The Scum Bag Story
I play in a regular Friday golf game at Dobson Ranch, in Mesa Arizona. In fact, we call it the Friday game. Invariably, after the round, we sit outside and drink beer, tell stories, and brag or commiserate about the days' events. Usually, after about the third or fourth pitcher of beer, as tradition has it, someone usually jumps up and demands, "Come on Bubba, tell us the Scum Bag Story!" There are usually new players who come and go from the Friday game, and someone always wants me to tell the Scum Bag Story, just one more time for a newcomer. God help me, I do love to tell the Scum Bag story.
About twenty years ago, I split up with my first wife Doris and took off from Hermosa Beach, California and headed up to Sandpoint, Idaho. I had an old high school buddy up there. About the only thing I got out of that marriage was a BMW, and a semi-new TV. Doris got the furniture, the VW rabbit, and a bird named Fred. I'll never forget the day I left, Doris and I clutching each in a desperate hug, both of us crying like babies, and saying "Good bye." Jesus, she was a good woman, but I'll get back to her later.
After years of a confining marriage, I ran wild that summer in Standpoint. Malcolm, the high school buddy, had a nice house on the lake. It was easy to get laid back then, before Aids and all the paranoia about sex. About half way through the summer, I started running low on money, and decided to sell the BMW. Malcolm and I drove to Spokane in separate cars, where I sold the BMW, and got a nice resupply of cash. On the way back to Sandpoint, we decided to stop off in Wallace, Idaho.
Everybody from the Northwest knows about Wallace. In the old days it used to be a sleepy little mining town, with a very popular storefront, a nice whorehouse. That summer I had been hearing all these stories about the Wallace whorehouse. It was about time. We pulled into the parking lot that afternoon, grinning like dogs eatin' shit, drunk out of our minds.
Most people have never been to a whorehouse, so I'll give you a little rundown on how it works. The Madame brings out the girls for a line-up. That day in Wallace was no different. The girls came out and stood in a line for our inspection, while the Madame ran down the procedures and prices. The prices ranged $20, $30, $40, and $50. $20 was for the straight, no frills, blowjob. $30 got you a poke in the whiskers, no kissing of course. $40 was for half-and-half. But for $50, you could go up the ass. Without hesitation, pointing a finger in the air for emphasis, I slurred out, "I'll take the fifty." With this drunken response, three of the girls took a step back, leaving only two left to choose from. As I recall, one was kinda skinny and a bit skittish. The other gal still up front was husky with a laid back smile. Being the bargain shopper that I am, I chose the big one, wanting of course to get full value for my $50. And besides, nobody wants to butt-fuck a bony ass. What happened next is going to blow your mind.
Please forgive me, but I don't remember the big one's name. She led me by the hand down a hallway, like a dog on a leash, to her room where business was conducted. To my surprise and absolute delight, there was another girl in her room. She was a young apprentice, who had not appeared in the original line-up. It was her first day on the job and she was there for pecker check training.
Back in the old days, before prostitutes made you wear rubbers, the guys had to go through the pecker check. This was a standard procedure to determine the presence of gonorrhea and herpes. The husky veteran instructed the young rookie with a watchful eye. The apprentice seemed quite embarrassed while unzipping my fly and pulling out my penis. Her unsteady hand began to milk me, while looking for any telltale discharge, untidy fluids, or open sores. I was beaming with pride, having passed the original screening and at the same time being instrumental in the education of a young student embarking upon a new career. This was probably her first job, right after dropping out of high school. She was truly young and beautiful, she still had pimples. Over the years, as I look back, I often think of this young girl. What a shame. I hope she found love and a better life.
With the increasing awareness off STD's (sexually transmitted diseases) and the mandatory use of rubbers with whores, I'm afraid that the pecker check is becoming a lost art. Just another part of our heritage lost forever, and soon to be forgotten.
So much for twinges of guilt, let me get back to the Scum Bag Story. After dismissing the trainee, the big veteran and myself got down to business. I paid the $50 in advance, having passed the pecker check with flying colors. We were more relaxed now, and after some small chitchat, we got down to the heart of the matter. She had some magical lubricating fluid, which she generously applied to my slowly stiffening penis. However, there was a small problem. As a result of the day's consumption of beer (20 cans maybe), the husky veteran was having trouble convincing me to attain the required erectness for anal penetration. The three of four minute hand job to induce the required bloating had not been foreseen in the original price negotiation. Time is money. We were not getting off to a smooth start.
Having finally attained the adequate rigidity, we quickly assumed the standard dog style position, no kissing or ear nibbling. In the beginning she sprang forth with the conventional words of encouragement. "Oh, it's so big," and, "Give it to me hard, you animal." She tried every trick, like reaching under and massaging my nuts, accompanied by the dutiful moaning. None the less, I couldn't come. About 15 minutes into this enterprise, she started becoming quite discouraged and agitated.
I was equally determined to finish what I had started, endearing myself to her with words like "Just a few more minutes, please, I'm just about to come, Oh, Ahh." I just kept plowing.
Finally, out of the blue sky, she twisted her neck around, to get a better look at her source of demise, and said, "You know, you're a real Scum Bag!"
I couldn't believe my ears and shot back, "Well excuse me, I've got a dick in your ass for fifty, and I'm the Scum Bag. Excuse me!!!"
It is at this time of the story, at the Friday game, that several of the drunken golfers howl in unison, "Excuse me, I'm the Scumbag, Excuse me," while rocking dangerously in cheap plastic lawn chairs. I suppose someday the Friday golf group will tire of the Scum Bag Story, but that day has not come yet.
