40. Escalation

October 4, 2006

Cousin Bill said it was lonely since I’d moved out.  The poor guy.  I had no idea how he was coping without me.  I stopped by the house to see him, and Dad suggested while I was there that I should let Grandma see my new place to “help allay her confusion.”  Yeah right.  I knew what he was up to.  He wanted to know where I was, and I’d been successful up until that point at remaining coy.  It was a delicate dance.  And I knew Dad was hacked off because he was in the middle of putting new siding on the shed.  He started projects around the house every time something was bothering him.

I also noticed that there were two beds in my old bedroom.  Bill told me that Tina’s daughter was coming to stay.  And get this – one of them was Bill’s old bed, the same one Dad had taken away, forcing him to sleep on the floor instead.  Now we know what happened to it.  Bill wasted no time informing Tina that used to be his bed, just to see her reaction.  He’d previously warned Tina that she’d be next in Dad’s line of fire if there was nobody else left in the house to pick on.  Kinda made me wonder whether that’s why the daughter was suddenly moving in.

Shortly afterwards I went back for another visit – this time with Mom – and we met Tina’s daughter.  Salami, or whatever her name was.  At least that’s what Bill called her.  Salami was 14 years old and lived in Russia but she was home for the holidays. At least, that’s the story we were given.  Bullshit.  She lived with Tina in Brooklyn.  Every time we asked her a question she’d look around to her mother and get instructions in Russian, and then she’d answer us in English without a trace of an accent.

Dad was getting really pissed off about Bill, giving him looks that my mother said bordered on hatred when he was watering his plants in the kitchen window.  And Dad didn’t even offer him a cookie when he brought out the tin to Grandma, so my mother offered Bill one instead.  Dad hovered around like a vulture, and when he finally stalked out of the room Bill filled us in on the latest “war stories.”

Dad had shut the water off on him one day.  Then he put a hand on Bill’s shoulder and blocked him from going up the stairs.  Bill told him that if he touched him again, he was going to get hurt.  Then he picked up the phone and made like he was going to call the police.  “Oh, are you going to call the cops?” Dad sneered.  Bill just put the phone back on the hook and assumed a fighting stance.

“No, John, I think I can take you myself.   Put ’em up.”  Bill laughed and told us that was the only time he ever saw fear in Dad’s eyes.  Good.  But it worked and Dad backed down.  But Bill ended up calling the police for real a few days later.  Dad turned the water off again, and this time he locked the basement and side doors so Bill couldn’t go down there to turn the water back on.  Tina could.  She had her own key ring to open everything in the house that she needed.  But it was the weekend and she was back in Brooklyn, so Bill called the police and they told him that it was illegal for Dad to turn the water off on him.  If need be, they’d come and break the door down for him.

“No,” Bill said.  “I can handle this myself.”  So he dug his crowbar out of his trunk and pried the basement door open, taking a nice chunk out of the jamb as he did so.  Not only did he turn the water back on, but he did his laundry too while he was down there.  Dad freaked out when he came home and saw what happened.  “You’re going to pay for the damage to that door!” he cried out, and Bill responded with “Piffle.”  Then Dad went into the backyard and yanked all Bill’s wet clothes off the clothesline and stomped them into the ground.

Then Bill said Tina told Dad that he was flashing Grandma.  Say what?  Yeah, he had just finished taking a shower and he opened the door a crack to let the steam out.  After a few minutes he went to open it all the way and saw Tina standing there with Grandma on their way down the hallway, so he said “excuse me” and closed the door again.  But the way Tina told the story she made it sound like Bill was running naked around the house and waving his penis in Grandma’s face like a Chippendale’s dancer.  Bill was banned from using the shower after that, and then Dad locked him out of the house entirely one night.

Bill came home from work at 3AM and couldn’t get in through any of the doors, so he put one of Dad’s ladders up against the house and climbed up atop the first story to get through his window. Except Dad had screwed it shut so it wouldn’t open.  That’s when Bill took a closer look through the glass and noticed Dad standing in the middle of the darkened room, just watching him.  Bill was so angry that he ripped the screen out of the window and threw it down on top of Dad’s car in the driveway, bending it in the process.

In addition to that, Bill said he overheard Dad on the phone telling someone: “Yeah, it’s going to happen, and Bill’s not going to be very happy when it does.”  Bill has no clue what Dad’s planning to do and it’s really making him curious.  I warned him that Dad was either going to evict him or tow his car away, so he’d better watch his ass and cover his tracks for the next few weeks.

In other words, it was business as usual around the house since I moved out.

Bill called me a couple of days after our visit to tell me that Grandma was in the hospital.  Dad took her there last night after she complained of pains in her arm. Sounded like heart trouble.  I took a shower and got myself together and headed over to see her.  I ran into Dad in the parking lot and he was surprised to see me.

“How did you know Grandma was here?” he demanded, since he sure as hell didn’t tell me anything.  I joked that I was psychic, but he wouldn’t let it drop and kept pressing me for answers.  He really need to know. I wasn’t going to tell him that Bill told me, because that would only start even more shit between them, not least of all because Bill was using the phone again.  Finally he gave up, but not before muttering, “the conspiracies are flying again…” and continuing to mumble under his breath all the way into the hospital.

Turns out it was just a blood clot, and Grandma was home before long.  Dad was relieved that it was “nothing serious,” but I wasn’t in the mood to correct him.  Grandma was alert but she was babbling nonsense, and she kept telling me to “take a chance” and such. I had no idea what she was talking about, and there was no point pressing her for clarity any more because that only confused her further.  Just then it struck me that she’d been slowly going downhill in the speech department over the past couple of months.

Too bad we couldn’t shut Dad up.  Mom joked to him that “I liked you better when you didn’t talk.”  That happened when Dad ran into her at my latest dance performance.  He was in the audience with Grandma, and when he saw Mom he went over and knelt next to her chair and started in on her.  He started ranting about how “you made [wedding] vows” and getting louder until he was drawing looks from the people sitting around them.  Finally he gave up because Mom wasn’t giving him an inch, so he whipped Grandma around in her wheelchair and walked away so furiously she was bouncing all over the place.

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