This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or events, is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Up until my divorce, I always felt invincible. Plus, I never wanted to alienate my two kids, but that’s what happened anyway. My ex-wife, Jessie, had everything to do with that. Don’t get me wrong. There was plenty of blame to go around between the two of us. Unfortunately, calling my sons things like “friggin’ fairies” and “little faggots,” when they walked out the door with their mother while going for hamburgers, was just not right. I know that now. They were only young kids. The funny thing is, after that, I thought some kind of grand, higher source would step in and make everything alright, like waving a magic wand or something. Maybe I should have been a churchgoer or one of them holy rollers. I thought things woulda’ turned out better than they did. Yeah, well, so much for keepin’ the faith bro.
As far as the marriage went, I’d say that Jessie was just as much to blame as me. She always had these friggin’ sh-t fits and for the slightest reasons. Once, she lost it when a tiny piece of sautéed spinach got caught in my teeth at dinner. She shouted across the table, “That looks disgusting, brush your teeth” and “You’re f-cking revolting.” She also didn’t like pea soup, oysters and tapioca pudding, which happened to be three of my favorite foods. Not only that. Drinking a glass of beer before dinner became a big goddamn issue after the kids were born. Forget about the beer being an aperitif or one of them pre-meal digestives. According to my ex-wife, downing a bottle of beer was just like being a full blown alcoholic. Next, would be the tremors. Of course, she was dead set against our two boys having any taste of alcohol. As a matter of fact, she completely freaked out when Jack had a sip of my beer one day. I think he was 11. But you know that Jessie’s Italian. Jesus Christ, she should have realized that kids his age drink wine with dinner every day in Europe. What’s wrong with the kid having a sip of my beer every now and then? Did she want them to run out to the deli and grab a six-pack instead? I mean, common, be fair.
Come to think of it, Jessie had a problem with a lot of things, like when our two kids first learned how to do the wallet trick. It was no big deal. You know, the old wallet prank, where you fill a beat-up old wallet with fake money to fool people into picking it up. The first thing you do is tie clear fishing line around it. Then, you place the wallet in the middle of the road where people can easily see it. Meanwhile, you run for cover behind a fence or a tree or something as the line is unfurled along the way. In other words, you hide while still holding on to the nearly transparent fishing line. Every so often, when a car runs over the wallet, a driver will stop and get out and try to pick it up. You know how it is. They think they found easy money. That’s when you gently yank the fishing line, which baits them along. The fishing line is clear and way too small to see from any sizeable distance. You slowly yank on the line, just enough for the wallet to stay out of the person’s reach. They never quite grab it. It’s hilarious to watch. People look like damn fools chasing the wallet and they know it. You’d be surprised how many people get mad when they finally realize it’s a trick. Some of them threaten to call the police or come back late, to kick some ass. Naturally, Jessie nearly had a heart attack because Jack and Dwayne learned how to tie the fishing line for the wallet trick from me. Hey, they know how to stay out of a scuffle and how to avoid John Law. These kids just wanted to have a little fun. The wallet trick is a harmless practical joke. But try and tell that to Jessie.
On top of everything else, my ex-wife was always hocking me about getting out of that cracker box of a house. Working two jobs, six days a week was not good enough for her. Hey, it paid for both of my son’s tuitions, braces, clothes, shoes and a bunch of other stuff. These days, as far as money goes, the child support and alimony are completely up to date. God forbid if a payment is missed, or it’s late. Jessie won’t hesitate to send the sheriff out looking for me. That last judge in family court really had it in for me, him and that big sheriff and his stupid mustache. Anyway, Jessie’s lawyer deserved to be called a mamzer. It felt good saying it to his face. He was a prick and she was a witch. They left me without a penny to my name. But you know it wasn’t always like this though. There was a time when we used to go out to the speedway on Saturday nights as a family. In spite of the loud noise and the dry, dirty air, Jessie always had a good time. We all had a good time. Jessie even drove in the “Specialty 25” sprint car race for amateurs one night. Guess she had somethin’ to prove. It’s funny how she never liked car racing much, at least, not before I came along. We’d pack sandwiches and orange drinks, enough for everyone. Yeah well, too bad, nobody cares about that crap anymore.
