48. Approximate Minutes Reading (AMR): 20
Introduction to Characters
Jab - Bridgeport Police Officer
Jab - Bridgeport Police Officer
Merrill Gaudett - Bridgeport Police Officer
THE BOLAN CHRONICLES
—It’s’ Merrill, Not Sir—
Thanksgiving day arrived, and Jake had invited two of his cop buddies to join them. One of them, a guy whom Jake called ‘Jab,’ was divorced. Jab was average height, had straight jet-black hair that he always had greased and flatly combed back. And he had a belly on him. It wasn’t the typical beer belly. It sort of hung just below his belt, and when he moved quickly, it would jiggle. Try as he might to hide the jello-like blubber, it was tough to miss.
Jab was 31 years old and had a reputation for being a fighter. Within the first two years of duty he had scrapped with four other officers; three as a result of his nonstop mouth, and one with an officer who’d referred to Jab as “Ripple.” Not a thought came to Jab’s mind that didn’t produce a vocal interpretation, and though he’d learned at least to buffer some of his comments, he still found himself in frequent squabbles with colleagues and acquaintances. He was married for a grand total of nine months, and he had no children.
And there was Merrill Gaudett, a newbie. A single, early-thirties guy who had, four months prior, been hired by the Bridgeport Police Department, Merrill was fairly quiet--to himself most of the time. He was tall, athletic, and sculpted. But it was his long, wavy red hair that distinguished him from most others. His hair was not a shade of red, not dishwater blonde, not reddish, but true, fire red. Merrill had been hired for a short stint by the East Providence Police Department in Rhode Island, but had decided to change venues as a result of his displeasure with the grooming standards. He hated short hair. Bridgeport’s standards were much more lax, and though he wasn’t as satisfied with the city of Bridgeport as he was with East Providence, he was much more comfortable at work, not only because of the grooming standards, but also because of the kinds of people with whom he worked.
Donna, though not thrilled with the idea of having Jake’s friends over for Thanksgiving dinner, nonetheless came to the realization that Jake’s attempt at considering her wants and desires was just that; short-lived.
Jab and Merrill had both arrived by one-o’clock, plenty of time to see the Eagles vs. Cowboys game. Jake called Donna into the living room and introduced her to his friends. Jab commented jokingly about how Jake must have lied to her about how much money he had in some international account somewhere, otherwise why would a pretty lady like this marry him? Jake had then closely inspected her attire. She wore a loose-fitting long dress that covered everything but her ankles. He was satisfied with that and realized that Jab was simply being his usual flappy-lipped self.
When Merrill reached out to shake Donna’s hand, she looked at Jake. Then she grabbed his hand and smiled, “It’s nice to meet you.”
“And you, Ma’am. I hope that we aren’t a bother on Thanksgiving Day.”
Donna replied, “Oh, no. We’re happy to have you.”
“Well,” Merrill continued, “I appreciate your hospitality.”
Donna paused for a moment. Then she said, “The game’s about to start, so you guys can get comfortable if you’d like.”
Pat Summerall and John Madden were the announcers for the big game, and Jab couldn’t help but comment on Summerall’s voice, “Okay, with a name like ‘Pat,’ I’m not surprised at this guy’s fag-sounding voice. It’s football, for god’s sakes, can’t we get someone in there who’s got a pair o’ balls?”
Jake replied, “Jab, what the hell are you talkin’ about? Summerall’s been an NFL announcer since god’s birthday—he’s an icon!”
“He’s a third-rate announcer, that’s what he is!” Jab turned to Merrill, “What do you think, Merrill? Does this guy sound to you like a representative of a game where the biggest, meanest guys in the world come out on a field and run straight into each other for three hours?”
Merrill smirked, “I don’t know, Jab.” Then he looked at Jake. “New NFL regulations…three hours? My God!”
Laughing, Jake said to Jab, “Commercials and all, following your rules, this game won’t end until midnight!”
Jab acted like he hadn’t heard a word. “Shit! And they probably pay him upwards of a million a year, dumb sons o’ bitches!”
