My parents divorced when I was in 5th grade. I traveled with dad all summer that year because I had nothing better to do. It was the first summer in six years that I wasn’t in little league. It was Monday morning, and before we could hit the highway, he had to take care of his monthly rigmarole inside the post office. There he would send in all his bills, pay the car note, and make the child support payment.
He drove a black on black 87 Deville whose air conditioner seemed to blow carcinogens when it was on. I waited in the car with the window cracked and tried to breathe while he was inside. The parking lot was full, which meant the line inside was long and the road would have to wait. He was in there for a while; I sat listening to side b of James Brown’s: ‘Say It Loud’. As he strode back across the parking lot, the instrumental track: ‘I’ll lose my mind’ wafted out the window, temporarily ventilating the heat sealed sounds. He calmly opened the driver’s side door, situating his-self half in/half outside the front seat. He took his time while put his things away in the glove compartment and console. His left leg was still touching down on the asphalt to keep him steady.
When he was finally ready, and had everything in its right place; he gently closed the door, put on his safety belt, then started the car. He put the car in reverse, and kept his foot on the brake. He turned his head around toward me, his arm stretched across the seat above my royal blue KC cap so he could see behind him. And then, when we were about to back up, the pickup truck parked in front of us quite suddenly jerked into reverse, and leapt back into the chrome bumper of the Caddie.
My dad turned his head, and put the car in park. As quick as he’d hit us, the guy in the truck leaned over in his seat, and put on a neck-brace. Both my father and I saw this happen. Dad looked at me and put his big, hairy hand on my shoulder.
“You alright buddy?” he asked.
I nodded. “Yeah, I think so.”
And, like liquid, he reached under the seat with one hand, opened the door with the other, got out, and shut the door swiftly. He took two quick steps and met the man inside his own door frame, and in one fast motion he threw a hard right hook that jammed the snub-nose barrel of his hammerless 38 special into the side of the guy’s face, knocking his glasses crooked. The man bleated outta shrill blip of fear/pain/shock/horror before dad had his other arm around his neck. He had the man in a headlock with the gun pressed into his temple. I don’t know what he said; I couldn’t really hear anything after that. Everything got real slow and quiet for a minute. I guess he said the stuff one says when they’ve got a stranger at gunpoint. He waited for the man in the truck to drive off . Dad got in the car and shut the door. He buckled in, backed up, and finally pulled out of the post office parking lot.
His bloodshot eyes bulged behind his steel framed casino glasses. He turned the radio off, and we drove along in silence, aside from the private belligerent commentary that gurgled forth, sputtering from deep within, and continued oozing out from the side of the old man’s dry mouth in a very steady, deep, guttural tone.