Whenever my old man brought home something new, like a stereo or a TV, he'd say "Don't touch it kids, it's hot." We'd touch it. "It's not hot, Poppy."
Mom seemed nervous about the new car, which was strange since she was always happy to get a TV, stereo, toaster or blender. The origins of these treats were a mystery. Fell off the back-of-a-truck, Mom would mumble. I was only nine, but I knew damn well a Cadillac convertible didn't fall off a stinking truck.
The best surprise, before the Cadillac, was the time we got new bikes. A gloating tribe of Richie the Rich Kids on our sparkling new rides, until some creep broke into the garage and stole them. "That's ironic," Mom said.
When Poppy took us for top-down highway rides, I was scared I'd blow away in the speeding wind, so I held onto the seat real tight. He gunned her up to 90-100-110 and we'd all scream. Mom's kerchief would blow off her head, she'd yell, "Tony, my God damned hair!"
One night everyone was asleep and Poppy got a phone call. I listened against the door. "I'll be there," was all I heard him say. I walked gingerly into the kitchen on bare feet and spied him slipping a gun into a leather holster under his jacket. "Poppy, where you goin?"
"Listen kid. Sometimes a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do."
"But I'm scared you won't come back." I leaned against him, smelled the cologne and cigarettes and whiskey and beer and poker rooms and pool halls. "Is that gun, is it hot?"
"It's cold. Cold as can be."
7 September 2014