L

part 2

 

 

     Grampa's Golden Pond

                             with
                    Grampa Jenkins

Good evening, ladies and gentleman. And happy Saint Paddy's Day to you. May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live. That's my Irish wish for you, and today we're all a little Irish, in particular my granddaughter Katy. That's an Irish name isn't it, Katy, like the great Kate Hepburn, who I once broke bagels with, when she came to see me in 'The Fantasticks'. What a time that was! All she wanted to do was talk about me, even though she had a career of her own that wasn't too shabby.

I guess I've got Katys on my mind, all kind of Katys. Hepburn, Blanchard, Couric... I don't really know if my Katy has any Irish in her or not - her mother ran away from home when she was just sixteen and married (so she said!) some scallywag ne'er-do-well who didn't have two sticks to rub together. Well, that whore ran back home after a few years, and I would of never forgiven her except for the darling five year old she brought back with her. I bet you can guess who that was!

Katy used to worship her grampa, but over the years we've grown distant. Maybe she blames me for the misfortune that befell her grandma on that tragic summer day, when I accidentally mowed the poor woman down. She walked right in front of my new riding mower, for gosh sakes, and I couldn't get the gears to respond in time! The infernal machine seemed to have a mind of it's own. I never claimed that Gretchen was a nematode, and if I did it was because I was in shock.

But that's all in the past, now. She's a successful woman, My Katy, with a big syndicated advice column that even runs in the New York Daily News. Recently she asked me to help her out with it, and the result was a big smashing success. I suspect what she's looking for is to make a partnership deal with me. I don't know about that, though, not unless she's willing to give me top billing. Besides, I still have the theater in my blood, and that's a bug that's hard to lose.

Tomorrow we're going to meet for lunch - a Mexican place I haven't heard of called Tico's. As long as they have Camarón al Mojo and cold Negra Modelo, they're okay in my book. The important thing, of course, is seeing my Katy once again. I have a feeling it's going to be a wonderful day.

© 2005, Mark Hoback

 


 

If I ever appear to be non-responsive and all signs seem to point to persistent vegetative state - don’t unhook the feeding tube. Have the Dentini pump running day and night. Keep me plugged in and propped up until everyone else is dead. Then dehydrate me and put me on a shelf next to Barbie. I’ll do the same for you. I’m that kind of person. Morality, it’s the new straight black men fucking each other. 

 

I talked Kym and Andre into joining me for lunch with Grampa.  Kym has finally decided to start getting out of the house for her own sake as well as Andres and, of course, mine. She has recognized at last that her 18 -20 hour a day attachment to the breast pump and Howard Stern’s  cable show are not healthy, are not advancing her in any way;  her perpetually full, pendulous breasts cannot support themselves on her thinning frame and her pantsuits are permanently soiled with milk stains.  She heard Perry and David’s friends refer to her as The Old Milk Maid.

 

Andre, has just been wilting on the shelf, poor monkey. He is such a social creature. He likes to get out and throw his poop around.

 

Since Kym had the baby, gave the baby up, and became addicted to the breast pump, she has sorely neglected that monkey.  She stopped ordering his stylish new outfits. He is more than a season behind now.  He has become sullen and resentful. His hair is matted with angry semen and take-out food.  Finally, he started regularly sneaking up and biting her.  Her welts are painful vicious reminders of how much work goes into a successful marriage. 

 

“He needs to get out! See people! Hoot! You can’t keep him caged up in the same outfit day after day...You knew what he was when you married him!” I told her.

 

We planned to make a day of it. I promised that lunch wouldn't be long, Tito only has an hour, and I can only eat so many tacos; Grampa wouldn't notice when we left, as long as we positioned him near other people, he'd just keep talking until darkness fell, or someone called the cops, the old rancid bulb.

 

“I just need to see him long enough to get Grammas teeth.”


***

 

We arrived at the park promptly at 11:55.  Tito’s mower was already parked at the truck and he could be seen moving around behind it.

 

“Have I ever met your Grampa?” Kym asked.

 

“Have you been to the park?” I asked her, “He likes to hang out there, dropping shiny things on the ground for girls to pick up.”

 

“I don't do that anymore, you little gossip!” said a palsied voice behind me, like a hand swatting my behind. “Not since you set me up with that group of bagpipers last summer. That was a nasty trick!”

 

Grampa was sidewinding his way toward us slowly, his cane picking a path along the uneven sidewalk. I hadn't seen his car pull up, but I should have heard the breathing and telltale shuffle and screech of his brown wingtip tap shoes.

 

“I've been here since 10,” he said, “Just in case you came early! I parked over by the restrooms...”

 

Squinting into the sun I could barely make out his blue Ford Taurus parked right behind the women’s bathroom. I gave Kym a knowing look, while Grampa gaped openly at Kym’s heaving chest.

 

“Did I ever tell you about the time I played a Spaniard in 'Two Mules for Sister Sarah'? Grampa wheezed a few steps behind us,

 

“It was about a girl who lost her leg in a terrible milling accident and was shunned by society. She loved shoes, but wouldn't buy them because it was too shameful to have to ask for just one.  She hobbled barefoot and on her naked stump for years. "

 

"Until this Spaniard rode into town. He was a Master Carver and he whittled her an extra foot.  The very next day she went into the finest cobbler and ordered two of the prettiest slippers without heel straps she could find. She married the Spaniard that same day.”

 

 

Happily this pointless chatter was only background noise, for there in the foreground was Tito, just stripping off his sweaty shirt to reveal that fine smooth brown tattooed flesh, slowly, his thick brown arms flexing to make the Virgin Mother dance; the opening ritual that made eating a taco the next logical step....

 

We walked in a trance toward the Taco Tractor where Tito was now donning his apron and flipping the sign to 'Abierto!'

 

“My GOD,” Kym sighed, gripping her dripping chest, “He is a handsome man.”

 

She stopped to apply lipstick and insert new pads into her bra.

 

Andre chittered and danced in place.  My mouth was watering.  Not far behind us, Grampa farted. A small cluster of people were moving toward the truck from the federal building. Tito had definitely gained a following.

 

“I want a sit-down meal! Let's nip on over to Mortimers and have a steak sandwich!” Grampa rasped, stopping.  Wheezing for breath, he wiped the excess spittle from his mouth with a truly hideous yellowed handkerchief.  At this pace it would take us a full day to reach the taco tractor. 
 

“There is a sandwich there named after me,” he said, farting again.

 

“Mortimers DOES NOT EXIST!” I screamed. Andre bared his teeth in warning at Grampa.

 

We all looked toward the Taco Tractor with longing.

 

“Let's be nice, now, Katy…” Grampa whined. “I forget these things. I just want to spend some time with you and catch up…Did I tell you about the time Fernando Llamas and I sang a duet about cheese?”

 

“Gramma killer…” I muttered. 

 

 “I didn't kill your Gramma on purpose!” he cried.

 

“Give me the teeth,” I ordered.

 

“After lunch.” he said.

 

“Now.”

 

“They are in the car,” he said, pursing his crusty lips.

 

“Okay…Anyway, Gramma isn't dead,” I said, smiling cruelly.
 

“She isn't?” both Grampa and Kym asked simultaneously, stopping.

 

“Whose support hose are wrapped around that lawn mower blade over your mantle, then?” Kym asked.

 

“Well, those were Grammas, and she was pronounced dead, for the MOST PART, and everyone was all, ‘Oh, let’s bury her! She has no brain activity and she smells funny...’ but, fortunately, a nurse slipped me a coupon for this place where they could keep her ALIVE.  Where they didn’t just want to pull her plugs and throw her 3 large pieces into the ground.”

 

They both just stared at me.  

 

“So…She’s got her own shelf at the Jesus Saves Discount Storage and Care Facility.”

 

“That storage place in the valley? Under that big blinking cross and Dollar Sign?” Grampa asked, “That's where Gretchen is? She’s not buried in that plot I bought?”

 

“I'm paying $30 a month for the best discount care.” I told him. “She has her own shelf. She shares her semi-private space with aborted fetus twins and an antisocial head, so it’s relatively quiet, except that fucking Ipod….” I said. $250 bucks worth of technology and I swear that head only had 6 bad songs loaded onto it, which he played at top volume constantly. I hate that head.

