Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Misadventures of Jack Randall

I have written this collection of short stories about my father-in-law (a rather stout man as you shall later see). The events contained in these stories are all true

Jack and The Picnic Table

            Dawn, the moment between slumbering and awakening, the moment when time taps with quiet insistence upon eyelids as if begging them to open That is the moment when most of us fall blissfully back to sleep, feigning indifference to those gentle taps. But not Jack Randall.
             No, Jack is up before dawn insisting that the sun arise because he is ready for it to do so. Unlike the rest of us, the sun ignores him, but only because it is too far away for him to pummel it into submission. If it were 10 feet closer, it too would listen, if only to get him to shut up.
            Jack heaves himself out of bed (Jack is 350 lbs. this requires a considerable amount of heaving), places his bare feet upon the carpeted floor and stomps into the bathroom for a shower, shave and a shit His wife, Karen, remains asleep, truly asleep, not pretend asleep as most of us would do in her place How does she continue to sleep with Jack rumbling, mumbling and stomping around at 4:00 a.m.? Why the same way she sleeps through his 9.5 on the rector scale snoring Karen is a smart woman, she wears earplugs to bed.

            After his morning ablutions are complete, Jack dons his bib overalls, his favorite pair of bibs in fact.  Why is this particular pair of bibs his favorite?  Simply put, they are the only ones that still fit him. Jack grabs his shoes from the floor, and sits on the bed to put them on. Amazingly his wife Karen remains asleep. After more stomping, mumbling, coughing and cursing, Jack is out the door. He climbs into the Dodge pickup parked in the garage, fires the engine, opens the garage door and is now free to do as he damn well pleases.
            By the time he reaches the end of the lane and turns onto the road, the sun emerges. Jack responds to it by saying “About damn time you got up you bastard”. Driving with purpose, Jack is on his way to the second most important part of his day (the first being popping the tab on a cold beer). It’s now time for the men to gather at the picnic table in town, the one reserved only for those gentleman who have lived long enough to earn the right to tell everybody else what to do. It is here, at this picnic table in the park where the first of three breakfasts are consumed, when politics are discussed, gossip is exchanged and the world is turned aright.

            Arriving exactly at 5:30 Jack approaches the picnic table. None of the other men are there as of yet. This is both puzzling and annoying to Jack, because for the second time this day, something has caused him to wait (the damn sun being the first). Jack grumbles, coughs, scratches, complains then hitches up his overalls as he prepares to lower himself onto the end of the picnic table. Clearly, Jack has not thought this through, he does not yet realize that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

            When 350 pounds of Jack Randall, descends upon the farthest most end of the picnic table, the other end (as it is not bolted to the ground) flips over 180 degrees, pinning Jack beneath it. The first thought that enters Jacks head is not “Holy crap, I’m trapped underneath a picnic table” rather it is, “Where the hell are those bastards, they’re late” Jack remains unconcerned about his predicament, after all this is not the first time that he has found himself in a situation that would scare most of us shitless  No, Jack knows in the very core of his being that eventually everything will turn out all right. Jack has a great deal of experience with calling deaths bluff while holding only a pair of deuces.

            As fate would have it, (fate has a way of responding to Jacks wishes, as unlike the sun it is close by) his friends arrive. After some not so stifled laughing, the picnic table is lifted. Does Jack respond by saying “Thanks guys, you really saved my life” No, Jack simply says  “Why are you all late?” and “Did any of you pecker heads bring coffee?”

Jack Teaches His Son A Life Lesson

            In this installment of The Misadventures of Jack Randall, Jack has not yet grown into the supreme potentate that he will become in his later years. (as of yet, Jack has not given voice to the idea that he will one day own an island in the Caribbean, and rule over said island from the seat of wave-runner that sports a skull and cross bones flag on its handles). In this story Jack is but a young man, married to his lovely wife Karen and raising three children Kelly, Kim and Mike.
            It is Jacks’ eldest son, Kelly that we are concerned with today. At this point in the story you may well be asking yourself “Kelly, wait a minute, isn’t Kelly a girl’s name?” Why yes, the name Kelly is typically associated with the fairer sex. You might then ask “Why would anyone give their eldest son a girl’s name?”  “Does this have anything to do with teaching a boy to become a man against ridiculous odds as the character in the song by Johnny Cash 'A Boy Named Sue'  must do?”  No, that would be obvious.  The name comes from a film Jack liked, 'Pete Kelly's Blues'.  Apparently Jacks’ wife, Karen, was heavily sedated when the name Kelly was settled upon rather than the more sensible name Pete.

