, but I just need some time to think right now. I'm dealing with some issues that kinda got me all jammed up."
He probed, " And pretending you are sleeping in a spaceship helps you think? That strikes me as a more than a little bit strange."
" Like I said, I know it looks weird, Pop, but the back of the truck has always been my place to go in times of trouble. I've always felt more at home there in anywhere else in the world. I used to have such a fun time imagining I was flying through space. I know it's stupid but..." I couldn't find words to finish.
Pop laughed, " I used to look out the window and watch you. It made me laugh to see you pretending you were a rocket ship captain, but now it worries me, you are a bit too old to be pretending you are a rocketship pilot."
" I ain't pretending anything anymore. I just feel more relaxed sleeping back there. It helps me think I'm in still control of things."
Still smiling he poured out the bottom of his coffee cup on the ground, " This here about that Booth girl?"
I thought about lying to him but didn't, " Yeah, somewhat. How did you know about her?"
"I'm your dad. I'm supposed to know about such things. I take it you having girl problems."
"Yeah; she dumped me and went back to her old boyfriend."
"That Porcine kid?"
" Shit, girl ain't too bright then. All them damn Porcine's are crazy. I had to punch his grandaddy in the head once because he owed me some money and thought because he was a hotshot that he didn't have to pay me back. Tell me, this girl know about her step-daddy and her boyfriend's mom?"
"Hell yeah. Them two been carrying on twenty years at least. Rumor has it that her mom was diddling Mr. Porcine too."
I was dumbfounded and overwhelmed by the news. " Damn, Pop! How do you know all this stuff."
"Well, your Uncle Thurman used to be real friendly with Mrs. Booth before he met your Aunt Linda. She broke things off with him when that Booth fool started sniffing around her. Booth always been a slippery little weasel. Hell, I was there the night she told Thurman she was going to see him anymore. We were all inside of Chicks Bar and that fool Booth was out in the car waiting for her to get off her shift. Thurman sauntered out the door and Booth took off peeling tires and left her there. Thurman had to give her a ride home."
" Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle. Wait a minute; when was this?"
" You don't got no worry. Thurman ain't her daddy. Her real daddy took off before Thurman and her Mama started seeing each other."
Pop and I sat there and seriously talked for the first time in a real long time. I told him what had happened between Jill and I and about the problems I was having with Mickey and his friends. I was surprised that he didn't try to smother me with advice. He only told me one thing in that regard. He told me not to do anything that would cause me to lose my self-respect. He also told me to leave my pistol in my drawer at home. Actually, he was kind of strong on that point.
"Might be too late on that self-respect thing. I cried a single tear the night she broke up with me."
He looked at me and shook his head sadly, " Got to be honest, Son. That was a damned dumbass thing to do. Women don't like to see weakness in a man."
" I know, Pop. Couldn't be helped."
"Strange creatures these females. My experience tell me that as a general rule they'd jump over ten men who sincerely loved them to get to the one asshole that'll treat em like shit."
I laughed ruefully, "Me and you started to see some things the same way."
" Well, it's about damn time. I was beginning to think that you was going be stupid the rest of your life." He laughed an poked me on the arm after he said it.
Pop picked up my coffee cup and was going to carry it into the house, but he suddenly stopped after a couple of steps and turned around. "Son, the reason I'm not at work this morning is that I got a cancer tumor on the end of my pecker. I going to have it taken off this afternoon at the hospital in Hartford."
The news knocked all the wind out of me. I apologized to him for not be around enough to know what was going on. He waved it off and said, " Guess I shouldn't have played with it so much when I was a kid."
It took me a second to register what he had said, "Ew, Pop, I don't want to hear shit like that. That's gross."
"Just joking, boy. I was trying keep things light. I always had enough girls around that I didn't have to resort to abusing myself. Your Uncle Thurman though....."
I held up a hand and cut him off before he could finish. "Enough. I don't want to hear about your and Thurman's adolescent sex life. Sides, Uncle Thurman ain't here to defend himself.... Do I need to worry about this?"
"Doc said I should be okay." He was trying to put on a brave face, but I could see he was worried a bit. I stepped toward him and hugged him.
