Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Here's a quarter

I’ve lived in the same small town all my life and, as a result, things are rather predictable.

For instance, I know that the post office is never open after 4 o’clock on a weekday, and even during regular business hours you’d be lucky to get service because of all the gossips taking up space. Every Wednesday and Sunday the restaurants are packed with church goers – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. From 5 to 7, Monday through Friday, most of the county workers will gather at the tiny convenience store just outside of town to shoot the shit and drink beer. And on Friday and Saturday nights, the lakeside bar two coves over from my house has either a live band or a DJ, and the tiny dance floor is always full.

I also know that at every single one of those places, and countless others I didn’t name, someone is going to know who my father is. And they won’t be able to stop themselves from approaching me, no matter how much I discourage it with “don’t talk to me” body language, glares, fiddling with my phone or engaging someone else in conversation. It’s like he’s a communicable disease that they can’t wait to pass on – only for some reason they don’t seem to realize when they’re hacking all over me that I’ve had the pleasure of being infected, straight from the source, for almost 26 years.

I was about ten the first time I really remember it happening.

The old country store a few miles from home was our hangout of sorts. We (my cousins, sister, and I) would swim all morning and then take a snack break in the late afternoon, piling in dad’s truck in our wet bathing suits and bare feet. He had an account there, something they don’t really do anymore, and while he went straight for the beer cooler we would rush to the candy aisle and grab whatever we wanted. I would always get two Slim Jims, one for me and one for dad, saving them to eat together on the ride back home.

Sometimes we’d stand next to him and drink Yoo-Hoos, the white and beige checked linoleum cold under our feet and our hair dripping puddles of lake water. And sometimes, like that particular day, we’d take our spoils outside and spread our towels on top of the tool box of his truck, sitting Indian style in the hot sun and waiting on him to finish “visiting”.

Leigha was a pudgy little thing in her ruffled strawberry one piece, sitting next to me on the box, and Ben was on the other side in his trunks, covered in white flecks from the chest up due to a pack of powered doughnuts. A woman I recognized as a school friend’s mom parked near us and went in, coming out a few minutes later with a bag.

By then I’d remembered her name and called out a greeting. She walked over, looked up and shaded her eyes with her hand. She studied me, her top lip curling grotesquely, and said, “I didn’t know you were his daughter.”

“Um...yeah”, I said, confused.

“Your daddy is a sonofabitch!”

I stared at her and Ben did too, taking a break from licking all the powder off his hands. I knew dad was sometimes mean to me, but I wondered what on earth he’d ever done to Ashley’s mom to make her say something like that.

She said a lot of other things that I don’t remember well, not leaving until Ben flipped her a slobbery bird and said, “Beat it bitch, before I go get Uncle Jimmy and he kicks your butt!” I was too shocked to comment at the time, but later encounters like that would become a regular occurrence.

My dad always made friends easily, so I’d hear nice things every now and then. What he had a lot of trouble with was keeping them, and that’s when the “sonofabitches” would start. Whatever the case, things usually opened the same way. “Hey, aren’t you Jimbo’s daughter?” or “I know you...” or “You’re one of the ______ girls, aren’t ya?”

I learned to say yes and walk away. Lying about it was pointless, especially when I started high school and he suddenly seemed to be everywhere – showing up at the parties I went to and the weekend hangouts. Often times I thought having some old lady come up to me, and yell about how he’d fucked her over, was way better than having the hottest guys in school notice me because my dad was that sucker that acted like he was 17 years old with a fake ID.

When I got pulled over for speeding, the cops knew who I was. When I went to the grocery store, the Budweiser guy unloading his truck knew who I was. When I graduated and moved two towns away, every goddamned mechanic, bartender and waitress knew who I was. My dad, apparently, got around. I got so used to being approached by strangers that I pretty much stopped listening the minute they said his name. I just shrugged, murmured something noncommittal and went on about my business.

It did die down a bit when he moved to Oklahoma. But now...he’s here again, visiting for the longest period of time since he moved away five years ago. And it’s driving me insane.

