When I met the guy who would someday become my brother in law, I totally thought he was a retard. I don’t mean “retarded” as in goofy and silly. What I mean is, when I met this man, I honestly thought that he was literally mentally retarded.
I have two older sisters. This guy, Stacey, would become my middle sister Glenda’s second husband. I was introduced to him one sunny Sunday afternoon when they had just begun dating. At the time, my sister was working in some sort of care center with both mentally and physically disabled adults. On the day I met him, sissy’s new boyfriend had been recovering from a back injury. He lived “up the canyon” in a tiny lumber town called Mill City and worked at a lumber mill there as well. A couple weeks prior, he had broken his back at work, had had surgery and was still recovering.
Of course, I had no way of knowing any of this. When they got out of the car and made their way toward the back porch where I sat, perched, smoking a cigarette, all my brain saw was my sister and one of her patients heading over to ruin my day. I had seen it all before. Whether it’s some slobber, snot on a helmet, or a childlike request for a sticky, often smelly, pointless hug, it would undoubtedly cause me some level of discomfort. People like that, like me - a lot. But they also make me sad and that sadness, to me, is quite uncomfortable.
Imagine if you will, what I saw. You may have to actually do it yourself to really understand. Stand up. Bend your right knee. Twist and tilt your shoulders and torso beyond your right hip, down and toward that bent right knee. Hold that pose. Now, walk toward your spouse in the other room that way. See what I mean? You can’t tell me that your significant other wouldn’t be horrified and insisting something is terribly wrong with you.
Upon introduction, there were no clues given. My sister wasn’t at all specific about the nature of their relationship so, naturally, I just assumed (based entirely upon her line of work and his physical condition) that my sister had taken one of the patients from work on an outing to my mom’s house. Sure, it seemed a little strange but who was I to question my sister’s job? At one point that day, I actually remember thinking her exceptionally dedicated to her job for bringing him.
Several weeks later, I had made some comment to my sister about them “making her take the patients with her every where she went.” She didn’t understand. I explained to her confused expression that, “Every time I see you, you have that retarded guy who walks funny with you. They should at least pay you for that.”
“Stacey,” she asked, incredulous. “He’s my boyfriend. Not my patient. He walks funny because he broke his back at work and he isn’t retarded. He just doesn’t talk a whole lot.”
“God you’re a bitch,” she added for good measure.
How would I know? Sheesh.
My not-retarded brother in law had a really cool son named Tommy. Tommy became my step-nephew-in-law when his dad married my sister. He is a really cool kid. Tommy and I always liked each other whereas his father and I never did. In total, my sister was married to Stacy for something like nine years so I got to know Tommy very well over the years. Tommy and I share our birthdates on New Years day and he is exactly ten years younger than me. We liked to listen to hard rock and smoke pot together.
When I was 28 and Tommy 18, his dad and sis were now separated. Stacey remained in Mill City but Tommy, now an adult, opted to come live in Salem with Sissy in a little trailer park off Fisher road. I was living in the three bedroom house upstairs from the Silver Inn Tavern on Silverton road. They pretty much lived right around the corner and I was over there all the time.
One time, around 2002, I had to take Tommy to Portland in my little Ford Escort as a favor to sis. I can’t remember why now to save my life. Drop him at his mom’s maybe? Idk. Before we left, Tommy and I were in his room smoking out and listening to hard rock and playing a little game where he denies I have heard of a band that he likes and I have to prove that I have.
“You’ve never heard of Disturbed! Sing one of their songs then,” Tommy would insist. I really blew his mind when I sang the “stupid, selfish, sadistic, abusive fucking whore” part, word for word, perfectly. He liked that.
So then he showed me Slipknot. “You don’t know these guys yet,” he challenged. He was right. I didn’t. So Tommy brought his Slipknot CD with us to Portland that day and schooled me proper on how a true Slipknot fan should behave in public.
All the way out of Salem, past all the towns on the way up to Portland and all the way home again Tommy personified the role of devout Slipknot fan. He hung half his body out the passenger window; he threw up horns, and got the attention of every pedestrian my car came near in Salem and Portland. As we went around every corner and stopped at every single traffic light, Tommy’s duty was to deliver one loud, insistent message to each and every human we saw. Tommy’s maggot message to the masses was simply this, “SLIPKNOT MOTHERFUCKER! SSLLIIPPKKNNOOT!” At little old ladies, mom’s with strollers, grade school kids. It did not matter. Tommy told them, “SLIPKNOOOOT BITCH! Did you hear me? I said, MOTHERFUCKING SLIIIIPKNOOOOT.”
At first, I was like paranoid, “You can’t do that!” But the more he did it, the funnier it was. We had a blast.
We listened to that CD all the way there and all the way back but I couldn’t tell you now what I heard that day. I knew it was loud and seemed to kick you square in the brain. I knew that I liked it.
The funniest thing happened on the way back from Portland. Tommy by this time had lost his voice and mellowed way down. We headed back under a beautiful blue, clear sky and perfect temperature outside. We had killed one bowl, Tommy tapped it out on the side of his shoe and loaded another and we were ripped.
“What is that smell,” I asked Tommy. “Do you smell that?”
“A little,” he replied, uninterested.
“It smells like something’s burning,” I offered.
“Oh that’s outside,” Tommy said. “The grass seed farmers are field burning.”
This sufficed for a few minutes but the burning smell kept getting stronger. I looked in the sky. Not a cloud. No smoke in the sky.
“Tommy, look at the sky,” I said. “There’s no smoke. It’s not from outside. Something is burning! Is it my car?”
Stoned, Tommy says, “I don’t know. No. I don’t know.”
Then I looked over at the floorboard on his side. Tommy had black smoke pouring up from between his feet.
“I knew it wasn’t outside,” I shreiked. “Your fucking shoes are on fire from tapping out that bowl, you dumbass!”
Try the rest of the week.