 

“But she’s not actually…alive?” asked Kym “Can she …talk? Or gesture?”

 

“Well, she's in an 'undead' state. That's what the 'Physician's Assistant' says…a 'hopeful stasis…'” I clarified, “She's resting between 'dead' and 'not so dead as to require burying'…I'm lucky to have caught it when I did.”

 

“She's frozen on a shelf.” Kym stated flatly.

 

”She's alive.” I said. “I monitor her feeding tube. She's eating 40 pounds of kibble a month, which is perfect for her weight...”

 

“You mean that dog food you keep driving down to the valley? I thought that was for the Animal Shelter….”

 

“Did I ever tell you about the time I was the Broadway version of the Shaggy DA?”

 

We were still about 100 yards from the taco tractor. I could see Tito's white teeth flashing in laughter with the other happy patrons.  His hands flew assembling tacos.

 

We were stopped again, so that Grampa could catch his breath.  Andre peed on his shoes, which was the right thing to do. It was a very warm day.

 

The sun glinted off Andre’s little sombrero, which was decorated with sequins and fake jewels. It matched beautifully with a bolo bull's head tie, tight black matador pants and a bright red shirt with black piping and pearl buttons. 

 

Andre always catches one's eye. That monkey shines.

Tito looked our way. Andre hooted. I waved to Tito.  It was a moment when all things felt possible.

 

Then Tito flipped the sign to ‘Cerrado’ and put back on his green coveralls. 

 

In a few minutes we heard the mower start up.

 

We all just stood there.

 

Kym’s breasts leaked almost audibly.  Andre bit Kym. I glared at Grampa who had the good sense for once to not bring up Mortimer’s. Then we all turned in unison and shuffled back to where the cars were parked.

 

“I want those teeth,” I said to Grampa.

 

“I’m just over there...” Grampa said. “I should tell you something, though.”

 

He stopped. He sighed. His rheumy eyes swam towards mine. He smiled in a way he had seen on Eight is Enough and never forgot.

 

“I thought this would go a little differently...and I brought someone… I wanted you to meet someone special...”

 

“What do you mean?” I asked suspiciously.

 

“I’ve met a special gal.” he answered sheepishly, farting. “I know you’re gonna love her! She’s the greatest thing since sliced toast...”

 

“Oh god,” I moaned.

 

We continued toward his car which was parked behind the restrooms in full sun.

 

“You left her in the car?” I asked.

 

“Yes.” he answered.  “I thought we could go to Mortimer’s afterward, get some pie....Why, the pie they serve at Mortimers is as big as the August moon...”

 

“With the windows up?” I asked him. "You left her, your lady friend, in the car, with the windows rolled up?

 

“Well, yes...I suppose they are...”

 

“For over an hour in the middle of the day,”

 

“It’s a beautiful day…she just loves the sunshine! She’s my Sunshine Gal!” he pattered.

 

As we approached, I could see through the window of Grampa’s Taurus a small mess of plastic and platinum, wrapped in sweater and melted cosmetics. In the middle of this puddle was a purse and some teeth.

 

“Looks like she went to Mortimers without you,” I said.  

 

© 2005, Katy Hipke

     Grampa's Golden Pond

                             with
                    Grampa Jenkins

It's a real sad thing whenever you see somebody start coming unraveled around the edges, but when it's your own kin, it becomes a crying shame. Sometimes I like to think about the great Charlie Chaplin, who I met when I was only knee high to a grasshopper. He had troubles of his own, you know, but he never let his troubles trouble him. I was the youngest member in the cast of 'The Apple Dumpling Gang', and he had come to see a matinee performance at the Sistine Theater. He came backstage to see me afterwards, and I was sitting alone in my dressing room - not much more than a broom closet - feeling down in the dumps because I had nobody my age to play with.

"What the hell is wrong with you, Grampa," he said, and then he did that funny little walk of his. "Don't you know the world is your oyster?" And right there on the spot he composed that wonderful tune of his. "Smile, though your heart is aching, smile, even though it's breaking, when there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by." And then he twirled his umbrella and was gone. Left me smiling, he did.

Well, no use beating around the bush about the situation - my granddaughter Katy has gone completely around the bend. A wackydoodle would probably be the right terminology to use in her case. A brick short of a... whole bunch of bricks. And I'd been really looking forward to breaking bread with her. We've been estranged ever since all that nonsense with her gramma Gretchen getting mowed down. A real tragedy, to be sure, but you've got to be able to get back on your feet and dust yourself off. Like the little tramp said, "Light up your face with gladness, hide every trace of sadness, although a tear may be ever so near." Oh. That didn't sound right, did it? I'm not calling Gretchen a little tramp, I'm referring to the late, great Charlie Chaplin.

When I got to the address that Katy had given me, the very first thing that I noticed was the total absence of any sort of Mexican restaurant, whatsoever. I got out of my car and ambled around. I knew this place! It was the Laughton park, where I used to split the occasional bottle of cabernet with funnyman Jackie Vernon, back when we were both starring in an off-Broadway revival of 'Guys and Dolls'. Well, I was of two minds about this. Make that three minds. First, I was kind of relieved, because I don't care that much about Mexican food. It's bad for my digestion and makes me fart like the devil. Second, I was worried that Old Grampa might have gotten himself a little turned around. I'm pretty spry, but I had to acknowledge the possibility, so I fished my directions out of the car. Nope, I wasn't befuddled, which befuddled me. Was my granddaughter playing some kind of a mischievous trick on me? Then it hit me like a bolt out of the blue. We were just a couple of miles from Mortimer's, my number one favorite eatery in the world! You know, they even named a sandwich after me over there.

Just about then I see Katy way off in the distance, late as usual. I tried yelling at her, but she was busy yakking to some unwholesome looking woman with bazooms the size of the pendulous orbs of the late Ethel Merman. "Katy, Katy, it's grampa," I shouted, but to no avail. Oh my gosh, what a walk that was to reach her.

As I got closer, I could swear I saw a monkey. A dirty, filthy monkey, just like the one that bit me back in 1959, right before I was ready to go on stage at the Ed Sullivan Show. To this day I hold that monkey responsible for me losing my big break. This monkey was one unpleasant surprise, I'll tell you that. I made a decision then and there that I wasn't going to turn over Gretchen's teeth so free and easy as Katy was hoping. There's a lot of gold in those teeth.

And then another unpleasant surprise - a Taco truck! Merciful heavens. I started ripping blasters at the very thought of it. They did smell right good, though. The tacos, I mean, not my gaseous emissions. I decided to make the best of things, and gave my little girl a big squeeze, causing her to retch with joy.

It didn't take long for me to realize that Katy's buxom friend - I think her name was Olivia - had more than tacos on her mind. Yes, she had those Grampa eyes, if you know what I mean. "Oh god, I loved you in 'Two Mules for Sister Sarah'," she tells me, nearly knocking me over with her massive love pillows. She bats her eyes and asks if I really know Dick Van Patten. "Oh," says I, "the stories I could tell." And then I proceed to.

Well, it's not long before Miss Katy starts to get jealous because she's not the center of attention. Poor thing. "I want my gramma's teeth," she whines. "You promised." I tell her to just hold her damn horses, but she's feeling all full of herself and just keeps on bellyaching. Then she tells me something that almost causes my ears to fall right off my head. "Gramma isn't dead," she says with a vicious little smile. Now that's a fine howdy-do. Gretchen isn't dead? Nobody ever tells me anything.

My first reaction was one of disbelief, but Katy showed me the business card from the Jesus Saves Discount Storage and Care Facility down on Longbranch Avenue, the seediest little nursing home and cargo space outfit this side of Tijuana. I could of sworn that woman was dead. She sure was messed up, but Katy insisted that she was in 'a hopeful stasis', and I know Bob Hope lasted a long time in that condition. I guess I should have stayed at home on that fateful night and sorted things out for myself, but I had a small but important part in the off-Broadway revival of 'Damn Yankees', and the show must go on.

Ah, what a day. That girl is crazy. She can keep her gramma if she wants, but she's not getting those teeth until I get a heartfelt apology. What a long and trying day. I never did get a taco, I find out that my wife is still alive, and after leaving Katy, I got lost on the freeway while trying to get to Mortimer's.
 


