Oh, don’t bring me posies
When it’s shoes I need
Don’t bring me flowers
Don’t bring me the sea
Come on and bring me some diamonds
That’ll suit me fine
And I’ll love you forever
And you’ll be mine
Oh, I’m tough
Yeah, yeah I’m tough
At Last!, Etta James, 1960
A black car made its way down Muriel from the south and turned into the driveway. The driver of the car put it into park.
“I can wait for you here, sir,” the driver said.
He stood for a moment and looked at the house from the end of the driveway. He walked across the street and stood on the other side. On the left was an evergreen, standing out against the ubiquitous brown. On the right was a tree that had many weeks ago given up it’s leaves.
It was quiet with only some wind chimes breaking through the stillness. He walked up the driveway and turned the handle and walked in.
“Grandpa! Grandpa!,” a child said running toward him.
He grabbed the boy and threw him over his shoulder. The boy giggled and pretended to struggle. He then rolled him lengthwise in his arms and kissed him on the face.
“I love you! I love you! I love you!” He said after each kiss.
She stood up from the couch.
“Welcome home, grandpa!” she said.
“You don’t call me that, grandma,” he said still wrestling with the boy. He put him on his feet.
“Can I stay with grandpa?” the boy asked.
“Honey,” she said, kneeling in front of him and wiping crumbs off his mouth. “You’ve got to go to school.”
“I don’t want to,” he said breaking free from her grip and running to him.
“Sweetie,” he said bending down, “I’ll be here for a few days. You go to school. I’ll see you again.”
“Yes, really, he said. “And if the weather stays good like this we’ll go to the zoo.”
He looked into his green eyes and then ran his finger from the top of the boy’s forehead to the end of his nose.
“Whoops!” he said playfully. “The little man just skies off your nose. Now he’s tickling you.”
He tickled the boy.
“Ok, ok!” she said. “You’re ride is here.”
A woman had parked on the street, exited and was walking up the driveway.
“Nanny’s going to take you today,” she said.
The boy gathered a back pack and hugged him again and walked out the door, down the drive, and the woman fastened him into a car seat. They stood side by side watching him. The boy waved. They both waved back from the window.
The driver was leaning against the front of the car.
“Is that your handler?,” she asked.
“A driver,” he said. “I said I didn’t need one. I know these streets blindfolded. They insisted.”
“Oh, I see,” she said. “A body guard. You may need him. He’s cute.”
“Yeah,” he said turning toward the living room. “You have a protest planned already?”
“Well the paper has already announced your arrival,” she said picking up a newspaper from the kitchen table. She started reading it out loud.
“…the newly elected congressman is in Albuquerque to address a meeting of the Supply Side Society a free market think tank based at the University of New Mexico.”
By now he was sitting on the couch.
“You still get the paper, grandma?” he said. “It must be some kind statement of solidarity with the printers union.”
She read more.
“….the Congressman has a daughter with the well known anthropologist. The young woman was jailed last year after her involvement in a bank robbery believed related to an anarchist group. After criticism from conservatives he stood by his daughter saying, ‘Redemption is possible for everyone.’”
She laughed. And walked toward a chair to his right. She threw the paper at him.
“Redemption starts at home,” she said. “You’re the only politician in the whole fucking country that would use the word ‘redemption’ with a straight face.”
He read now from the paper.
“The professor has been publicly critical of the congressman, calling him, “a prophet of trickle down economics.”
He sighed, shook his head and laughed.
“What a show we put on for these people,” he said.
“You should have been a preacher,” she said. “Not a politician.”
“You’re right,” he said. “And you should have been a politician, not a professor.”
“How’s she doing?” she asked, turning more serious.
“Well, I sold her car like she wanted,” he said. “I’m not sure why it mattered so much to her, but I drove it and sold it.”
“It was her first car,” she said.
“I’ve been trying to figure out how to get her out of there,” he said. “But it isn’t easy given her attitude.”
“I miss her everyday,” she said. “Even though she was a pain in my ass.”
“She’s mad as hell,” he said. “She wants to kill that guy that got her into this.”
“You mean you?” she said.
“For fucks sake,” he said. “Not me, Dr. Blame Game. That fucking punk she was with.”
He stood up and walked in a circle.
“She’d livid with us too,” he said. “She’s pissed off and I don’t blame her.”
“What did she say about us?” she asked.
