Even though a good portion of being a parent is teaching your child the many things he or she needs to learn for life. However, they will also teach you a thing or two as well. You might learn that, just like the Grinch, they can make your heart grow a few sizes.
You learn that they become such a part of your life, that you can never remember a time when you weren’t a father. There will be times when you want to strangle them and times when all you feel is love and they can be minutes part.
And that, cliche as it may be, being a father is the greatest job in the world.
They had always called him the boy. Lanny Johnson, one of the old man’s premier pot farmers, was his daddy. But he didn’t have much to do with that. Oh sure he’d help out if need be but he didn’t have the touch for it. Mostly he ran errands; gambling slips and winnings, any messages that had to get around the county. At sixteen he took his drivers license test in a truck he’d bought himself. There was a gun rack in the back but it wasn’t like anyone gave him any grief. After all, they hurt hit the old man would rain down hellfire and brimstone. He did all right in school, took to math like a worm to dirt and graduated near the top of his class without much trouble. Went away after that but not to college like most thought. And with some, hoped. No, he went after a different type of learning and joined up in the Marines. And came back six years later. He looked leaner and more muscled than he had at 18, the rest of the baby fat melted away. His eyes held a certain hardness to them and he never would say anything about what he had done while he was in.
The old man looked much the same, still holding court in the pool hall next to his house. People came and went, business transactions, requests for help. Neighbouring children even ran through the place, grabbing pop and chips and microwave sausage biscuits. The old man wasn’t a very big man, about average height and skinny but there was something to him. Seemed bigger than his size. He stood up when he saw the boy step in “Goddamn boy its good to see you. Come on back here. Lilly, bring us some beers.”
She dropped two beers off, eyes on the boy before walking back up to the counter, extra sway in her hips. “Watch her boy,” the old man said. “She’s got marrying in her mind.”
“It looks like it,” the boy said. “So how are things?”
“Same old shit different day. What about you? You look like you’ve been through a time or two.”
“Yeah. Wondering if you have a job for me?”
“Shit, a smart guy like you? Why would you want to work for me?”
The boy shrugged. “I’ve seen a few cities. It ain’t so special. I ain’t exactly suited to a nine to five gig. And it ain’t like a man can make a living hunting.”
The old man took a long pull from his beer. “Depends on what you hunt. But then I reckon you know about that. I’ve heard mention of what you might have been up to in the Marines. You want to do more of that?”
“So long as I can say no if I don’t like the job.”
The old man nodded. “Fair enough. Not like I’m going to want women and children killed. Gets everybody too riled up. What about guard duty?”
“Yeah. There’s some big city boys want to move in on me. Might get a little rough. I’m probably safe enough here but when I’m on the move…”
“It ain’t too hard to take a vehicle out. Sure I can do that.”
“Well all right then. How are you for money, guns?”
“I’m all right. But if you feel like giving an advance I ain’t never turned down cash yet.”
The old man laughed and turned in his chair, opening a safe on the floor next to him. He grabbed some bills and slammed the door shut and spun the wheel. “There you go. So how do you want to do this? Pay you every week or job by job.”
The boy picked up the cash, folding the five hundreds and tucking them into his wallet. The old man could see the butt of a pistol as the boy slid the wallet back into an inner jacket pocket. “Got anybody after you?”
“No sir. Just got used to having one at hand.”
“Well, if you haven’t yet, you might want to get a concealed carry license. No need to give the cops a reason to pick you up.”
The boy nodded, fingers tapping on the table. It was around lunch time and there were a few people came in and. A road crew took over a couple tables and even some of the near by families. “Place is a bit different,” the boy said.
“Yeah. All we did is get one of those big grills and a deep fryer. Thought about changing the name to Foreman’s Bar and Grill.”
“Don’t know why you ain’t on the Tonight Show with jokes like that.” He leaned back, eyes constantly moving around, watching everyone and everything.
“I thought about it but it doesn’t pay enough. Besides, do I look like the LA type?”
“Not unless you were playing Jed Clampett.”
“Oh now look who thinks he’s a comedian.” The old man frowned as the boy suddenly drew his pistol, holding it out of sight under the table. “What the hell, boy?”