Back in October, about six months ago, I had gone down to Papago Park to see if I could walk on by myself and play a round of golf as a single. As fate would have it, being a Thursday, all of the tee times were blocked out by the Papago Women's Club, and I did not get to play. I hit some range balls, practiced chipping and putting, then headed back home to Fountain Hills, where I live. It was about three in the afternoon. I shall never forget that day.
There is a singles bar in Scottsdale, near the corner of Scottsdale Road and Camelback named Eli's. Thinking why not, I stopped in for a few Budweisers. About half way into the second beer, a truly stunning and beautiful woman came in and sat down next to me. She had a smile and presence about herself that took my breath away. I looked around and took a quick inventory of the patrons, thinking she was there to meet one of the handsome, Rolex clad millionaires so often found in Eli's.
I cannot recall our first words spoken to each other, but I do remember that we had a friendly conversation. She carried on about a high dollar repair job for her Mercedes, adding that she had been thinking about a new car, perhaps a Lexus. Needless to say, I did not mention that my Olds was a piece of shit, worth 800 dollars tops. I offered to buy her a drink, and to my surprise she answered, "Sure, I'll have a Bud Lite."
As I recall, she seemed a light, social drinker. She had just one drink, and politely excused herself. She had an important appointment. Strangely enough, there was some mutual attraction and bonding. Speaking for myself, it was love at first sight, if such a thing exists. I still have the cocktail napkin upon which she scribbled her name and phone number. How was I to know then that my heart was to be broken so, and I would come to examine myself as never before. The subsequent self-examination, and search for any fine qualities within myself is a direct result of this chance encounter at Eli's. Now I know that I am capable of loving and being loved again. Thank you Darlene.
After a few phone calls, thick with meaningless chitchat and carefully edited biographies, we agreed to go out on a date. Back in the teenage years, beautiful young girls had to obtain parental consent to date a new boy (ugly ones too, for that matter). Unknown to me, Darlene had sought and been given permission by her 13 year old daughter to go out with me, an unknown.
It was a Friday, in early November of '96. It took me a good thirty minutes to find her house. I was not that familiar with north Scottsdale. Sitting in my car in front of her house, I remember shaking my head and thinking out loud, "What the fuck am I getting myself into?" I was hoping she was possibly house sitting or a live in maid. What the fuck, I waltzed up to the front door and rang the doorbell like Howard Hughes. This place was mansion.
Tiffany, the 13-year-old daughter, answered the door. The first words out of her mouth were, "Who are you?" Let me say this one more time. "What the fuck was I getting into?"
Without going into a lot of detail, I fell helplessly in love with this very beautiful and charming woman. When together, we were like teenagers again, not being able to keep our hands to ourselves. I remember very clearly one time. We were in Radio Shack, and right out of nowhere, she stopped herself in the middle of a conversation with a sales clerk, wrapped her arms around me and kissed me. Tiffany, the equally beautiful teenage daughter, said "Mom, stop it!" We were always sneaking around, just to get those wonderfully therapeutic hugs and kisses.
It had been many, many years since I had been with a woman who made me feel so good about myself. I think in the beginning, she felt the same towards me. Affection is not easily faked. After a few months, I began to feel that closeness slipping away.
From the beginning, we had sworn to a pact of honesty. It is very relaxing to not hold back your thoughts of the moment, and to say exactly what is on your mind, without that moment of hesitation to editorialize. I was not willing to accept that she had a similar pact with her daughter Tiffany. I sometimes surprise myself at my own stupidity.
One day Darlene and I had made love three times in the afternoon. We had just started to breathe normally, when Tiffany came home from school, pounding on the locked bedroom door. I'm sure Tiffany felt betrayed and abandoned. In retrospect I now realize how close Tiffany and Darlene were. I should have been more sensitive to the family I had invaded, and not to consumed with my own needs and feelings. I hope the resentment Tiffany felt toward me was not so damaging to make it more difficult for Darlene to have a lasting relationship when the right man does come around for her.
Darlene and I had gone to Rocky Point, Mexico for the most wonderful two days and nights. There were no phones ringing, no kids running wild throughout the house, no dogs to feed, just Darlene and myself, very close and very much in love. When we got back, all hell broke loose. Tiffany was on a rampage. She was yelling and screaming like crazy. As it turned out, Darlene had not told Tiffany we were getting away to fuck for two days, but that we were going to Mexico as part of a group. Girls and boys in separate rooms. Somehow Tiffany had found out.
I could tell that Darlene was ashamed and hurt that she had not been honest with her daughter.
This was early in our relationship, and we had been careful to shield Tiffany from the fact that we were sleeping together. Now, the hounds were loose. I was shocked and amazed when Tiffany called her mother a "Slut and Whore." I tried to explain to Tiffany that what Darlene and myself did was very special and loving, but she did not want to hear it. I probably should have said nothing, and leave Darlene and Tiffany alone to work things by themselves. That evening, after I went to work, they sat down and had a heart to heart. Yes, she was sleeping with me. Yes, we made love. Most important, Darlene would not lie to her again. They kissed and made up.
Not only do I surprise myself often with my stupidity; my lack of timing and sensitivity can be truly astonishing from time to time. One evening, a week or so after the Mexico trip, Darlene and I were sitting alone in the dining room, just talking and feeling especially close. We had both had several glasses of wine, and I thought it might be a good time to disclose something I had been avoiding.
I have had genital herpes for 20 years or so. It's no big deal to me, but maybe once a year or so I get an outbreak, like a pimple, and I am contagious. If this were to happen, I would have to avoid intercourse, not wanting to infect Darlene. I felt it would be better to tell Darlene in advance, rather that to wait until some night in bed to say, "Oh, by the way, we better not do it for a few days." Anyway, as gently as possible, I dropped the bomb on her.