This went on for the entire first quarter of the game while the cops ate chips and peanuts and cheese slices and olives and crackers. Jake had called on Donna for refills every ten minutes, and she was only happy to serve with a smile.
During a commercial just before the second quarter of the game, Jab asked, “Hey, Donna, did you guys happen to have any beer in the house?” He’d been holding off, though it had taken everything in him.
“Uh.” Donna stuttered, “We’ve got…well…we have some…”
Jake said, “Let me interrupt, here. What she’s trying say is that the only alcohol in this house is anything but that lightweight beer shit. See, we can supply you with some REAL alcohol!”
By now, Donna had begun to walk back to the kitchen.
“Donna!” Jake called, “Why don’t we give ole’ Jab here a taste of your own medicine, see if the big man can handle it.”
Jab laughed and replied, “Shit! Bring it on, tough guy!”
Jake continued, “Bring out some o’ that brandy you’ve got up there above the stove. But be sure to serve it on the rocks. The big man wouldn’t be able to handle it otherwise.”
Merrill only sat and listened with a smile. When Jake had asked if he had wanted something to drink, he had replied, “Pepsi’s fine, Bolan.”
“Suit yourself, newbie.”
Donna brought out a short glass of Cognac and set it on the coffee table in front of Jab. “Here you are.”
Jab looked at Jake and grabbed the glass, raising it high above his head, “Here’s to Philly and our soaring Eagles! May they kick the livin’ horse shit out o’ those Dallas cowgirls!” And he threw the brandy back without a pause.
Donna watched him from the kitchen. She knew that within a matter of minutes the mouth of this ratchet jaw cop would either get worse or completely shut down. She hoped to God for the latter.
Jake looked at her and said, “And what about your husband? Nothing to drink for him?”
Donna replied, “Would you like some Cognac, too, Jake?”
Jake looked at Merrill and smiled, “Newbie, do I look like a loser? ‘Cause only losers drink hard liquor.” And he laughed out loud.
Merrill noticed the change in Donna’s demeanor. “Oh, what the heck,” he said, “Maybe pour this here loser a shot.”
Jab lifted his glass and said to Donna, “One more, if you please, Miss Bolan. This here loser might as well prove his status…full on stud!”
“Donna, where’s Dean?” Jake suddenly asked.
“He’s in his room, reading.”
“What the hell! Tell him to come in here right now. I’m not gonna let him miss a good game on Thanksgiving Day.”
She walked the hall and opened Dean’s door. He was sitting on his bed, looking through a book he’d found in his mom’s box marked ‘Donna’s old childhood books.’ The Story of the Blues.
Donna said, “Dean Honey, where did you find that?”
“It was in your books box out in the garage.”
She peeked around the door then walked over to Dean and whispered, “Honey, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that book, but you might not want your dad to see you reading it. He’s not fond of that kind of literature. You remember about the…”
“Yeah, Mom, I do.” Dean closed the book and slid it under his bed. “He won’t find out, don’t worry.”
“Okay, Honey. Your father would like for you to join he and his friends, so you better get out there right away.”
By the end of the second half of the game, Jab had passed out on the couch. Saliva spilled out of his mouth like a leaky faucet. Jake walked over with his camera and took several close-up pictures. “He’s gonna love this!”
Jab mumbled something incoherently.
Merrill was entertained, but he was more glued to the game than was Jake, and when the Eagles scored their third touchdown just prior to the fourth quarter, he’d let out his first cheer, surprising Jake.
“Geez, Merrill, at least now I know who you’re rooting for.” And he laughed hard. But Merrill hadn’t responded at all. He simply sat there staring at the television set. And Dean noticed that his father seemed a bit annoyed at that. He repeated, “Hey, Merrill, you been an Eagles fan a long time?”
Merrill replied without looking at Jake, “I’m not an Eagles fan at all; I just can’t stand the Cowboys.” Then he looked straight at Jake and said, “They remind me of bullies who think their…” And he looked over at Dean, smiled, then continued, “Bullies who think their poop don’t stink.”
Jake sneered and said, “Yeah. I guess so.”
