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Tom Grace

September 7, 2010

What you see out the windshield

We were in the old silver truck, dripping wet in bathing suits, three on a bench seat, ready to pull out and leave the park Sunday.

 

"I don't know, but it does," I said.

"I don't want to go back to school," Buddy said. "I want this summer to last till next summer."

"I remember feeling like that," Uncle Chet said. "It lasted right up until I retired."

"That's because you had summers off," I said.

"True," he inserted the key in the ignition, but didn't turn it. I looked at him, saw his eyes trained straight ahead across the grass to a picnic table by the water's edge.

There, a tall, bare-chested middle-aged man with a slight paunch seemed quite agitated. He had his hand to his ear, apparently on a cell phone, and he began stomping around the picnic table.

On the far side, a dark-haired woman, perhaps a little younger, sat on the bench, watching him quietly.

"Trouble there," Uncle Chet murmured, and our eyes followed his to the scene before us as the man yelled a few slurred epithets that rang out across the pond, then dropped the phone.

"Must have heard from his broker," Uncle Chet said.

"Better cover your ears," I said to Buddy and started to roll up my window.

"I've heard that stuff before," the 9-year-old said.

"Pay attention," Uncle Chet said tersely, not looking aside, and we did as the man turned on his companion, yelling at her now. The few others in the park were watching, too as, like an angry bear, he snapped at her, swearing, fulminating, threatening.

She leaned away from him, bending back across the table, but she didn't run, didn't cry for help.

Should we do something? Honk the horn? Confront him? Call the cops?

Like bullets, these thoughts raced through my mind, but we just watched, transfixed as he invaded her space and she bent over backwards, but didn't break. And there for a second they held that position _ macabre ballet. I held my breath, hand on the doorknob, but he didn't hit her.

Then as he straightened up, fists clenched, barking at her, she told him to go to hell, and he backed off a degree.

"This is just like the drive in," I said as we watched out the windshield. Another woman cheered the first one on from about a hundred feet away and asked "You need any help, honey?"

" No," the woman said coolly.

"What's a drive-in?" Buddy asked.

"Outdoor movie," I said.

"Shh, I want to hear what they say," Uncle Chet said.

"Looks like it's over," I said.

"It's always the man, isn't it?" he sighed, sitting back as the woman hoisted a picnic basket, lugged it to her car.

"You mean the aggressor?"

"Sure, always the man who resorts to violence," Uncle Chet said. "Wasn't it a man who killed Kennedy, Lincoln, King, a man who started the Iraqi War, the Afghan War, every war, come to think of it, as well as most shootings, beatings, lynchings, broken noses and split lips?"

I nodded, still watching out the windshield.

"And wasn't it 19 men who attacked us on 9/11?" he asked. "Wasn't it male depravity on display, those heinous men, working for a henchman, murdering hundreds of women and children, Muslims and Christians, old and young, right before our eyes?"

"That's true," I said.

"So, from now on, let's keep men out of Lower Manhattan, out of respect for their victims," Uncle Chet said. "They're violent, self-serving lunatics and history shows they can't be trusted."

Cooperstown bureau Reporter Tom Grace is traveling with his Uncle Chet, who he says is imaginary. Grace's column appears every other week. For more of his columns, visit www.thedailystar.com/tomgrace

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