Monday, April 11, 2016
In the Lions Den--Chapter Three
(Usual author's note: Once again, nothing here is to be taken seriously, this is just a half-assed story I'm finding fun to write. I'm in a bit of a rush again so the typos might be bad. Yeah, it's best you read Chapters One and Two to get an idea of where this might be going.)
Mitchell continues to choke on his martini long enough to draw the attention of the brunette bartender that handed him the drink. “Is he going to be okay?” she asks me visibly concerned.
“Yeah unfortunately,” I say back dismissively. The brunette looks back at me unsure of what to say, then realizes maybe it's best she be as far away as possible and goes to the exact opposite of her confined work space.
And suddenly, Mitchell stops coughing and straightens up almost as if he was playing the whole thing for effect. After taking a couple of quick breaths and doing the typical male self-pat down like making sure he hadn't dislodged his Italian tie or somehow lost his Rolex watch he looks over at me.
“Always good to talk with you Eric,” he says dryly before walking away.
“Back at you, Mitch,” I say turning away from him while taking a long, pleasurable sip of the beer Carter Jones indirectly bought for me. I watch the old and disgruntled man walk off and give him a hateful smile when I see him glance back my way as he takes a seat at a table alone.
The mutual hate my dad-in-law and me share for each other is well constructed edifice. Mitchell's comes from a combination of things but primarily rests on the fact that I am not Skip Everette, his daughter's first husband who even now shares sweet nothings with his prison cellmate, Sleazy Kyle. See, Mitchell's son, Simon, turned out to be such a Brobdingnagian asshole whose only apparent redeeming quality, according to his wife who seems to liken this one trait as being on par with the creation of the polio vaccine, was that he always leaves the toilet seat down for her. Then again Simon's wife, Anna Jones, true love is her five-thousand square feet lake house, bright red Corvette, and a box of jewelry so large it could be used as a buried treasure prop for a pirate movie.
The one hangup in this unrestrained capitalistic/crass consumerist couple was the fact that no matter how hard Anna and Simon say they were trying, they simply seemed incapable of conceiving a child. That of course assumed Simon could actually put down his cell phone for the require five to seven minutes to concentrate on something other than the fluctuating stock market and how it would affect his monthly bonus and that Anna could stop shopping long enough to spread her legs. Whatever the case, their lack of producing offspring so bothers my macho dad-in-law that it allows me to constantly rib him that Simon couldn't get a woman pregnant in a room full of childless ladies obsessing over their ticking biological clocks. Truth be told, if they should ever have a child the first chance I got I would examine this improbable offspring for the number “666” somewhere on his or her forehead.
After college, Simon became an investment account manager and like the vast majority of everyone else in his career field, this required him to believe that since he spent his waking hours playing, often dangerously, with other peoples money that it made him far superior to the rest of the human race. It should say something that in a family already having snobbery encoded their DNA that even they couldn't really stand to be around Simon for longer than ten minutes.
Where my wife's first husband comes into play is that when Chloe brought Skip home to meet her parents he instantly fell in with Mitchell who quickly came to view the younger man as his true son. Almost from the moment of Skip and Chloe returning from their honeymoon, Mitchell would be at their apartment so the two guys could ride off to play golf, fish, or just hang out like old college buddies.
Back when Skip was busted with a half kilo of cocaine in his car as well as the chick who he was having an affair with sitting in the passenger seat next him, Mitchell at first refused to believe the allegations. Once the facts were unavoidable he pleaded with Chloe to not divorce Skip, saying that the man just made a small mistake. Chloe told me she was so shocked by this request that she didn't speak to her father for over a year. The true nature of Mitchell's near obsession with Skip was revealed to me not long after Chloe and I were married. It seems the two regularly exchange letters with Mitchell going as far as to sending him care packages.
My share of our mutual hate was something I fought against for the first three years of my marriage to Chloe. I did my best to show Mitchell how much I cared for his daughter, engage him in simple conversation, and when that failed, just show him some basic respect. That all ended on my daughter Izzy's first birthday. We were less than an hour away from the time most of the party guests would have shown up and both Mitchell and I were standing on my backyard deck pretty much ignoring each other as I cooked burgers on the grill.
As usual, the silence between us had long since moved beyond the awkward when Mitchell decided to go walk around the yard. As Mitchell was going down the steps, he somehow stumbles and falls hard to the ground. Being a decent human being, I rush over to offer my hand to help him up. While Mitchell didn't exactly slap my hand away, he did ignore it completely and try to get up by himself, only to go off balance again and fall back down. I just watched from a distances that time, and it was then a wave of overwhelming anger sweep over me. I like to think of myself as a compassionate human being but at that moment had Mitchell's falls and then his struggles to finally stand back up caused a heart attack I can't say that I would have done anything to help or even call for assistance.
