Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The word prompts over at Three Word Wednesday are disarray, rabble and validate.

Old Habits Die Hard

I guess it was some big secret, but my dad was founder of some hippie group called the Monkey Wrench Gang or something.
I guess others got all the credit, though, as he met my mother at a roadside taco stand in Matamoros, Mexico after some big dustup with the Texas Rangers over some damaged road equipment near South Padre Island. Something about bird estuaries and, I dunno, whatever.
I knew him as a guy in a suit, selling insurance and personal portfolio investments.
That is, until I found his battered footlocker in the basement.
I asked if I could start wearing the Army jacket with all the patches and he got all weird on me.
Got weird on all of us.
Mom kept asking when he was going to get a haircut. The brushy mustache he grew came in gray, but he didn’t color it or anything.
I noticed that my pot stash began to dwindle.
That’s when the news started warning of some new eco-terrorist threat, especially after several Hummers went up in flames over at Carmody’s Dodge, Chrysler, Hummer.
Over dinner one night – meatloaf night, I guess – he made this dam of mashed potatoes between two slabs of loaf and mom asked what he was doing and he mumbled something about “Praying for a pre-cision earthquake” and taking his fork to bust up the potatoes so that the butter flowed into the green beans.
Mom, she just shook her head.
Me, I guess I was curious.
Dad grew more secretive about his den, the pictures of fishing buddies, the gold plastic golfing trophies, the musty deer head on the wall. He didn’t lock the door – mom would have gone ape-shit over that – but he did ask that anyone announce their presence before asking for admittance.
It’s where he started teaching me stuff like delayed timer fuses, homemade napalm and how to bend nails into caltrops, these wicked little landmines that dad said “would forever remain fondly in his heart,” since he dumped a shitload on Texas Highway 48 outside of Brownsville – stopping the Rangers and leading him to mom.
“I remember, she was drinking a Jarritos, strawberry, and eating a couple of shredded beef tacos,” he said. “Most beautiful woman I had ever in my life laid eyes on. Made an honest man out of me.”
His eyes clouded for a minute, then a smile came over his face. He put a hand on my shoulder, cocked his head and said, “Let’s go catch a movie.”
Giggletown 24 was a temple of excess. The gaudy neon, the sea of concrete where people parked their SUVs that had never seen a speck of dust, a drop of mud. There was a valet, for chrissakes.
“The rabble,” he mumbled, pushing his way through the crowd to buy tickets.
We sat near the back of the main theater, waiting through the trailers for the main feature, when dad pressed an M-18 smoke grenade into my hands.
“Pop it, drop it and casually get up an leave when it rolls a few rows down,” he said.
As I put a shoulder to the swinging double doors, I heard dad yell,
“FIRE!”
The panic was immediate. The disarray, ultimate.
Dad stood with his arms crossed, protected from the chaos by the air hockey table, and watched with amusement at the mayhem he created.
When the police showed up, he nudged me with an elbow, said it was time to “get truckin’.”
But in the smoky haze, my dad just couldn’t help himself. He casually stopped Margaret Templeton, herself wild-eyed in the upheaval that was the Cineplex lobby – she looked like an idiot in the blinking bowtie and multi-colored vest and rhinestone-covered nametag – put his hands up to calm her and asked:
“Could you be a dear and validate my parking pass?”

18 comments:

anthonynorth said...

I guess some people are just like that. Nicely told, and I loved the simplicity of the ending.

paisley said...

oh that was fun.. you have a sparkling sense of imagination.....

pjd said...

Beautiful. I like how the over-repetition of "some" in the opening gives way to the dedicated mayhem at the end. This is a terrific story, with of course a great ending.

Tumblewords: said...

Woohoo - it's probably happening somewhere right now - but without the classy style in which it's written here.

Daily Panic said...

Villians have the most nerve and wierd hobbies... and to them the chaos they create is just another day, you captured it very well through the eyes of a child; a child who had never seen his father as anything but his father, and accepted his behavior.
good story!

Amarettogirl said...

This was so well written! The pacing and descriptions were vivid and so believable! The cineplex was described so very well and I knew dad wasn't just going to see a flick- the non-sharing coat was another key character descript - loved it! So very great!

ThomG said...

This was one of those stories where I hit upon the ending - then took the dogs for a long walk at 5 a.m. to flesh it out. Not my usual - I'm a guy who has to have the lede - the opening - built before going on.

watermaid said...

Well doing it that way round has worked out very well. A gripping story.

Sepiru Chris said...

These are just wonderful.

If you collect them all into a book, I will pay to own them to dip into them and read them at my pleasure.

You are so good at these short fictions; I love the development of the slightly clueless adolescent as he passes from innocence to experience and gets clued in to an unusual aspect of his family and his father.

I like how the mother is central yet diminished; a dusty statue in the background, always around, and important, yet not needing to be fleshed out more, here.

missalister said...

Well, there you go, Mr G. Kowloon Chris confirms it. You are feelin’ it now. And this, it’s one of your best of everything—of the telling of it, the details of it, the ending of it, everything.

Crystal Phares said...

I love this. You are so good at short fiction.

It's fun, fast and just descriptive enough to know what you need to without bogging down in the details.

floreta said...

agreed with everyone here.. great short fiction writer!! love the voice of the protagonist in this piece.

gautami tripathy said...

I am going to highlight your short fiction on my other blog. Just click on my name to reach it.

Heather said...

Wow... great story! A thoroughly enjoyable read, from start to finish. You do have a gift.

Thanks for welcoming me to 3WW!

susan said...

I don't think it's a matter of not bogging down the reader with details. I think you've mastered the art of using the right details and getting the greatest mileage out of your word choices.

Well done, Thom.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Very nicely done. I love the pacing and understated humor.

one more believer said...

i thought daily panic sed it perfectly...

Fledgling Poet said...

Such a rich story with such few words...and you built the character with total ease. Loved it!