He’s staying with my Papa, practically next door, and he’s always calling and texting, wanting to know what I’m doing. And worst of all, he’s been hanging out at all his old haunts...which means I haven’t been able to hear the end of it. The occasional stranger or old friend approaching me once every few months has snowballed because of his return home. Now there are also phone calls and picture messages of him around town – it’s ridiculous. For some reason it never seems to occur to people that I already know what he does and I’m embarrassed enough without extra proof, thank you very much.

“Your dad was so drunk he fell off a bar stool!”

“Your dad bought shots for everybody and when the waitress told him that someone didn’t want theirs, he said, ‘so the fuck what, gimmie the goddamned thing and get outta here!’ Then he slapped her ass!”

“Your dad said he was going to move back here and build a house right next to yours!” (Now that one was terrifying.)

I’ve found myself hurrying in and out of places, doing my shopping in the city on my way home from work rather than going to the local, and staying home whenever possible. I feel harassed and irritated and he’s only been here a little over two weeks...with two still left to go.

And after this past Saturday night I’m not so sure I can handle another day, let alone two weeks.


When my friends decided they wanted to have a few drinks at the lakeside bar instead of our usual downtown hangout, I was hesitant. I knew he’d been in there recently, likely more than once, and there was a strong possibility that I’d run into some of his A) brethren, B) enemies, C) women, or D) all of the above. But they promised it would be an early night, no later than one, and I really loved the band that was going to be there, so I found myself agreeing anyway.

The bar has been there forever and, though it’s changed owners and names countless times, it remains the same. I go in maybe twice a year, not counting the times we dock for gas or the like in the summer, because it’s really just not my kind of thing. It’s the trolling ground for some of the funkiest looking redneck cougars I’ve ever seen and the men are even worse.

Ten of us crammed into a corner around two tables, ordering drinks and food. After about an hour of cutting up, listening to the band and drinking the cheapest Jack and Cokes I’ve ordered anywhere, I decided it wasn’t so bad. The people watching was certainly sublime.

Even dressed down, our group looked out of place amid the bikers and the women that, I’d wager, had been ridden harder than any Harley. An older woman with short, dull brown hair danced every song with a man the band kept calling MC Hammer. Her white t-shirt barely touched the top of her jeans and every time she would move her arms it would rise up, showing a disturbing amount of wobbly flesh and the waist band of her white underwear sticking out of her pants. MC Hammer would slouch around her, alternately jumping up then crouching down low to the ground and doing pelvic thrusts at empty air. His eyes were glazed over and he looked like he might start drooling on himself at any minute. When a slow song came on, they would plaster themselves together and move in a jerky circle, occasionally running into the other couples.

There was a taller version of Willie Nelson decked out in silver buckles and plaid, his eyes so squinty and surrounded by wrinkles that I wasn’t sure he had any, dancing with a woman in ripped turquoise that gave new meaning to the term muffin top. There was a younger group of girls, probably late 20s or early 30s, sporting the cropped t-shirt and unflattering flesh trend of MC Hammer’s woman – dancing on each other and whooping when they managed to grab some poor unsuspecting cowboy from the sidelines. A severely thin woman with dark hair down to her waist swayed alone in the middle, with her arms lifted above her head and a beer clutched in a hand adorned with dangerous looking press on nails.

We laughed and drank shots, getting up to dance only once when several couples vacated the floor briefly for a smoke break and, apparently, a make out session on the pier.

“Look you guys”, I said pointing out the window behind our table. MC Hammer was lounging on his side on the railing, one leg stretched out and one bent at the knee, propping his head up on his hand. And his woman was glued to his face; her hands roaming over places I really hoped would stay covered.

Everyone leaned over or turned around to look and even the band members, who were taking a short break, had to peek.

“Ahh, they’re gonna fuck tonight”, half of our group sang in unison, as they often do when spotting outrageous PDA.

It was shortly after, when the band started playing Let’s Get It On in honor of the returning couple, that a girl approached our table. She was tall and heavy set, with streaked strawberry blonde hair cut short. Freckles covered her cheeks and the bridge of her nose – she was almost cute.