Donna had been furiously working in the kitchen, frantically mashing the potatoes while the turkey cooked in the oven. But when she heard Merrill use the word ‘bullies,’ she paused. She quietly walked to the corner of the kitchen and listened.
“Yeah,” Merrill continued, “My ole’ man loved the Cowboys—seemed to think he was one himself. Wore the boots and the big belt buckle—the whole shootin’ match as they say. The only thing missin’ was a horse, but come to think of it, he treated my momma like she was a horse, so maybe that made him a real cowboy, huh?” And he looked back at the set and said, “Yep—them Cowboys gettin’ a real ass-whoopin’ today!”
Donna stood frozen. A mix of fear, anxiousness, and excitement ran through her. When the conversation paused, she stepped back to the sink and began washing her hands. She wondered if Merrill knew what Jake was really like. Had Jake made enough thoughtless comments at work about Donna or Dean to clue Merrill into the truth of his abuse of them?
The third quarter was another good one for Philadelphia, having scored two more touchdowns. But it was a quiet third quarter in the Bolan living room. Jake sat watching the game, but his mind was preoccupied with Merrill’s comments. Bolan wished that Jab hadn't fallen asleep, and he knew that there was little chance he would wake up before it was time to drag him out.
Following the start of the fourth quarter, Merrill stood and asked Jake if he could use the bathroom. Jake pointed toward the hall and said, "First door on the left. Leave a quarter.”
Merrill looked at Dean and said, "When I'm done, you can get that quarter before your dad gets to it.” And he smiled.
Little Dean smiled and said, "Yes, sir."
Merrill said, "Wow!" And he looked at Jake, "Quite the respectful young man, huh?"
Jake replied, "I try, newbie, I try."
Merrill's smile disappeared as he turned and walked to the bathroom. Jake looked at Dean and said, “You see, son, people notice when a job is being done correctly. They recognize a quality product when they see one.” He paused, “And that’s you, Dean. You’re a quality product.”
Donna stepped into the living room, “Jake, would you like wine with dinner?”
Jake kept his eyes glued to the television, “Sure. That’s fine.”
“Do you have a preference…red or white?”
Donna looked at Dean and smiled. She was pleased to see him sitting on the couch, watching a game with his father. She continued, “We have a Chardonnay and a Chenin Blanc. Which would you prefer?”
A bit annoyed, Jake answered abruptly, “You decide. I don’t care.”
“Well, the Chardonnay goes well with chicken and pork. Then again, it’s a wine that really seems to do well with any kind of poultry dish, and turkey is…”
Jake turned to Donna and barked, “Woman! Let me make this crystal clear. I-don’t-care-what-wine-you-serve.” Then he added, “Now get back to the kitchen.”
Merrill had been standing in front of the mirror in Dean’s bathroom and had heard every word. He took a deep breath then ran his fingers through his fire-red hair. He looked around. The wallpaper had images of all types of balls--basketballs, baseballs, soccer balls, tennis balls--and the shower curtain matched the wallpaper.
Curious, Merrill opened the small cabinet hanging on the wall. Inside, he found nothing unusual, but he did notice that everything was perfect—its placement and its condition. An immaculate clear glass held a small tube of toothpaste with a roller on the end. The toothbrush lay just behind the glass, facing upward. A roll of dental floss sat next to the glass, against the back of the cabinet. On the second shelf, another glass held a comb and a tube of Brylcreem. He picked it up and read the inscription: “Just a Little Dab’ll Do ya!”
A small mirror lay next to the glass. And next to the mirror was a tiny pair of scissors. On the top shelf Merrill saw three cans of shoe polish. To the right of the polish, a small polish brush sat next to a larger one. Though the cans were perfectly clean, Merrill could tell by the ware of the brushes that they were frequently used.
Closing the cabinet door, he noticed a stack of index cards. They had been cut in half and placed neatly in the corner of the top shelf. He reached up and grabbed the stack. The top card had 'NH' written neatly in the center. He began looking through each one. 'A goal is a dream with a deadline.' 'Action is the real measure of intelligence.' 'Don't wait. The time will never be just right.' 'Fears are nothing more than a state of mind.' 'Ideas are the beginning points of all fortunes.' 'No man is ever whipped until he is conquered in his own mind.'
