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▶  More from Harm City Why Grownups Suck
A Monster’s Life
An Old Goon's Plight, Standing in for an Exhausted Grandmother


Visiting my longtime lady friend, Megan on the Redneck Riviera over the past few months has taught me the importance of a father to a young daughter, and in his absence a grandfather or uncle—and maybe a beastly visitation every once in a while.

Megan’s daughter avoided getting married so that she would not end up supporting a man. She has a good job, was good with supporting her daughter, knew that the men her age were looking for a woman to support them. She gave it a chance. The guy was nice enough when I visited but could never look me in the eye. He probably knew I was the one who would remove his teeth if he ever hit Megan’s daughter.

Megan almost beat his face in a few times for quitting jobs, scamming doctors for pain killers and whining about his pain. But he was always kind with his daughter and she loves her Daddy. He’s a likable guy, but not a man by any traditional definition.

Last New Year’s Eve I was supposed to be bringing crab cakes down to their place for a get together. But my hip was so bad I could not ride in the car, so limped across the street, gave them the food and wished them a happy New Year.

He looked at me in horror, could see the pain on my face and said, “Mister Jim, don’t you have any pain killers?”

I said, “Yeah. I save them for work, when I can’t stand it anymore.”

As I was hobbling across the street I heard Megan say to him, “That’s a real man. He won’t use that prescription. Pay attention and learn. Your daughter needs you.”

The writing was on the wall.

By the end of this summer he was disabled from pain, from a sprained hand, bouncing back and forth between Oxys, perks, heroin, Crack and Saboxtin.

He’s been out of the family picture for months, and now, when I hear his daughter, just turned two, get excited at the sound of my voice and yell, “Uncle!” [A name she gave me, as I was introduced as Mister Jim. We don’t know where she got Uncle from.] I realized I had to visit more regularly. I had been down to once a month, since it’s such a long bus haul and hike.

Her name is Emma, 2 feet tall, curly blonde hair, very much a princess tomboy. She came up to me with her mother and grandmother standing behind her and said, “Uncle—me take shower. Me take shower with Mommy.”

She says such things, anything of importance marking her progress from baby to lady, with a creased brow and wrinkled little nose as she clenches her fists and leans forward for emphasis.

I said, “Wow, Emma, that’s a big deal. I’m not even allowed to take a shower with Mommy!”

She laughed, her mother blushed and her grandmother said, “Not if "Uncle" wants to wake up without his socks shoved down his throat,” as she headed to the kitchen and playtime was joined.

Emma has an extensive toy animal inventory and flashcards as well. I instructed her on sorting by genus, the felines, canines, birds, etc.

She loves watching Beauty and the Beast and pointing out the similarities between “Beast” and “Uncle:”

Big nose

Deep voice, which she imitates herself with gravel-tongued enthusiasm

Beard

Lots of ragged clothes handing from his shoulders

"Bigggg hands—beast hands—awww, Mommy!!!!"

Emma, with an intense impatience worthy of our current president, cuts the carpet grass with her plastic lawnmower.

Emma has a princess tent she camps out in when she wants to ward off all the adult bullshit, [none of it coming from Uncle, of course] like going to bed.

Emma has a play kitchen with plastic food on plates. She brought me a grilled cheese sandwich and I gobbled it down [had done some slight of hand]. At first, she couldn’t believe I ate it, until she could not find the plastic sandwich! She then looked at me and said, “Beast!” I then belched and asked, in a deep, rumbling voice, for some water and she opened her eyes wide and said, “Uncle Beast! Eat Emma-food!”

Convinced of my beastly properties, Emma thought I would be just the person to play monster and ran off hiding, covering her eyes and looking over her shoulder, taking turns leaping and running to mother and grandmother as the clumsy old monster, somewhat lacking in beastly athletics in his waning years, lurched and lunged, crawled and capered, snarled and clawed his way over the coffee table, slithered under the coffee table—and then got stuck, because his belly was so big from swallowing the bratty kid next door...

Eventually my monster act was so convincing she screamed like Faye Wray and I backed off.

