Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
This last misadventure left me with many questions that would haunt me for some time such as why didn’t Paul want anyone but Athena handling the money? And why would Conrad want to throw blame on yours truly for the motel incident? When was the scrawny little bastard going to give me my money back? And why hadn’t he put on a shirt? And why was he giving off the odor of ladies’ deodorant?
All I knew then was that our trip to Herkimer was over and we got back in time to Albany for me to join my family for Sunday dinner.
There were only about 5 dogs in the house now, my mother bred Shi-Tzu’s for profit but health problems had led her to pair down her inventory. Besides my family now had other things to occupy them; my uncle Stewart had bought a boat that was impressive to look at on the land but deadly to use on open waters. My stepfather, mom and brother had begun helping my aunt and uncle restore it. This was partly done out of family loyalty and partly in anticipation of countless drunken maritime adventures.
Anyway, we were all settled down to a steak dinner; it was my brother, my mom, stepfather, grandmother, great grandmother and I; all at the table same table and with knives within easy reach. I knew it was going to be fun.
My mom suggested, “You know Al you should ask Paul to give you a truck of your own, you could be your own boss.”
“He’d have to learn how to drive a stick first,” my stepfather said.
My brother Phil looked up from eating steak with his hands, “Yea, a stick.”
“You know,” I said. “I’m not sure if could take Paul’s kind of lifestyle for an extended period of time.”
“Why do you keep usin’ so many words?”
“Sweety,” my grandmother piped up. “We don’t care what you do so long as its something normal, not like this writing stuff you’re wasting your money on. You’d be better off selling shoes.”
That got my great grandmother going, “Leave him alone pizda, he can do what he wants. He’s a smart boy!”
She had a way of peppering her language with old world phrases that I found endearing.
My stepfather countered that with, “If he’s so smart then why doesn’t he have his own place? Why does he keep mooching off us.”
“At least he not pishi’rek like your boy or a kurwa like your girl!”
Ok a quick scorecard here, my brother Phil and my sister Greta were products of the union of my mother and stepfather. There was about five years difference between them and myself. Age, blood and temperament always conspired to make me feel estranged from them, even when we were living in the same house. My great grandmother had it in her head that my stepfather didn’t have much love for me and always made sure to get in the way of any disciplining he might do. She felt he was too brutal with me.
Was he? Well he was very free with his hands but as I got older I got pretty free with spite and insults, I never let an opportunity pass to let him know that I knew I was smarter than him. To me he was just a simple manual laborer; he had worked construction, driven trucks, repaired cars, done welding jobs, and run a snow plow but he hadn’t even heard of HP Lovecraft so how could I respect him?
Was I the least favored of the children living under his roof? Probably, but I’ve learned enough over the years to suspect that he was the least favored of his siblings so maybe we had a lot more in common than I thought.
Enough ruminating, let’s get back to the argument in progress.
Bringing up my runaway sister never failed to anger my mother, “Don’t you talk about her that way! Greta only ran away because that George Michael music made her crazy!”
“You know Mom,” I said. “I think maybe Greta running away had more to do with her being told she wouldn’t be allowed to go on dates until she was 18.”
“It was the music,” my Mom insisted. “It says so in the bible.”
“But you only read Revelations…”
“You know what’s wrong with you?” my brother offered. “You suck, nobody good likes you and you can’t get laid ever.”
I almost choked on the food I was eating, “I don’t think this is appropriate dinner conversation.”
“Hey Al,” my stepfather’s voice was full of pity. “Phil has a point, you need to get laid.”
Mom nodded, “Well if you did maybe you wouldn’t spend so much time in the bathroom.”
Now I was the once shouting, “I was reading Lovecraft!”
“Albert…” my grandmother’s said tenderly. “That is what all the normal kids are doing instead of wasting their time playing Dungeons and Dragons.”
“If you had ever completed ‘the Expedition to Barrier Peaks’ you would think differently.”
Finally my great grandmother added her voice to the chorus, “Sweetheart you need find a girl, just as long as she’s no Protestant dziwka.”
“For your information I am trying to… to… make friends with all kinds of girls,” I explained, “I just haven’t found my stride yet.”
My grandmother patted me on the back, “I know you like girls Al but I also know you’re being too nice. Girls don’t want a guy that’s nice to them.”
“Why do I keep hearing this?”
My brother shrugged, “’Cause is true. You’re buying them flowers and jewelry and books about Doctor Who and shit…”
“That was one time!” I insisted. “And she said she was interested in studying the classics.”
My grandmother tried to make me understand, “You’re not listening. Women can’t get excited for a man that’s all lovey-dovey. You grandfather – God rest his soul- could be a complete jerk sometimes. I remember one time I sent him out to get some milk and he was gone for a week! And when he finally came back I asked him where the Hell he was and he slapped me. That kind of a thing makes a girl crazy with desire.”
“It’s like that Millie girl you’re always crying over-” my stepfather said.
“Lilly,” I corrected. “Her name was Lilly.”
“Whatever, the thing is if you had just nailed her instead of writing her poems you’d probably still have her. Or God willing you’d have moved on to a few others.”
I pushed my plate away, my appetite destroyed, “I don’t think I need to hear any more of this.”
My great grandmother had tears in her eyes, “Listen to them Albert. You don’t have to be a ciota your whole life. It breaks my heart to think you’ll be living in the basement all your life.”
“Mom’s kennel is in the basement.”
“At least the studs in the basement know what they’re supposed to do,” my mother said. “Please, talk to your brother for a while Let him help you learn how to talk to girls. It’s time for you to start acting like a man.”
I buried my face in my hands, “This is like an intervention at Ron Jeremy’s house…”
This chapter is dedicated to the memory of my stepfather and grandmother.
Trust me they would have gotten the jokes.