Don’t Mess With Gramps

In the 1930s, my grandfather lived down the street from a beer garden.  He wasn’t a teetotaler and didn’t mind if others had a good time, but grew tired of the disruption of hooting and hollering drunks and the debris they left behind.  One summer night, a car full of women pulled up in front of his house.  He sat on his porch smoking a cigarette and heard their drunken conversation as they got out.  He was hidden in darkness, and the women had no idea they had an audience.  One lifted her skirt, squatted down and left a deposit on the lawn.  They laughed as they tottered away to top off their evening at the beer garden.  Grandpa fetched a shovel from his garage after they had gone, scooped up the pile and deposited it on the back seat of the ladies’ sedan.  A few hours later he heard a car door slam followed by screeching, cursing and crying.

Grandpa and Grandma rented for many years before Grandpa’s business began to generate a comfortable income.  Grandpa liked to fix things and to garden, and he left every house in better shape than he found it.  One time he put new tile down in the kitchen.  The landlord came by for the rent, saw the improvement, complimented Grandpa and thanked him.  A month later he evicted them.  My grandfather figured out that the landlord wanted to use the gleaming kitchen floor as an enticement to lure renters willing to pay more.  Grandpa moved his family out to a new location, but before turning in the keys he tore up the tiles and left the broken bits for the landlord to clean up.

Grandpa eventually bought a house on Pritz Avenue.  Ten years later, the city of Dayton put an east/west highway through the town, and bought out the place through eminent domain.  Grandpa got less than the worth of the house, but made do with a story-and-a-half he purchased a mile away in Belmont.  The new house sat on a corner, and Grandpa found tire tracks running across his lawn on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  Some motorists liked to cut the corner.  Punks in a hot rod made a point of churning deep ruts into his lawn one night.  Grandpa began to collect stones about the size of bowling balls.  When he had ten or so, he placed them at intervals at the edge of his lawn along the corner where cars cut through.  He painted them white to give the wayward drivers fair warning, but took some satisfaction when he heard tires blow and axles grind late at night.  Word eventually spread, and Grandpa’s lawn went untouched.

My Grandpa’s shop sold and installed Venetian blinds, curtains and valances.  One day during the beginning of a hectic holiday season, a woman wearing a fur coat and pearl earrings came up to the counter and gave Grandpa a list of demands.  Her house had to be redecorated before Christmas, and Grandpa must put aside his other jobs and give her preferential treatment.  She was an important person.  Grandpa told her that she’d have to wait her turn, that he wouldn’t bump other orders.  She exclaimed, “But my family is coming to town and I need this!”  Grandpa put down his pen and pushed aside her order form, pointed to the displays in the showroom and said, “Lady, there isn’t a single thing in this store that you actually need.

 

 

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A Poet Wore Black

My friend Kathy wore black on the day after Ronald Reagan’s first presidential victory in 1980.  She told me that she intended to dress like a widow until she no longer felt the need to mourn a political world gone mad.

Kathy was an English major at the University of Dayton.  She wrote poetry and frequently used the words “bone” and “ash” in her free verse to give her writing an air of grim melancholy.  She lived by herself in an off campus apartment and kept her rooms dim by blocking light from the windows with sheets hung from curtain rods.  She cleaned and aired only when the smell of dirty clothes, sour milk and stale cigarette smoke overwhelmed her.  It took a lot to overwhelm her.

I had a crush on her, nonetheless.  I had spent three years dating Midwestern girls who expected me to conform to their middle class expectations, and Kathy presented a bohemian alternative.  But she remained steadfast in her resistance to my overt and covert maneuvers.  Instead she favored the company of Sheila, a fellow English major who glared at me with narrowed eyes whenever I spoke to Kathy.

Two days after Reagan’s election I came across Kathy smoking a cigarette as she sat on the steps of the student union by a statue of JFK.  She squinted through the smoke and coldly studied me.  She knew that I was a Dayton native and once asked me if the world ended for me just beyond the city limits.  She believed that the locals suffered from the delusion that nothing worth knowing existed outside of Dayton.  She coughed and ran a hand through her tangled hair as she continued to appraise me.  She finally said, “You wanna come to a meeting with me?”

“What meeting?” I asked.

“Reps from the Communist Party are giving a talk here at noon.”

“Okay,” I said.  I was glad to be given a chance to prove that I wasn’t a rube and to spend time with her.

The commies, a man and two women wearing gray and black coats, set up a card table in the square near the art building.  They had stacks of pamphlets and flyers at their elbows and looked as grim and determined as revolutionaries should.  The man spoke for twenty minutes and told us that capitalism was doomed and that our lives were exercises in folly until we genuflected before the teachings of Karl Marx.  He didn’t offer any evidence for the imminent downfall of the American system and failed to mention Stalin’s legacy of horror.  I asked him if Reagan worried him.  I knew that the president elect had testified against fellow actors during the McCarthy witch hunt era and had fought against unions in Hollywood.  The communist didn’t hesitate to answer and told me that one American president was much like another.  Reagan was no different than Carter.  I didn’t challenge him.  I thought, “Why argue with a fanatic?”

Kathy went to England during Christmas break.  I saw her at the beginning of the next semester.  She no longer wore black and looked almost cheerful.  I invited myself over to her apartment that evening, and we sat in her living room and drank wine.  I asked her to tell me all about her trip.  She hesitated for a long moment, closed her eyes and said, “I’ll tell you one thing, but I want to keep the rest of my experiences for myself.”  It appeared that anything revealed would lose its magic power to inspire her, and she was only willing to give me a scrap.

I no longer remember what she said–maybe she visited Charles Dickens’ home and saw his writing desk.  But I do recall that a little door closed in my mind as I listened to the rise and fall of her voice.  I made my excuses a few minutes later and left.

During that semester I no longer sought her out.  And whenever I ran into her outside a classroom I nodded a hello but said little.  I no longer considered her much of a friend or had any desire to pursue a romance.

A few years later I ran into an acquaintance who had known both of us at UD.  Pat knew that I had been interested in Kathy and told me that she was still in town.  I was surprised as she had vowed that she would never become trapped in Dayton like so many graduates of the University.  The town was a narrow minded, cultural wasteland that would do nothing to nourish her poetry.  Pat went on to say that Kathy worked at a bar in the Oregon District, a trendy strip of night clubs on the southeast side of downtown Dayton.  She dressed in gypsy skirts, wore a head scarf and did Tarot card readings for the well heeled patrons.  He waited for me to ask for the name of the bar, but I just started to laugh.

 

Published: The Call of the Qu’Chihua Qu’hua

I published a short, satirical book on Amazon as a Kindle e-book.  The Call of the Qu’chihua Qu’ hua is a spoof of the Lovecraft Cthulu stories. Daniel J. is an archaeologist who steals a folder from his Uncle Bob’s files, and uses the information to discover an ancient tomb in South America. The graven image of an evil beast, one that looks like the combined  features of a dog and a bat, is carved into the doorway of the tomb’s entrance. Next to it is a hieroglyph that stands for an unknown word of power. He is called back home to his uncle’s deathbed before he can fully investigate his find, and is bequeathed a sketchbook and two houses in Central Florida. When he arrives in Orlando to claim his inheritance he finds further clues about the mysterious tomb and the word of power, and begins to suspect that there is a modern day cult dedicated to the worship of the Bat Dog god. He races to complete his researches but is harassed by a real estate agent, prostitutes and an owner of an illegal dog breeding operation. Even as he begins to piece together the full significance of his discoveries he fears that he will go mad–or worse: that he will become one of Them.

The link is below:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00T6QL4T0