Chapter 8 – Joe’s Gramma Tells a Story

Chapter Eight ~ Joe’s Gramma Tells a Story

Twenty Years Earlier
“I was thirty-five years old when Patrice finally landed a plane in the hanger, you know what I mean?”

Joe looked puzzled and said, “I didn’t know Gramps knew how to fly.”

“I not talking about flying. One of his boys finally meet one of my girls, and next thing I know, I’m pregnant with Estelle.”

Joe understood. He nodded. He had no idea where his gramma was going with this story.

Teresa continued, “I wanted a boy, so as soon as Estelle gets off my nipple, we start trying for a boy. I’m gonna tell you. His sperm got no power. Finally, four years later, we get lucky and he knocks me up. This is Annette. I telling you now, Joe, you want to raise kids, do it when you’re younger. It takes too much energy when you’re older.”

Joe looked at his iWatch. Teresa caught his glance. She said, “Okay, I’ll skip the first few chapters, but I got some good stuff to tell you, especially about Estelle, you wanna hear it.”

“Next time, you can give me all the dirt on Estelle,” said Joe hoping his gramma and Estelle patched things up before then.

Teresa yawned, then said, “The beer tastes good, but not as good as my Budweiser. Maybe I’ll have another bottle when I finish telling you about Annette.”

Joe had no idea his gramma enjoyed beer. He filed it away, making a mental note to surprise her with a six-pack every now and then.

Teresa said, “Annette, almost from the second she was born, was head strong. She was going to do things her way or she wasn’t going to do them. I don’t mean to say she was a bad girl. Just the opposite. Annette was a good girl. But we fought all the time. I tell her to go to bed. She’d say why. I tell her to clean her room, she say, later. She always do what I ask, but she’s always pushing me, you know what I mean?”

Joe nodded, but didn’t say anything.

“When she was in high school, she wants to start dating when she is fifteen. Patrice and I say, no. You’re too young to date. Oh my God, you think we put her in prison. Before we could say another word, she said she is going to her room and never coming out. She stomped to her room, slammed the door loud enough to wake up the dead. Patrice looks at me and says, ‘I hope she means it.’

Joe laughed. He knew his mom could be headstrong when she wanted her way. She usually got it with his dad.

Teresa continued, “Annette got better as she got older. I give her credit, but she still got this problem if she makes up her mind even God is not going to change it. That’s what happened when she goes off to college. We got this rule, you want to date a boy, you bring him home to meet Patrice and me. This work just fine during her freshman year because she’s living at home. Then she announces she is going to live at the college in the dormitory. Why? We feed her. We give her a roof over her head. I do her clothes. She wants to move out, it makes no sense. The college is only five miles from where we live. You agree with me?”

Joe thought his mom made the right decision to get out on her own, but he didn’t want to argue with his gramma. He said, “You were giving her everything.”

“You got a good brain, Joe. We argue with her. Her mind is made up. She got a head harder than rock. She’s going to work part-time at the college to pay the extra. I thought Patrice was going to have a heart attack.

“The next thing we know she shows up for Sunday dinner with her boyfriend. Right away, I don’t like him. I don’t like his looks. He looks too smooth. He hands me and Patrice a line I don’t believe for a minute. I see he got Annette wrapped around his little finger. She’s in love with him she don’t know from nothing, you hear what I’m saying.”

Joe nodded then said, “Was this Joe Wright?”

“Who’s Joe Wright. I don’t know no Joe Wright from nowhere. This was Joe Ritchie. He was the no good son of bitch that knocked her up. When he finds out she’s pregnant, he takes off.”

“He joined the army?” Joe asked.

“What army. He never was in the army, air force, or the marines.”

Joe reached inside his pants pocket and pulled out the folded letter he found in the metal box. He said, “Gramma. I found this letter. Look at the address, it’s Lieutenant Joe Wright and the return address says he’s in the army.”

