I don't wanna grow up
They all go out and drinking all night
And I don't wanna grow up
I'd rather stay here in my room
Nothin' out there but sad and gloom
I don't wanna live in a big old Tomb
On Grand Street
The car was jerking. My Dad was swearing, driving his fist into the steering wheel. My brother and I looked at each other but we kept quiet, because my father was working GRAVEYARD SHIFT and when he worked GRAVEYARD SHIFT you had to do your very best not to make him angry.
My mother sat in the passenger seat.
“Maybe he’s having car trouble,” she said.
When my mother said that, in my mind I saw a car with the hood on fire or maybe a car with a flat tire. Maybe all four tires were flat and the car was on fire! What was it? I had to know. I was always imagining things. My Dad was always saying I had my head in the clouds.
I stood up on the lump on the floor in the back of my father’s old blue Impala. I had to stand on that rise in the floor to see over the front seat. The light was green but the man in the car ahead of us wasn’t going. Green meant go. Everyone knew that. Why wasn’t he going?
Dad hit the horn again. The man stuck his hand out his car window and gave us the finger. I laughed. My father didn’t.He opened the car door. My mother looked at him and put her hand on his arm and said “Don’t.”
My father paused with the car door half-way open and gave my mother a look. She stopped looking at him and put her eyes back on the stopped car ahead of us. When my father worked GRAVEYARD SHIFT you had to be careful.
I watched my him walk to the driver’s side window. He was wearing his red checkered hunting jacket and blue jeans and his hair was dark and messy and blowing wild in the wind.
I could see my dads lips moving but I couldn’t hear what was being said. And then he made that face with his teeth bared. I couldn’t hear but I knew the sound he was making because I knew what that face meant. He was snarling like an angry dog.
I heard my mother say something under her breath as we watched. I don’t think she wanted me to hear but I did.
She said “Please Vince, no.”
And then my father punched the man in the head through the driver side window.
When my Dad got back in the car I asked him why he punched the man.
He turned around and put his hand on my cheek and said “Bobby, I never hit him. You got a big imagination. You’re just like your mother, always blowing things out of proportion.”
“But Dad, I saw you punch him. One, two, three. Like that. One, two…”
“Bobby, look at me,” My father said. He moved his hand from my cheek to my chin and grabbed it, softy.
“I never hit that man. You understand? You thought you saw it but you didn’t. Look at me.”
I looked in my Dad’s eyes. They were a pale brown and there was a little ring of blue around the edges.
“That’s right,” my mother said. “You imagined that, Bobby.”
I nodded. My father smiled. When my father smiled it meant everything was going to be okay and everyone could relax. Even the air in the car must have relaxed because suddenly it seemed easier to breathe. My father kissed me on the cheek, a big sloppy Dad-kiss that would tickle from his moustache and feel wet and warm and smell like beer and stale cigarettes.
“Sit down beside your brother Bobby," Dad said. "It’s time to get the fuck outta Dodge. Who wants pizza?”
“I do,” my mother said. “Me too,” said my older brother.
My father pulled the car out and drove around the man in the car that was still sitting there.
He started to sing the song they always played at the end of the show Sha na na.
After a while my mom took over my brother and I joined in and sang the chorus Good night sweetheart well, it’s time to go and my father did the baritone “Da-doo-ta-da-doo” like the man named Bowzer did on the television show. Bowzer was my favorite because he looked like my Dad.
I leaned back in my seat and smiled at my older brother. He shook his head.
“Dad never hit anyone, stupid. You’re so stupid, Bobby.”
When the song was over my father asked my mom if she could drive the car home if she had to.
My mother asked why. Was my father going to drink at the pizza restaurant?
“No,” my father said. “I think I’m going to jail.”
We went to Don’s Pizzeria on Lorne Street because my Dad said it was the best Pizza in town. While we were eating I saw two police officers walk in and talk to the man behind the counter. He nodded and pointed at our table. My mother started to cry, and my Dad told her to be quiet. He stood up and walked over to the officers. My mother told me to stay put but it was too late. I darted from my seat and ducked under the table and trailed after him. When I got to the lobby the police officers were putting handcuffs on my father and telling him he was under a rest and he was right to stay silent.
Why is my Dad right to be silent? I told the police officers that they were wrong, my father didn’t need a rest. He wasn’t even tired.
My father laughed.
“See?” My Dad said, still laughing. “Taking me away in front of my boy. Now my son is going to grow up hating cops.”
I had never heard police officers being called cops before. I thought these were police. What are cops, I asked him.
“Cops are the guys who came in second in high school track and field, Bobby. Mind your mother now.”
Mom came around the corner and asked the police officers for my father’s wallet. When they refused, my mother started to cry harder. She told them she had no money. How was she going to pay for the pizza?
One of the police men told my mother she looked like a good dish washer.
My mother told the policeman he looked like a good cocksucker.
My Dad laughed again, this time really hard. I guess for some reason he thought my mother saying cocksucker to the policeman was about the funniest thing he ever heard, because I could still hear him laughing when they put him in the back of the police car.
My brother waddled around the corner with a piece of pie in his hand and tomato sauce all over his face. He wanted to know where Dad was.
I wanted to know what just happened. I wanted to know where the police were taking my Dad. Most of all I wanted to know what the heck track and field was.
Years later I stood beside my father’s bed at Laurentian Hospital feeding him yogurt with a plastic spoon. He looked like one of those starving villagers you saw in late-night African relief infomercials. He was once the most solid looking men I knew. He was like a tank. Larger than life. Now I could see his heart beating through his chest.
When I was done I took a cloth and wiped his chin and he pointed to a copy of The Sudbury Star lying on the night table. The headline read POLICE BUST COCAINE TRAFFICKING RING.
“What’s this, Bobby?”
“Don’t worry about that, Dad,” I said. “I got bail. Are you comfortable? Here, let me fix that pillow. What do you think?”
“What do I think? I think you’re a great son, Bobby. A real fuckin’ hero. My boy, the gangster. You make me real proud, you know that?”
I told my father to relax. I would never have told him something like that before, but that was then and this was now. I adjusted his pillow.
“What the fuck were you thinking? You certainly weren’t thinking about your little boy, were you? What about my grandson?”
I wanted to scream at him. I wanted to grab him by the hospital gown and shake his frail, skeletal, cancer-ridden frame.
Instead, I gave my father a sip of his water. I put my hand on his cheek, and then grabbed his chin, softly. I looked in his eyes. They were still pale brown, the little blue halo still ringed his irises.
“What you read in that paper, those are all lies, Dad. You understand? The police have big imaginations. They think I sell drugs but I don’t. Dad, look at me.”
My father returned my gaze.
“You’re going to spend a lot of time in jail,” he said.
I kissed him on the cheek and left.
He died a couple of weeks later
I beat the trafficking charges when my lawyer argued a successful charter challenge and had all the evidence against me and my co-conspirators quashed.
I did end up going to jail alright, but not that time.
Jan 5, 2014