© 2005, Mark Hoback


 

Dear Katy,

I'm a redhead. That should tell you a lot about me right there. You know how we redheads are. Stubborn. Headstrong. You could say redheadstrong. We make short determined steps. We write in short direct sentences. It's the redhead way.

Right now, I'm being very stubborn, but deservedly so. You would be too, if you had the same thing to eat for dinner every single day. Monday, fish stick day. Tuesday, corn day. Wednesday, pie day. Oh, I know what you're thinking. Pie day, there's a lot of variety in pie day. Wrong. It's apple pie from the Food Giant, with a dollop of Food Giant vanilla ice cream. The same things, over and over and over again. I could just scream, if it weren't for the calm demeanor traditionally associated with redheads.

Now I don't mean to underestimate you, Miss Katy, but I'm guessing that you might just not understand the full extent of my distress. When I talk about fish stick night, I'm not talking about fish sticks and tater tots, I'm talking about fish sticks period. Last Tuesday I'm looking at those golden ears of corn sitting on the serving platter and I, I just snapped. Said I wasn't going to eat dinner until we started getting a little variety. You know, have corn night on a Friday for Christ's sake, get wild. And I swore I would just eat a big lunch at work until the situation got remedied.

Problem. My wife Biloxia is being just as stubborn as me. She's not a redhead, like you might think. She's a Bolivian, and the stubbornness of Bolivian women is justifiably legendary. She says that when she was growing up she only had three things to eat, and all of them were raw. Well, sorry! That's not the way I was raised to eat! I had fried chicken, and on the side was mashed potatoes and some sort of green vegetable. Maybe a nice little salad and of course piping hot buttermilk biscuits. Don't even ask me about desert. The bottom line is, I used to eat more different things at one meal then I now do in an entire week.

Biloxia says I should consider myself "damn grateful" that she learned to cook for me, and that anybody who needs more than seven different things to eat is a glutton. And she is quite pleased then to tell me all about the third circle of hell. Man, that sounds ugly - lying in the mud and enduring an endless shit storm.

Advise me, Miss Katy. Should I eat, or should I pout? Although pout is probably the wrong word, since my actions are totally justified. Please answer this quickly. Tomorrow is pork chop night, and I don't want to miss it out of foolish pride.

Hungry Redhead
 


Not long ago I dyed my husband Eric’s hair bright red. I did this so that I would be able to find him more easily in crowds and because his sandy blond hair seemed to be just an excuse for ignoring me.  It seemed to shield him from my screeching.  I have always suspected that red hair would be a better conduit for my messages to Eric’s brain.

Sadly, because the label was long and wordy and I don’t have time to read everything beyond color and price, I accidentally chose wood stain and within the week Eric’s hair fell out in clumps.  Happily, the stain worked just as well on his scalp, and I was able to paint hair on in interesting patterns.  Harmony was ours, albeit briefly.

Eventually the sores were soaking up too much of the stain, causing me to have to apply more, and more, and eventually tie a small dripping sponge to the top of his head. This is when Eric began ‘hallucinating’ or, more technically, ‘fucking up our dinner’. 

Now, I absolutely depend on him to make our fabulous meals and mix our evening cocktails. I am far too busy thinking about things and looking out windows.  For almost a week, nightly, Eric ruined our evening meal.  He’d start screaming and batting at things, or he’d wander off in the middle of boiling noodles, or sautéing vegetables. He fell, face first, into a pan of simmering sauce and, finally, over onto the floor in front of the stove, where he lay twitching.  I rattled the ice in my empty glass and he just lay there, eyes rattling back at me.

As I stared at the pans unable to believe what I was seeing as the food eventually burned and caught on fire, there in the flames of the burning marinara sauce I saw you, you old scabby poot; My evil, jeering, food-obsessed Grampa. 

It was then that I remembered when I was little how you used to tease me about my missing but presumed fabulous father,

“Red on the Head, Like a Dick on a Dog,” you’d chant.

I knew that my father was not a ‘red head’…my mother would not marry a red head.

Not with a rhyme like that in circulation.     

I suspected then as I do now that my real father is either Dan Rather or Ed Bradley, or someone who looks just like them.  My Mother was always fiercely devoted to 60 Minutes.  NOT Andy Rooney.  No fucking way. I don’t care how drunk. 

“Your mommy didn’t get married, it was just a quick little ‘engagement’ haw haw…” you said, “maybe it was dark in the back seat of that rusted out 4 door sedan…but he had red hair, alright. I know it. I found the red hairs on her sweater, later…I still have them in a box somewhere…”

“No!” I cried, covering my ears, my blonde hair.

“And I think I see a red hair growing on you….”

You’d pull a hair out and pretend to lose it before I could see.

“But it was red all right, just like Ole Yeller’s pecker.”

 

I relived that horrible memory as Eric lie twitching and foaming on the linoleum floor.  I drank straight from the bottle of gin to calm myself. I ate some olives.  Eric made noises like a kitten.  His red head oozed.  I ordered a pizza.  I drank some more.  Eric’s head became stuck to the linoleum so that I had to go to the door for the pizza guy.

One of us peed the floor.

The next day I removed the wood stain and the sponge and glued yarn to Eric’s head in neat little orangey-yellow braids. I spritzered them with glitter glue and Ritalin. He looked almost Rastafarian, in a dope-smoking Rainbow Brite sort of way. 

Last night he made stuffed mushrooms, quiche and salad, pie, and a huge pitcher of gin gin gin, plus some other stuff and gum.  It should have been a happy time. I can’t stop the flooding of memories now.

I told Eric about you. I told him about my memories. I opened myself up to the old pain and longing of not knowing a father. 
”What?” he yelled, loud yarn braids draping his ears. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening…”

I ripped the yarn out and we will start over tomorrow. 

Pork chop night...
 

© 2005, Katy Hipke and Mark Hoback

     Grampa's Golden Pond

                             with
                    Grampa Jenkins


Howdy, all you cattle rustling varmints and stage coach riding ladies, reach your hands out to the sky where I can see them! Boy, a line like that really makes you think back, doesn't it? It sure does.

It takes me back to the great cowboy musicals of the past. These days it's hard to see a singing cowboy for any price, but it wasn't always that way. Back in 1979, when I was playing the part of Mortimer in 'The Fantasticks', there was a revival of 'Oklahoma!' playing right up the street at the Grande. Well, after the curtain would go down for the night and the final bow was taken, all the show people would head over to Denny's for good food and good conversation.

How the heck could you all eat there without being mobbed by fans, I hear you asking. Good question. You see, the Denny's of Broadway was no ordinary Denny's, it was in a class of it's own. Every night at midnight, they would reopen as a private club, complete with champagne and a bouncer at the door. They'd put out the velvet rope, and if you didn't have a union card you were out of luck. Phil Silvers was there every night, but he always had to wait in line. Me, they'd see walking towards the place, and they would shout "Make way, people, it's Grampa!"

You'd go inside and the place was crawling with cowboys and cowgirls and sheriffs and pretty petticoated girls who had just moved to Oklahoma from the big city. It was something. Man, that show had a big cast! Too big. You could hardly get to the buffet. All us regulars were real glad when the show closed down after four months and the cast got the hell on out of Dodge.

I tell you, the food at that place was out of this world. They had a Mexican chef by the name of Tito, who not only made a good taco, he made some of the best southern cooking you've ever had in your life. I remember eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes with Dan Blocker. Boy could he shovel it down. I'd just be buttering up a piping hot buttermilk biscuit and he'd be reaching over the table to try and snag a piece of my chicken. "Hoss, you redheaded son of a bitch," I'd say, "this is a buffet. You're allowed to go up more than once." He'd look at me real sheepishly, and then that big old grin would break out and we would laugh and laugh. And then he would take my chicken.

Well, so long.

 

© 2005, Mark Hoback

     Grampa's Golden Pond

                             with
                    Grampa Jenkins
 

It's great to be back on Broadway again, I'll tell you that. It seems like years since I was out hoofing on the golden way. Oh my gosh, it has been ages, seven long years since my final performance as Mortimer in the 'Fantasticks'. I tell you, those were the days, but the good news is they're back! Yep, that's me in the spot light in the monster hit musical 'Spamalot'. I landed the part of Old Man #7 without as much as an audition. The great director Mike Nichols told me "Grampa, getting to work with you to the stage of the Shubert Theatre would be like a dream come true."