“Hey”, she said to the group at large, smiling. “Ya’ll having a good time tonight?”

After a scattered yes, she focused on the girl to my left. “I know you!”

She went round the table establishing family connections and moving past the “do you know’s” with everyone, because that’s the first part of any conversation in the South... “Who are your people?” Then she finally came to me.

“And you. You’re a _______, aren’t you”, she asked, tossing out my last name and pulling a face I recognized all too well.

I stared up at her warily. “Guilty.”

“Uh huh. And you’re Jimmy’s daughter, right?”

“Yes.” I sighed.

Her hand went immediately to her hip and she leaned over the person in front of me, “I’m sorry”, she said without a trace of remorse, “but I fucking hate your daddy.”

I could feel the heat rising up my neck as I stared at her, and everyone else stared at us.

“He’s a sorry piece of shit. No...I really hate him”, she continued, as if I’d accused her of the opposite.

I crossed my legs and leaned forward in my chair. She started to say something else, but I cut her off. “Right”, I said calmly, then turned my back and started talking to the girl beside me.

She walked away a moment later and the chatter started. “Are you kidding? What a dick! So rude! Who does that?”

I was absolutely livid and it was only the antics of MC Hammer that made me crack a smile for the rest of the night. But I wasn’t just angry at her, I was angry with myself too.

I kept thinking of brilliant comebacks hours after the fact, which only made me angrier. I could have said something like, “I appreciate your right to an opinion, but in the future if you have a problem with my father, you should take it up with him and not a stranger. Because that’s what I am to you – a stranger. Not his daughter, in this case, or the head of his complaint department. Whatever sense of entitlement or commiseration you feel spending time with him has granted you, I assure you, you won’t be getting it from me. So why don’t you fuck off.”

Or, “Now that we’ve been properly introduced and you’ve said what you had to say, why don’t you go back to your table, sit down, and I’ll come over and needlessly insult one of your family members in front of your friends. Call it a learning experience.”

Or, “Bitch, you don’t know me. How you gonna come at me like that? I will”

Something like that.

And even though I know that responding to her rudeness with that of my own wouldn’t really have been the right thing to do, it still would have felt nice to let off some steam.

After all, I’ve got two more weeks left of this shit. Anyone would be tempted...right?


Mollie said...

Show 'em who's the boss! If you can't beat up on your family, then take out the nearest by-stander.

Anthony Hodgson said...

Great post once again. It's hard having people have a go at you for what your parent has done. I think though that you do the right thing by ignoring them. You could blow up back at them but by not doing so takes the heat out of the situation and gives the control back to you. Good luck with the next two weeks I hope it stops once he goes back.

JUST ME said...

next time someone's a douche like that, ask them why you're Dad's antics are your problem?

He's a grown ass man. If they have a problem with him, take it up with him.

Poop heads.

BugginWord said...

Holy. Jesus.

I don't suppose you can ask him to stop shitting where YOU eat, eh?

Bee tee dubs, I could listen to you describe MC Hammer all day. *swoon*

The Nerd said...

Good Gods! That sounds awfully familiar except it was my step father. Thank the Gods I couldn't claim blood relation to that piece of shit.

But having to hear it from every hey-bo (that's what we call rednecks) I encountered got a little tiresome.

Good thing now is that he's dead and so are most of the memories.

The Vegetable Assassin said...

I can't believe people take their annoyance with your dad out on YOU. WTH? I think you did pretty damn well not getting up and slapping her chops. She has no idea how lucky she is either, I'll bet. I was all ready to kick her ass just reading about it. :)

Danger Boy said...

I like the first one. In fact, print it out on a business card and just hand it out when they do this shit. It's kind of a nicer way of saying "bitch, heard it."

Manda said...

What a bitch! Small towns suck sometimes. Here's hoping you make it through the next fortnight without cutting anyone.

magnolia said...

i've been through things like this, on a smaller scale, with my mother. my response to the first statement is always, "what's the old cliche? i'm allowed to beat up my brother, but you lay a hand on him and i'll kill you?" if people persist, then i get uglier.

the right people think they have to insert themselves into your life because they think they have a connection is just obscene.