Teresa took hold of the envelope and opened it. She pulled out the letter bringing it up within a foot of her eyes, and read it. While she was reading the letter, she flooded the atmosphere with one curse word after another. When she finished reading the letter, she handed the it back to Joe, “If I get my hands on him, I gonna snap his neck like I snap a chicken’s neck when I was younger. That’s what I’m gonna do. That’s no Joe Wright. That’s Joe Ritchie. I remember the letter. I picked it up from the mailbox. Annette is home with you and I get the mail and I say who’s this Joe Wright in the army who’s sending you a letter. And, Annette says, ‘He’s a friend from college.’ She thinks I don’t know nothing. But I know she was lying to me. But the truth finally comes out.”

Joe said, “What can you tell me about Joe Ritchie?”

“I’m going to need another beer before I get started. I got a story to tell you.”


Chapter 7 ~ Gramma Surprises Joe

Chapter Seven ~ Gramma Surprises Joe

Forty-five minutes later, Joe’s grandmother was sitting in Joe’s living room. Joe called from the kitchen area, “Gramma, you want bottled water?”

“No, I don’t want no bottled water, what else you got.”

“How about a can of soda. I have Diet Coke.”

“No, I don’t want no soda. What else you got?”

“Would you like a glass of wine? I have merlot.”

“No, I don’t want no wine. What else you got?”

“I have beer?”

“That’s good, bring me a bottle,” said Teresa.

Joe opened two bottles of beer, walked into the living room from the kitchen area and handed a bottle to his grandmother. He placed a napkin on the coffee table in front of her. She took hold of the bottle and held it up to the light and read the label.

“What’s this? It don’t have the same color as my Budweiser. I never heard of no Red Wing Brewing Company. What kind of beer do they make? This looks like the cheap stuff. You get on sale some place?”

Joe thought, you don’t want to know what I paid for the beer, it might cause an aneurysm. Joe smiled and said, “It’s a local brewery, Gramma. It’s really good. Try it.”

Teresa took a sip of the beer. She let it sit in her mouth for a moment. Then she said, It’s too dark to taste good. Definitely not as good as Budweiser. You know the beer with the big horses. I ever tell you, Joe, there are more horse’s asses than horses?”

Joe didn’t quite no how to respond. He said, “No, you never told me that one.”

“It’s true, Joe. A horse is a horse and it’s got an ass. A horse is not going to kick you out of your home and take away your money. Then you got people who there is no better description than to call them a horse’s ass. You understand this truth? Now, let me tell you about Estelle …”

Before Joe’s grandmother continued, he cut her short. He said, “Gramma, while I was getting our beers, I emailed a lawyer friend of mine. He owes me a big favor. He’s going to come over this afternoon and fix it so you won’t have to go back to the nursing home.”
Joe’s gramma said, “This is like Christmas in September. Estelle can’t sell my house until I sign the power of attorney. Now, I’m not going to sign anything. I been angry at St. Anthony for not answering my prayers, but I think he sent you to me, so I going to take him out of the laundry basket and put him back on the shelf.”

Terese raised her bottle toward Joe and said, “Salute, When I see this lawyer, I’m going make a new will. Estelle is going down the toilet. All she gonna get is five dollars for a meal at MacDonalds. I gonna put you in it.”

Joe said, “Thanks, Gramma, but maybe you and Estelle can work things out. I’m set. I don’t need anything.”

“Now, this proves I’m going leave everything to you. I gonna outlive Estelle anyway. She likes to make everybody think she’s a saint or something. She goes to church. She walks in church like she’s the Pope. Everybody knows she’s not the Pope but her. I could tell you stories about her but I ain’t gonna do it. Her husband he got no balls. He lets her run all over him like she’s a truck. He goes, ‘Yes, Estelle. No, Estelle. Whatever you say, Estelle.’ What kind of man is that who acts like he is a door mat? She don’t got my genes. She got Patrice’s genes, all the bad ones.”

Teresa sipped her beer and talked and talked and talked about Estelle. Joe gently moved her away each time, but it was a losing cause. Forty-five minutes and another beer later,

Teresa lost steam. She looked at Joe and said, “Okay, what you got on your mind?”