He nodded toward a group that had just entered, four men, dressed much like everybody else in the area. “They got trouble in mind.”
The old man looked them over, watching as they said a few words to the girl at the counter then looked back at their table. “How can you tell?”
“The way they are looking around, how stiff they are moving, the way they keep looking to each other.”
“Maybe. The guy in the Carhart jacket is Don Fredericks. Still owes me money and sent my guy back without any. Probably wants an extension or something.”
It took them a couple beers but they finally approached the table, all in a group. Frederick’s hands were shoved in his pockets and he took a step past his buddies. He looked closer at the boy, eyes squinting. “Hey, your’re Lanny’s boy aren’t you?” The boy nodded. “Nice to see you made it back Say hi to your daddy for me. And Billy, how are you?”
“Well enough, Don. Got my money?”
“Well about that. We’ve been talking and we think you are just going to forget about that. Not like you can complain to the cops about illegal debts anyway. Just tell Bobby to take us off his list when he makes his rounds to collect.”
“Now, Don, if I do that everybody will think I should clear off what they owe. And where does that leave me?”
“Shit, you got enough going on. Could probably buy this whole fucking county. Ain’t like we’ll tell anybody, Billy.”
“What if I say no?”
“We ain’t paying no more. We’d prefer if we didn’t have to hurt you but there it is.”
The boy stood up, one hand behind his back. “Y’all go on home now. Come back this time tomorrow with your payment and we’ll forget all about this.”
A couple of the men snorted. “Boy, I used to work with your daddy. So I’m going to forget you sticking your nose in. I know you used to run deliveries and all that for the old man here but this ain’t none of your business. Just run on home.”
He looked at Frederick, head tilted slightly to the side. “You sure about that?”
One of the others finally spoke up. “He said it, didn’t he. Get your ass outta here, boy or you’ll get the same as this old fucker.”
“Boy? You’d be shitting yourself at what I’ve seen.” His hand shot out from behind his back, slamming the big automatic against the side of the man’s head. Pivoting with the turn, the barrel was against Frederick’s head before his buddy even hit the ground.
“Uh B Billy,” Frederick said, eyes wide.
“The boy here…”
“I’d watch it, Don. I don’t think it’s a boy that’s got you almost pissing yourself.”
Eyes empty, the boy spoke softly. “The name is Calum Johnson. I expect you to remember that. Nuh uh don’t speak, just listen. Pick up your friend and go home. Then come back with your money tomorrow.” He stepped back, the .45 lowered to waist level, pointing to no one in particular. They quickly picked up their fallen friend and left, while everyone else pointedly looked everywhere else. He sit back down and drained his beer, feeling a light chill now that the moment had passed.
“Well, boy, that story is sure as hell going to make the rounds.”
Calum shrugged. “Oh well. Maybe it’ll save me some bullshit.”
“Or piss some of em off.”
He stopped on Argyle Street, gloved hands resting on the stone balustrade as he looked down over the tents and tarps covering the Grand Parade. The centre was clear and a few kids were skateboarding back and forth. Sighing, he walked down the stairs to the Grand Parade. Not the kind of job he normally would take on but hell, money was money. His nostrils flared with the scent of pot as he looked around, hands in pockets. A large hand reached out, clapping the skateboarder on the shoulder and lifting him a couple inches off the ground. The skateboard rolled away as the boy fell in a pile on the ground.
“What the hell, man?” The kid sputtered as he jumped to his feet, ready to swing until he caught sight on the man standing before him. He tilted his head back to meet dark eyes and bit back another curse.
“That monument is to fallen peace officers. Find somewhere else to practice your tricks.” His voice was calm, face empty of expression. The kid just muttered under his breath and stomped off, only pausing to reach for his board.
“I hope you aren’t here just to cause trouble.”
He turned around to face the young man speaking. “Some things just get me a little irate.”
“Understandable. After all, that is why we are here. Anger at the upper class, the one percent, for ruining the economy.”
“Right.” He raised his eyes to the Aliant Building, where quite a few of the offices were still lit up. “I can see they are shaking in their fancy suits up there.”
