"So—let me get this straight. Some little, prepubescent boy—called Special Ed, did this to your face?" stated Uncle Robbie incredulously upon examining my face and listening to my tale.
Answering his question, I nodded and immediately regretted my decision as the pain centered on the side of my head intensified.
"But I told the nurse I slipped on a puddle in front of the water fountain outside the girls restroom and hit my head on the spigot."
The school nurse had called the house, claiming I was in an unfit condition to continue on with my school day, and that she feared my appearance would frighten the other students, ultimately keeping them from their studies. Th e only person home at the time to take the call had been Uncle Robbie. Both Grandma Georgette and Grandpa Henry had been out.
Grandma Georgette had been in Beinde, a large city about an hour and a half North of Westmont, for the morning with her girlfriends, no doubt terrorizing the keno parlors with her crude mouth, floral shower cap, and inability to hold her liquor. Grandpa Henry had been at work, coaching gym class at Westmont secondary school; the gym being a mere fifty yards away from the nurses station, but still, she hadn't thought to inform him.
Uncle Robbie, on the other hand, had been at home, watching his latest porn movie, as he saw fit to inform the nurse. She reacted a bit indignantly, nearly hanging up the phone on him.
Uncle Robbie snorted. "Well, that was a bit daft. Letting him get off scot-free. Now he's going to assume he can hit you over the head any time he pleases."
Lightly, I ran my fingers across the softball sized lump, much resembling a malignant tumor, sprouting out the side of my head. It was just above my right ear where Special Ed—the only person in our school to score a 36 on his ACT test—had clobbered me with his computer when I'd read over his shoulder Microsoft stocks had gone down by twelve points.
I was hoping to initiate a conversation with him by reading over his shoulder to find a common interest in efforts to persuade him into tutoring me. My attempt fell flat on it's face. Literally.
Out of fright from my sudden remark, he'd spun around, laptop in hand, and managed to clip the side of my face. One of his stout, red-headed followers sitting next to him, swooned at his show of sheer masculinity. I, on the other hand, was rather upset because I was unable to block his attack, even after I'd spent numerous hours imitating Jackie Chan and Daniel Son.
Apparently, lightening fast reflexes didn't come with practice. A Kung Fu master from China town had to bestow them upon you before they were of any use.
"I never thought of it that way." I winced when Uncle Robbie began to prod my swollen eye. As if Special Ed hadn't done enough to my face, his Charles Manson-follower type groupie swung her backpack over her shoulder, maiming me in the eye.
"Of course you didn't. Here. Let me help you," suggested Uncle Robbie as he steered me towards one of the kitchen chairs missing a back.
It looked like a bar stool with two wooden post jutting straight up. Pressing down on my shoulders, he ordered me to sit down while he fetched a slab of meat from the freezer.
He rummaged through the freezer before settling with a piece of chuck roast. After removing it from the freezer bag, he pressed it firmly against my eye, and placed my hand over it to hold it in place. Returning to the freezer, he grabbed a bag of mixed vegetables, grabbed the duct tape from the drawer next to the refrigerator, and taped the bag to the side of my head.
Taking the chair adjacent to mine, he clasped his hands together. "Talk," he ordered.
"Not about the stock market, right?" I said meekly, the side of my head throbbing with a pulse of its own.
"Tell me you at least used common sense and hit him." He narrowed his dark, already tiny eyes at me to the point of appearing closed when I remained unresponsive.
I settled on shaking my head, the bag of vegetables slipping slightly.
"Slap him? Spit on him? Kick him in his bloody loins?" Persistently, he attempted to get me to ensure him I had at least inflicted some pain on Special Ed.
Pausing for a moment, Uncle Robbie sat up straighter, applied more duct tape to the vegetables when they slipped completely off my lump, and tried again.
"Adelaide," he started, suddenly getting up from his chair, knocking it over in the process, "has anyone ever taught you how to fight?"
"Just what I've learned from Jackie Chan and Daniel Son." I made a fist with my free hand, cocked it back, and demonstrated a jab.
Critiquing my fist, he reshaped it, making sure my thumb wasn't tucked under my fingers, but rather laying across them.
"You'll break your thumb if you ever hit something with it tucked under like that."
"Oh," I replied dully, jabbing the air again, this time properly. "Say," I said after a bit of inspiration hit me. "How well can you do the Mohammad Ali?"
Uncle Robbie had been scrappy when he was younger, or so I was told by many strangers. It wasn't unusual for people to cower in the grocery store and hide behind the cereal displays when they caught sight of him. I hadn't given it much thought before, but the puzzle pieces began to click into place once I thought of him as a fighting machine on its spin cycle.
My uncle was dangerous.