It's true that I've only got one speaking line, but that one's a real corker. David Hyde Pierce comes riding into the village on his imaginary horse, and I say 'Ow's it going, then, brave Sir Robin'. It's not the line that's important, it's the delivery. I stretch out the 'Ow' for as long as I can, and make my eyes seem like they're going to pop out of my head. A couple of times I've had Pierce almost break up on the stage. The other night, I did a little soft shoe after the question, which made it even funnier in my opinion. Well, Pierce didn't like me stealing the spotlight from him, so he hit me with his sword. Let me tell you a little story about David Hyde Pierce. He's a real prick.

I've been so busy lately, that I haven't even had a chance to look in on my granddaughter Katy. When I hear those sad little drunken messages of hers on the answering machine, it almost breaks my heart. She keeps rambling on about her Gramma, but I know what she really wants is for me to help her out with her column. While it's true that I've got my fair share of wisdom, that's not the sort of thing that comes for free, even for kin. What Katy really needs is some tough Grampa love, which is why I always return her calls in the afternoon when I figure she'll be sleeping. And if she is awake, she's so far into the bag that I can use my acting skills to pretend to be an English vacuum cleaner salesman. 'Good afternoon, Mum, would you be interested in viewing a demonstration of the powerful new Oreck XL Deluxe? It's a bloody great vacuum'. Heh, heh, that tricks her into hanging up every time.

This morning, though, the girl caught me by surprise, just as I was fixing up a piping hot bowl of Quaker Oats. I had been expecting a call from Ed Finnegan, the assistant cast director for 'Spamalot'. We're talking about expanding my role. He's talking an extra 10% if I'll let myself be impaled in the third act. I'm holding out for 20% and another line of dialogue. He told me 15%, and said Nichols might let me say 'ouch'. So you can understand my surprise when I heard Katy on the other end of the line.

"What do you mean, ouch?" she asked me.

"I'm practicing. Oooouuuuccchhhhhhh!"

"Can it, grampa, you ridiculous old coot," she replied affectionately, in a voice that sounded suspiciously sober. "We really need to talk." So I put her on speakerphone and let her jabber away while I microwaved up some crisp Sir Francis hickory smoked bacon. Delicious. Those are some mighty fine thick and sturdy pork strips, just the smell of which sets my mouth to watering.

Katy was talking about the Jesus Saves vegetable store or something like that, and since it didn't have anything to do with me, I took my time to slice a banana into tiny little pieces for my Quaker Oats. Do you know that if you cut a banana into small enough slices that it will literally dissolve in your oatmeal? That's a trick that the great Don Ameche showed me back in 1966 on the set of 'Picture Mommy Dead', where I had a small role as a corpse. Don was one dapper gentleman, and he sure knew his way around a bowl of steaming oats.

"Grampa! Answer me you grizzled old son of a bitch, or I'm driving over there to pull out your liver with my teeth." Heh, heh, that girl got her sense of humor from yours truly, I do declare. That's the same thing used to tell her when she was a little girl and we would play Dr. Kildare. "Sorry, sweetheart," I chuckled, taking a big chomp off a tasty strip of my Sir Francis bacon. "Just warming up my coffee. Go right ahead."

"Yeah, your attention span is like Pope Smoke. Look. Thursday, okay? About twelve-thirty. I'll pick you up. We'll get some lunch first. There's a Denny's just a couple blocks away. Remember it, you old relic. And this time have your pants on when I get there."

It's a funny thing about getting old. I don't remember it. Five years I've been in this apartment without realizing there was a Denny's right up the street.
 

© 2005, Mark Hoback


Ever since I read about it in the Drs Fosters and Smith Catalog last fall,
my dogs and I share a preference for the polyphasic sleep cycle, – we
rest in 20 minute to 2 hour increments throughout the day/night.  It’s certainly all the rage in the rest of the animal kingdom and, along with having our anal glands squeezed every Sunday, after dinner, the dogs and I can no longer function any other way.  Eric is, as usual, resistant to change.

 “I have to WORK in the morning,” he whines, rolling into a fetal ball, which is his first response lately to almost any stimulation, especially exploratory poking which used to be the basis on which our relationship was founded.  “Don’t,” he whimpers, folding like a frightened gerbil.

All classic symptoms of too much sleep.  It’s affecting everything now. Even the dogs no longer want to sniff his crotch. 

A few weekends ago, when I was just settling in for my healthful post-meal nap in the afternoon, which is what I do while Eric cleans up our lunch mess and then goes outside to sit quietly until I wake and need a drink. This time, however, instead of the soft click of a door closing, the signal my brain needs in order to click into full on drooling REM, I was jolted back to imperfect reality by the advancing demonic whirr of a Hoover Upright.

 “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?” I screamed as Eric swept into the room. Bolting upright and reaching for my hammer, which I waved as a warning, I lost balance and fell off the couch, onto the coffee table, then rolling across the floor and struggling to my feet, I took out some shelves. In the end, my presleep-agitated hammer reflexively swept a path through two lamps, all of Eric’s family photos and the vase which kept Eric’s grandfather ashes off the floor.

Through it all, Eric didn’t hear me because he was wearing ear plugs. He claims that he does this because of the noise of the vacuum. Sometimes he forgets to remove them for days. They are bright orange pieces of foam that he imbeds deeply into his ear canal.  They look like little candies and once I accidentally ate them, so I have double reason to resent their duplicity.  

 I screamed again and waved the medium peen of my enlightenment mallet inches from his skull. He continued to look down at the carpet, pushing that horrible machine to and fro, all over, in front of and around me.  I swear he was humming ‘Afternoon Delite’. 

I tapped his skull 3 times quickly, left side-right side-top, dropping him to his knees and away from the Hoover.  While he rolled on the floor in a daze, and grandfather filth, I let in the dogs, who were barking noiselessly through the glass of the French patio doors.  Nature abhors a vacuum, it’s true, but a Border Collie will do something specific about it.  This is why normally Eric makes sure that the dogs and I are out of the house, with drinks and chew toys, while he does this dirty degrading chore.  Sometimes we just sit in the car, drinking and honking and barking…until the floors are clean and Eric has satisfied this base urge to hoover. This melding of man and lewd machine.  I have looked the other way for years.

 But this was the final straw of Eric overstepping his bounds, crashing his lurid preoccupation into my polyphasic sleep cycle.

 I watched as the dogs proceeded to rip the evil machine into manageable but harmless pieces, the contents of the bag mingling with ancient grandfather silt.  Eric wept, which I thought was a bit dramatic, but then he was bleeding from several places. When the dogs were finished, I handed Eric a broom, some hose, and a CPR mouth guard. It would be more work, but in the end I knew that we would both be better because of it. 

 One day last week, as I lay down once again at noon to slumber, the phone rang.  I picked it up and listened in horror as a man asked me if I wanted him to wreck my new vacuum. 

“I wreck vacuum,” he mumbled, “Delux wreck.”

This was the 3rd time in as many days my phone had rang during my noon nap.  This was the first time I could actually understand what the man was saying, his Spanish or Chinese accent was so thick.   

Eric had been humming Afternoon Delight again.  Somewhere, somehow he was having things suctioned mechanically and I was the  last to know.

I tore the house apart looking for that vacuum and still haven’t found it.  It is no surprise that the nightmares have begun again…

It all goes back to that horrible man I call Grampa. 

When I was a child, Grampa finagled his way into an ‘acting role’ in a commercial for a local vacuum cleaner sales and repair shop, Vacuum Villa. The role of Old Man Number 7 was small and required him to be one of 28 people who yelled, ‘Thank You Vacuum Villa’, while standing next to a shiny Kirby, the Cadillac, apparently, of dirt and hair sucking equipment. 

Grampa didn’t like Kirby, though, especially since he wasn’t the one who got to start it up at the end and vacuum off with it, to the cheers of the remaining cast. He kept trying to expand his role into one either more comic or tragic, or with an accent. He was mostly ignored and frequently manually placed back in his spot. 

“Just stand there and smile like you’ve just shit yourself, old man,” said the director, who was young and just out of college.

“He needs help with this project,” Grampa said. “He needs my experience or that Kirby isn’t the only thing that will suck about this advertisement.”