I also suggested that we go to her Doctor, and in my presence, have a frank discussion and let the Doctor explain to her what herpes is all about. Instantly, I could tell that Darlene was shocked and afraid. Between the wine and the bad news, she was starting to fall apart. I felt lower that shit, and quite ashamed. What happened next was the wildest, God damnedest, heartbreaking scene you can ever imagine.
Darlene had an older daughter, Jennifer. Jennifer lived with her boyfriend, away from home. That evening Jennifer had come by to visit, and most likely to solicit funds from Mom. Upon hearing the bad news, Darlene took Jennifer aside and drunkenly confided with her about the herpes. Whoops!
That night Tiffany, the 13-year-old, was having a slumber party with ten or so of her juvenile delinquent girl friends. One of these brats had eavesdropped on Darlene's disclosure to Jennifer. By the time the story got to Tiffany, I had given her mother Aids. Tiffany came roaring into the dining room, with entourage in tow, yelling and screaming. "You asshole, how could you do this to my mom! I hate you! Get out of the house! Aids!! You killed her!"
My jaw and heart dropped like a 20-pound sack of shit. In my 50 years, I've never felt so low and ugly. A few seconds later, Darlene came bopping into the kitchen, wanting to know what all the hell raising was about. Needless to say, the info I had tried to gently and diplomatically convey had turned into a monkey fucking a football. It was time for some damage control.
There I stood in the dining room, wineglass in hand, with dozens of hateful eyes glaring at my crotch. Without question, what these eyes imagined was not a pretty sight. Now would have been a good time for some smooth talking and fancy footwork, but I was speechless and devastated that I had orchestrated such a hellish scene. Thank God, at least the wine was tasty.
Darlene, tipsy as she was, had enough common sense and presence of mind to isolate us alone as a threesome. The other kids were instructed to leave us alone in the dining room for a conference. I'm positive that the phone lines were jammed within seconds of their dismissal. Jennifer had huffed home to confide with her live in boy friend.
Finally alone with Tiffany and Darlene, we had our first real heart to heart. I tried to explain that I was in love with her mother, and that I would do nothing to hurt her. "No, I don't have Aids, or anything like that." I begged her to trust me on this one. How in God's name could I have fucked up things so badly? Within a few days, things calmed down a bit and it was back to normal. Deep down inside I knew that Tiffany was not very happy about sharing her mother with a Scum Bag like me. Little did she know.
Wouldn't you know it. A few evenings after the herpes disclosure fiasco, Darlene became quite ill with a bladder infection. She was as sick as a dog. She probably should have gone to the hospital emergency room that evening, but she stubbornly refused. The next day, we went to her doctor's office for a checkup. Tiffany knew we were going to the doctor's office, and was going nuts.
This was a good opportunity for me to clear the air, with her doctor giving a trusted opinion. We had decided to go in together. I was going to do the talking. Darlene was a bit embarrassed to discuss certain matters, even with her doctor, one matter in particular. Those 15 minutes or so of waiting in the reception room, while mindlessly thumbing through magazines, is always a chilling experience. The moment of truth was soon coming.
Darlene and I were becoming more and more comfortable sexually, and had done some experimenting. It takes time, but eventually partners find out what words, foreplay, touches, and positions offer the greatest rewards. We had become aware and sensitive to each other's needs.
Early on in the relationship, I had told Darlene the Scum Bag Story. The version I had relayed to her was not the epic version, but a more condensed and subtle synopsis. It was before the Mexico trip, when I had told her. She was no different from the Friday game golfers. I remember her laughing and saying over and over, "Well, excuse me."
The second night of the Mexico trip Darlene and I were about to make love again, for the umpteenth time. We had adjusted to our favorite position. To my complete surprise and delight, she placed the head of my penis comfortably in the entrance of the $50 dollar hole. "Be easy," was all she said. Within seconds my boner went from medium to a heavy, twitching throbber. It was amazing, but she opened up like a gay sailor with a two-day pass. Maybe it was the tequila.
When we awoke the next morning, I was not sure if it had been real or just a dream. My suspicions were quickly confirmed when she calmly suggested that I wash myself properly, before making love again. Later at breakfast she told me that it had been nice, and thanked me for being gentle. This activity had been quietly been added to our sexual arsenal.
It seemed like hours, but finally a nurse appeared in the doctor's reception room and led us back to an examination room. I explained to the nurse that prior to any examination, we requested a joint consultation, Darlene, the doctor and myself.
Comfortably seated in leather chairs, across the desk from the doctor, I began. I told the doctor about my having had herpes for many years. We wanted his counseling and guidance.
He explained to us that herpes was a centuries old malady, and that there were even references to it in the bible. He assured Darlene that it was certainly not life threatening, but that caution should be taken if and when "The condition," as he called it reared its head. He had as patients a married couple. The spouse had not contacted "it" after 5 years of marriage. He did suggest that if we were to stay together for years, there was a fair chance that Darlene would eventually become infected. If it were to happen, it was not the end of the world. I could tell that Darlene felt a great sense of relief.
The next item for discussion was the bladder infection. The doctor explained to us that this was quite common with new couples for the female to get bladder infections. He even called it "Honeymoonitis," trying to put Darlene at ease. He scheduled Darlene for some tests. If it was indeed a bladder infection, he assured Darlene that medication would clear it up in a few days. He got up to shake hands and send us on our way. However, I had another item to discuss, the $50 dollar question.