Joe leaned forward from his chair across from the sofa and said, “Gramma, I’m going to talk to you about something that may be difficult for you to talk about.”

Teresa said, “I’m in my eighties. You think I don’t know what’s going on in the world? You think you gonna tell me something that is gonna shock me?”

Joe sat up. He looked at his grandmother and decided to lay it all out for her. He said, “The other day I was going through the things in mom and dad’s house. I’m clearing everything out because I want to sell it.”

Teresa raised her hand. She said, “Don’t tell me no more. I know what you gonna say. I gonna save you some time.”

“How do you know what I’m going to say? I didn’t say anything, yet, Gramma? I don’t mean any disrespect, but let me finish,” said Joe.

Teresa wagged a finger at Joe. She said, “You listen, Joe. You went snooping where you not supposed to be snooping. And, because you go snooping where you not supposed to go snooping you find something you wasn’t intended to find. When you find it, you got your ass all tied up tighter than a leaky pipe with duct tape. How am I doing so far?”

“Keep going,” said Joe.

“You find out your mama, my Annette got herself knocked up when she was in college. And, you find out you was the one who slide down the chute and become my grandson. Do I hit the hammer on the nail?”

“Yes, but …”

“Don’t you give me no yes, but. You wanna know about your real father. You got this obsession. Am I right?”

“Yes, Gramma.”

“You listen to me. This man who knocked Annette up was a no good bum then, and if he is still alive, which I hope not, he’s even worse now. You can count on it,” Teresa made a gesture of washing her hands.

Joe said, “I going looking for him. Tell me what you know.”

“You want to know the story? I’m gonna give you the story and you better listen cause I’m only gonna say it once unless you want me to repeat it. You understand?”

Joe didn’t understand, but he nodded in agreement.

“Searching for Dad” Chapter 1

Chapter One – What Are Friends For?

Joe Astore picked up the small round hardball, gripped it in his right hand. He wrapped the handball gloved fingers around the ball making the ball momentarily disappear. He wiped the sweat away from his eyes with his left forearm. He stood in the right server’s box and took a glance over his left shoulder at Tony DelPetri and said, “Game point.”

Joe bounced the ball twice, took a deep breath, then dropped the ball and simultaneously twisted his body, brought his extended right arm up and back. His eyes never left the ball. To Joe, the ball traveled in slow motion. His body torqued, his hips began to shift forward and his arm followed. His knees began bending lower and his hips were almost parallel with the front wall when his sweeping right arm and gloved hand made contact with the ball six inches off the handball court floor. The small ball flew off his hand toward the front court wall ricochetting deep into the right corner of the court.

Tony, who positioned himself in the left-hand side of the backcourt to return Joe’s serve, followed the speeding ball. He move his feet and shifted his body to his left to position himself to catch the ball coming off the back wall return it to the front wall. Tony watched the ball careen off the back wall and quickly ricochet off the side wall sending it out of his reach.

Joe didn’t look back. He knew he made an ace when he hit the serve. He said, “Game.”
Joe peeled off his glove, walked to retrieve the ball, and then turned to see Tony staring at him. “What?” said Joe.

“I almost had you this time. I pushed you to game point. Either I’m really improving or you have something bothering you. My guess is something is eating at you. Want to stop for a beer and talk about it?” said Tony.

Joe picked up his towel, wiped the sweat off his face and neck, ran his hand through his wavy black hair, and said, “I don’t think you have enough time.”

Tony stared at his friend. The usually optimistic, kick ass attitude that was normally Joe’s persona, was gone. Tony said, “I’ll call Paula and tell her you and I are going out for pizza and a beer. She’ll understand. We can go to DiMarco’s grab a booth, order a pizza and a couple of beers. Don’t say a word. I won’t take no for an answer. We’re friends. What are friends for if they’re not there when needed.”

Joe turned toward Tony, “I appreciate it, Tony. You can’t help me this time. I’m working though some stuff only I can work through.”