Grampa went into debt to buy an enormous Sears Shop Vac and rehearsed his new improvised role at home, brandishing the thing and its attachments like some sort of conqueror.

Gramma was irritated that he had maxed out the Sears credit card just when she had planned to buy a new oven.

“This is about my career, woman!” he snarled, waving the flaccid hose at her. 

 On the day of filming, Grampa showed up to the set pulling his sinister black canister behind him, like a thug.  When he switched it on, the hideous thing shot dirt out of the top, because Gramma had spitefully removed some of its hardware.  The huge beast wailed and screeched as it shot filth in all directions ultimately blinding one of the other elderly actors.  People screamed as Old Asian Emigrant’s eye rolled across the floor, stopping at the patent leather shoe of Little Girl (number 2) holding Kitten (only).

The director was frantically trying to stop the cameras, but couldn’t be heard over the din.  Sensing his big break, Grampa grabbed a mike and started shouting,

‘Thank Ye Vacuum Village, aye but ye have gladdened me heart with your fast and friendly service! I raise my glass of Ale to ye Proud Gaelic Spirit!…”

While he made this speech in a heavy Irish brogue, the long snaking hose of his Shop Vac sucked up the kitten.  The eye just watched it happen. 

We saw it all on the evening news, Gramma and I.

I still dream about that poor kitten.
 

© 2005, Katy Hipke

     Grampa's Golden Pond

                             with
                    Grampa Jenkins
 

Do you know what I really love? Breakfast! Oh my goodness, what a marvelous invention breakfast is. Breakfast is more than just a meal, it's a celebration of all life's possibilities. Pancakes, grapefruits, and Post Toasties! I pity those who give breakfast short shrift, or those who ignore it altogether. It's the one time of day that life glistens with endless opportunities and everything is fresh and new. And delicious!

They say that the ancient Greeks were the first to do breakfast right. They would have olives, coarse bread soaked in red wine, and a nice piece of fish. And omelets! They would take their good time eating it as well, none of this down the hatch and out the door nonsense so common with young people today.

Yes sir, sometimes I think I must be part Greek, because I sure do love breakfast. I've been thinking a lot about it lately. Like those days back in the mid-sixties when I used to have a frequent bagel and lox with the fabulous Eydie Gorme, and that less than virile sissy-boy husband of hers, Steve Gorme. Took her name, he did, although he used Lawrence on the stage. Those two were a couple of real goofballs. Eydie would take me into the parlor and sing me some songs from the great American song book while Steve-o was in the kitchen frying up bacon, just the way I liked it - extra crispy. He'd walk up to the piano in that frilly checkered apron, and just stand there clearing his throat, until one of us would finally look up at the damn fruit loop. "Come on," he would whine, "the mimosas are going to get warm."

In a lot of ways Eydie Gorme reminded me of my mother, although Ruth Jenkins was not much given to wearing gauzy yellow gowns covered with sequins like some sort of Arabian prostitute. Ruth Jenkins was the brains in the family, and my dad Jebediah was the dancing monkey that could do tricks on her command, just the way Steve did for Eydie. Typical show folks, I guess. Somebody's got to take the lead.

Where am I going with this? Hey, I'm not as young as I used to be. Come to think of it, nobody is. Anyway, it's hard to set up a story without running through a little history, and I've got plenty of that. All my reminiscence this morning leads me to the disturbing thought that I may have made a mistake years ago that has scarred my granddaughter Katy for life. I think that Steve and Eydie are at the bottom of all the nonsense that goes on in that cockeyed brain of hers. It just makes sense.

When my whore of a daughter got kicked to the curb by the good for nothing bum she ran away with when she was pregnant with Katy, Gretchen and I welcomed her back with open arms. Well, after she spent a couple years finding out that life is no bowl of cherries, we welcomed her back. Gretchen did, anyway. Me, I was busy doing a show every night, and twice on Saturday. And I must admit that I was still a little bit peeved about those allegations she made to the police. Thank god for the statute of limitations.

But mainly I didn't have much time for the girl because of Broadway. It's a rough and tumble life unless you're a big star like that bastard Sir Michael Redgrave. Everybody used to call him Sir Michael Red Headed Son of a Bitch behind his back, and hide his lucky martini glass whenever he left his dressing room unlocked. Ah, well, he's dead now.

Hey, nobody ever said show business is easy, but it's my life, and I'll raise a glass to it and tell you loud and proud, in the words of the great Ethel Merman, "Everything about it is appealing / Everything the traffic will allow / No where else you uh mmm mmm mmm / mmm mmm mmm stealing that bow". We're burning down the barn, now! That's the Show Biz National Anthem!

Well, that's fine. Guess I'll see you again soon, on Grampa's Golden Pond.

What's that? I was telling you a story? I guess I was - can you give me a cue? Katy. Right, and Katy's mother. Correct you are. Well, it seems that one fateful Sunday I made the mistake of letting my daughter and little Katy join me for breakfast with the Gormes. Gretchen was down south earning a little extra money on the burlesque circuit, and the two girls had been locked inside the house all week, so I thought it would be a little treat for both of them, and a chance for us to strengthen our bond.

Jinx, that's what we called our daughter the whore. Not Jinx in a bad way, it was just short for Jenkins. You see, it was because Gretchen and I never could agree on a name for the child. Gretchen liked Evelyn, for hubba hubba girl Evelyn West, the girl with the $50,000 treasure chest. I wanted to call her Mortimera, after my character in The Fantasticks. And then the years just kind of drifted by. You know what it's like being busy. Anyway, Jinx had gotten it into her head that she hated all men, just because she had this crazy idea that they had screwed up her life. What a notion! I think she even hated me, as hard to believe as that is. And little Katy was being schooled to feel the same way, even though she was only knee high to a clodhopper at the time. Now you've got to remember that this was way back in the early days of women's lib, so it was still kind of unusual for women to hate men, unless they were - you know. I guess that's why they call them the good old days.

Eydie was in a foul mood when we arrived that Sunday morning. She had gotten a big old wad of chewing gum in her hair somehow, and the remnants of several Kleenex were sticking to it, and she was blaming Steve for the whole mess. "You bastard," she was screaming, right as we came in the door. "You're the only one who chews gum in this house!"

"Ha, ha" laughed Steve, in that lispy sort of way he had. "How am I supposed to know that gum doesn't belong to the gardener?"

"Because we don't have a fucking garden, you pathetic loser." Eydie had a good point there, and she emphasized her words with a flying platter of eggs and sausage. Little link sausages, brown and crispy, you know the ones about the size of your finger. Boy, do I love sausages, all kinds. I remember having breakfast at Vito's with Dick York one time, and all we had was sausages, every single type on the menu. Washed 'em down with ice-cold Michelob's. I tell you, that man was a sausage eating fool.

After Eydie had doused Steve with mimosas, she started flinging prune Danishes at him like Ninja throwing stars. She had a good aim too, smacking him right in the kisser at least twice. Little Katy was just watching the whole scene wide-eyed, but her mother was egging Eydie on. Heh, heh. Egg. "Kill the bastard," she shouted. "You'll never get that stuff out of your hair!"

I suppose I could have been a little more helpful in all this, but I never cared a whole heck of a lot for Steve to begin with. I was more concerned about getting some vittles. I did manage to snag one of those little sausages off the floor while everyone else was watching Eydie smack Steve with a pecan waffle, but that was about it, so I was more than relieved when Eydie told Steve to clean himself up and make us all some more chow. She ripped off his robe with her bare hands to demonstrate the urgency of her request. Steve shivered in his garter belt and nylons. I was still hungry. Trust me, we show people have seen all kinds.

"For heavens sake," he blubbered, cowering in the corner by the cat box, "there is a child present." I didn't even know they had a cat.

"Put that apron back on, and start makin' bacon." Eydies eyes were on fire, as she turned to Katy hissing, "Now that's how you treat a man, if you ever want him to respect you." Jinx nodded sagely. My stomach growled and I farted an empty fart. Eydie handed Katy a spatula and asked her "How would you like to spank the monkey?"

And then all hell broke out. Later Katy would claim that it was the best time she ever had.

Well, so long. I need to take a nap now.