Darlene knew what was coming next. She suddenly found something on the floor to look at. "Doc, from time to time we have engaged in anal sex," I casually mentioned. "Do you have any additional comments, knowing now what you do." The doctor was wearing a pair of those reading glasses with the top half missing. He was writing deliberately on Darlene's medical chart, taking his time to choose his words carefully. Both the doctor and myself could feel Darlene squirming in the chair.
All of a sudden, Darlene blurted out, "But we only did it once, and that was by mistake." Another moment of torturous silence passed.
The doctor lifted his eyes, without moving his head an inch. We have all seen that look, with the eyes peering over the reading glasses. Everyone knows what it betrays. I'd have bet a hundred dollars his thoughts went something like this. "Sure lady, you only did it once. I'm sure you only did it once, and it was a mistake. Sure. Uh huh."
When he finally broke the silence, he told us to be careful. Again, this was not a life-threatening situation. We thanked him for his extra time. I went back to the reception room while Darlene was having the tests done. The magazines had not become any more interesting. About 30 minutes later, Darlene came out and we slowly walked to the car.
Yes, she had a serious bladder infection. There would be no sex for a while. The doctor had given her a prescription, and she was going to be all right. At the car, she wrapped her arms around me and gave me a big kiss. She held me close and whispered in my ear, "You're making me sick, but I love you anyway." I wanted to cry. Jesus, I loved this woman, and at the same time felt quite helpless. I knew right then that I was going to have be more responsible and less selfish to keep this thing alive. Was I man enough? I had my doubts.
It was the summer of '68. I had gone to Hermosa Beach, California, for the summer break before my senior year at Oklahoma State University. That summer things happened that changed my life forever.
My old high school buddy Malcolm and I rented a small studio apartment about three blocks from the beach. Yes, this is the same Malcolm, more recently from Sandpoint, Idaho. He and I would make that memorable visit to the Wallace whorehouse some ten years later, for the "Scum Bag" admonishment.
Just picture this, two redneck Okies in the land of milk and honey. We had died and gone to heaven. We smoked weed, drank beer, and chased pussy. Every night was Saturday night. We wore love beads, roman sandals, and bellbottoms. If my Dad would have seen us, he would have shit.
The Olympic Games were set for Mexico City in that unforgettable summer of '68, and I wanted to be there. We had both been fired or had quit our jobs, I can't remember which. It was mid August, and we were itching for a last fling, before heading back to Oklahoma for school. One fine afternoon we set out to hitchhike to Mexico City. I had about 50 dollars and Malcolm had maybe 20 dollars, our net worth at the time. I look back now and all of this seems crazy, but a young man of 21 has big balls, or he has nothing.
Hitchhiking was easy back then. Those were the hippie days, the days of free love and cheap marijuana. It took us no more that ten minutes to get a ride. Within hours we were at the border crossing of Mexicali. We casually walked into Mexico, masquerading as young bucks looking for cheap beer and pussy.
Once we got into Mexico, it seemed that the good citizens south of the border were not so thrilled about picking up a couple of shaggy looking gringos. We got stuck somewhere about 20 miles into Mexico, for what seemed like a long time. About the time we had decided that was not such a good idea, and were thinking about turning back, our luck changed. A surfer from Santa Barbara, whose name has long since been forgotten, driving a beat up Dodge station wagon, pulled over and offered us a ride.
There is a little dance that hitchhikers and drivers go through at the first moment of offering. "Where you going?" "Mexico City." "How about you?"
This takes place initially while the parties are sizing each other up. Not much information is given up at first. But later on, if everything looks right, a final destination is agreed upon and all goes well. Back in those days I used to hitchhike and pick up hitchhikers all the time. Knock on wood, but I have never had a bad experience.
Only once, while hitchhiking through Oklahoma City, I got myself into a tight spot. A priest, wearing the black outfit, stopped to give me a ride. After the aforementioned dance, he wanted to know if it would be asking too much for him to suck my dick. I promptly told him too pull over and let me out. Before getting out of the car, I thanked him with a vicious right hook to the nose. Every time I see a priest sporting a somewhat crooked nose, I cannot help wondering the circumstance.
The surfer driving the Dodge station wagon was on his way to Mazatlan. He gave Malcolm and I a ride all the way there. It turned out to be one of the more memorable nights in my life.
We took turns driving all through the night. Malcolm had a harmonica, the surfer had a guitar, and I had brought along a small stash of weed. I remember that night, almost 30 years ago, very clearly. It rained through the night. Stoned on good weed, with the windows down and the sound of the tires on the wet pavement to accompany us, we played and sang Bob Dylan and Beatles songs until sunrise. By the time we got to Mazatlan we were dead tired, yet wide-awake. Even today, I still feel a special excitement that happens when I come upon a new place. "God," I love that feeling.
We hung out on the beach in Mazatlan for a few days. Malcolm had met some Americans at a campground and had been offered a ride back to L. A. The surfer from Santa Barbara had gone his way. I was on my own, completely. To a degree, this was the first time in my life I had been totally free. I knew nobody and nobody knew me. With a very limited Spanish vocabulary, I was reduced to using the most basic tools of communication. Smiles, gestures, posture, and arm motion served as language those first few days. Soon, I came to realize the Americans were not the only good people on the planet.
Still determined to be on hand for the '68 Games in Mexico City, within a few days I found myself roadside again, with my thumb out. A truck driver hauling shrimp pulled over and offered me a ride this time. The "Dance" was a bit different this time. By now, I had learned a few words in Spanish, and they served me well. I think he probably offered me the ride, looking for free labor to help him unload the truck. We made an intermediate stop in Guadalajara, where I helped out on the docks. All went well, into the bowels of downtown Mexico City. By this time, with the help of the truck driver, and a handy, pocket sized English-Spanish dictionary, I was getting along quite nicely.
