Getting Home

It was sometime in the 70’s. I had been visiting my grandparents at their mobile home in Hemet. The had a space across from the park’s man-made lake. it was quiet and serene.

When it came time for me to leave my grandmother suggested I get a lift back to Orange County with my father, Jim. He’d stopped by for a visit, too.

I never experienced Jim as a real dad. He occasionally visited his parents, my grandparents, starting about the time I hit my teen years. It was always weird. His self-absorbtion dripped off him like sweat.

I took the ride. Bad idea.

One of the least pleasant things about my father was his love of playing mind games with people.

Mental power-tripping was no doubt something he learned while incarcerated.

He’ s the one who said of Charles Manson: “I knew Charlie before he was a heppie.”

I climbed into Jim’s station wagon with his wife and small children. We hit the back road that cut through what them was lonely, desert territory. Jim decided to take a side trip deep into the scrub. Probably wanted to guzzle a couple more beers, stretch his legs, strike fear into the hearts of the innocent.

We all got out and stretched. I was anxious to get back to town but beggars can’t be choosers.

It wasn’t long before he began his routine.

“I could shoot you all and bury you out here in the desert. Nobody would ever find you,” said Jim.

This was before CSI and the modern technological improvements in forensics. They’d definitely find some part of us now, eventually.

The desert preserves. Time and the desert are old friends. The heat and the wind work a body until it’s just dry bone.

It was a chilling thought. He could shoot us all. It was true.

He had a shotgun with him. It was definitely within the realm of possibility. He probably had a little brain damage by this time, what with the previous two decades on a near constant diet of bennies, reds, pot and Thunderbird. I had no real idea where he drew his boundaries.

I might look back on this stunt a bit more kindly if he had some sort of point. If it had behind it was some weird lesson I could only learn from being shocked out of my normal senses, like a Zen thing. But it was just bullying. He wasn’t trying to enlighten anyone. His wife and her young daughter were along for the tide too. Just another cheap power trip.

I wish I had more charitable things to say. I guess he was kind of funny sometimes.

I wish he could have taken himself more seriously and found a way to be freaky without attaching his rebellion to criminality and cheap thrills.

His conscience ached a little in his last years but probably not much. I think life was joke to him and he wasn’t going to be a chump.

I don’t believe Jim would feel bad about my revelations. He enjoyed notoriety and I know he consciously sought at various times to be infamous. I don’t think he ever grew up. Sometimes that’s a good thing. If you’re stuck in the pulling-the-wings-off-flies stage of masculine development it’s not.

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