" I love you, Pop."
"Love you too, Son." He hugged me back. We stood like that for over a minute before he broke away saying, "What you say you let me borrow this here rocket ship for a minute so I can go to the store and get me some shaving cream and razor blades? I'll have to spend a night or two in the hospital."
I took both the coffee cups from him and carried them into the house. Mom was at the kitchen sink washing dishes. She was wearing a blue flowered dress and a white apron. She smiled at me and took the cups from me and dropped them into the soapy water. She gestured for me to sit down and got out a green tupperware bowl from the opened cupboard and tossed it to me. Then she went to the fridge and got out a carton of milk. Lastly, she brought a box of Kellogg's Corn Flakes and set it down on the table in front of me.
"If you want a hot breakfast, you are going to have to get up earlier in the day, Son."
"This is good, Ma. Thanks."
Mom poured herself a cup of coffee and came and set down with me. "Danny, did your dad talk to you about things?"
"Yeah. He told me. Do I need to worry?"
"You always need to worry about things. Life isn't so easy that most people ever have time to go flying imaginary spaceships across time and space."
I frowned, "We talked about that too. I told him I just needed a place to think about things. No pretending about imaginary stuff taking place at all.
She looked at me long and hard. I could see that she was worried. She was trying hard not to show it, but I knew that if I said the wrong thing she would start crying. What she said next surprised me, " Danny, do you remember the day you went to school and I threw out all of your stuffed animals?"
I hadn't thought about that in years. I was in first grade when it happened. I came home and all my imaginary friends were all gone. She told me that Pop had ordered her to do it. I just nodded.
"Your dad made me do that."
"I know, Mom, you told me."
"I didn't want to do it, but he was adamant. I hid them in our closet for the longest time then gave them to Mrs. Gomez and her twins."
"I have to say that it hurt, Mom. I remember that I didn't sleep for about three nights. That sock-monkey was named Ben, and I told Ben all my damn secrets. It bothered me that he might have thought that I was in on it."
I saw her getting ready to cry, so I added. " You don't think that Ben mighta told Brenda Gomez about where I hid the money I stole out of Glen's piggy bank?" She looked at me, and I pretended to be thinking about the possibility, "I noticed it was gone right after that."
It took her mind off from crying. I noticed that she was thinking about something. Then she spoke, " Danny, you hid the money in your sock drawer. I put it back in Glen's bank."
"Good. I never did like Brenda Gomez."
Mom busted out laughing at the thought, and it made me laugh too. After about a minute she tried to stop, and I would something like, "That damn monkey," and she would start rolling again.
Before I left to go back home and shower, I asked her a question, "Mom, you read the story about Cyrano de Bergerac didn't you?"
"About the fella with the big nose?"
" Yeah, I read it in high school. It was a good story."
"Did you think he was a coward?"
"If I remember right he was brave warrior. What would make you think he was a coward?"
"He never told Roxanne it was him who wrote the letters."
She thought about it before answering, " That's just men being men, Danny. Your daddy once beat up three men who got rude with me one night. One of them said something. Your Dad told him to shut up, and the others let it be known that they were all in together. Didn't stop your dad. He lit into all of them. But, I'll tell ya, I would have a easier time pulling a five carat diamond out of a pig's ass then getting your dad to say he loved me."
"Pop also said that given a choice a woman would always choose the man that treated her the worse."
She had to think about that too, but finally said, "There's some truth to that I guess. Your dad was semi-bad boy when I met him, and I had to pull him out of a bar or two at first, but I always knew he had a got heart from the first time I met him, and that's why I chose him."
I gave her a long hug then started to leave, but she called me back right before I walked through the doorway.
"You want to know what I think about that Booth girl?"
I raised my hands in a questioning gesture.
I was shocked. I didn't even know that mothers knew that word much less used it, "Damn, Mom! I was kind of harsh, don't you think?"
She laughed and was wearing the biggest shit-eating grin on I'd ever seen on a human being. " It's your fault, Daniel. You made me remember sitting in Mr. Highwater's Lit class wanting to tell Cyrano to tell Roxane those very words."