My grandpa Honky, the switchboard operator, talked to Webb Pierce at 1:30AM every night. I’d hear him in the attic yelling, “Sing those lungs right out of your mouth, Webb! May they flap their wings in a dimension of switchboards and telephone wires.” I remember the days when he’d stand on the roof fixing the TV antenna, and he’d look down at me sitting in the grass and shout, “I’m flying! I’m flying! Watch me go, now!” He taught me how to make a paper airplane, and I’d climb onto the roof when he wasn’t watching and throw the plane as hard as I could at a passing helicopter. Nowadays, grandpa Honky drinks at the shooting range, and flashes a grin at car accidents.
He hung out at the bowling alley, getting his dick sucked in a bathroom stall by a guy who looked like his brother. He was hired to mow my grandpa’s lawn on Thursdays. I never said a word to the guy, but he’d give me this look like I murdered someone close to him in cold blood. He’s one to talk, he did some time in the state prison after bashing some poor fucker’s head in with a bowling ball in a speed-infused rage. They called him “Lucky Strike”. He’s a real sore loser who never won a day in his life. A big fan of Charles Bronson, but his moustache looks like a poor facsimile. A misunderstanding between the two of us cost me a black eye and a busted lip. I told him, “Recharge”. He heard, “Retard”. Somebody’s bound to stick a lit rag in his gas tank one of these days.
How many balloon fetishists are shot in Utah a year? You could ask grandpa Honky, and he’d tell you, “About 4, no more and no less.” A real penchant for these kinds of happenings, Honky knows the answers. Sometimes that’s all you can get him to talk about, the novelty wearing off like a drug you can’t re-administer. When my grandma was still alive, he’d say to her, “Is that all you do all day is talk on that fucking phone, and play those damn crossword puzzles? You’ll get carpal tunnel, that’s about 3 million people a year and you’re one of them. I’m only telling you this because I love you, honey.” Her response always the same, “Isn’t that all you do all damn day is talk to dead people on that switchboard telephone? I hope you slip and bust your fuckin’ head open, Honky. I really do. Do the world a favor and put yourself in the ground.”
“I just want my baby brother back,” my grandpa would sob in between swigs of nausea-inducing melon-flavored Mad Dog 20/20. He drank the kind of booze where you’d wake up in the morning and swear someone had taken an axe to your head while you slept, but that was the price you’d pay for dirt cheap alcohol. I wondered whether he was talking about his real brother, the asshole who resembled his brother, or both. He was really losing his mind. Grandpa Honky’s brother died in a grisly knife fight at a bar, now a bargain shoe store where my cousin Brian stole a pair of Adidas sneakers. Webb Pierce played on the jukebox that night.