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“ WHERE PARTICULAR PEOPLE CONGREGATE ” By William Z. Saunders Drawings by MIke Aho

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My old man was a traveling salesman of vinyl siding and Alaskan thermo pane windows. He was only ever home on the weekends. On any one of those weekends I wandered into my mom and dad’s bedroom and found my Father down on his knees frying his face in the bathroom swirling with smoke, touching up his tan with a heat lamp, reeking of yesterday’s Stetson cologne.

He was surrounded by all sorts of old man specific products, such as the Silver Fox shampoo, Consort for Men hairspray, and the Blue Star medicated ointment. We hung around in our underwear, being lazy with our legs crossed Indian style, or lying flat on our backs on the bed watching TV. A creature of habit, he would usually hit up the heat lamp a little bit, read the newspaper, and hand me the funnies. Then he’d go through the motions of polishing his boots and cleaning one of his many handguns. Sitting there like a mountain, focused intensely on the maintenance, like some kind of sadistic swami chain smoking Pall Mall non-filters and muttering smut, never did he mind that I was circular breathing so much second hand smoke, absorbing

all the ill vibes he exuded and curses coming out of his mouth, along with the crud that was on TV, as long as I seemed happy and didn’t complain. We usually watched pro wrestling, a lot of spaghetti Westerns and random Kung Fu movies, or anything starring hard ass American guys like Clint Eastwood. During the dirty parts he told me to “cover your eyes, buddy.” Of course I’d always peek, momentarily feasting my young hazel eyes on whatever kind of violence or bare boobies bounced across the screen. The old man had terrible skin, like his Father before him, and he begged for me to try to squeeze and bust the big bumpy pustules, papules, and ancient comedones (blackheads) that made up the

landscape of his big oily back. He also liked for me to perform a kind of deep tissue massage, where he would sit up with his back to the wall, and I’d kind of wedge myself behind him with my knees digging into his shoulder blades, and pull his arms back like a bow. I would eventually give in and go for it, because once he got what he wanted, and was good and relaxed, he told me crazy stories about the olden days when he was a kid in Virginia. They were always extremely vague, very heavy, personal narratives (like this one) about how his dad, my Grandfather, would beat his ass, or about my mysterious Great Uncle Bat-eye, who was some kind of outlaw. My old man was always the super cool tough guy. He talked a lot about playing

football in high school, being cool, and getting into fistfights with his best buddy Jack. When he got rolling, he went into a kind of trancelike state where time did not exist, and nothing could throw him off course. He usually spun this one number about how he and Jack went to some county fair, Jack’s dad was a carnie, and so Jack and my dad got a bottle of booze and went to see him at work. Jack’s dad asked my old man if he wanted to make some money, and he said, “Sure, you know, what I got to do?” Jack’s carnie dad had three chimpanzees and a boxing ring encased in chicken wire fence, and if my dad wanted, he could make a hunnerd bucks fer a single night’s work. “You just got to dance around

a little while with one of the monkeys. Give the people their money’s worth. Nobody gets hurt.” So, like any enterprising young maniac, my dad went ahead and pulled the job. Jack’s dad barked up the people and tried to draw a crowd, while my dad and Jackie got good and ripped. “I wore a football helmet without a faceguard, tied up under my chin with a shoestring. They put a muzzle on the monkey, and some mittens on his hands, while I wore sixteen oz. boxing mitts. Then he introduced me as the smoker champ. At the last minute Jack’s dad tells me, ‘Whatever you do, don’t hit em’ in the gonads Billy… har har har.’” “There was a big crowd so I danced around and played with the monkey, and give em’ a

show. Jack’s dad gave me the hundred, and asked if I’d do it again the next night. Shit, I said. Sure. A hundred bucks was a lotta moolah in those days son, still is! That was some of the easiest money I ever made.” The next night it was the same deal with a different chimp, and then he was asked to return a third night. On the third night Jack’s dad said, “Gonna be a little different tonite Billy, gonna be you, and this other feller with all three of the monkeys, whaddya say Billy?” My Father then explained that the “other feller, was some washed up wrestler.” “Anybody I might’ve ever heard of?” I’d always ask, playing along, but half hoping and expecting him to change the course of history as he told.

”He was a nobody son, trust me.” I trusted him. “That bastard almost got me killed!” “What happened Daddy?” I prodded… ”Son, look here.” He took my little hand and put it in place of this gnarly knot that was on top of his head. “You feel that?!!!” He was frantic…“Yessir!” I answered, “They told us specifically not to hit them thangs in the nuts, and what did that stupid sonuvabitch do? He punched the Mama chimp square in the goodies!” “The Mama chimp has Nuts?” I wondered, but I knew not to say anything else. I couldn’t have stopped him if I tried. He was in another realm. “He punched it right in the balls and it went apeshit! They ganged up on him and beat him down.

I tried to stop em’ and they pulled the helmet off my head, beat me down and stomped me flat. One of the bastards got my boots off and ripped my toes apart while I was out cold! When I came to I told him I’d never work with him again!” Then he told me, “See son, look right here.” Sure enough, there was a scar running down between his toes. The man had beautiful feet. “Gosh Dad, that musta hurt a whole bunch.” When he was finished running down this weird rap, he’d kind of coerce me (in a loving way) into letting him twist my head in order to pop my neck. Then he’d want to “punch my eyes”. Using his big burnt cologne smelling thumb and forefinger, he would gently press the inside of my eye sockets causing them to make a squirting sound. Only then

was our ritual pattern of paternal bonding finalized, and we’d crash out.

The second installment of William Z. Saunders’ “Bad Jobs” recalls a story his father used to tell about fighting monkies. Illustrations by Mike Aho Bad Job (badge-awb) n. “When I was an itty-bitty baby boy, learning to talk, I needed a word or phrase for describing what came out when I went #2. My folks told me to call it a bad job. I was already calling my ding-dong a winky-tinky, and everybody kept calling me poohbear, so no wonder I became a total perv! My sister and I both called it a bad job, like one word. When asked what we were doing in there we would reply...”I was doing a bad job.” What was I gonna do but lose?”


Bad Jobs 2 : Where particular people congregate  

This second installment of Bad Jobs recalls a story the author's father told him about fighting monkies.