Jim Trainer

Too Skinny, Too Small by Don Bajema

In Uncategorized on September 13, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I reached for a bottle of Midol by Donna’s purse and spoke into the cell without caring what I said, though it was going to be read by a few million people all over the internet, picked up by Sports Illustrated for their third cover article in the last nine issues, and get Johnson an hour on ESPN leading up to next week’s game. Johnson I was shining on, the writer for Rollingstone would get the good stuff. Donna had arranged for their photographer to sneak in tomorrow afternoon-she said I could trust him-an East Indian Londoner who shot the very big names. I knew the shot I was going to give him, me sitting in a chair under stark light, my face hidden in the shadow of a hoodie.
Before long I’d get an idea of Johnson’s opinions on God and religion-he had that assured, devout, Christian tone in his voice. He mentioned Jesus and God in a few phrases that any believer would glom onto. The Christian thing is big in football-you should have heard the nonsense my teammates and coaches were spewing in the locker room after.
Johnson’s whole career was, “bringing darkness to light” as he put it. Cagey too, cautious, protective of his soul like he thought he was speaking to an acolyte of Lucifer. Not that I didn’t like him enough, but he had a purpose, his own agenda and because he was lying about it I was going to use him.
He was very interested in my father and I assumed he thought I was letting revealing information slip about myself as I talked about him. He thought he was really getting the scoop.
“…he actually had a kind of laconic nature. He either grunted or nodded or just turned and walked away. A lot of people wanted to know what made him tick, but, well, you’d never get anything out of him. He never lied. What you saw was what you got, though he still managed to surprise everyone. Everyone but himself.”
Johnson said,
“A noble character then.”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. In a way.”
I tucked my cell under my chin and closed my eyes as Johnson paused on the other end while he wrote something down.
Johnson took on a snide tone-I imagined him as a dumpy prosecutor in a rumpled suit,
“All this purported honesty would seem to be hard to maintain for a convicted murderer and meth dealer.”
“Well Dad played bump and run with everybody, the good times were about booze and drugs that he had a very high tolerance if not an immunity to, in places where the action was strange-dog fights-music halls-brothel clubs-he was even known to go to church long enough to load up the offering basket and split before the service started walking past the pews signaling someone’s wife that he’d be around for her sometime.
He didn’t care-at all-what anyone thought of him. He could figure you out in a glance, he was the kind who reads vibes, there was no escaping it and it made people uneasy, but none of them felt like they could risk getting mad. Strangers maybe in the first moment but he’d disarm them with his charm, or he’d back them up on their heels with one cold glance that made it clear he was willing to put both their lives on the line.
“Wait a second, Eddie. Please. Can you repeat that?”
“If he was challenged he made it clear he was willing to put his and the other guy’s life on the line.”
“Uh, huh. Think about what you just said in the context of what’s happened.”
Long pause while I thought about Donna instead.
“Do you think you followed your father, but in a more acceptable way to do something similar?”
Long pause that said he did not believe me, or maybe just thought the concept was over my head. I went on,
“Meanwhile he was so easy in his absolute ease, his lack of any kind of second guessing; he just whistled his way through the mayhem around him, half amused at the stupidity and slow timing that surrounded him.
Dad was going to dominate you with his mind, and possibly his violence, he liked women, yours included.”
“Eddie, I’m surprised that you talk the way you do.”
“Really. Hmm..because I’m dumb or something?”
“No, no..”
“Because of my background?”
“Well, you’re kind of an anomaly, aren’t you?”
“You’ve interviewed ghetto athletes, right?”
“And a lot of them are ‘well spoken’, right?”
He laughed. Uneasily.
“Eddie, I ah..”
“See? Right there, that’s the kind of mistake Dad was waiting for. He’d sit there his lips pressed tight, leaning back in his chair, sipping a drink, laughing in the way pit bulls sometimes seem to laugh every time someone would come at him sideways like you just did.”
“What I meant, Eddie, is you don’t sound like a typical professional athlete-you know that..I’m not the first to say..I wasn’t..”
If you cut off an apology or an explanation you set your opponent back a few yards.
“Yeah, so, if Dad ever talked it was for his own entertainment. Or seduction. He loved to talk to women. His intuition and insight was so akin to what women thought was their own exclusive province-that to see it in a lean attractive man..”
“..I was surprised how much the two of you look alike, though he’s got a little more wear and tear..”
“Yeah-a man who was plainly dangerous and amused, very intuitive, observant and funny and not gay was all the seduction he needed. Women went nuts for him.”
All the whores, the young wives of cops alone at home with the kids asleep. Big, bored women from across town, bank tellers, stressed out young grandmother’s smoking at the door of Laundromats watching their ruined teenaged daughters’ little kids run amok in street. He had women everywhere he went. Secrets all over California. A librarian who loved to take risks in the stacks, if he came to visit and your woman was in the room the floor began to revolve, energy shimmered, he just smiled behind his sunglasses and took his time.
Some people thought they were talking to him, but it was all one ironic commentary on our place in life-which he thought was insignificant outside of being material for a joke.”
“Eddie, can I ask why you speak of him in past tense? He’s still very much alive.”
“Defense mechanism I guess. Sad and relieved he’s put away and not able to work out which one clear enough to be in the present. And being as he’s out of this world, forever it looks like, I guess he just belongs to past.”
“I think, or at least I got the impression he genuinely cares about you.”
“As much as he can, I think he does. He’s pretty mean. I used to be embarrassed for these tools he hung out with as they expounded, theorized, bragged constantly and struggled to keep up. Reminds me of you, those guys-not really his friends-just wanted to know him, figure him out-have a story to tell, of course they hadn’t made a profession of..what do you call it, getting a profile?”
“People want to know.”
“And I was pretty disgusted with Dad knowing what he was up to.”
Johnson coughed hoping to slow my pace.
“Was he with the white gangs before he got into prison? Did you have any exposure to them?”
“Far as he was concerned you were expected to figure things out or fuck yourself, it didn’t matter to him. Life was a joke, the whole cosmos just one big swirl of polar opposites. Friend, foe, family, wife or son, you were on your own. Dad stood apart, or orbited the whole shebang like one of those isotopes that the physicists can’t figure out why it’s spinning its erratic path and what purpose it has among the orderly little electrons, neutrons, protons whirling in their invisible universe.”
“Yeah, Dad’s an isotope.”

Pages: 1 2 3 4

  1. I know that voice. Another great boy up in the sky story.


  3. […] last week Aho. There he is. I dropped the ball last week and failed to bring you Chapter 2 of Too Skinny, Too Small. But as I mentioned, I blew out my back and this much madness was too much sorrow.  I’ve […]

  4. […] process). That book kept me alive. Kept me current. Prompted me to reach out to great writers like Don Bajema and reconnect with great writers like Butch Wolfram. The rest is history except I wasn’t […]

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