Anonymous said...

what a cow.

good on you for keeping it together.

Sally-Sal said...

“Your dad bought shots for everybody and when the waitress told him that someone didn’t want theirs, he said, ‘so the fuck what, gimmie the goddamned thing and get outta here!’ Then he slapped her ass!”

That made me laugh.

Until I got to the part about Freckles being a dick to you.

Just because you guys are blood, doesn't mean he's your family.

Nari said...

I like your last retort the best.

When people are rude and dickish to you, the proper and socially correct response is to give them a little "scary/crazy" back.

Why anyone would feel the need to inform you of their bad judgement is beyond me.

caterpillar said...

Seems like we share the same problem...never being able to give it back at the time and then rewinding and playing it over and over in my mind....well...hopefully, things will be back to normal after two weeks.

Clare Dunn said...

I like the 'business card' idea...

"Your unfortunate relationship with Jimmy is none of my business."

...ought to do it!

Hang in, luv, just hang in.

xoxoxo, cd

Southern Girl said...

I've never commented before but I feel like I've been to this bar and experienced those same people and frankly I think you should have just said "Well, he probably doesn't give a damn about you or what you think anyways. But thanks! Have a good night!" Then smile sweetly... gotta love some southern hospitality in the truest form...

Happy Frog and I said...

What a post, I don't know how you have put up with this for so long. You must be an incredibly strong person. I can't believe people are taking out problems they have with your Dad on you, that is completely unacceptable.

Sharon Longworth said...

This made me smile, then it made me sad. My Dad was my absolute hero and I miss him. I'd love for someone to talk to me about him, but he's been dead a long time now, and even Philip didn't know him. You've reminded me how lucky I was & still am.
I wish you had a better dad, I know he couldn't ask for a better daughter. x

GemDrop said...

Ah, I've decided to add to this pile of comments you have on this post.

As someone who is repeatedly faced with insulting arrogant people, I feel I should share with you my favourite response, that makes them disappear.

After they have finished said insult, make controlled yet sharp movement such as crossing your arm/leg. Lean forward as if to wisper to them. With an expression of 'i will hurt you' and in a stoney tone say 'I think your done now'
Then turn happily and get on with what your doing.
I find that the change in your mood/movements/voice scares them off.
Good luck for the next few weeks x

Baglady said...

Fab post. I won't try and give you suggestions on what to say because I don't have a clue.

I especially loved your descriptions of your childhood lifestyle. But I would really love to go to that bar where the entertainment is free and so very varied!

sAm said...

What a bitch. Your comebacks would've been great, but then she would have felt justified. As it is, she probably feels like the shit she is. That being said...I LOVE your writing. Seriously. I felt like I was there...and quite honestly, I just wanted to go home. Great post!!

csmith2884 said...

You should print some of those comebacks on a card and wordlessly hand it over.

Rusty Hoe said...

Oh babe. I want to give you a hug and punch that bitch and her like in the ovaries. The worst thing about this kind of stuff is that no matter how much of a dick you know your parent to be, a little part of you still hurts, for a whole lot of different reasons, when someone else craps on them.

swati said...

nice post, all the best 4 the 2 weeks :)

bluzdude said...

I think response #2 would be particularly effective. It immediately puts the other person in your shoes.

Hold your head up, dearie, you're your own person first, and a daughter second. (or further down the list, if you prefer.)

jerrod said...

the last line of the lovely Sharon L. said it best.

believe it.

Maryx said...

I would have lost my marbles a long time ago!!! Good luck and I'll be thinking of ya!

BrightenedBoy said...

You capture small-town Southern life so well.

As for the impertinent waitress, I think you handled it the best way you possibly could have; being casually dismissed is far more demeaning than being subjected to a raging tirade.

Nuangel said...

Great post! Love your honest ... I would have smothered him with pillow! Jackhammer action not acceptable!!!

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