Nothing could have prepared me for what lay ahead. Mexico City was not exactly what I had pictured. This was the nastiest fuckin' place you can possibly imagine. Believe me when I tell you this. I have since been all over the world, and seen my fair share of hellholes. Nothing on Earth can compare with Mexico City in the summer of '68. The smog and stench was so bad, it made my eyes water like a root canal. Day and night, the blaring klaxons, screeching of tires, and the ravings of lunatics hammered away at my ears. "Jesus," didn't they have an insane asylum around somewhere. I remember thinking aloud, "God help the poor fuckers who have to run the Marathon in this shit."
It was late August, and the '68 Games were still weeks away. My heart had been set on being around for the freestyle wrestling competition. There was a guy from Oklahoma City's John Marshall high school named Wayne Wells competing in the 160-pound class. He had been one of my idols in high school. Wells had won the high school state finals in '63 and' 64, and had gone on to Oklahoma University, where he was a two time national champion. He was one tough sum' bitch.
For the record, Wells did not win in '68, but took the bronze medal instead. I remember some controversy about him getting fucked over by a panel on eastern-block judges. He came back in the '72 Munich Games, where the Israeli weightlifting team was murdered, and got his revenge. Wells kicked the shit out of some German named Seeger in the '72 finals. I remember watching the awards ceremony on television four years later, with Wayne Wells standing tall. God bless America. God bless Oklahoma. So much for Wayne Wells.
Getting back to August of '68, two things were becoming painfully obvious to me. One, I was not hanging around Mexico City for two more weeks to watch Wayne Wells kick ass. And two, I was probably not making it back to Oklahoma State for my senior year. Number two bothered me the most. Not that I really cared that much, but because I knew how disappointed my parents would be. The marijuana, beer, and wanderlust had taken over my life. There was also a sadness, which had consumed me. There was something I was running away from. There was something that had happened in the summer of '67 that would not go away. Something I could not stop thinking about.
It had been almost a week, now that I had been in Mexico. Somewhere between Mexico City and Acapulco, on the bed of a flatbed truck, I was viciously attacked. This attack did not come from anything human, rather by a gang of microscopic assassins. We all have heard stories about Montezuma's revenge, but nothing ever spoken or written can truly describe the Hell of it. I think the Medical profession calls it something like amoebic dysentery. In my 50 years, this is the closest I have ever come to what could be described as a near death experience. Believe me when I tell you, I saw the lights and heard the horns.
The two Mexicans up front in the cab of the flatbed were very understanding, and certainly amused. About every ten of fifteen miles, the driver would pull over and let me take care of business. By the time they dropped me off at the beach in Acapulco, I was weak and delirious.
That evening I crashed on the beach, hoping things would be better the next day. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Things got worse, a lot worse.
One of the first things I learned to say in Spanish is "Donde estan los banos," meaning, "Where is the shithouse." As fate would dictate, the beach area where I landed was a bit upscale. The public bathroom there was not free. There was a one peso per visit charge, about twelve cents at the time. There was a matronly looking woman standing guard to collect the peso, and to dispense hand towels and wipes. We became well acquainted that day.
My fifty dollars had, by this time, diminished considerably. The one peso tariff to take a shit every thirty minutes was beginning to be cause for concern. At some time that first afternoon, I was beginning to feel dehydrated and weaker yet. I did not think I could make the forty or so yard dash to the "banos" in time. Please do judge me badly, but sometimes extreme measures are called for.
Without a care in the world, I casually rolled over on my back, spread my legs, and let 'er rip, swim trunks and all. I was so sick, I could not move, and mercifully I fell to sleep.
Later that afternoon I awoke, only to find I had attracted quite a crowd, not a crowd of people, but of flies. The other beach patrons had smartly distanced themselves. I gently walked down to the surf, dove in and cleaned up as best I could. Without question, there is nothing that stings quite like salt water on a raw asshole. Welcome to Mexico.
As you might have guessed, miraculously I lived. Within a few days I was back in health, and feeling alive. Contrary to my newfound spirit, my net worth was fast approaching zero. I needed to find a way to make a few bucks, only it would be pesos this time.
As is the case with most Mexican tourist destinations, Acapulco had its share of street vendors, from which one could buy anything from a bucket of oysters, to a Virgin Mary in silver or gold. While wandering amid this throng of enterprise, I was stopped dead in my tracks by someone standing ten feet away with his back to me. As if frozen in time, I stood motionless; staring at a teenage Mexican boy selling seafood from an ice filled wooden crate. For a few moments, he was my brother Kenny, who had drowned the previous summer, the summer of '67.
I have always been blessed with the ability to fit in and make friends, every where I have gone. Within a few days, I fell into a strange comradeship with the street vendors of Acapulco. My primary job was to stand back and act stupid, listening intently to any American tourist's discussions concerning quality and price of the seafood. If needed, I would intercede and help close a sale.
The Mexican teenager, with the striking resemblance to my dead brother, and myself became business partners after a week or so. His name was Jose, and we made a good team. He had the local knowledge and contacts with the fishermen. My contribution was limited but valuable, wean the best price from the American tourists. There were no social security cards or business licenses required. Resumes and employment applications were not needed. This was capitalism in the purest sense.
After weeks of prosperity and good weather, we got nailed by a nasty tropical storm. It rained for two days like a cow pissin' on a flat rock. My sleeping bag and cache of belongings were swept out to sea. I had not realized that my hiding place, in an area of dense brush and tropical overgrowth, was in reality a flash flood wash.
