1998: Almost Gone

Dad chucks a box of chocolate covered donuts at my head. Whoosh. I duck as the donuts crash-land against the radiator. Scanning the crumbled bits of frosted cake, I shoot him my what now glare. “Fuck it. Your Father is sick of those goddamn boxes. Those fucks who made them must have been morons. They don’t close. No matter what I fucking do.” He slams his hands against the counter. Closing the ephemeral box one last time.

So is this directed at you? Are you in trouble for shitty box construction now?

“And as for you. You fucking cunt. You’re like your no-good mother, and I ought to beat that out of you. I can’t wait until you are gone to college. You ruined Daddy’s life because you are a selfish bitch, and I can’t wait to start doing what I want to do for me. I’ll be glad when you are gone!” I give him my usual blank stare hoping he won’t hit me again like he did last week when he found a rotten apple in my gym bag.

“Oh and another thing, you’re done with the running bullshit until you tell me about the aliens.”

My eyes switch back and forth, searching. The aliens?

“Don’t fucking play dumb with me. I know that aliens came down—motherfucking abducted you—and then sent you back to torture me. You’re not my daughter.”

Hold on a fucking minute. He doesn’t even believe in aliens. Now you were abducted? How do you even answer that? Maybe it was Gabazar, you freak! Leave me alone.

He intimidates me by approaching my chair from behind. I close my hands into tightly balled fists.

“Ah fuck it. I know you’re not going to talk. Look at you. You’re pathetic. Maybe you need to get a boyfriend, if you know what I mean!” I sit motionless.

“Well what are you waiting for? Go brush your motherfucking teeth. It’s almost time to go. I ought to make you walk.” Please! That would be nice. Or how about I drive myself like a normal seventeen-year-old.

I scamper up the stairs and turn the water on. Screw brushing your teeth. You’re going to gag. Maybe you won’t make it to the end? Less than a year, but somehow an eternity. He’s worse than ever. What if you kill yourself?

You’d have to slit your wrists with a knife. One of his knives. I cringe, realizing the water has been running too long. No you can’t. Tell someone. Just run away. Tell someone.

I remember all those zombie movies where no one believes the good guy. The whole town—they’re on his side—he’s conned every single one of them. The teachers. The parents. Your own goddamn friends! You know that’s always been the genius of his plan. And no—you can’t tell anyone.

“Come on! For fuck sakes, Jenny. How long does it take to shit and shower?”

“Coming…asshole.

Grabbing my gym bag at the last second, I fly down the stairs. Don’t come home tonight. Get in coach’s van. Run like the wind. Let him try to stop you.

I smile at him as though I’ve forgotten the last half hour. Dad scans my outfit. I silently wait for his approval. He nods, half winking—half scowling.

When he drops me off at school, I hunker down so other people won’t recognize me. “So, Daddy will be here at the usual time. You tell the bastards they better not keep you late tonight.”

Instead of agreeing, I bolt for the side door. Beeline to my locker. I stuff my bulging gym bag in, while grabbing my Physics book.

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1997: Bye, Bye, Engine!

After the couple next to me finishes making out, I quickly plug in my locker combination.

Okay. You have to read for history in homeroom today. Yeah, fuck that! Skim it. Yes, you’re a horrible person, but who wanted to carry that shit home. Oh and study for bio test in lunch. You’ll still get an A.

My art teacher, Mr. G approaches my locker. He wears his usual uniform: a smug grin, a Florida tan, and crisp white shirt with “TFG” embroidered on the collar. Some days he drives a Mercedes, other days he drives a small burgundy pickup truck.

Confidently, he informs me, “Jenny, I think it’s time for your Father to get a new car!”

I swivel around and look up at him quizzically. I mean Dad needed a new car since 1989, so why pick today to tell me that he drives a piece of shit.

Aware of my confusion, he continues, “Jenny, do you realize what’s happened outside?” He says this as he points to the double doors at the end of the hall.

I shrug, “ummm, no?”

His baritone voice registers louder than usual, “I think your Father’s engine just fell out of his car! Right in the school parking lot!”

Jesus. Keep your voice down G! Why don’t we just broadcast it over the loudspeaker?

I nervously laugh it off, and shake my head while fighting back tears.

You should go out there and see if he’s okay. Screw it. What can you do? You’re not an engine repairperson.

I quickly drop into homeroom and hunker down over my notebook pretending to study for my biology quiz.

When the 2:17 school bell rings, I approach the double doors reluctantly. Is he going to be out there? Was he there all day? Could you really get any less popular?

But as the afternoon sunlight streams across my face, I blink twice at Dad standing next to a hot red car. That car is beautiful!

Son of a—he bought a new car? Wait-a-minute. Shit, that’s Mary’s car.

Dad grins like a Cheshire cat, “Hey, Mary let me borrow her car to pick you up. Didn’t your art teacher tell you what happened to Poppa this morning in the parking lot?”

I gaze toward the pavement. Proof of your guilt.

“Goddamn engine mounts gave way. Right after I let you out.”

How was I spared that embarrassment? Well, almost…

“Daddy thought to himself: how am I going to pick Jenny up? So I just went to Mary and said give me your keys. And she did. Just like that.”