Merrill replaced the ‘NH’ card on the top and returned the stack to its place. He noticed a second stack at the opposite end of the same shelf. He picked it up. This time, the top card had the letters ‘DC’ neatly printed on it. He shuffled through the stack and found more quotes: ‘Fear doesn’t exist anywhere, except in the mind.’ ‘Fear not those who argue but those who dodge.’ ‘If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive.’ ‘Take a chance. All life is a chance.’ ‘The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.’
Merrill read the next card and paused. He was suddenly a little boy again, and as he’d look upward into his father’s hard face he heard him growl, “Success is getting what you want, son. Happiness is wanting what you get. Now, repeat what you just heard!”
It occurred to him the impact that something so long ago still had, recalling it so clearly, and the feelings that accompanied the memory weren’t good.
Merrill returned the stack of cards and closed the cabinet door. He paused, remembering the horribly boring hours of memorization and reading that his father had forced him to do. Even as a young elementary student, he had become very familiar with icons of American history, and though his interests were always in other things, until he had graduated from high school and had taken the first chance he had to ‘escape,’ his father had kept him from those things.
When Merrill finally returned, Jake, said, “Gees, Merrill, hope everything came out alright!” And he smiled.
“Oh yeah,” He replied, “Just fine.”
At the two-minute mark, the first of a long set of commercials started, and Jake got up from the couch and stretched, “God, I sometimes wonder if these games aren’t set up. How could a professional football team lose this badly? Shit! What a waste.” Then he announced, “And now it’s time for the king of the castle to bowel unburden. You’ll excuse me, gentlemen.”
When Jake closed the bedroom door behind him, Merrill asked Dean, “So, what do you like to do, Dean--I mean, do you have any hobbies?”
Dean glanced toward the hallway then back at Merrill, “Yes, sir. I do.” He thought for a moment then said, “I like to read, and I like music.”
A bit taken aback, Merrill replied, “Oh, that’s great. And I’m thinking you’re a sports fanatic too, right?”
“I don’t care about sports, sir. I have no interest in any sport,” And he looked at the television and added, “Including football.”
“So you just like hangin’ out with Dad then, huh?”
Dean offered no reply.
“What kinds of books do you like?”
Dean quickly rattled off a list of books he’d read, both fiction and non.
“Wow! Do you have a favorite?”
Dean paused once more. He thought hard about his response. Something in him hardened—pushed away the fear, the frustration, and he said, “Yes, Officer. I very much enjoyed reading about a delinquent who received the soul of a dead Indian and was haunted by it all of his life, even after he became a famous rock star.” There was silence. Donna had heard the comment and was stunned. And just when she thought there was nothing more to be said, she heard Dean again. This time, it was short and direct, “But my favorites aren’t favored by the king.” Then he mumbled softly, “And his subjects be damned.”
Merrill was both shocked and fascinated by Dean’s response. Immediately, he connected with the boy. Quietly, he replied, “Dean, I think I know exactly who you’re talking about, and if so, I’m with you there, my friend.” He paused and looked around, “Morrison…Doors?”
Dean smiled immediately, “Yes. Jim Morrison.” And suddenly the smile disappeared as Dean looked toward the hall. “But I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Okay,” Merrill replied, “Not right now, anyway.” And he winked at Dean.
Donna had been listening to the dialogue and was pleased, though surprised at the honesty between these two who knew next to nothing about one another yet seemed to have found a connection. She was impressed with the way Merrill had listened so intently to Dean, even if it was for only a minute. Dean’s father had never done that. Dean’s father was always the forceful master, the wise one, insisting that his followers observe and absorb his knowledge and shrewdness. He had no time for wise-cracks or laughing or foolishness, unless of course he was amongst his friends. He rarely watched or listened to sports, so Donna knew that this day, for Jake, was just another opportunity to further sharpen his reputation. It had nothing to do with family or love or caring.
