I had loved him from the beginning; the Shark was a handsome, loving, big brother type guy who always had a hug and smile for me. I would forever be the little flower girl who lived next door. I can still remember studying in my room and hearing the squeaking brakes come to a stop in the driveway.
He knew how long it took him to get back to the store, and used his lunch breaks to the fullest. His mother-in-law often made him a special sandwich or something particularly delicious; of course, these lunches were not without cost. He often had to endure another round of on-going reminders and messages; didn’t matter that he’d already heard them earlier that day. The lunchtime reminders were just an insurance program so, once on the road and through the tunnel toward home, he’d have remembered to pick up and or bring everything home. Like clockwork, I’d hear him leave; he was the only one I ever knew that could backup a car before the engine was fully started!
On occasion, he’d stop by after a day’s work and, finding my retired father at home, goad him into walking down the street for a game of pool. Truth be told, Daddy enjoyed the Shark’s company; as Daddy would remark, “He’s just a big kid– what the hell – I can still beat the pants off him!” And each time they returned, the young Shark would comment, “Man, your dad is really good. Tough to beat, Man…I almost broke my back beating him on that last game.”
Daddy understood the younger Shark better than most, because he understood what it was like to be underestimated at a young age. Daddy had an uncanny sense when it came to summing up a person’s character; the Shark had at once passed Daddy’s litmus test with flying colors. So, though the Shark liked to toot his own horn, Daddy would simply explain, “Hell, the kid gets no credit; I remember what that was like…”
Despite the talk and exaggerated highlights, each enjoyed the other’s company; indeed, sometimes it was difficult to tell who enjoyed it more! Those of us watching the antics and listening to the B.S. that accompanied this spar fest very soon understood all was harmless if not actually therapeutic for them both.
A common foe didn’t hurt, either. Each had a bone to pick with the neighbor; truth be told, one could afford to be harsher than the other… The Shark had to mind his Ps and Qs as he had married the neighbor’s daughter. Daddy didn’t have to mind anything or anybody, so he kept up his playful harassment at the neighbor’s expense and Shark the Son-in-Law’s delight.
In the entirety of Rubberneck Avenue dynamics, this was normally a non-eventful exchange; it was, however, great fun and entertainment for those of us on either side of the driveway.