tI had an absent father. To be fair, he was present, just somewhere else.  My father was a kind, generous, loving man , only not to me. We didn’t live together most of the time. Dad lived in our house and I holed up in a tent in the backyard.  But it was never dull. Especially after dad got out of prison. All his pals would come over and plan ways to take out a gas station. I didn’t feel left out though when the guys were there because I got to shine their bullets. I would come home from school, spend a little time in my tent and then come in through the screen door. Dad put a lock on but I always managed to pick it. Dad was awful proud of me for doing that. The fellas figured I might come in handy one day when they graduated to bigger things. They were gonna go all out and break into the mayor’s home and force him to do away with special regulations giving added reserved parking spaces to the handicapped. Not that they didn’t respect the rights of the disabled . But dad believed firmly that the handicapped had special needs that should be taken care of by other handicapped people. He resented the fact that every time you go into a shopping center, you have to park so far away from the stores even when it was raining. Dad never liked water to fall on his head when he was out and about, and he always forgot to take his umbrella. It would rile him no end that people in wheelchairs got to park where he couldn’t. The fellas would inquire to dad why a brawny outlaw like himself didn’t just park where he wanted, but dad cut those conversations in the quick by reminding them  to mind their own bizwacks, adding that he might be on the outside of the law, but that didn’t mean he was not a person of principle. He said he wouldn’t be caught dead stealing from the handicapped. His sister, you see, was handicapped. He loved her dearly even if he did sometimes push her around a little bit. Poor lady she was too. Her head had shrunk almost to the size of a walnut, and because the top of it was kind of grooved and  her thinning hair was brown-like, people sometimes mistook her for a walnut.  Dad teased her about it. “Okay. Wa lets shovel you into the vehicle and roll you up to Walmart. Like that, wouldn’t you, now?” And she’d give out a croaky little laugh, and then they’d be off. Those times dad did park in a handicapped space, thanking her for coming with him. On those occasions he would knock himself out rolling her around the store as long as she didn’t talk to him. He did take advantage of those occasions, picking up a few things he needed (box cutters, flares, tape) gratis, shoving the merchandise under Wa’s woollen dress. Who would frisk a wizened, old disabled person, dad figured. And if they did, dad had an excuse handy: He would have assured any law enforcer that she was up to her tricks, and that he’d take care of the old girl himself, but please to excuse her indiscretions. Dad could be quite a charmer when he wanted  to be.

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