Dad didn’t like to leave the development of his prodigy to chance. His beatitudes were conveyed with regularity; we should strive to be business owners because, if you work for somebody else, you’ll never make any money; it’s our duty as a family to stick together because if one is down, the others can help him back up; always give careful consideration to a task and find the most efficient, time saving method, be thorough and stick to it until done. Then there were the unwritten rules that you learned by example; “Always question authority, this sets us apart from the cows, but getting busted is a sign of stupidity; never break a law that can harm someone else; never wait in a line if you can move to the front; don’t sit in a traffic jam if you can find a way around the dumb asses that are clogging up the thorough fare.
One time, shortly after I got my license, Dad made an arrangement through his network. When I appeared in front of Judge So N So, I would be let off the hook for my recent speeding ticket. This scared me, would I have to lie? I stood in the courtroom and told the judge that I didn’t think I was speeding. He ruled in the cop’s favor and I got my deserved penalty. When I returned home and gave Dad the verdict, he spouted with disgust and said he’d have to talk to his contact to find out what went wrong. I could tell though that Dad thought it was me, who blew it.
Mom and Dad hosted Sunday Dinner for his five brothers at our house while I was young. It was a festive affair, lots of business talk, gut busting jokes, and booze flowing from the bottle to the glasses. The wives usually listened or talked amongst themselves while I sat unnoticed as I moved the food on my plate with my fork, pretending I was still eating. No one said much to me except for the occasional comment from Uncle Phil, “You oughtta eat more ‘cause if a big wind came up, you’d blow away.” Hardy har, they thought that was funny, but it made me cry inside because I hated being skinny and took it like a defect.
I may have been skinny, but I was strong. When I was in kindergarten, Dad held Poker Club at our house once a month. I remember when he’d give a yell upstairs to fetch me. The air was thick with cigar smoke and martini vapors, the men gathered around green felt covered tables. They were usually sipping drinks, laughing and joking, with cards fanned out in their hefty hands when Dad would say, “Fellas, you have to take a look at Judy’s muscles. Go ahead Judy, show ’em what you got.”
On cue, I pulled up my shirt sleeve and bent my arm in a tight vee. Each time, it amazed even me, a golf ball shaped muscle popped up from under my skin. It was like a magic trick because it wasn’t something you would expect on a tender, string bean arm. I thought I was akin to Popeye, the cartoon character who gulped cans of spinach causing muscles to erupt on both his arms. Dad didn’t like the dainty, helpless, or weak type of woman, but admired strength and independence. My right bicep was unnaturally large from frequent flexing, but I was glad Dad never asked me to show the one on the left. It didn’t seem to pop up properly.