“We could stay out of the papers for one,” he said. “It makes life in there complicated. And she’s just annoyed with us. We’re not exactly a normal family unit.”
“And the boy?” she asked leaning forward. “Any concern, any interest in her son?”
“Yes,” he said “But he’s here with you. She’s glad for that.”
He continued the update.
“She organized some kind of protest in there,” he said. “She almost wound up in solitary.”
“That’s my girl,” she said smiling.
He walked over to the book shelf and took down a book with a red cover.
“The old reader,” he said as he opened the paper back to the front page. “I even inscribed it.”
“You’ll probably need this,” he read his hand writing on the page. “Signed, Me!”
“Robert Tucker,” she said. “Yes. It has come in handy. It was a sweet gift.”
“It was my copy with hand written notes and everything.”
He put the book back on the shelf and and walked back to the couch.
“How is the boy doing?” he asked seriously. “Is he alright.”
“You know, coming from you I don’t know how to answer that,” she said. “Or if I should.”
He leaned back and crossed his arms.
“Does every single conversation, every interest and question have to be an inquisition?”
“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition,” she said. “Yeah, it does have to be an inquisition.”
She stood up and crossed her arms.
“You think you can dial in and out of this story like you’re binge watching some show,” she said. “And redemption? Where did that shit come from.”
“What am I supposed to do?” he said. “Move back in here with you? She’d love that!”
“Maybe you should,” she said.
They’re eyes met.
He stood up and walked past her to the shelf again and flipped through some record albums.
“Where is that?” he said to himself, flipping through records. “Here it is. You haven’t smashed it.”
He lifted up the lid of the record player and took off a record.
“Cinderella? Disney?” he said furrowing his brow. “Really?”
“Shut up!” she said.
He took the record he’d found out of its yellow cover, flipped it around, and put it on the turntable.
“Side B,” he said as he dropped the needle into the groove.
I don’t want you to be no slave
I don’t want to work all day
But I want you to be true
And I just wanna make love to you
“I’m glad you still have this,” he said as he leaned over the record player.
“Why do you think that you can just dip in and out of our lives?” she said. “You’re so busy screwing up the world.”
“Saving it,” he said. “Saving it.
He looked a picture of their daughter. It could have been a picture of her mother the day they first met. It was a high school graduation picture.
“How’d she manage that smile?” he said.
“Good question, Representative Christ,” she said staring at him, her green eyes ablaze. “Why? You didn’t answer me.”
He walked to her and put his hands on her shoulders.
“Because you let me, grandma,” he said softly.
“Fuck you, grandpa,” she said softly back.
“Can I have this dance, professor?”
They embraced and started to sway slowly.
“I haven’t listened to this in so long,” he said.
“Sometimes I will,” she said. “Just not this side.”
“I’ve missed you,” he said.
“You do not,” she said. “You hate me just a little bit less than I hate you. I definitely hate you more though.”
At last my love has come along
My lonely days are over and life is like a song,
At last the skies above are blue
My heart was wrapped up clover the night I looked at you
I found a dream that I could speak to
A dream that I can call my own
I found a thrill to press my cheek to
A thrill I’ve never known
As the song ended, he took his phone out of his pocket and walked toward the front window and dialed a number.
The driver answered his phone.
“Hey,” he said. “Do me a favor. Head back to the hotel. I’ll call you. I’m going to be here for a while.”
The young man pocketed his phone, got in the car and drove away north on Muriel.
The next song played.
“Awww,” she said. “I was hoping you’d invite him in.”
He walked back to the record player, took the needle off the record, flipped it, and dropped the needle on the first song.
“There really isn’t a day that goes by…”he said.
“What?” she said. “That don’t think about this mess.”
“Mess? That’s one way to look at it,” he said taking her hands. “We don’t have the past. The future hasn’t happened yet.”
“All we have is the present, and now even that’s over,” she said, finishing his thought. “That’s so dumb.”
“But that’s what our uncle used to say,” he said.
“When it comes to anything we could call ‘ours’ the family tree is about it,” she said.
As the second song began their lips found each other. They kept dancing slowly, then moving toward the couch, shoes coming off, a coat, and then a belt hit the floor. The needle bobbed up and down on the record, and the cracking and popping of the record’s imperfections kept a separate rhythm as they lost themselves in each other again.
Back to At Last!