CIRQUE a metal flash light. He even slammed his knee in once with a skillet. A cruel man with a cruel voice that sounded more like crude oil bedeviled with the power of speech than a miraculous and high functioning arrangement of organic material. “I’m not into her pap,” Josh replied. “I love Charls.” Silence, thick as mud, hovered between them as the father pawed this over. “You’ve always been dense.” He took a pause to inhale his cigar. “But this has got to be one of your dumbest moves yet.” I flushed the toilet, turned the facet on, let the water move over my hands longer than necessary, and dried them with the tawdry brown towel that Josh’s father would repurpose as a rag for the used cars he fixed up for a living. When I opened the creaky white door, creepy as a coffin cover, the two men were gone to the living room. After that visit, Lee Ann refused to see Josh’s father again. She hated him so much that she won all the battles against Mom, who thought we should be polite and at least pay him one more visit. Ultimately, Lee Ann’s protests saved us from ever having to see him again.
time she came back from work: “Wifey!!” he’d cry. “Wifey’s home!” As Mom had every intention of eventually marrying this man, she used much of our vacation time that summer of 2002 acquainting her children with Josh’s family. She began with his father. This was a poor decision. His image remains jarring: a medium height man made stumpy from burgers and stout. He sported a camouflage hat that belonged in Duck Dynasty. His facial expressions were stolid, and his refusal to be moved by the world could be read as the unimpeachable superiority he felt toward all of its inhabitants. He was a self-described--“Woodsman” -- and after hearing me respond to his “You like huntin?” question, chose to ignore my presence. He liked Lee Ann though. He liked Lee Ann a lot. If he wasn’t talking to her, he was looking at her. I heard his thoughts on Lee Ann one time when I was in the bathroom, which happened to be connected to the kitchen. He said to Josh, “Why didn’t you go for the young one?” Years later, I’d hear that he used to beat Josh with
• I disliked Josh throughout that summer, but I did a fairly good job (for a 11-year-old) at hiding my disdain. That reserve stopped after they married, and I turned 13. There were several memorable fights, but my favorite revolved around The Lord of the Rings. It was another summer in Alaska, and we were driving from South Anchorage to Downtown to tan in the park strip. On the ride there, under the influence of a large amount of apple juice, Josh was giddy enough to tell us the entire plot of Lord of the Rings. “But you have to understand The Hobbit before you can make sense of the rest,” he informed us. Near the end of the 30-minute drive to the park, he was just about done with his plot summary of The Hobbit. He was going to tell us the synopsis of Lord of the Rings, when he made the mistake of prefacing it with what he thought was a fact: “The Lord of the Rings made more money in theaters than any movie of all time. Ain’t that amazing?!” “No, it didn’t.” I said this reflexively and with unusual authority. It took a couple moments for Josh to register my new found effrontery. “Yes it did,” he said.