Home > Short Stories > Going Back to Big Tree – Part II

Going Back to Big Tree – Part II

A man can divide his life into four parts. Part two: When his father is an idiot.

Every summer we went to Big Tree until my sisters, considerably older than me, had both left home. I was left, for all practical purposes, an only child. Having grown a little older, going up to Big Tree was no longer a priority. Eventually, we stopped going altogether. Young boys have no interest in camping out with their parents.

I still went fishing with my father occasionally, but never at Big Tree. It was simply too far for a day trip and my interests had turned from fishing with my father to my own feckless teenaged life. My father became a person to be avoided while I engaged in mischief.

I wasn’t sure when he had been cut from the glacier and thawed out but he certainly didn’t understand the world as it really was. For example, he simply couldn’t understand the importance of long hair. Nor could he appreciate good music, bell bottom jeans, black light posters, incense, wearing sunglasses indoors or component stereo systems.

When I was sixteen, my father bought a brand new pickup truck. It was a Chevy, fully loaded and fire engine red – his favorite color. If there was a bell or whistle to be had, this truck had it. This truck was pure muscle and flash to boot – 350 V8, Positrac rear end, built-in 8 track, tilt wheel, tinted windows – everything a man, or boy, could want.

When I was sixteen, there was only one thing – just one – that I wanted to get my hands on more than a brand new pickup, and she didn’t move on wheels. And as the logic of the day went, without the brand new pickup you could forget about the girl. So getting behind the wheel of this brand new pickup was pretty high on my list of priorities. Immediately, I started in on my father to let me drive it school.

Monday morning, the answer was no. Tuesday morning, the answer was no. Wednesday morning I said, “Dad, you don’t understand, I really need…”

“I understand everything. Not no, but Hell no.”

How could he possibly understand? How could this old man understand the sophisticated life of a sixteen-year old in the modern age? Didn’t he have a self-portrait on the wall of a cave somewhere? Wasn’t he cutting papyrus when he was sixteen? Did he really expect me to believe he had once begged his father to let him hitch up the buckskin to the buggy and blow past the dry goods store?

Frustrated and angry, I walked to the corner and hopped the bus to school. But this fight wasn’t over – not by a long shot.

By Friday of the following week, my persistence finally paid off and now here I was about to get the keys. But first, the lecture.

“Now you drive that truck straight to school and straight home, understand me Ed?”

“Yea.”

“You park it in the back of the parking lot away from the other cars. I don’t want some damn fool kid to scratch up my new truck, understand?”

“Yea, dad.”

“After school, you come straight home. I don’t want you cruising around in that truck, you hear me? Ed, are you listening?”

“Yea. I hear you.

My father had spoken and his word was…a recommendation, a suggestion, a guideline.

Behind the wheel of that truck was the most glorious place on earth. Every nuance of the road could be felt in the steering wheel. The interior still held that magical “new car” smell. The stereo was fantastic. Life was grand.

At the end of the school day I headed for the doors to the parking lot. I had parked the truck at the rear of the parking lot as I had told my father I would so it wouldn’t get scratched. The end of the day hadn’t come nearly soon enough. All day that new pickup had sat in the parking lot, calling me like a siren in the fog, and I had fallen under her spell.

As I reached out my arm for the crash bar on the door, here they came out of nowhere from my left, a vision of beauty. The most exotic and shapely legs in the world covered only by short a skirt and ankle socks; alabaster skin, smooth as butter; dark sapphire eyes behind long lashes; golden hair – angel’s hair – long and silky and spun by the Gods. They were the Peterson twins: the only thing more important to me than that brand new pickup and here she was – in stereo.

“Eddie, could you give us a ride home?” they asked, their lashes flashing. Then they looked at each other and giggled. Who knows? Twins.

Well of course I could give them a ride home. If I had been on top of the world driving that new truck to school that morning, I was now headed for the outer solar system – and look out, I’m bringing passengers. “I’d be happy to,” I replied nonchalantly, “you haven’t seen my new truck, have you?”

“You have a new truck?” Then in unison, “I love new trucks.” And more giggling. They were too cute for words, but I’ll try my best.

We headed out to the parking lot to the new red pickup truck and with a twin on either side of me I was about to burst, in more ways than one.

“Are you guys going to play the victory dance this Saturday night?” they asked, referring to my band.

I was the lead singer in a rock band that a few of us had formed with the help of the school’s band director. We played our own victory dances and those of other High Schools in the surrounding area. High School is a popularity game and I didn’t play team sports, so the rock band was a major vehicle for my ride up the social ladder. It was a great gig. My biggest problem was my father. He wouldn’t let me grow my hair past my collar. He was a Neanderthal.