Oh. Sorry! So this morning I called Katy and asked her to go out with me to Denny's for a Grand Slam. Breakfast. The most important meal of the day. Can I take a nap, now?
 

© 2005, Mark Hoback


 

Never be afraid to face where you came from, I always say it. Even if it’s spurted all over your scrambled eggs by a monkey in a chef’s uniform, remember: The Truth shall set you Free.

 

Does life begin when the sperm meets the egg? What about pancake batter? Where does religion begin and science end? Was the omelet just asking for it?

 

I really believe that if you CHOOSE to go to a place like Denny’s it’s because you WANT someone to masturbate into your eggs.  I do. I believe that.  It’s absolutely the best case scenario.

 

Denny’s was founded by a convicted food rapist, Percival P. Denny.  Upon being released from state prison after serving a 10 year sentence for raping a ham, at Easter, in his parent’s home, the very first thing he did was buy some pork and start a restaurant.    

 

“I’m cured!” he told his community, holding up some bacon that was suspiciously misshapen and dripping. That he had produced it from his pants seemed to bother no one. The crowd cheered wildly and a band started playing as a stripper shot eggs out of her vagina into a pan. Back in those days ‘hash browns’ were not potatoes. The Denny’s Special was born.

 

All the dishes at Denny’s are named after perverse acts of food sex.

 

‘Moons over My Hammy’
’Grand Slam Breakfast’

‘Eggs Over Easy’

 

It had been years since I visited a Denny’s restaurant and I really had no desire to go back last weekend.  When I was a child, my Grampa used to take Gramma and I to Denny’s every Sunday to watch him eat. We didn’t get to order anything because Grampa was too cheap and he always said we weren’t as hungry as he was.

 

“I won’t be able to eat all my breakfast,” he’d say, “It’s enormous.  You two can have some of that.”

 

He’d order the Grand Slam breakfast and eat every last bite in front of us. Gramma and I just sat there while he shoveled in his enormous plate of eggs and pork and potatoes and toast…pancakes…he even opened all the jam and licked the little plastic containers clean.  Except for one tiny curl he’d pluck from the deep recesses of his saggy trouser and leave swimming in some egg yolk. 

 

Wiping his crusty lips on a napkin, he’d motion the waitress over and point a shaky finger at the hair, which seemed to point directly back at her.  Grampa would feign indignation, summon a few tears.  The waitress would look increasingly aghast and embarrassed as he went on and on about someone not washing their hands back there in the kitchen, at the very least.

 

Was this hair from a MAN? He looked apoplectic, clutching his heart.

 

He was in the war, you know, he’d whine. Didn’t she love her country? Didn’t Denny’s?

 

Despite being in the theatre, he was not “one of them fairies.” 
 

”I am scandalized!” he would rave, belching.

 

In the end, despite his gaping zipper, Denny’s management would give him the meal for free, just to shut him up.  Satisfied, he’d sit back and motion for a coffee refill.  He would ask the old people at the next table if they were going to finish their waffle, even as he was reaching for it. 

 

Gramma and I were offered whatever was left on other people’s plates. Old old people who blew their noses on napkins and placed the napkins on top of the food.

 

“It’s perfectly good,” Grampa would say, moving the soiled cloth to expose tepid leavings. “I knew you weren’t hungry!”

 

When Grampa was finally ready to leave he’d tip the waitress a nickel and lay his clammy hand on her flat behind. Winking he’d say, “Thanks, toots.”


He would pay every third or fourth visit, with piles of loose change, mostly pennies and nickels. 

 

If it weren’t for parole violations, the staff would never have turned over often enough for him to pull it off Sunday after Sunday for so many years. They did finally catch on, though and Grampa stopped going when, one Sunday, his food came with an enormous dark black coarse hair already in it.  He was charged extra. That was more than 25 years ago.

 

Mother’s Day, Eric got up early and left the house.  My breakfast remained unassembled in various cupboards and the refrigerator.  I waited, but he did not come back. I knew, of course, where Eric and his family were going for mother’s day brunch.  I make it my business to know these things. Besides, Eric and his sister Christx’s code-talking and whispering were so obvious that even my dogs knew where they were going. My dogs, however, preferred to stay home and eat their own poop. Sadly, my options were limited.

 

At 10:00 am, Kym called and asked if I could watch Andre because Perry and David wanted to take her out for Mother’s Day.

 

“You are not their mother,” I reminded her, adding, “I am very hungry.”

 

“No, but I am their baby’s mother and this stretched out 'giny must be thanked.”

 

She brought the monkey by less than 10 minutes later.  I still had neither breakfast, nor any hope of it in sight. Cruelly, yet somehow delightfully, Andre was dressed exactly like a French chef.  He was adorable in his large white cap and double breasted uniform.

 

“Maybe he can whip you up something,” Kym sang out as she was leaving, laughing as Andre’s ever active little monkey paw fished frantically in his pants. His other hand held a spatula from William Sonoma.

 

The phone rang and I rushed to get it, using the last of my strength. It was Grampa.

 

“Denny?” he wheezed.

 

“No, you dimwitted cheese curd, you dialed Katy,” I said.

 

“Oh. Sorry. Wrong number…”

 

Two seconds later he called back.

 

“Katy?” he bellowed.

 

“Yes…” I sobbed, lying on the floor, where I’d collapsed, thinking wistfully of cheese curds…

 

Andre kissed me softly and whacked my behind with the spatula.  Grampa wheezed into the phone, “If you pretend to be my mother, we can get 2 breakfasts for the price of one at Dennys! Or half price on ONE BREAKFAST, if you’re not hungry…”

 

“FINE!” I screamed. It was my only choice.  “Fine. And I am VERY HUNGRY.”

 

I met Grampa in the parking lot 15 minutes later. I parked the car and watched Grampa’s car creep up the rode for at least 5 minutes after parking, his hands at 10 and 2 o’clock, level with his huge ears which stuck out below his hat like hairy ads attempting to lease the useless space between. He chose to drive, despite living 100 yards from the place, and it still took him 15 minutes to get there. 

 

Inside the foyer of the restaurant, Andre and Grampa casually regarded one another before adjusting their respective soggy crotches.  Andre’s starched stand up collar and little apron looked just right. His hat fluffed to full splendor.  In his pocket was a single peanut that he was apparently saving for later.

 

The hostess greeted us with, “Three of you?” in a tone that would have been more at home saying, “Yes, the dingo ate my baby, but he deserved it.”

 

Grampa chuckled, “Yes, indeedy, we are here for the Mother’s Day special…”

 

The hostess squinted and asked if my “mother” needed a booster seat. I wondered what she meant and looked around for a mother. 

 

Andre monkey-hopped along by my side, picking things off the floor and pocketing them with his peanut. He had on a new medical bracelet which says that he hates spray bottles. It’s true. He really does.

 

Suddenly it dawned on me.

 

 “This man is NOT my FATHER!” I huffed, slapping Grampa's arm from my back.  “My father is a respected ANCHORMAN on a highly rated syndicated news show…it’s possible…”

 

Grampa guffawed meanly.

 

The hostess was looking at her watch, tapping the menus on her knee.

 

“Anyway, my mother….” I tried, turning all our attention, wrongly, to Andre who had the spatula deep down the front of his pants and was hooting.

 

I saw a tawdry shadow out of the corner of my eye and turned to see the cook peaking out through the Order Window. He was a large unshaven man with a cheap paper hat. His uniform was splattered polyester in a dismal shade of brown. A cigarette dangled from his crusty lips as he stared wistfully at Andre’s perfect lapels, the 12 shiny buttons marching down his monkey chest all the way to where the expensive spatula disappeared bucking and heaving beneath expensive all natural French fiber. 

 

“Nevermind.”

 

It was useless to explain the relationship to Andre; evolution is complicated and I was very hungry.

 

She shrugged, “Follow me.”

 

The hostess led us past a huge table filled with laughter and food just being served. I immediately recognized Eric’s family, plus a few people I didn’t know. Eric noticed us, but everyone else was fully occupied with enjoying themselves. Eric looked guilty as his French toast was placed before him, heaped high with whipped ‘crème’ and a side of bacon. He avoided my eye contact, which I’ve seen hamsters do in the wild.  I stopped at the first table I came to right next to theirs, about 5 feet away.