Nowadays, going to the car races is out for me. I usually just stick around my small, second-floor garden apartment. I live there with my cranky old mother. My father used to live here too, but he died of emphysema about ten years ago. Basically, going to work and then to the bar in my neighborhood has become my entire life. My kids and my wife used to be my life, but things have drastically changed. My oldest kid, Jack, doesn’t want to have anything to do with me since the divorce. The younger one isn’t like him so much, but it doesn’t really matter. Their mother poisoned them both against me. She acts like everything in our marriage was my fault. If the kids come out f-cked up, then it’s all because of me. Yeah sure, but I guess she forgot about her nervous breakdown and the psychiatric hospital over in the next county. I believe a straitjacket was involved. Oh no, we’re not allowed to talk about that though. That was way before we started going to the sprint car races on Saturday nights with the two kids.
We used to drink beer at the car races, but that came to a screeching halt, too. For a while there, I eliminated my drinking and smoking altogether, just like Jessie wanted. But that wasn’t good enough to keep us together. Nothin’ would have been. We tried patching it up for the kid’s sake, twice. But Jessie eventually told me to pack my bags and to go live with my mother. She had a bug in her ass and that wasn’t going to change for nothing. So, now, we’re divorced. I realize writing phrases like “President Kennedy’s whore” and “fellatios for free,” on the memo portion of her support checks and legal documents was probably not the best thing to do. But I still have my memories.
Like me, the boys couldn’t stand Jessie’s constant griping. One Christmas, when Jack and Dwayne were asleep in bed, she hollered about the scaled down version of a completely visible vintage 350 V-8 engine sitting underneath the tree. She told me if I ever brought another racing car model or mentioned motors, cars or engines to our kids ever again, she would have me physically tossed from the house. She was mortified about the visible V-8. It was too blue collar for her. Too bad she couldn’t have left things alone. Jack was such a good math and science student, working for NASCAR would not have been out of the question. But in her mind, Jessie associates cars with being a grease monkey. Did it ever dawn on her that those NASCAR grease monkeys who work on racing cars make big money?
But sometimes, just thinking about my family and how it used to be makes me smile. When Jack was about six, he came with me to my job on a Saturday morning, where we stripped some cables that contained thick strands of valuable copper wire. The cables were headed for the recycling bin, but my supervisor gave me the go ahead to strip them after checking with the main office at Smithco. That’s my employer. It’s just a part-time position, but the pay’s okay and there are benefits. Hey, until you win the lottery, you do what you gotta do to make ends meet. At any rate, Jack and I peeled the cables, gathered the reddish metal and then drove to a local junkyard where the dealer purchased copper by the ounce. I watched when the junkie weighed our scrap metal, as my son Jack smoothly placed his right foot on the scale without anybody noticing. Nobody said anything, so I let it go. It was his first time at the junkyard. The payout was nice, but after a couple of times, the junk dealer caught on and accused me of cheating. It looked like Jack was a little con artist in the making. That story still makes me laugh.
Somebody asked me the other day, considering the two kids we made, if I had to do it all over again, would I still have gotten married to Jessie? I laughed and said mockingly, “No, not even if Jack and Dwayne’s mother was the last woman on earth, would I ever tangle with her again. Not even with a ten foot pole.” That’s when my friend quipped, “Stranger things have happened.” A cold chill quickly ran across the back of my neck, as if it was the flu. But I didn’t have the flu.
Photos/Videos: Drawings – Own work; Oysters – Daderot/public domain/Creative Commons (CC); Lost wallet – Martin Cooper/(CC); Video – Own work. Usage of photos does not constitute endorsement by author/sources.