June 16, 2003

Reader's Choice: Baby's Steak Knife and Winky's Salad

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

Note: This originally appeared in last month's issue...

I was in the middle of a dream playing basketball one-on-one with Walt “Clyde” Frazier in the alley way behind an Italian restaurant in Chicago. There was a hoop set up next to a dumpster and we would stop in between play to sit on folding chairs and drink Gatorade and talk about various things, like the John Locke’s Treatise on Liberty or if Clyde consciously knew what the point spreads were for NY Knicks game before tip-off. A few minutes later, after taking a jump shot, I felt a sharp biting pain in my left arm. I looked down to see that nothing was wrong. A minute later I felt it again, this time the pain seared throughout my bones, which made me start sweating. I fell to my knees and yelled like a rat caught in a glue trap. That’s when I awoke and found Baby pulling a knife out of my arm. The Alabama hellcat stabbed me while I was passed out.

There were a couple of seconds after she stabbed me and before the blood started squirting out where Baby and I calmly stared at each other. Our glances lovingly locked onto one another and we had a tranquil moment. Our symbiotic original connection only lasted for a second maybe two, but it was one of those eternal seconds that seem to last forever and you never want to end. It’s those eclectic moments you come across while thinking about life’s odd idiosyncrasies, while stuck in a sullen slouch at the end of a bar, drinking away the roughness of the day’s grind. Or perhaps that treasured moment comes to mind while staring out the window of an airplane, your eyes bouncing back and forth between the clouds and the endless horizon and your shared memories burn a hole in your pants pocket, like a firecracker with a slow fuse that you lit years ago and simply forgot it was there until one day, POP! It goes off. And as our still bodies breathed together and our moment ended, all serenity vanished and I saw panic, fear, desperation, anger, and redemption jump on top of each other in a scrum and hide behind the pupils in her sky blue eyes. Simultaneously, heavy drops of tears rained from her swollen eyes as intense globs of menacing red blood bubbled out of the two inch cut on my bicep, forming an oval pool on our Salvation Army bought $18 couch.

I gazed at my wound with an elated surprise reaction. Shocked, indeed. Impressed, you betcha. Baby was the type of girl who talked shit about doing things (e.g. getting her G.E.D. and going to beautician school, or kicking out her half-witted half-sister whom had been crashing with us since 9.11, or her many promises to stop smoking Kools) and not once did she ever follow through on any of her shit talking. Until now, that is. For months she threatened to stab me and she finally achieved one of her goals. I beamed with astonished pride on our way to the hospital.

“You know Winky Junior, someday I’m gonna stab yewwwwwwwwwwwwww!” she taunted me one afternoon after she drank too many $1 shots of the daily tequila special held every morning from opening to Noon at Connie’s Lounge, the bar near the airport that she and her half-sister Beatrice would frequent on Sunday mornings before they went to church. When she got wicked wasted, Baby loved making a funny face and pointed her finger at me like a disappointed geriatric Montessori Day school principal who just caught the school’s compulsive masturbator engrossed in a wild whacking off session in the girl’s locker room.

“You’re no good. And I‘m gonna fix your wagon, mister. I’m gonna stab yewwwwwwww! Just like when your Momma stabbed your Daddy and then she had to go to county lock up for six months!!” she screamed almost falling down, “And all your friends made fun of you and your Daddy for losing his eye after your Momma took it out with a salad fork! And that’s when they started calling your Daddy… Winky!”

And soon after all the annoying neighborhood kids started calling me… Winky Junior. It wasn’t funny. I cried myself asleep for 1,457 consecutive dreadful nights. A night out for dinner at Sizzler turned into a calamity, a wretched story told nightly at the local tavern by Angry Petey Picarelli to anyone within earshot after pounding a couple of Boilermakers. And the story unfolds as my family walked to our table from the “All you can eat” salad bar at Sizzler, when I heard my father curse at my mother. The next thing I saw, my mom was storming out of the restaurant and my father’s plate of salad was covered in blood and croutons. I was seven at the time and silently watched in morbid curiosity as the paramedic dislodged the salad fork from my father’s left eye, unable to save it, nor my family’s dignity. In case you were wondering, I haven’t eaten a salad in twenty years.

Baby audaciously sped to the county hospital and I sat unbuckled in the passenger’s seat holding my poorly bandaged arm as high as I could because it seemed to be the right thing to do at the time. She whimpered hysterically and her large tears blurred her vision. Baby’s driving was never stellar, with seven accidents in three years, but both her DUI charges were dropped due to lack of evidence (and because the arresting officer both times was her Uncle Hank.) I took a long look at a distressed Baby. I was disgusted with her crying.

“What the fuck is your problem? I’m the one who got stabbed!”

“I know,” she sniffled, as a mixture of tears and snot made it’s way down her chin and dripped onto the steering wheel.

“You are some piece of work, Baby. For fuck’s sakes! Why is my life with you like a terrible Jerry Springer episode on six hits of bad acid? Complete with vodka induced knife fights, crystal meth smuggling Klansmen, and other various deviant canine S & M trailer park sexcapades!

“And I’m so sorry Winky. I’ll never do this again. I’ll do anything right now for you. Anything!”

Baby was a mess. I know why she stabbed me. I probably deserved it. I lost her inheritance when the Dork Brothers scammed me on a ghastly drug deal a few weeks earlier. I slowly plotted my revenge and I was going to get her money back. My plan was underway and needed more time to let everything evolve. Baby was impatient. In a hissy rage fueled by unfounded jealousy, Baby flipped out. Mulva, the sixteen year old girl who worked at Popeye’s gave me an extra biscuit earlier in the day, which Baby psychotically mistook for a secret sign that Mulva was giving me blow jobs behind Popeye’s when Baby was at work. After I fell asleep, Baby snorted all my cocaine then drank a half a bottle of Stoli Orange. When she found the steak knife, she took a deep breath and prayed. Moments later, she thrust it into my arm.

“Pull over right now. You’re going to get us killed the way you’re fucking driving. I’ll drive the rest of the way.”

Baby slammed on the breaks and she got out of her car. I slid over into the driver’s seat, but before I did that I locked all the doors. Baby was locked out. As she pounded her fists on the window I pulled away and drove off to the hospital alone. And that was last time I saw Baby. She was jumping up and down hysterically on Route 56, drunker than Ted Kennedy on Patriots Day, cursing like a Marine with shrapnel in his foot, and wearing nothing but flip flops and her favorite Dixie Chicks T-shirt which she wore to bed every night.

As her image grew smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror, all I could think about was how she’d angelically kiss me on the forehead before she went to sleep and she’d soothingly whisper, “G’niiiiite Winky Junior.”

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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