Emma then decided that a Girl-Beast alliance was in order. She has been having a hard time making it all the way to the kitchen with her baby carriage caravan without being jumped by the imaginary spiders she fears so much. [She calls crickets spiders too. Indeed, has some trouble with exact, scientific classification and once called a black baby doll a “Rilla”] The caravan usually comes under spider attack in the doorway before the fridge, at which point she yells, “Spiders!” and begins stomping imaginary spiders. Her beast ally added some flare by biting the spiders' heads off and smacking their still running legs with his big paw.

Emma was thrilled with having a beast man for an uncle and also a useful baby caravan guard.

Emma wanted to fly, was trying to figure out how to get her little plastic toy tray airborne, after throwing all thee toys out on the floor [I remember doing this at age five. My brother and I had a plastic box we sat in. We attached Maxwell house coffee cans to the back, blew in them, capped them, and then, when it was time to take off, pulled the caps off all at once, and somehow the air compression never quite worked like planned…] which she could barely sit in, to fly. She thought that being able to fit into it was a good start. I picked her up and acted as her power system, taxiing, spinning, levitating, rocketing, flying, hovering and even crash-landing on the couch next to her laughing grandmother as I said in her ear, "Captain Emma, she's breaking up!"

I promised to take her out hunting down hoodrats—doing search and destroy over-flight suppression of the infiltration in her neighborhood and she was all on board for that, although Mom was somewhat worried…

Yes, to be a two-year-old girl pilot, calling in Beast-Uncle airstrikes on the hoodrats threatening her momma—that would be a good cartoon…

Finally, worn out, the old Beast sat down on the end of the couch. Emma came over and put her hand on my knee and said, “Awe, Beast tired?”

I said, “Yeah, Beast is beat.”

Emma then discovered, on the coffee table, where her MawMaw had set my bowl of ice cream [gut still unexplained], my old, bent-up, wire-frame glasses, having been swatted from my face by a giant hoodrat in 2009, stepped on by an uber-heavyweight while sparring at the park in 2011, and barely hanging together. Emma had never seen glasses, her MawMaw informed me, and did not know what they were [which made me feel really old and I only wear them outside to see at a distance] so I waxed too slick by half and said, in BEASTLY tones of slathering menace, “Those are MY monster eyes!”

I affected a monstrous face and saw, with a bit of old monster horror myself, a tactical go-light flash in her mind. Her eyes got wide, her mouth made a worried "0," then her cheeks scrunched in a moment of incisive realization, regarding me with the narrowing eyes of a fairytale princess, having ferreted out the betrayer in her court as she backed up dramatically on tippy toes, snapping my glasses off the table and shouted, “No Beast eyes find Emma,” threw them on the floor and stomped them like they were the two eyes of the same, baby caravan-menacing, giant, glassy-eyed spider!

Her mother and grandmother were horrified over the fate of Uncle Jim's much abused glasses and began scolding her. But all I could do was laugh, laugh hard band loud, hoisted on my own theatrical petard. So she ignored those fussy grownups and joined Beast Uncle in his laughter, as she marched around the coffee table, grinning wide, with the light of victory in her flaming princess eyes and made muscles with her little arms, while I clawed at my eyes, saying, “I can’t sees ta eat da kidz!”

Emma waxed as wroth as proud Odysseus, having blinded the Cyclops, the giant beast bemoaning his loss of sight as she shouted "Yey!"

Yeah, I’d cut off a head for Emma. Surely the ice cream man would have spare popsicle stick to mount it on...

The song below, by the way, is my favorite, which I listened to 26 times as I wrote this, and at least once every time I write while drinking whiskey sent to me buy—by—buoy my good friends.

Please say a prayer for Emma and the millions like her, adrift in the strange present, attempting to impose their ancient will, still.

Soundgarden - Burden In My Hand

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmIqIVxUuKs

Under the God of Things

https://www.amazon.com/Under-God-Things-Soul-Eating-Civilization/dp/1537457330/ref=sr_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472995457&sr=1-8&keywords=james+lafond

Add Comment
Bran Mak SwornNovember 13, 2017 1:00 PM UTC

Somehow I missed this article and it was a good one. Should you need additional air support on Emma's behalf ill be glad to help out.
Bruno DiasNovember 12, 2017 9:28 PM UTC

You sure as heel is one hell of a funny grandfather, Mr. LaFond.