I don’t dare ask, “What are we going to do now?”

1995: Crazy Cabbie

 

The school bell rings. Out of habit I glance up at the wall clock. 2:15 on the dot.

It’s the first day that I don’t have to leave fifteen minutes early to catch the city bus back to our apartment; Dad finally bought a new car.

As I load my backpack full of homework stuff, I spot the icky boys huddled by the iron-latticed windows. They point and snicker. Such dumb asses.

The bullies call out in my direction, “Hey Jenny, looks like your Dad drives a taxi now!”

I hesitate, “No he doesn’t.” Why does your face have to glow bright red every time?

“Well, it looks like him waiting outside for you in a yellow car with black checkers and a taxi sign.”

I lash back, “Shut up, you losers. You guys are so ugly, not even your own mothers would screw you.”

They look at me dumbfounded. Yes, Dad taught me to say that to jerks like you!

 I race down two flights of stairs and make a beeline for my father. The checkers that run alongside the yellow exterior blur together as I approach. I barely lift my head to check for oncoming traffic as I run across the street. I hop in our new cab—backpack and all—in one swift motion.

I can tell Dad wants to sit there and talk for a minute. Let’s go for fuck sake! We’re literally Al Bundy in real life.

Dad’s still beaming, though. “Boy! Thank God for my nephew. My family never does me any favors, especially not my brother’s evil fucking kids. But I gotta say, it was good of my nephew to let me know his cab company was unloading their old taxis for $300 a piece.”

When we get home, Dad inspects the car to see if he can remove the taxi sign and the checkers, but he’s afraid of leaving a hole in the roof. And a new paint job is worth more than the car.

“Ahh, fuck it, Jenny. Eventually, Daddy will find a way to get the checks off and that sign down, but for now, it runs! And that’s all I care about.”

Eventually usually means never.

 The following week, Dad starts hauling people around in the taxi. He never charges, though. More of his fake good Samaritan shit.

 Typically, we take Tammy to work at Taco Bell and then back to her apartment at the end of her shift. Tammy’s not exactly blood-related. She’s my Father’s ex-wife’s brother’s daughter. But for her and everyone else in town, Dad still calls himself, uncle.

Pretty soon the freaks in my class aren’t the only ones noticing the cab.

 Dad bursts into my room, “Jenny, the fucking owner of the cab company called and basically threatened me. He tried to accuse me of using this car as a taxi and competing with him. What an asshole! I told him to mind his own goddamn business and that I was only taking my niece to work every day. That cocksucker better not be following me. He messed with the wrong Greek, because I’m crazy.”

I don’t dare ask what he’s going to do, but I have a good idea.

The next time, Tammy rides in the back seat for her doctor’s appointment. Dad said, “She’s six months pregnant.”

How do these people come into our life? I wonder when Tammy will be out of the picture? Dad interrupts my boredom by swerving swiftly off the road.

He instructs us, “Now, I want both of you girls to stay in the car while I deal with this asshole.”

As he whips the door open and bolts out, I turn around to see what looks like a monster truck right behind us.

What the hell is going on? Oh wait…that must be the taxi guy! Shit.

 Dad walks right up to the truck and starts yelling at the guy inside. I can’t hear the taxi guy’s retort, but it can’t be good as I spy Dad’s neck veins throbbing.

Without warning, Dad plows his right arm into the truck.

Like a bolt of lightening, I barely register the event.

As he starts back toward the car, I swivel around in my seat. Thank God Tammy is here. You know how it is being alone with him after he’s all riled up.

 Dad re-enters with a charge, “That goddamn cock-sucking bastard! That’ll teach him for following me. I outta have his ass arrested for harassment!”

Tammy asks, “What happened Uncle Tommy? I hope I’m not causing you trouble.”

Thank God she asked him, because I don’t know what just went down back there. And I wouldn’t dare…

 “Well, Tammy, your Uncle had to teach that—pardon my language—that fucking asshole that it’s against the law to follow people. He’s pissed off because I bought this old cab from his company, but I couldn’t find a way to get the sign off yet. If they wanted it off, they should have done it themselves. But it doesn’t matter because Uncle’s not afraid of anyone or anything. Bet the bastard never thought a little midget like me could pop him a good one.”

Oh Jesus. He actually punched the guy. I remind myself, No matter what, never challenge him. You will lose. But you already knew that.

 After the confrontation, I wait for the police to arrest Dad, but they never come. The taxi guy disappears too.

He got away with it? I guess it’s not as bad as the time he threatened to drive his car through that restaurant’s window.

 Adrenaline makes Dad anxious for the ponies. “Come one Jenny, I want to go bet the last exacta for Belmont, today.” When we arrive, all the OTB guys kid Dad, “Hey Tom, we heard you were gonna try out for the strong man contest!” What’s the strong man contest? Why does everyone keep asking him that and laughing?

 The realization causes my face to burn again. Oh! Duh! They know he punched the guy out in broad daylight.

But Dad plays dumb. Does he know what they are talking about? Of course he does, you idiot. With his head held high, he places his favorite combination for the exacta, 4-3.

“Come on, Jenny. Let’s go home. Daddy can check the race later. I’m sick of these morons, already.”