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american gothic redux: grandfatherly advice
by robert a. melos
7.27.03
writing

Floyd Crawford sat on the old wooden swing under the oak tree in his backyard, looking out at the condominiums and townhouses built on what used to be his property and he felt a sense of security like he never felt in his 40 years on the farm. Looking at the buildings where he once planted corn and turnips, and tomatoes and potatoes, he thought of the years he worked the land and was glad he would never have to work it again.

“Hey Grandpa,” Trace said joining Floyd on the swing.

“You need more money already?” Floyd asked.

“Grandpa, that hurts. You know I only came back to find out how you were after Uncle Chuck’s return,” Trace said, feigning concern.

“Don’t bullshit me, boy.” Floyd said. “I know you could use another forty.”

“Well, if you insist,” Trace replied. “So are you all right?”

“Why shouldn’t I be?”

“I heard about how you reacted to Uncle Chuck’s companion,” Trace answered.

Floyd laughed, mostly to himself. “You have no idea how I feel about your Uncle Chuck.”

“Disgusted, I’d imagine,” Trace said.

Floyd chuckled again. “Not for the reasons you think.”

Trace looked at his grandfather, wishing the old man would just fork over the cash so he could get downtown to the bar. “You don’t approve of homosexuality,” he said.

“No, I don’t. But that’s not the reason I’m disgusted with my son,” Floyd said.

“It’s not?” Now Trace was confused and almost interested enough to pursue the conversation further. He fought the urge to say those words that would get his grandfather talking. He fought the urge, but he couldn’t resist his curiosity. “Then why?”

Floyd smiled a self-satisfied smile. He knew his grandson well. Trace had the same willpower as his mother, and could be goaded into most anything if his curiosity was remotely piqued. “Before I met your grandmother, I wasn’t a farmer.”

“You weren’t?” Trace’s mother never talked about the family history, or much of anything that wasn’t already spoken of on Oprah or Jerry. Or the town gossip heard around the beauty shop or the PTA, or over the counter at the deli section of the grocery store, for that matter. He realized how little he really knew about his own family, but the thought didn’t concern him.

“Nope, son. I was a traveling salesman. Just like the old jokes. Your grandmother was the farmer’s daughter, and she was a beauty in her day,” Floyd said.

“And you fell in love with her,” Trace said.

“That’s one version,” Floyd replied.

“Huh?”

“Shut up and let an old man impart some wisdom on your young mind,” Floyd said. He continued, “I met your grandmother, and stupidly knocked her up.”

“What?” Trace was becoming unnerved by his grandfather’s candor.

“You heard me,” Floyd said. “And your great-grandfather threatened to hunt me down and blow my head off if I ran off like I had planned to do when I found out she was pregnant. So I stayed and married her, and it wasn’t horrible. Sure she lost some of her looks, and I had to give up my life on the road to work her father’s farm, which I hated, but all in all my life wasn’t terrible.”

“Gee Grandpa, I really don’t know what to say,” Trace said. “Does this mean you never loved Grandma?”

“For a college boy you aren’t all that smart, are you? Of course I grew to love your grandmother,” Floyd said. “But truth be told, if I had the money I have now, back then when I still had my youthful looks and my stamina, without the help of all those herbal concoctions your grandmother feeds me to correct erectile dysfunction just to give her an orgasm—“

“Whoa! Grandpa! Too much information,” Trace said, placing his hands over his ears.

“Don’t worry, kid. You’ve got my genes, so you’ll be there someday yourself. You better get used to hearing it all now, “ Floyd said. “Besides, I’m making a point.”

“Then make it, and give me my forty bucks,” Trace said.

Floyd smiled. “Relax, you’ll get your grandpa’s cash, but first you gotta pay the piper. So shut up and listen to the sage wisdom I’m passing along.”

Trace closed his mouth and listened intently, trying not to feel like he was being forced to do something he didn’t want to do just to wheedle forty dollars out of the old man.

“If I had the money I have now, back then, I never would’ve stuck around no matter what threats your great-grandfather made toward me. I never would’ve married at all. That’s why I’m disgusted with your Uncle Chuck,” Floyd said.

Trace sat staring at Floyd. “I don’t get it,” he finally said.

Floyd closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Boy I don’t approve of homosexuality, but when I found out Chuck was gay I thought he would be spared the marriage trap. He would never have to get involved with someone he didn’t love, or stick with one woman, er, man for the rest of his life.

“So what does my stupid gay son go and do? He hooks up with someone, and ties himself down when there was no reason for him to tether his life with anyone on a permanent basis. He could’ve kept quiet about his lifestyle for my sake and his mother’s, and just played around for the rest of his life.” Floyd took a deep breath and sighed. He looked into Trace’s eyes. “You don’t get it, do you?”

Trace shook his head.

“You’re young and free. Your only responsibility is to yourself. I would suggest you keep it that way. There is no reason to intertwine your life with anyone, woman or man,” he paused. “You do like women, don’t you?”

“Yes Grandpa, I like women,” Trace said. He was desperately trying to take in what his grandfather had told him. “So you never wanted to be tied down, or have a family or anything like that?”

“Not for one minute. I still don’t. If I thought I could get a pretty young girl about your age, I’d dump your grandmother in a heartbeat,” Floyd said.

“Grandpa, that’s terrible,” Trace said, standing up. “Can I just have my forty bucks so I can leave?”

“Kid, you’re just like your mother. Learn to heed the warnings of an old man. Learn to be independent and just have fun in your life because soon than later you’ll be my age, popping some kind of goat weed tablets and fantasizing about a supermodel you saw on MTV while making love to an old hag your own age,” Floyd said, while reaching for his wallet. He withdrew two twenties, and waved them at his grandson.

Trace reached for the money. “My mother loves my father,” he said.

“I know she does,” Floyd replied. “Mores the pity.”

Trace shook his head and walked off toward the house. His mind was reeling with images of his grandparents doing things he didn’t want to think of them doing, and the knowledge his grandfather didn’t love his grandmother the way he believed he did. It was that knowledge that frightened him the most. He remembered all the girls he had sex with since he was fifteen, and realized he was more like his grandfather than he wanted to admit.


ABOUT ROBERT A. MELOS

Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

more about robert a. melos

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