“Oh yea, we’ll be there.” I replied as we reached the pickup. “We’ve got some new material and Rick is gonna do a killer solo. Well, here we are ladies. This is the new truck, you approve?”

“Oh yeeeaaa.” They said in stereo. They never seemed to speak independently.

I opened the passenger door for them and helped them both in, taking great care not to be obvious about the fact that I was focused clearly on their legs and not their faces. It was truly hard to do. When you’re sixteen and faced with the options of long legs under short skirts, or beautiful faces with big blue eyes and long blond hair, choices become mind bending. I couldn’t even get my head wrapped around it. So instead, I tried my best to alternate equally between the two.

With the twins safely in my truck and me behind the wheel, I was ready to show the world just how cool I was. We would have to take the long way around campus. People needed to see this.

The twins lived on the other side of town and with traffic I figured it would take at least half an hour. Fortunately, my dad wouldn’t be expecting me home with the truck for another hour at least, so this was going to work out just fine. Just fine indeed.

Cruising down Riverside Drive along the banks of the Snake River in a brand new red pickup with two gorgeous blondes next to me was one of the most ego pumping experiences I had ever had in my life. It was a beautiful, spring day in Southern Idaho. Everything was in bloom and the trees along Riverside Drive were bursting with flowering buds. The smell of lilac filled the air and the roar of the river falls underscored every delightful note of sweet, sweet music that came from either of the twin’s soft, pouty lips. It was a delicious lullaby of…

…”OH MY GAWD!!!” I screamed as we rolled through the intersection at forty when suddenly, from my left, a Jeep ran the light and appeared directly in front us. I hit the brakes and swerved to the right but it was too late. I T-boned this guy in the middle of the intersection and tossed his jeep about ten feet across the asphalt.

In a second it was over, but it felt like it lasted a full thirty minutes. The jeep appeared, and I threw my right arm across the girls and pulled the wheel to the right, hoping I could avoid him. By the time it was over, we were both a mangled mess of steel and glass. The front grill of the pickup was pushed up against the firewall. The Jeep was wrung like a wet rag. Fortunately, no one was hurt even though none of us were wearing seatbelts.

There in the intersection, surrounded by twisted metal and shattered plastic, I calculated my odds of explaining this to my father and escaping with my life. It wasn’t looking good for Team Ed. When I called home, my mother answered the phone, thank God. I just told her where I was and what had happened. She said, “I’ll tell your father.” It sounded more like, “I sentence you to three consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole.”

Within twenty minutes, my father came pulling up in the family car. I braced myself. He got out and slammed the door behind him. He marched with purpose through the intersection of broken dreams, through the pond of brake fluid and broken glass, oblivious to the traffic swirling around him. He was focused on me like a laser beam. His eyes reminded me of that bear at Big Tree. They were glazed with rage. There didn’t seem to be a person behind them. Beyond the anger, everything was a blank. I was dealing with my father at his worst.

He started in on me with a string of expletives that would have made a hardened sailor blush. Colorful as they were, I was visibly shaking. My father had never raised a hand to me in his life, but on this day amongst the tangled wreckage, I was sure he was going to kill me. Believe it or not, there are things that can make a sixteen-year old boy forget all about pretty girls with long legs. As my father hammered in my ear, my mind went numb. He might as well have been talking to a sponge.

“Ed, what the hell were you doing all the way down in this part of town, anyway?!!! Ed?!!! Are you listening to me?!!!”

“Uh, well, uh, I was, I was, I was taking the girls home and…”

“Why the hell were you giving them a ride home?!!!”

What a silly question. He obviously hadn’t taken a good look at the twins. I felt I should point that out to him, but with just a teaspoon of better judgment remaining, I kept my mouth shut. Instead, I said, “Dad, it wasn’t my fault. That guy ran a red light.” Yea, that should do it. The other guy ran the light. Any fool could see that it was entirely his fault. He ran the light. I was just a victim of circumstance.

But my father still didn’t get it. He said to me, “Ed, I don’t give a damn if that guy ran a red light or not. This was your fault. You should never have been here in the first damn place.”

I was stunned. What was that supposed to mean? Was my father brain damaged? It was official: my father was a complete moron.

It wouldn’t be until many years later that I finally understood what he was trying to tell me about choices and consequences and how we each design our own failures. But a few days later after he’d had a chance to calm down, he did say something I thought was pretty funny even though I dared not laugh at the time. Pacing around his broken truck and kicking the dirt, he asked, “Why couldn’t you have done this to your mother’s car?”

Copyright, Mitchell H. Elder, 2010

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