 

“We’ll sit here,” I announced, grabbing the end and pulling it closer.

 

The little table was occupied by people who were clearly finished eating, a man and woman both in their early 60’s.  Clearly not a maternal relationship. The woman was playing with her food, pushing it around, not really concentrating the way one who was serious about eating would.

 

The hostess said, “These people are not finished,”

 

“Oh, I think they are, get her a box.” I said, handing the woman her plate and putting my hand on her chair, giving it a little shake, “And hurry before my ‘mother’ is finished grunting or you’ll need two boxes and some gloves.”

 

Fact: Some people consider monkey poop a novelty.

 

The couple stared at us. Blinking. The hostess looked uncertainly from man to woman to me to monkey.  Andre hooted more urgently. I moved the table a little farther away, despite the man struggling to hold on to his end.

 

The man started to say something about enjoying his coffee when Andre proved my point by pulling a nicely formed monkey trout out of his pants and deposited it on the woman’s plate.  

 

The table was nearly there when I heard Eric’s mother, Dottie, moan, “OHMYGOOD LORD! It’s HER, and that MONKEY!”

 

The hostess looked at Grampa pityingly.

 

“I played a monkey on Broadway in the blockbuster hit Planet of the Apes.” Grampa whispered. 
 

Christx and Eric were whispering urgently to one another.  Andre screeched, pulling his soiled spatula out and flinging something warm and gooey at Eric. It splattered down the freshly pressed shirt that his mother had given him for Christmas and dripped onto his plate. It just missed the French toast.

 

“OH! Well! Surprise! Mind if we join you!?” I asked Eric’s family, rhetorically.

 

“Well, actually…” Christx started to say, then Andre knocked a glass of water into her lap. She screamed as the ice water pooled in her crotch, a response I found unlikely.

 

Grampa and I pulled up the now unused chairs from the other table and slid them in. I sat next to Eric and a man I didn’t know, who introduced himself and the woman across as,

 

“We’re Bob and Mary, Leo and Dottie’s best friends!” he extended a meaty freckled paw. 

 

Andre shrieked and I could see why immediately. The man wore a rayon shirt with American flags on it in not quite the right hues. Orange, cream and seafoam.  I counted 3 stars on each flag. Clearly Sears. Probably came free with a lawn mower. 

 

“Are you Bob or Mary?” I asked, touching his hand lightly.

 

He frowned, “Why, I’m Bob. Of course.”

 

He looked at Leo and they exchanged eyebrow action.  Leo’s eyebrow hairs stick out in all directions, as if trying to escape his head before something awful happens.

 

Mary giggled like a deranged horse.

 

Meanwhile, no one took our order.

 

Mary started blathering on about the “griddle cakes”, and how they weren’t quite right. Somehow she'd managed to eat more than half of them, grease and syrup dripping from her big furry chin. She dabbed at all the wrong places with her napkin. I was so hungry that I could not be repulsed. 

 

The waitress came over to take our order and Mary clinked her fork on her glass, the international SOS call for waitresses to spit in someone’s food. The waitress rolled her eyes and went to Mary. Our order remained unplaced.

 

“These griddle cakes aren’t quite right,” Mary stated.  “Take them back and bring me a waffle, would you? I’m not paying for these. I think they aren’t done…”

 

The waitress whisked the plate away.

 

“I’d stick with semen if I were you,” I told Mary. “I don't know about you, but I can’t swallow spit.”

 

Mary looked as if she had no response to this. She looked to her husband, who guffawed, “I wish!”

 

Christx tsked and elbowed Eric, who shrugged.


Christx was the only person not eating breakfast.  She was eating a fish sandwich. She’d scraped everything off of it and was mechanically chewing the de-breaded cod fillet.  The ice was still not melted in her crotch.

 

The waitress came and refilled everyone’s coffee.  Grampa stopped her to tell her she reminded him of Dick Van Patten and she cringed.
 

She slid away so fast that I was unable to establish contact. My arm waved uselessly in her wake. 

 

Christx told a story that was so boring and pointless that it made me reach over and borrow Leo’s fork to stab myself in the hand a few times; alarmed that I was still unable to feel anything I stabbed harder before realizing it was Eric’s hand.  Happily, the screaming brought the waitress.

 

Just when she reached our table, Bob started spastically clinking his knife against a glass, causing her to scowl, grab his plate of pancakes, eggs and sausage, and stalk angrily back to the kitchen. 

 

Bob said he wanted to initiate a toast to Mothers. “Well, I know Kaitlyn and Bob Junior would be here if they could…” he started.

 

“Why aren’t they?” I asked.

 

“Well, uh..” he chuckled, “They have their own families…”

 

“Ah. Well. I guess you’ve out-lived your purpose,” I said, “like these guys,” I gestured at Leo and Dottie.  “Dottie wears diapers. Leo is already courting maggots…” It was true, flies were buzzing all around him.

 

Grampa farted and started to say something about Brian Keith, but Mary interrupted,

 

“Kaitlyn and Bobby love us VERY MUCH!” Mary told her toast, as she slathered on extra 'butter', one eye on Andre and his frenzied little fist.

 

“Of COURSE they DO!” Bob cried. “They sent you that lovely card…”

 

“I got a card from my Gardener on Cinco De Mayo,” I said, eating the fruit off of Eric’s plate after first washing it thoroughly in his coffee, “Of course, he is very fond of me.  He’s hotter than Jesus in June…ohmygod…he is hot, like Tabasco on the virgin’s crotch.  For Mother’s Day he gave me flowers…”

 

Mary looked up, eyes shining with tears. “You got flowers?!”

 

“Well…I’m no mother, but it was nice.” I added, “I bought my own mother a car…”

 

This was only a slight exaggeration. I had actually purchased a bright pink Barbie™ Dream Corvette for the shelf in our living room that will eventually hold my mother’s shrunken taxidermied remains. Still, it’s the thought that counts.

 

Andre wasted no time in putting his spatula to Mary’s new waffle, now that she was crying. 

 

I hadn’t even seen the waitress deliver that. She must have crawled…

 

“Yes. Well” Bob tried again, clearing his throat, “As I was saying, here’s to Mary and Dottie, two wonderful gals and great mothers!”  He raised his glass of diet Pepsi™ and drank deeply, spilling some down the front of his hideous shirt. I could smell sweat and whiskey mingled with cheap appliances.

 

I stood and raised my own glass, which was actually Eric’s and had a piece of stray kiwi floating in it,

 

“I think Dottie abused Eric when he was little,” I toasted. “He doesn’t remember, but I know I didn’t exactly introduce him to the idea of testicle clamps.”

 

 Eric moaned and lay his head down on his plate, “That never happened.”

 

“With mom,” he added.

 

“He still pees the bed.” I finished, extending my glass toward the others.

 

“Your Aunt...it was your aunt who peed in our bed...” Eric muttered, face down in the French toast.

 

Leo looked from Dottie to Eric, mouth agape, face red and sweating. He was eating link sausages. Four of them. Despite not having a plate in front of him. The waitress had taken it on reflex when Christx screamed a second time, as Andre dumped hot coffee in her lap.

 

Dottie turned white and Andre scooted over and ate her biscuit. He rubbed her head with his soiled spatula before putting it back into his pants.

 

Grampa farted.

 

Dottie put her fork down and looked around the table.  A little piece of ham hung from the side of her head.  In front of her were the remains of the Slam Bam Thank You Mam Mother’s Platter she’d ordered. Her eggs were scrambled.  There was a great deal of cheese. Andre poked at a piece with his finger, at least I thought it was a finger, at first, and Dottie turned on him, swatting. He screeched.

 

“Don’t blame the monkey,” I counseled her, “I’m sure that your mother was a monster...”

 

“SHE …WAS… NOT!” Dottie and Leo exhaled together, although Leo was nodding when he said it.

 

“OH! GOD!” Christx screamed, getting up. “I HAVE HAD ENOUGH! Eric, you need to do something. This is beyond what any family should tolerate!”

 

She took her mother’s hand and led her out of the restaurant.

 

Leo pocketed the sausage and followed. As did the flies.

 

The waitress brought a new waffle and put it down where Leo had been sitting. “I’ll take that,” I told her.

 

She also brought the bill and set it down between Grampa and Bob.