My father had given me that sleeping bag years before, and it hurt to lose it. My business partner, Jose, somehow found humor in my loss. We eventually sat in the rain laughing our asses off. We still had good jobs.
That evening Jose asked me to come and stay with his family. He lived in a very poor hillside section of Acapulco, about a mile walk from the beach. His bedroom was a rusted out station wagon, sitting on cinder blocks. The spare room for myself was an old tan four-door Plymouth with the back seat removed conveniently, allowing legroom to stretch out comfortably into the trunk area. The accommodations were dry and comfy.
I found out later that Jose had no family in the traditional blood sense. He was an orphan, and had been taken in at a very young age by a generous and caring couple. He called them "Tia" and Tio," which translates as aunt and uncle. They were in their sixties, extremely poor and simple. Their home consisted of a dirt floor, some pieces of discarded plywood for walls, and a roof of woven palm fronds. There was no electricity, only a wood burning stove and a picture of Jesus. Aside from the grinding poverty, there was a warmth and feeling of welcome very seldom seen. To this day, I still have a fondness for rice and beans.
The next morning, I was awakened by the gentle sound of a softer rain on the old Plymouth. The storm was passing. It was Sunday, a busy day for Jose and myself. Sales were brisk, and we made about five dollars apiece.
The walk back to Jose's house gave me a feeling of pride and accomplishment that evening. About a block from home, a young teenage girl appeared to meet Jose. She had a wonderful smile and breeziness, that of a young woman in love. Jose had said very little about her, except that he wanted to get married. My spirit was lifted to see this, a young teenage couple starting out on what could be a lifelong journey.
That evening I was asked to accompany Jose and his fiancé to Sunday night Mass. I had not set foot in a church since my brother's funeral. Things, which had been said at Kenny's funeral, were still vivid, and I was reluctant to go. Having only swim wear and T-shirts as a wardrobe, I was offered a clean and pressed shirt and slacks from Jose's uncle. It would be unthinkable to refuse, so off we went to Mass.
I had only been inside a Catholic Church one time in my life. That had been as a twelve-year-old in Tulsa, only then to rob and vandalize. This however was quite different. Jose, his fiancé, and myself found ourselves a pew near the back of the crowded chapel. It was a very sobering and introspective experience. Not understanding the words spoken by the priest, I could only imagine the message. "To forgive."
While kneeling, with head bowed for the final prayer of the service, I quietly began to sob uncontrollably. The tears were streaming down my face. Jose's fiancé, whose name is long forgotten, gently took my hand in hers' and gave me the strength to withstand this onslaught of emotion.
When the service ended, I rushed outside and ran into an adjoining cemetery I had made note of earlier. I yelled at the first headstone I came to. "Why did you drown in that fucking lake, you little fucker. God Damn you."
Then I finally did what I could never do before. I forgave Kenny. I laid down on the cool grass, put my arms around the headstone,and told him it was it was going to be all right. Since Kenny had died in the summer of '67, I had not been able to understand what I felt. Now it was obvious, I was angry. How dare him die like that? He had been everybody's favorite, the best athlete, the talk of the town, the chosen one.
Jose and his fiancé quietly walked over to where I would notice them, and waited for me to gather myself. The walk back to his house was a strange, solemn parade. Surely they had doubts about my sanity. Who knows?
Later that evening, after walking his fiancé home, Jose came up to me and wanted to know what had happened. I said "Mi Hermano," the Spanish word for brother, and made the sign of the cross I had seen in church earlier that evening. I did not know the word for "dead," so I touched my forehead, chest, then across the shoulders. Jose bowed his head and did the same. He knew.
The next morning I explained to Jose that it was time for me to go back home, to the USA. We shook hands, and I turned to leave. It was a mile or so walk to the main road out of town, and to the north. I had been hitch hiking for a few minutes when I saw Jose running towards me. "Un momento, un momento," he yelled out. Please wait.
He came running up to me. Out of breath, and handed me some fried cakes in a paper bag, for the journey home. My Spanish was very limited, but I easily understood his question. Would I like to have a new brother?
"Yes," I answered, "I would be his brother." We shook hands one last time, and that was that. I have never been the huggy, kissy type, especially with another man, but I regret not giving this kid a big hug. He had helped in giving me some understanding about myself, and about life that no one else had been able to.
That was some thirty years ago, and I have often wondered what happened to Jose and his fiancé. My guess is that they are happily married and well respected.
The summer of '68 came to an end, and I did not return to Oklahoma State for my senior year. Hermosa Beach, California would be home for the next fifteen years.
Darlene had planned a big dinner for Christmas day. She had assembled quite a list of guests. Her oldest daughter Jennifer, and Jennifer's boyfriend Billy, of course would be there. The live-in housekeeper, a tall and wiry black woman with a very questionable past would be serving and trying to dominate the gathering as well. Tiffany, the thirteen-year-old daughter, would have several of her juvenile delinquent entourage in tow. I had imagined that all would go smooth and easy. Boy, was I in for a fuckin' surprise.
Everything started off just fine. As usual Darlene had spent an hour in front of the mirror getting buffed out. I wish I had a dollar for every hour she has spent in front of a mirror or in a beauty operator's chair. As the guests started arriving, Darlene wasted no time getting into the spiked eggnog. She had warned me that sometimes her family gatherings went sour. She was not bull shitting.
We spent a good hour or so opening presents. Everybody carried on and on about how nice this was and how it was just what they had wanted. What is funny is that nobody really liked any body there. Tiffany hated me for fucking her mother. The housekeeper hated me. I hated the housekeeper. Darlene hated Billy, and sometimes she hated Jennifer. One thing was for sure, just about everyone present hated me, except for Darlene.