Tony said, “Humor me. Go to dinner with me. If you don’t want to talk, you don’t have to talk. Fair enough?”

Joe gave his friend a half smile and said, “Okay. Let’s hit the shower and sauna.”
The two friends left the handball court and walked silently to the men’s locker room.

They sat in the sauna, their towels wrapped around their waists. Joe’s eyes were closed. Tony watched him, saw the beads of sweat running off Joe’s face and dripping off his chin. Joe never gave Tony an opportunity to start talking.

When Joe opened his eyes, he said, “Let’s shower. The sauna always relaxes me. I’ll be ready for pizza and a beer. It might be good for me to air it out.”

Thirty minutes later, Joe and Tony were in a booth at DiMarco’s. Sliced hot Italian bread and a small dish with olive oil and spices sat on the table. Joe swirled a piece of bread in the olive oil, smiled at the oil’s golden hue on his bread and then took a bite.

Tony took a pull on his beer and watched his friend. When Joe swallowed his food, Tony said, “Well?”

Joe was moving the remainder of his piece of bread in the olive oil. He swirled it through the oil and into the spices. He pulled it out and placed it in his mouth. He chewed it, swallowed, then pick up his bottle and took a drink. He looked at his friend Joe and said,

“I’ll keep it short and sweet. Last night Marie and I broke up.”

Tony said, “What? You guys are engaged to get married. You were, are the perfect couple. What happened?”

Joe held up his hand, traffic cop style, “That’s not all. I quit my job. I’m done as of five o’clock today.”

Tony jumped in with both feet. He said, “This better be good. Are you dying? Tell me you’re not dying? You’re not going off on some missionary work and living a celibate lifestyle? You’re making six figures in your job. You’re on the fast track to great things.

Why are you throwing your life away?”

“You sound like Marie,” said Joe. He took another pull on his beer, set it down to the side of the table to make room for the pizza that was on it’s way. “You really want to know why all this happened?”

Tony said, “Yes.”

A Father & Five Friends

“What’s up, Ray?”

“I’ve got a major problem P or B or whatever you call yourself. I’m stuck. I don’t get writer’s block. I’m afraid I have symptoms.”

“No problemo hombre. I’m here.”

“Your Spanish is one of my problems. You don’t speak Spanish.”


“Give me a break, P.”
“It’s not P, it’s not B, today it’s C. You’re jealous because I have more readers than you do.”

“C? Make up your mind.  Guys are naturally jealous. How was I supposed to know I was creating a . . . .” . . . .” . . . .” . . . .” . . . .”

“What were you going to say, Ray?”

“Nothing,” I said. In reality, I was going to say phenom and then thought P or B or C or whatever might say that is her name. No way I am going to call her Phenom.

“It was something. In the meantime, here’s the deal. Set aside your masculine pride. Follow my lead and don’t argue with me.”

“What’s in it for me?” I asked.

“A post.”

“That’s it?”

“No, you can take me out for Mexican. I can practice my Spanish.”

“What are you going to order, ”

“You want me to tell you or do you want to get your post done?”

I roll my eyes.

“Okay, Pancho. I’m going to ask questions, you answers them.”

“It’s Ray, not Pancho. What is the first question?”

“Listen up Pablo. What was it like being a father to five girls when they were home?”

I give her a surprised look. It’s a good question for Father’s Day. “I enjoyed every minute. I wanted to be with them. I wanted only the good things in life for them. Babe and I watched them grow into wonderful, strong, intelligent women. I am proud of each of them. When I am with them now, I enjoy the moments. I am grateful for them.”

“Not bad, Juan. They are all grown women now with families. What is your relationship with them?”

“I’ll always be their biological father. But I consider them much, much more than daughters and family. Each of them is a good friend. Each of them a good person. Each of them has a heart of love. You can always tell a good friend by how quickly they’ll help you when you’re lying flat on your back. All five would rush to me in a second. And, I would do the same for them. We’re friends. Friends show up for each other.”

“Happy Father’s Day, Ray.”

“Thanks, B or P or C.”