The young man shrugged. “I cannot control their actions, only my own. It is wrong to do nothing. So we do what we can.” He offered a hand. “My name is Ben Young.”
“Sol Gruman,” he said, shaking the hand. “I’m here looking for somebody.”
Young looked him over then glanced around. “You a cop?”
“Not me. Just here on a job. Know a Elizabeth Landis?”
“Maybe. Why do you want to know?”
“That’s between me and her,” Gruman said. “If she’s here I want to see her.”
“You just said you aren’t a cop. Nothing says I have to help you.”
“True enough.” Gruman turned, glancing over the tents and tarps. “Course I could just go looking for her. Knock on doors, so to speak.”
“Resorting to threats all ready?”
“I don’t make threats, son. And I don’t like shouting so just go fetch her. I’ll wait over by the stairs.” He shoved his hands back in his pockets and walked over to the steps, leaning back against the stone wall. He looked relaxed but his eyes constantly moved, following any motion. Impatience was growing when a girl finally emerged from the cluster flanked by Young and another man. Sol eyed the girl. Looked like she was the one he was looking for.
“Right, whats this about then.”
Sol looked over at him. “None of your business, Che. Elizabeth, your father has asked me to come get you and bring you back home.”
“Oh ain’t that something. And I guess you run wherever that rich bastard tells you to,” the man next to Elizabeth said. “He thinks just because he has money people should just do whatever he tells them. Well Lizzie ain’t going back so tell him to go fuck himself.”
“Gerald, god.” She squeezed his arm. “But he is right. This is something important we are doing here. People like my father think they can do whatever they want and never pay any consequences. We want to stop that.”
“By camping out here on the Parade while hoping nobody walking by Tarp City gets careless with a cigarette? Yeah that’ll show those evil corporations.”
Gerald snorted. “He’s just another tool of the man, Lizzie. Let’s go.”
“Perhaps he’s right. Your father paid me to come down here and bring you back home. He’s worried about his daughter. Apparently it’s something fathers do, rich assholes or not. He want’s you home. And he’s even willing to listen to any concerns you have over the business practices of his company.”
“Yeah right. He’s so worried he sends some jack booted thug after his precious daughter?”
Sol laughed bitterly. “Dude, you are so fucking clueless aren’t you. You sit around here toking up and bitching and what have you accomplished? Corporations don’t change until you fuck with their bottom line. But I’m not here for a philosophical debate.” He stopped talking to Gerald, turning his attention to the girl. It was like the man no longer existed. “Elizabeth, my car is up on the street. Would you like to come home with me or not. It’s going to get awfully cold tonight.”
“Maybe I should go and at least speak to him,” she said, hesitantly.
“Liz, why? He just wants to control you. Don’t you want to be free?”
Ben and Gruman just looked at each other as the two argued. Gerald seemed to Sol to be just another coffeehouse revolutionary, someone who knew how to talk good and look passionate but would never do anything more than bang gullible girls.
“Damnit, Gerald, I am going to talk to my father. This is what we want, someone willing to listen to us and change things. And I want a fucking shower. Where is your car,” she said to Sol.
He motioned behind him. “Black Charger.” He couldn’t help but grin as she stalked off up the stairs. “Well gentlemen it’s been lovely…”
“You fucking ass,” Gerald yelled, rushing Sol swinging wildly. They collided, Sol actually falling to his ass with the angry man on top of him. Growling, he yanked his hands out of his pockets while slamming a knee up into Gerald’s crotch. He screeched, doubling up on top of Gruman. He stood up, wiping his clothes off, blood trickling from his lip.
“Sonofabitch,” he swore, fighting back the urge to put the boots to the fallen man. Ben laughed.
“People will surprise you from time to time,” he said. “I wouldn’t leave Elizabeth waiting if you want to actually deliver her to Mr. Landis.”
“You don’t mind?”
Ben shrugged. “She was right, it is what we want. Not of all us have a father willing to talk so we will continue as we can. Oh, if you ever do feel like a philosophical debate, give me a call. I’d enjoy a beer and a good conversation.” He waved and walked back into the tangle of tents and tarps. Sol shook his head, spitting blood at the moaning figure on the ground and stomping up the stairs to Argyle Street. Easy money, my ass.