We went around the circle, with everyone taking turns opening one present at a time. "Oh, open this one next," we all guided one another, so that the most cherished and gaudiest would be saved for the last round. What a crock of shit.
By now Darlene had instructed the housekeeper to whip up another batch of eggnog. She would need it before the day was over.
Gradually, we all made our way into the formal dining room. All the best shit was on the table. It was a formal service for ten. It was very nice, all gold plated knives and forks. I said grace, a quick and simple "Thank you Jesus." I did not elaborate.
I had been selected to carve the turkey, a big mistake. To begin with, the housekeeper had overcooked the shit out of it. The stuffing was dry and the meat was tough. I did the best I could under the circumstances. The turkey meat did not cut well at all. I ended up tearing off big hunks and flopping them on the serving platter. I kept banging into other stuff and causing everyone's wine and water to spill. The turkey should have been carved beforehand, and certainly in the kitchen. One of Tiffany's entourage spilled kool-aid on the white carpet, and Darlene let out a shriek. It was only beginning to heat up.
About half way through dinner I noticed something that made me unique at this gathering. I was the only one holding my fork like a pool cue. Everyone else was holding his or her fork with the thumb on top, like you are taught at finishing school. Even the black housekeeper had her thumb up top. God bless Mom and Dad; but they had neglected stressing some of the finer habits to myself, my brothers, and my sister. It was while musing over the merits of fork position, that the shit began to hit the fan.
A month earlier Darlene had bought Jennifer and Billy a new Chevy compact. I'm sure it was the cheapest thing on the lot. Anyway, they had parked it in the driveway, and the windows were down when the automatic sprinkler system went off. Out of nowhere, Jennifer started yelling at the top of her voice at Darlene and Billy.
Darlene was a bitch for not telling her that the sprinkler system was going to ruin her new car seats, and Billy had better hurry his ass and roll up the windows. Billy ran outside and rolled up the windows. Then Billy hustled back in looking like a drowned rat, and seated himself.
Except for the sound of Billy slashing away at the turkey and dressing with an open mouth, the silence was unbearable. Billy was a converted redneck from Texas, and he could shovel the food down, if the time was short. I was greatly amused to see that I was not the only one holding the fork with the pool cue method any longer. Billy had shifted into high gear, with his face only inches from his plate. He knew Christmas dinner was just about over. This was not his first rodeo.
In an attempt to re-introduce the Christmas spirit, I casually suggested, "Come on everyone, it's Christmas. Let's all enjoy this."
Jennifer jumped up and yelled at me. "Stay out of this, you mother fucker. This is between me and my mother." The cranberry sauce and dressing was flying out of her mouth. Thank God I was at the other end of the table.
Meanwhile, I thought Billy was going to choke to death, attempting to get down a few more big pieces of turkey. I guess Jennifer didn't cook for shit.
Needless to say, Christmas dinner was over. Darlene and Jennifer took it outside for another round. Meanwhile, Billy was hustling the presents into the little Chevy. The sprinkler system was still firing away. Each time he opened the car door to dump a load of presents, the seats and carpet got soaked again, adding fuel to fire. The things said between Darlene and Jennifer were nasty and hateful.
Poor Billy knew what was coming next. He was busting his ass to get the new computer system into the little Chevy, but time was not on his side.
In short order, Jennifer roared, "I don't want the Goddamn presents. Take the fuckin' things back."
Billy's heart sank. He had really wanted that new computer system. I felt bad for the kid.
The only presents Jennifer and Billy carted off that day were the ones they had brought. The little Chevy steamed out the driveway and down the street. The windshield wipers slashed away at the hated sprinkler water. And that was that.
After things quieted down, Darlene explained to me that this was commonplace for holiday gatherings. Not only had this happened before with her daughter Jennifer, but with other family members as well. She did not speak with her own brother. They communicated via lawyers and accountants.
Later that evening, while watching a cable movie, I began wondering how long it would be before Darlene would someday yell at me, as she had her own daughter. The honeymoon would soon be over. I had moved into her house only weeks before.
Author's note: I hate to keep jumping back and forth from present to past, well knowing that it is difficult for the reader to keep focus. Please forgive me for the transitions, but I feel that it is necessary to go back once more. Back to the summer of '67.
I was in Southern California for the summer of 67', the summer Kenny drowned. I was working the night shift in a machine shop when I got the emergency call. It was Dusty, my older brother. He was calling to give me the news. When I took the call, Dusty asked a simple question. "Mike, are you sitting down?"
Dusty did not kid around or bullshit much back then, so I knew it was bad. The first thing that flashed through my mind was, "Mom and Dad got hurt in a car wreck." When he told me it was Kenny, I was stunned.
I had a million questions. "Where did it happen? Who was with him? When is the funeral?"
Dusty told me that Kenny's body was still on the bottom of Lake Keystone, and had not been recovered. The Lake Patrol would resume dragging again at sunrise.
This filled me with false hope. Perhaps he made it to shore. He would come wandering home in a few days. My heart goes out to the parents of missing children. One never gives up hope until the body is found.
Late that night, I was on the first plane back to Tulsa. I would have to wait another year before moving to California for good. Since my sophomore year in High School, I had left Tulsa for summer jobs. Twice I had worked the wheat harvest. Something was always telling me to get away, to flee the nest. Now that I am older, I understand more about that.