Jake returned and sat in his chair. He looked at Merrill and asked, “Anything exciting happen while I was out?”
“A Philadelphia field goal and ‘dat be it.”
Under his breath, Jake said, “Jesus H. Christ, it’s a set up, I tell ya. A goddamned conspiracy!” Then he yelled, “Donna! How’s that turkey-grub comin’ along?”
“I’m only about ten minutes from ready, Jake.”
Dean asked his father if he could be excused to the kitchen. He asked his mom if he could help her with anything, then he pulled her in and whispered, “Please!”
She smiled. “You bet, Honey. Why don’t you help me by putting the plates and napkins and silverware out on the table. I’ve already placed the mats, so you’ll know exactly how many you need and where they go.”
Dean finished the task in a matter of minutes. He placed everything in perfect order, including the folding and arrangement of the napkins, the placement and direction of the forks, knives and spoons, and the distance of the plates from the edge of the table. His mother watched him with pride. She smiled as he seemed to have so much concern and put so much effort into completing the task perfectly. He was, indeed, an unusual child, and she prided herself in him. And she was grateful that he loved her—that he depended upon her for his needs and that he seemed to trust her above all others. But still, she thought, I’m so impressed with the conversation with that Merrill guy.
Jab slept for the entire remainder of the afternoon and all the way through mealtime. Jake had tried to wake him but without luck. He lay in the same spot for an entire three hours, and by the time he finally woke and dragged himself off of the couch to leave, he had left a rather disgusting pool of spittle on the edge of one of the pillows.
Dinner conversation was light—the perfectly cooked turkey, the creamy mashed potatoes. Jake said very little, however. Yes, he thought the dinner was just fine—delicious, in fact--but that's what he'd expected. It was Thanksgiving, for God sakes.
When Dean asked to be excused from the table, Jake said, "Dean, look down at your plate."
Dean noticed a bit of stuffing that remained. He grabbed his fork and ate it then asked coldly, "May I be excused?"
Donna smiled, "Yes, Honey, you sure may." And she looked at Jake. He stared at her for a moment and continued to eat. Then she looked at Merrill. He widened his eyes and smiled ever so slightly.
Dean left the table and headed back to his room. He plopped himself next to his bed on the floor and reached under and up into the box spring where he fumbled with a publication then pulled it out from between the springs. Donna had a reason for asking Dean to keep the magazine safely hid.
Creem certainly wasn't a publication his father would have approved, but Dean had determined to find a way to free himself of his father’s clutches. He was stuck, but there were moments, minutes, and sometimes hours even, when he could find some pleasure in his own passions.
He opened it to an article written by Lester Bangs called 'Deep Purple: Who do we think we are?' It was a republication of an article that Bangs had written 16 years prior, a review of the newest album by the band. In the author’s view, Deep Purple made music that was somewhat meaningless, but that “…at least it had some purpose—it was fun!”
Dean finished the article and stuffed it back up into the bed. He turned around and leaned against the wall under the window and smiled. He was happy with his escape. He’d had to put up with a worthless and mind-numbing football game, but he spent the last part of his day filling his mind with something that, to him, had meaning.
When he heard his parents talking with Merrill, he walked out and saw them standing next to the front door. Merrill announced that he thought he'd better be leaving--that he had a long drive ahead of him--that he was on his way to East Providence to spend a couple of days with his mom. Donna thanked him for coming, and she wished him a safe drive. Jake patted Merrill on the back and said, “Thanks for comin’ out, newbie. I guess I’ll see ya’ next week, huh?”
“You will,” He said, “ And I look forward to it, Bolan.”
Jake paused. “Alright.”
Merrill thanked Donna for a delicious meal. He offered his hand. Donna reached out and grabbed it, and she smiled. Then Merrill looked at Dean standing at the end of the hallway. He walked over and softly said, “Dean, I’m glad I met you.” And he put his hand out. “I think I get you, and you get me, right?”
Dean reached out and took his hand, “Yes, sir.”
“From now on, it’s Merrill, not ‘sir,’ okay?”
Dean’s smile broadened.