When the paramedics arrived my grandpa told them, “Hey. Don’t forget my smokes.” He hadn’t had a cigarette in twenty years.
The TV was turned all the way up, and it was on the Home Shopping Network. Some breasty woman was trying to sell him a blender on eleven. His armchair was all the way back. He was supremely relaxed.
He’d been on the wagon for years, but since my grandma had died it’d been a struggle. He’d been sleeping in the living room most nights. He had pains in his legs, and it was getting increasingly hard for him to stand without leaning on something for support. His doctor gave him Tramadol for the pain.
“I’ve been seeing drapes, perfect blind designs and performance too. It’s all almost…transcendental.”
The paramedics didn’t quite know how to respond to this.
“Anyone got a light?”
He coughed mildly into to crook of his arm. The paramedics stood at attention around him, waiting for a sign.
“Sir, can you tell me who the president is?”
“Some asshole,” he blurted out. “Some piece of shit who’s trying to take from the poor and give to the rich.”
They didn’t flinch: “Okay. That sounds about right.”
You couldn’t blame them. It was the truth.
My grandpa sat up for a moment, just then, and he cracked his neck, looking really important and substantial, and his face creased into an indomitable smile.
“The Nazis are not to be taken lightly. We’re all enlisting around here, and everywhere, for that matter. Fuck those who wish to make us servile, whose only desire is to prop themselves up and make the rest of humanity subservient to their whims. Don’t you worry. We will succeed. We have to. Any of you boys got a light?”
The paramedics just stood there. They didn’t really know how to handle the situation, and they’d known and been in many, many situations.
My grandpa continued: “You see, there are certain times we come to in a country…in a society, really…when you just have to stand up for what’s right. This? This is one of those times. We can’t let the insane plutocrats rule the earth, can we?”
There was no arguing against this. All the paramedics were on his side.
One of them piped up, “Well, sir. We just need to take your vitals here. Just going to put this here strap on your arm.”
“I’m in the drunk tank!”
Nobody knew what to say or do.
“My wife. My love. She used to drink Brandy Alexanders like they were going extinct. She had a North-Dakota smile that riled the hearts of any taker in town. And we lived in Bismarck then. And I first found her hanging from a branch, on a tire-swing rope, and I caught her right before she dove too far away. We headed west, just like young folks were told to back then. Drove a ’51 Pontiac all the way out to California, with two kids in the backseat. Got a job as a shoe salesman. Bought a house. Everything was good for us, back then. You could make a living, still.”
For a moment there nothing happened. Then somebody said, “Somethings never change.”
Then my grandpa, he said, “Anyone got some Hank Williams? Anyone want a take a drive to the five-and-dime?”
Nobody said a word. The paramedics were all smiling out of their minds.
When I got there everything had already been decided. Everybody was already as good as they’d ever be.