In 1969 my father stopped living with us. I was five.
Fatherless during a time a boy needed a strong male influence the most.
My mother began dating. There were many losers that showed up at our front door. Matter of fact, out of all the men she dated, I can’t recall one good one. There was a guy whose name was Joe, he was a complete asshole.
I spotted him from a mile away.
He was a phony. Full of shit. And to top it off, he loved the bottle.
I first met Joe in January of 1983 during a Super Bowl party in Timboo’s.
My father invited me down to watch the game between the Washington Redskins and the Miami Dolphins. Dad’s nickname was “Gooch” I have no idea how he got it. One day I asked him and he ignored me.
Despite Gooch not living with us I’d visit him down at the bar from time to time. I think it started back when I was twelve. On Saturday mornings he would come by 228A Prospect Park West to pick me up.
I loved hanging out in Timboo’s. Only problem though, my mother was there that night too. I sat in a booth alone drinking glasses of soda and eating pretzels. My mother stood in the corner at one end of the bar with her friends and the Gooch stood at the opposite end with his friends keeping an eye on the game.
At half-time the Dolphins led 17-10. Someone dropped a few quarters in the Jukebox and the jams started playing. With music blasting throughout the bar, Timboo’s turned into American Bandstand. The patrons began dancing, including mom. Gooch stayed on his end shaking his head in disgust.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?” I heard Gooch ask out loud.
Mom was dancing to ABBA’s, “Dancing Queen” with some tall guy that had long, dark hair and glasses. He was kind of goofy.
After the song ended she brought him over to where I was sitting. The second half was about to start so I had no interest in talking to them.
“Steven I want you to meet Joe,” she said.
“I’m watching the game,” I replied as I had my eyes glued to the TV.
Mom and her friend stood there.
“Well, hello to you,” the guy said sarcastically to me as they both walked away back to their spot at the bar.
“Yeah, stay the fuck over there,” I said.
I wasn’t interested in meeting him. I hated every guy my mother dated. This one was no different.
After the game was over, which the Redskins won 27-17 the Gooch called a car service and sent me home. As I was walking towards the front door of the bar, I noticed mom playing pinball with the long-haired creep standing behind her watching her closely. Too close if you ask me.
The car service was out in front on fifth avenue waiting for me.
“Forget the car, the guy is staying,” I shouted to the driver as he pulled away. I kept the five bucks Gooch gave me and walked home. When I got home I grabbed my basketball and went to the schoolyard.
It was close to midnight. I didn’t want to be home when they got there. I figured they would just fall asleep soon as they got there.
The long-haired creep wound up moving in with us. He paid our rent and bought our groceries; he had a pretty good job so my mother really liked him.
One night he came home piss drunk. This turned into a normal occurrence. It seemed like we had an argument every night. I was sitting on the couch watching the Knicks game.
“You stole money from me,” he said as he stepped in front of the television blocking my view.
“No I didn’t, get the fuck out-of-the-way, asshole!”
Mom was in the kitchen on the phone.
“Yes you did, you little fuck!”
I really wasn’t in the mood to argue with him so I got up off the couch and began to walk away.
“You’re a thief,” he shouted to me as he grabbed my arm.
“Get your fucking hands off me, asshole!” I screamed at him. His breathe stunk and he had a hard time standing. All I had to do was blow on him and I’m sure he’d fall down.
“What’s going on?” mom asked, as she hung up the phone.
“Your son stole money from me.”
“I thought you were going to let me handle it?” I heard her ask him as I walked into my bedroom.
“Fuck it, I’m gonna handle it,” he said.
The drunken bum began to walk towards my room.
“JOE, STOP IT!” mom screamed at him as he ignored her.
The bum had accused me of stealing money from him (he was right, but I denied it)
As he stood in front of my room, the yelling continued. I had a hard time understanding him, his speech was slurred due to the alcohol. I got up from my bed, pushed him out-of-the-way and ran out of the apartment.
“C’MON MOTHERFUCKER, STEP OUTSIDE!” I screamed from the hallway.
Mom and Joe were arguing in the apartment.
“COME ON YOU DRUNKEN BUM, LET’S SEE HOW TOUGH YOU ARE!” I added as I walked down the stairs.
I never expected him to follow me downstairs but as I got down the two flights of stairs I heard him yelling at my mother on his way down the stairs.
“I’m gonna teach this kid a lesson,” he said as my mother screamed at him not to hurt me.
I was going to wait for him to come out the front door and clobber him with my Louisville slugger. I could hear my mother out the window.
“STEVEN, GET YOUR ASS BACK UP HERE!” she screamed.
“NO, HE’S AN ASSHOLE, I DIDN’T STEAL HIS MONEY!” as I looked up at her, lumber in hand, ready to tee off.
“What are you gonna do with that bat?” she asked.
“I’m gonna smash his fuckin’ head in.”
I noticed a few of my friends walking across the ninth avenue towards me.
“Yo Fin, what’s goin on?” John asked me.
“This mother fucker coming down the stairs is gonna get it!” I said.
“Don’t worry, we’ll take care of him,” John assured me.
Boy did they take care of him. They went after mom’s boyfriend the minute he stepped out on the sidewalk.
Joe never messed with me again.
And no, the official scorer did not charge me with an at-bat.