Excerpt #21 - American Dreamer

What a grand scene it would be.  Something from nothing.  Nothing to greatness.

“And, Andy, I want that pesky situation with that rabble-rouser resolved by then, so that it’s not a distraction when the boat, or, rather, yacht arrives from the Caymans, understood?”

“Sure thing Daddy-O, whatever ya need, I’ll make it happen,” Andy replied, with a lot of confidence but no plan.    

“Why you gett’in such a big boat, you don’t know anything about boats, Father?” Jake muttered.

“Whatcha gonna call it Pops?” Andy asked.

“Now, Andy, that’s a secret, you know,” Thad replied before Angela interjected from the other side of the table, where she sat quietly with her three daughters.

“It’s like you don’t tell anyone what you’re calling your baby, and, in fact, when I was pregnant with you . . . ” Angela said.

“Mother, no, it’s not the same, it’s not the same at all, and, we’ve all heard that story before, and well, okay, I was going to keep it a surprise, but what the heck, I just decided on a name yesterday and she’s gonna be called, American Dreamer, and when she launches we’re going to play Livin in America, like in that Rocky movie, which one was it?”

“Rocky IV, dad, and remember Apollo got killed by the Russian dude, but whatever.”

“It’s a good song, and Daddy likes it,” Mikey replied.

“Why don’t you play Born in the USA, that’s a great song, about how awesome our country is.”

“It’s a protest song, about Viet Nam.”

“Bullshit, protesting what? The war? Oh yeah, like we could just let Viet Nam take over the world? Sorry. Not happen’in, and by the way, we won that war, Dad, tell him, tell him we won, like you always told me.”

“Boys, now, let’s get back to the subject at hand.”

“The war was good for your father, it was the only reason he went to college, so he didn’t have to go fight in the war.”

“Mother, enough,” Thad yelled as he pounded his hand on the table. He never liked talking about the war.

“Draft dodger.”

“What did you say, Jake, were you talking to Dad that way?" 

“I think he called you a draft dodger, dear?” 

Mother, I said enough, and I mean it, enough is enough is enough.” 

“Enough?” 

“Enough!”

Andy broke the silence. “Well I love the name, American Dreamer, it’s really cool, whatever song we play when the boat launches, and I’ll see to it that the sound system is thumping this Fourth of July.” 

“Well, don’t count your turkeys before they hatch, we have to dredge the channels down the waterway, because the boat is so big, and pulls a big draft or something.”

“Shouldn’t you have measured first, you know what my grandpappy always said, ‘measure twice, cut once.’” 

“Mother, I don’t give a rats ass about what your grandpappy always said, and I never heard him say that once, and I actually built a garage with him once, we cut all kinds of wood and he didn’t say shit about cutting twice or measuring, or whatever.” 

“Very well, dear, then don’t measure at all.”

An uncomfortable silence ensued. When Thad took his first bite of dinner, his family then proceeded to shovel in the dinner their mother had prepared and which had now gone cold because it was custom that the family could not eat until Thad took the first bite. It was an old school tradition which they honored very strictly, like wolves in a pack who always let the Alpha Male eat first.

Unfortunately for Thad, the winter had been extremely cold and the lake remained frozen until well into April, so that the dredging could not start until much later than planned. There was such a backlog among dredgers on the peninsula that Thad’s project was not commenced until late June. Thad was irate when the dredging foreman called him and explained that the government and commercial shipping projects took priority, by law no less, on order of the Army Corps of Engineers.

In response to his vehement protestations, he was told that he could “take it up with Uncle Sam.” And so take it to Uncle Sam he did, writing letters to congressmen, subtly threatening to withdraw his generous – and sometimes under-the-table support – only to be met with the claim that their “hands were tied,” which infuriated him even further, prompting him on one occasion to tell one of the engineers “I’ll tie a rope around your neck,” which prompted an inquiry into whether the statement rose to the level of a threat upon the life of a federal employee.” Andy was handling the investigation by hoping it would just blow over on the theory that “time healed all wounds.” 

We could go on and on about Thad’s back-and-forth with the Army Corps of Engineers, but one thing’s for sure: Thad had met his match. He went around town calling them names and indicating that while they may be in the Army, they were not “my kind of soldier,” they’re just “pencil-pushin sons a bitches,” and “my kinda soldier is out there fighting, not just bitching about how deep a waterway can be, or that they can’t get the job done because the weather didn’t comply, well a real soldier, he gets the job done, come heaven or high water.” 

Having failed to move himself up the priority list with the Army Corps of Engineers, his dreams of trolling up and down the Waterway on the Fourth of July were in jeopardy, because there was no way that he would be able to pull his boat up to the docks he had already installed before dredging the waterway. Since there was no way to add water to the waterway, dredging was his only option, and the reality of the situation was that they would only have time to dredge up the channel leading up to Jake’s dock, which, of the 7 channels to be dug out had the shortest length and least depth, and was thus the quickest project and could be completed before the Fourth of July.

Although Thad’s preference would be to take pictures of the 4th of July christening of his boat in front of his mansion, the renovated farmhouse he had purchased for Jake wasn’t too shabby, so it would do. In addition, the event would have the appearance of doing something nice for Jake, who was widely regarded as what one might call the black sheep of the family.

This is why Jake was pressing the construction of the Jetpack Parasailer so voraciously.  He wanted to upstage his dad’s little party by flying overhead so fast and so high that everyone would forget about the stupid boat.  Anyone can drive a boat, but not anyone can fly like that. In his family, this stunt would be held in very high regard, as they were fanatical when it came to extreme sports. While other kids were playing baseball, fishing or skiing for their recreation, the Tweed clan was grew up jumping dirt bikes, crashing four wheelers, snorting coke and tearing up the protected sand dunes with their retrofitted dune buggies, which could outrun the park rangers, who turned a blind eye in exchange for the “Christmas gifts” Thad handed out to public officials every year.


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Excerpts For The Pandemic
by M. Christian Rossman
©publishing313, Inc. 2020