 

Grampa’s hand moved causing Bob to naively protest “Oh, let me see that bill…you don’t…”

 

Seconds later Mary screamed, “OH MY GOODNESS! OH! THAT’S….HE… HAS HIS PENIS OUT!”

 

You could hear pans crashing to the floor in the kitchen.

 

 

Grampa left a dime on the table, Andre left a peanut.  I left Bob and Mary and a side of bacon. 

© 2005, Katy Hipke

     Grampa's Golden Pond

                             with
                    Grampa Jenkins
 

It's been two weeks since the Tony Awards, and I'm still as stoked and excited as if it were yesterday. The last time I wrote you it was as Grampa Jenkins, veteran hoofer. Now, it's Grampa Jenkins, Superstar.

For those of you who aren't aware of what I'm talking about, two weeks ago was Broadway's big night - The fabulous Tony Awards, when all the stars come out to play. And now, after nearly fifty years of giving it all I've got, the medallion is mine, for my roll as 'Old Man # 7' in Spamalot. It was a tough category, too: 'Best Old Man In A Musical Comedy'.

Here's a picture of my Tony. I put it on the mantle all by itself and got a special little red spotlight to help illuminate it. It's a beauty, isn't it?

My only regret is that my award was given out before the main ceremony, just like a lot of the technical awards, such as lighting and costuming. That's because the big shots figure out that the millions and millions of people who watch at home aren't interested in the 'small awards'. For the life of me I can't figure out why my award would fall into that category. Don't tell me that people aren't interested in 'Best Old Man In A Musical Comedy'. I'll hear none of it. Why, everywhere I go, the young ladies stop me and ask, "Say, aren't you that old man? C'mon and give us that great line you do." And me being the ham I am, I'll take off my shades and give 'em a wink, then roll back on my heels and let her rip. "Ow's it going, then, brave Sir Robin", I'll say, and then do a little dance, the same one they cut from the play when they tightened it up. Nearly broke Eric Idle's heart when they cut that bit.

Nobody ever said show business is easy, but it's my life, and I'll raise a... What? So what? I used it last time, and I'll use it again, and I'll still raise a glass to it and tell you exactly the same thing that I've said before... There's no business like show business. Oh, my friends, it hurts to get old on the stage, but I'm not even close. I've got new coin in this town.

Did you know that when the Tony Awards first started back in 1947 they didn't have those nifty medallions? Yes, that's right. The winners got a little scroll and a cigarette lighter. Sounds a little cheap, I know, but it was a Zippo. The first year the big winners were José Ferrer, Arthur Miller, Helen Hayes, Ingrid Bergman, Patricia Neal, Elia Kazan and Agnes de Mille. But there was also a special award for the great Broadway restaurateur, Vincent Sardi, who had fed all of the big names at one time or another.

Years later, when I could finally afford to go to Sardi's for the first time, it was being run by Vince Jr., who turned the place into even more of a legend than his dad had done. I was about half way through one of the most flavorful tenderloins that I'd ever tasted, wondering what had possessed me to spend nearly a week's pay on a meal, when the maitre d' approached me and asked me to follow him. Well, we set off across the dining room and traipsed through the huge immaculate kitchen, out a side door and onto the fire escape. There he was, Vincent Sardi Jr. himself. You could've knocked me out with a feather. "Your money is no good here, Grampa," he told me, as he lit a hand rolled cigarette with his father's Zippo. "I saw you in The Fantastiks last night, and you were killer."

"Here," he said, passing me the cigarette, "Let's swing." And swing we did, with Vince introducing me to my first reefer. We talked about my role as Mortimer and Broadway in general until my head got so messed up that I thought his jacket had turned into a puma. Vince just laughed loudly and helped me back inside, telling a nearby chef that I would probably be up for a Baked Alaska. Delicious. On my way out, he came up to me and gave me his father's lighter. It was my prized possession until 1973 when a whore stole it.

I thought that day was as close as I'd ever get to a Tony, up until my grand victory two weeks ago. I wonder if Katy knows about my Tony. I haven't been able to reach her since that incident on Mother's Day. I don't know; maybe she's a little peeved with old Grampa. You never can tell with that girl.

It all started with breakfast. Say, wouldn't that be a corker of a title for a Cary Grant movie? I never met the man. Anyway, we met at Denny's for their two-for-one Mother's Day breakfast blowout, and there were all of these horrible people there, right at the premier seats of the restaurant.  It was disturbing, and I'm not a man that like to be distracted at breakfast.

The first person I recognized was the monkey. That's all right, I get along with monkeys just fine. Did I ever tell you about the time I was cast to co-star with Simba the Chimp in the long abandoned Disney feature 'The Fur Factory'. Simba passed away about halfway through shooting, and the studio was never able to find another monkey capable of operating heavy machinery the way that chimpanzee could.

The next person I recognized was Katy's useless crap-head of a husband. Ernie or Eric, whatever. If he wasn't so good at cooking and cleaning, he would have been absolutely useless. One year Katy loaned him to me for my birthday, but he spoiled things with his incessant attempts to talk. My heart just sinks when I think of how she married someone even wimpier than Steve Lawrence. Dressed in Katy's purple capri pants and a pirate top, he couldn't have been any more of an embarrassment to the Jenkins name

Then there was this screaming girl with a scrunched up face, and a bunch of old people. One of them looked like Tony Bennett, which reminded me of something I wanted to tell Katy.

"I'm up for a Tony," I shouted, trying to be heard over the screaming girl and the Petula Clark oozing out of the restaurant speakers. Katy had just commandeered a table, and then got up to yatter away with the awful people. I thought that they might all be some type of inlaws, or somehow connected to Katy, but I didn't give a damn, what with my belly growling like a jungle cat. I headed up to the buffet and stuck some link sausages in my pants pockets. You know, lint doesn't really damage a sausage. Only time has that effect.

I had a powerful hunger, which the scrambled eggs in my coffee cup did little to alleviate. I brought some hash browns and grits over on a napkin, but the grits sank right through and splattered on the floor in an humiliating heap which the monkey seemed to enjoy. Katy, still yakking away with those horrible people, said something about my unpredictable bowels. "I'm up for a Tony," I shouted, and the comely country waitress brought me a bowl of frosted flakes. You know, Denny's and Broadway are world's apart.

Someone gave me a waffle. It was just there, I swear. It reminded me of Ibsen's play "The Desperate Johnsons', where Joanna wakes up to a mound of northern whitefish and freshly fried chips. That's satisfaction pure and clear. A monkey turd flew by my ear, and I let out a sympathetic fart.

These simple things, these simple tasty things, that is what memories are made of. I pulled a few Jimmy Deans from my pocket and placed them on the checkerboard tablecloth, since the waffle had arrived without a plate. I poured a generous anointment from the cow-shaped maple syrup container which Katy had liberated from the adjoining table and thoughtfully spiked with gin. A straw stuck out of the little pourer.

I reached back in my pocket and offered my biggest sausage to a couple of the old people who were staring hungrily at my breakfast, but I guess they felt self-conscious about their begging, because they took off towards the parking lot muttering rude things. Well of course they look like little penises, but you could smell the hickory flavoring steaming right off of them. Good riddance, I thought. Katy was drinking straight form the cow, waving bye-bye. It was the two of us alone, at last, plus the monkey, and a couple of old people who were finally minding their own business. I told Katy that I was up for a Tony.

"Don't you mean a Grammy," she said, suddenly sobbing. I noticed that she now had a waffle of her own, unbitten by human teeth. I snagged a good chunk of it while she was chugging the syrup.

Oh no, not the old 'you mowed gramma' routine again. If my mouth hadn't been so full, I would've told her to straighten up and fly right. But Katy was on a sugar buzz now, and not thinking clearly. Who hasn't made a mistake in their life? If anybody felt bad about mowing Gretchen it was me. After that incident, I vowed to never have a lawn again.

As we got up to leave, I looked at the sticky mess covering the table. That's not what I'd call service. They were lucky I left them a dime.

"Let's walk up the block," Katy said, pointing up the street to a neon cross, with letters flashing 'Jesus Saves'. She looked like her old vicious self once again. "They have ice cream".

© 2005, Mark Hoback

The End

Bonus cut: the lost 2006 Grampa Track

Grampa's 2007 abbreviated return