After my dad-in-law finally got to his feet, I walked over to the edge of the steps leading up to the deck blocking his path. “Tick-tock old man,” I say to him, “watch how you treat people, especially those married to your only daughter, you're getting old and the Grim Reaper could be around the next corner you turn. You never know who will be with you when he shows up.”
Since then Mitchell likes to keep a respectful distance from me. The only reason we even exchange cold and insincere greetings is because his daughter still loves him and Mary Jones, his wife, worships her granddaughter Izzy.
My dark thoughts are interrupted when the four-member band strikes up another tune, this time AC/DC's “Highway to Hell”, a strange selection until I see Brad's total redneck of a dad, Stanley Parker, stripping off his coat and shirts to dance around bare chested. Stanley's bald head already shiny from sweat and ample belly fat that jiggles like a massive mound of hairy Caucasian Jello causes everyone to clear out space so he could pursue his impromptu artistic impulse.
Much to my surprise, Carter Jones, who I hadn't seen since Chloe and I arrived, appears out of nowhere and starts dancing with Stanley. A huge uproar occurs as Carter walks onto the dance floor and strips off his shirts joining the father of the man about to marry his daughter. Carter is the total opposite of Stanley, tall with an athletic body of someone half his age and a head of silver hair that absolutely refuses to be dislodged from its expertly styled placement.
From my comfortable position at the Tiki bar, I watch the two men gyrate and jerk in front of the band in what seems more like mutually supporting seizures instead of graceful artistic expressions inspired by music. Without any prompting, more of Stanley's clan decided to join the talentless two and it is clear to me a mob mentality is forming, which is reinforced by more of the Jones' who refuse to be outdone.
Comfortable with initial tinglings of a beer inspired buzz, I couldn't help but be amazed at the sight unfolding in front of me. The Jones and Parker families couldn't be more different, the former coming from a long line energetic upper middle class achievers for whom success in life is damn near a mathematical given.
Where as the latter come from a poor working class background where success in life is usually measured in how close someone comes to retirement age before heart disease or cancer takes them away to the afterlife they have been told was the true reward for hard work since childhood. I wasn't judging the Parkers', far from it, my own background was quite similar to theirs its just that my life experiences have allowed me the chance to see outside what is usually a narrow and quite limited existence.
In most instances, these two desperately dissimilar groups would have absolutely nothing to do with each other outside a strictly employer/employee relationship. While many in twenty-first century America still clings to the idea that the socioeconomic ladder is wide enough to allow people from the bottom to climb up and join those far more privileged, all the data and trends say it's largely an illusion.
If you think too long about the situation it becomes darkly funny. Both the upper middle class Jones and the blue collar Parkers have no idea that in the long term they are quite screwed. Yeah, the Jones clan are overwhelmingly college types who make their livings in comfortable white collar surroundings but theses positions are all highly specialized, subject to the conditions of the overall economy. In others words, when the country goes into recession and the economic threads that tie everyone together start breaking they could quickly find themselves like the now extinct dodo bird. For the Parker, their lives depend on jobs that can either be shipped entirely overseas or subject to severe pay and benefit cuts in an effort to make them competitive to those businesses that listened to the siren call of countries that have near slave labor conditions for their workers.
The biggest problem is of course is that neither the Jones nor the Parkers see the handwriting on the wall. For the Jones, everything is all peachy keen in America with the only problem being those they view as “takers” who waste the hard earned dollars they are forced to pay in taxes. They believe that while they do not sit atop the peak of the economic mountain, they are high enough to believe that their lifestyle will continue on like it is now forever. On the other hand, those like the Parkers view education on anything outside their idiot savant-level profession with suspicion. They have a child-like view of the world shaped by simplistic slogans and take refuge from things they don't want to understand with their Bible and guns. As an informal student of history, I know enough to understand everyone from the ancient Egyptians to the arrogant lords of the nineteenth century British Empire believed the same thing, right before they were dethroned as the rulers of the world.
I gulp down the remainder of my beer and ask for another when I realize that in the end it is not the meek who will inherit the Earth, but the shits like my investment manager brother-in-law, Simon Parker. That thought by itself would be enough to send most rational people running off screaming into the night.
But all that is beside the point now, the band has ceased their mediocre rendition of AC/DC and moved onto “Volcano”, again by Buffett. A conga line starts forming, which prompts me shed my own sports coat and polo shirt and and go grab my lovely wife away from her cluster of cousins and friends and join the rapidly growing formation. Chloe is in front of me and my hands are drawn to her shapely butt, which is already moving to Jimmy's easy rhythms. She looks back at me and gives me that special smile that says I will get really lucky tonight. I say a small prayer of thanks to a silent god that my mom-in-law will be taking care of our daughter tonight, because my wife and I just might be making her a sibling.