Just three summers before, during the construction of Keystone Lake Dam, Dusty, Kenny, Gae, and I had driven out to the soon to be lake for a picnic. Gae was the youngest, and perhaps the most rebellious. The war that waged over the years between the boys and "the old man" paled in comparison to the battles fought between our little sister and Dad later on.
It was a shame, but as kids we always had to get out of the house to be ourselves when Dad was home. I recall that day fondly. Gae had packed a picnic basket. It was about a half-hour drive to where "Danger" and "Keep Out" signs stopped us. Kenny and I got out of the car and promptly rolled the signs away. Dusty drove the old Renault Dolphine out over a bridge under construction. One traffic lane had the concrete work finished, but the other lane was yet to be poured. We had our picnic without a care in the world, oblivious to danger. Directly beneath us would soon be a huge lake.
Ironically, the unfinished bridge was about a mile from the place where Kenny would later drown, in a lake that was not yet there. I do not remember replacing the warning signs after driving off the bridge, and back to town.
It seems to me that most people's lives are conveniently divided into two parts. We tend to remember things that happened before and after some benchmark day. The first part of my life was filled with dreams of greatness and accomplishment. I am quite sure that this meridian in my life was the death of Kenny. This was my first real dose of the ironies in life.
Do not think that I am so naïve to blame my shortcomings on that day. God knows, more that one person believes me to be an asshole. There were signs of what was coming much earlier. I fondly recall a baseball game in Tulsa that took place when I was about twelve years old.
The Tulsa Oilers were the Double A minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals back then. Every year, during the all-star break, the Cardinals brought a team to Tulsa to play a game against their underling minor leaguers. It was a big event.
My Father was the manager of a sporting goods store in downtown Tulsa. He was always getting free tickets to sports events, and had secured front row seats. Dusty, Kenny and I had brought our baseball gloves, with hopes of catching a cherished foul ball.
Every time the hot dog vendor came around, Dad would say, "No, wait till we get home." We were dying. I have no idea what changed his mind, but late in the game, Dad finally gave in and said, "Okay."
The hot dog vendor had a button on his cap that said, "25 cents." My Dad was a cheap fucker, and he didn't like it one bit. We ordered the chilidogs. About that time, one of the Major leaguers hit a home run. We were like pigs in shit, with chili all over our faces.
It was during all the cheering and yelling over the home run, that all hell broke loose. Dad and the hot dog vendor were going toe to toe in the aisle, yelling and screaming at each other. It seems that the chilidogs were five cents extra, and Dad was not going to pay the extra 15 cents for the three dogs. We knew what was coming next, and started gulping down the unmasticated dogs at a furious pace. Chili was flying everywhere.
Dad and the hot dog vendor were nose to nose by now. "Well," Dad said to the guy, "You just take the God damned things back." He had a smart-ass way of saying shit, and could piss-off just about anybody.
The vendor came back with, "I ain't takin' the fuckin' things back, they're half gone. You dumb Mother fucker."
With all the excitement over the home run and the tap dance in the aisle, nobody noticed had that Kenny was choking to death, and turning blue. At first everybody thought he was just some child waving his arms; going nuts with excitement. In the feeding frenzy to get some of the hot dog down before having to give it back, a big piece of chili greased wiener had stuck in his throat. A man, sitting one row back, grabbed Dad by the arm trying to get his attention.
Dad wheeled and swung, thinking he was being attacked from behind. Beer bottles, peanuts, hot dogs, Pepsi, mustard and chili were all airborne at once. Dad raged further when he saw someone performing the Heimlich maneuver on Kenny. Thinking Kenny was also being attacked, Dad flew into that as well. He still did not know that Kenny was near death. Christ Almighty, Kenny was only seven years old. It was the God damnedest scene anyone could imagine.
After the smoke had finally cleared and Kenny had been revived, the Tulsa police ceremoniously escorted all of us out of the ballpark. The boos and catcalls showered earlier on the umpires paled in comparison to the ones bestowed now upon my Dad. We did not even get to see the anticipated post game fireworks display. The drive home was solemn and quiet. We had to promise Dad that we would not say anything to Mom. He had always demanded the truth from us, but not always the whole truth.
It had been a sleepless flight, with a three-hour layover in Dallas. The Captain's landing announcement had brought me back to reality, back to the business at hand.
It was mid morning when the DC-9 touched down in Tulsa. The passenger sitting next to me on the plane had offered me a ride to my parents' house. He was businessman about my Father's age, and had lost a son in a car accident a few years before. Exhausted and weary, I gladly accepted.
Driving south on Yorktown Avenue I could see the cars and pickups of friends and relatives gathered in front of the house. I asked the Samaritan driver not to stop, but to go past and let me out a block away. The wake had begun, and I was not quite ready.
Three houses away, I found a large oak to stand behind. For thirty minutes, I used this tree to shield myself from the comings and goings at the gray wooden house where I had grown up. The grass had grown back in the places worn bare as a child, where Dusty, Kenny, and I, had played everything from football, to baseball, to kick the can.
About then, a ten-year-old boy came up behind me and asked, "Mister, what are you doing in my yard? If you don't get out of here, I'm gonna tell my Momma," he added.
"My Mom and Dad live there," I answered, pointing to the gray house. I hoisted my duffel bag over my shoulder, and turned to walk away.
The young boy said to me as I walked away, "Momma said somebody got killed there. Did you know him?"
"Yes, I knew him. He was my little brother." It was all I could say.
The kid lowered his head and quietly said, "Sorry."
After a few seconds he turned away, to a place in his yard where the grass was worn away, and started beating the shit out of a rock with a plastic baseball bat. Life goes on.
Any comments to email@example.com appreciated. More chapters to come.