            Our story begins on a Sunday in high summer, one of those long luxuriant days of still perfection, against which we measure all future summers, a day in which Jack has been left unsupervised with one of his children (as we shall see in future installments, when left unsupervised on a Sunday, Jack tends to do more of what he damn well pleases than on any other day of the week).  
Jack sits comfortably in his recliner mulling over what to do before the game starts. Taking a quick look at his watch and a long look at his beer, Jack decides that there is enough time before kick-off to teach his eldest son a life lesson. Having been an Eagle Scout in his teen years, Jack knows just the kind of thing that an eight year old boy needs to know when living in close proximity to a densely wooded area.  “It is time the boy learns how to locate a road when lost in the woods” Jack tells the room.  Jack looks at Kelly and says “Come on, we’re taking a walk.” And so father and son walk towards the woods and into what Jack is sure will be a memory that he and his son will share for a lifetime.

“Where we goin’ Dad?” Kelly looks up at his giant of a father and asks. “Well, son, I’m going to teach you how to find your way out of any woods, any woods at all. That’s what we’re going to do today.”  Jack responds with the kind assurance that only a man who is always right carries in voice. “Yeah, I’ve seen something like that on the TV. Find north by looking for the moss on the side of the tree” says Kelly hoping to impress his father with his knowledge. “No, no. Not like that, not like that at all” Jack stops and looks down at his son. “You see, Kelly, north might not lead you home, north might even lead you deeper into the woods” Jack pauses for a moment preparing to teach his son something useful, something that just might save his life one day, something a father wants more than anything else to teach his son.  “If you want to get out of the woods you need to find a road. And the best way to find a road is to find telephone wires and follow them.”

            Kelly looks at his father, looks at the telephone wires just visible through the top of the trees, screws up his eight year old face and pictures the wires leading straight and true towards a road and to safety.  Jack sees that his son understands and not prone to being maudlin, cuts the moment short and continues to walk deeper into the woods, where Jack promptly trips over a vine.

            “Son-of-a-bitch” Jack yells at the vine. Jack realizes that he has just said something, that if repeated by his eight year old son will get him into serious trouble with his wife “Oh shit”, did I say that out loud?” he says out loud. “Aw dammit, now I’m in for it” he says again even louder. Jack realizes that the fall has in some way disengaged the edit function that connects his brain to his tongue.  Jack wisely decides to keep what he says next short. “Don’t repeat any of that to your mother,” Jack commands, communicating his meaning more with his expression than with words. With the knack only an eight year old boy has, Kelly interprets the words on his fathers’ face and nods. “All right then, let’s keep moving” Jack says, knowing with relief that all is again right in the world.

            Up ahead Jack sees the electric fence that serves to keep livestock out of the woods. Where one man might see danger, Jack sees opportunity. It’s now time for Jack to teach his son another life lesson. Now, you might be thinking to yourself “Oh no, this is going to end badly” or perhaps even “No, no, don’t do it kid, don’t touch the fence, you’ll get electrocuted.” Remember the fall, the fall that damaged Jacks edit function?  Could the fall have damaged more than just an edit function we might ask? Against all reason (or maybe just to piss reason off) Jack tells his son to touch the fence.
            “Okay Dad,” Kelly says and grabs the fence. As the laws of physics dictate, Kelly’s hand completes the circuit and sends electricity from the fence through his body. The end result being that Kelly’s hand spasmodically clutches the fence more tightly.  Jack reacts quickly, lifts Kelly from the ground and pulls him away from the fence.  Having broken the circuit, Jack sits Kelly on the ground. Jack examines Kelly’s hands. “No burns, thank God.”
            “Kelly, you okay?”  Kelly nods “Yeah.” Clearly Kelly is not really okay. Maybe on the outside, but not on the inside, no sirees bob not on the inside,  not at all. Even if his dad tells him not to tell mom, Kelly is going to tell. Oh yes, he is going to tell. “Well son, now you know not to touch an electric fence” Jack pronounces and they begin the trek home.

            By the time they get home, Jack realizes that his son is going to rat him out on this one. There’s no way to avoid it, I mean really, electrocuting your son?  Remember, this is still a young Jack, and he has not yet acquired the skill needed to tap dance his way out of something this big.    
            You may have guessed by now that Kelly does tell his mother what happened. But the question then remains, what does Karen do?  Does she yell, throw things, and threaten to tell her mother what Jack has done? No, Karen is a smart woman. She uses the most dreadful of all weapons. She goes silent.  And not just a little silent, no this is the kind of deadly silence that is louder than any scream and goes on far, far longer.  And Jack knows it too.  What Jack is now asking himself is “How many days will this last?” 

            “Well if she’s not going to talk to me, might as well go to the bar” he thinks to himself.  (As Jack really did say this to himself and not out loud, it would appear that Jacks edit function is now back on-line).  “Goin’ to Henry’s” Jack tosses the words behind his back.  Jack knows Karen has heard him and also knows she will not reply, but he says them anyway, just in case.  Hell she’s already got one gripe against him, best not to give her another one.          

            When Jack arrives at Henry’s, he barely notices that the game has just begun and so heads straight to the bar.  The words “Hey Jack” come at him from some far-distant haze.  Jack lowers himself onto the stool, does his best impression of a man who is not in trouble with his wife and says “Which one of you pecker heads is going to buy me a beer?”






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