When I was fifteen, my grandpa named me “Hey.” As in, “Hey, get your stupid ass off my roof,” or “Hey, what’s your goddamned problem?”
Ma thought it was cute.
Dad didn’t. He thought Grandpa, that’s Ma’s dad, was a ridiculous son of a bitch,
and he said so daily. It wasn’t like Grandpa was just saying “Hey” either. He was calling
“Hey, who’s that little cutie you got on your arm there?” he’d say to me when I had a girl over. I always had girls over. Girls with blond hair, brown hair, red hair, blue hair, green hair. Hell, I didn’t care. And Grandpa didn’t care none either.
Here’s a good one about Grandpa:
“Hey’s got a girl over,” I hear him say to Ma when I bring over Tina Weatherhorn, this girl from my class who speaks with a lisp like she swallowed snakes. I hadn’t noticed the lisp until Grandpa mentioned it.
“Hey, that girl there, she swallowed some goddamned snakes, or something?” he says. He sits in his rocker and watches us while he sucks at his dentures.
Now, I didn’t have a problem with what Grandpa said, nor with Tina’s lisp, but Tina Weatherhorn sure did. She storms right up to Grandpa, spits in his face, and says, “How’s about that?”
I don’t know whether to shit or shout, it’s so damn funny.
Well, Grandpa, he just wipes off that girl’s spit and says, “I think that snake’s a spitting rattler. Better watch out. Them things’ll bite you.” He turns to me. “Hey, you better watch out for that snake too. Thing’ll bite your pecker off.
Brian Baumgart teaches creative writing and composition at North Hennepin Community College near Minneapolis, Minnesota and has and MFA from Minnesota State, Mankato. His writing has been published in various journals. When he was a child, he set fire to a Shakey’s Pizza restaurant with a flaming napkin.