Uncle Robbie licked his thin lips as a faraway look flitted over his eyes. "Oh, I can dance," he assured me, pulling me out of my seat. Light on his feet, he circled me, half stepping, half hopping. In quick succession, he was throwing punches past me, faster than I could count.
His demonstration ended with a full force punch aimed at the refrigerator door. He ended with a loud "K'yah" that made me jump with fright, leaving me with erratic breathing, and an escalating pulse rate. There was a large dent in the door where his fist had collided with the aluminum.
Eyes bulging in amazement, I gasped, "When did you learn Asian?"
Shrugging, Uncle Robbie ruffled my hair. "It's not cool to have a girlfriend who can put you in your place when you're young and in high school. Now, I'd associate it as number seven on my list of top ten turn ons."
Excitedly, I fetched a plate from the cupboard, put the chuck roast on it, and covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.
"Teach me what Jackie Chan and Daniel Son couldn't," I begged without shame. I was even willing to grovel.
With Uncle Robbie's help, my dream of learning fluent Asian wasn't unattainable.
I turned on the sink faucet, and began to wash away the meat residue from my hands and face. Uncle Robbie squirted some anti-bacterial soap into my hands once they were wet. After I'd created a lather, scrubbed my hands clean, and rinsed off the soap suds, I erratically waved my hands in the air until they were dry.
"I'll tell you what," started Uncle Robbie, leaning against the kitchen sink. "I'll teach you everything 'Asian'," he used air quotes, "I know if you promise to beat the snot of out this Special Ed, and show him how special he really is."
Revenge aimed towards Special Ed wasn't really my goal. He didn't mean to hit me with his laptop. But all I had to do was beat the snot out of him. Forcefully picking his nose would constitute under the same principal.
I eyed my uncle and met his gaze, promising, "I will be the best pupil you have ever had Master Asian." I bowed respectively in assurance.
Uncle Robbie seemed satisfied and steered me toward the garage, the kitchen door leading out to it. "We can start your training today." We stopped next to the black punching bag separating the two vacant car ports.
"We need to toughen you up," he started, and put his fists up, one guarding his face, the other hanging a bit lower. "As I don't think your in a state to be taking any hits, I want you to punch the bag, as hard as you can, for as long as you can—until your hands no longer register pain."
He said, "Like this." His fist struck the bag, sending it into a swinging motion. The deafening sound of his fist colliding with the target echoed off the garage walls. Using the same fist, he hit it again when it swung back towards him, and then finished through with his right.
He motioned for me to try it. I paused, a sudden thought filling me with fear. "Grandpa Henry isn't going to get mad, is he?" I mused. Every attempt Uncle Robbie made to teach me a sport or some physical activity had ended rather badly.
I broke Sabina's, my stepmother's arm when a tennis racket flew out of my hand and struck her forearm. That didn't go well. She banned me from visiting my father's house for the duration of the summer. Rather, they made short trips up to my grandma and grandpa's house to visit me, never staying long as something I was holding always managed to fall on her. Sabina was a living magnet.
And during the beginning of last spring, Grandma Georgette and her girlfriends set up a badminton net in the front lawn, and they held competitions throughout the neighborhood, profiting off bets. Needless to say, their fun came to an end when I sent a birdie flying through the living room window. I accidentally hit the birdie as hard as I could, aiming for a bumble bee attempting to sting me. In the process, I also entangled myself in the net like a fisherman's catch.
Uncle Robbie shrugged. "Once he sees the hideousness of your face, I'm sure he'll be a source of encouragement. My mother, on the other hand, is still a bit sore she can't host badminton this spring with you around. So let's get started before they come home."
His eagerness was a bit discouraging, and I felt he was holding something back, but I did as I was told, and hit the bag full force. I cried out as bones I never thought capable of cracked and popped. My stomach churned from the sound.
Filled with annoyance, I accused, "You never said this thing was filled with concrete!"
Furrowing his eyebrows, he said, "If you want to learn Asian, it's necessary you take the pain like an Asian. Meaning, if I were to amputate your leg with a buck knife, you wouldn't complain."
I heaved and bared my teeth. "I'm still not hitting concrete."
Smirking, he said, "Good, it's filled with sand. Now hit the bloody bag."
I obeyed and swung at the bag, putting all my weight into each punch. I clenched my teeth. Each time my fists connected with the bag, I was sure I'd fractured my hand. Compared to Uncle Robbie's, my punches were weak. The bag barely moved with each hit, and there was no accompanying sound, save for the rattling of the chains attaching the giant sand bag to the rafters.
To make up for the lack of sound, I created my own sound effects, using sounds associated with chakras. I punched the bag. "
Aum." I echoed, then another punch.
Uncle Robbie corrected my form when it began to border on the edge of sloppy, and would slap my hands when I'd accidentally begin to tuck my thumbs under my finger. It took a conscious effort to try and break an old habit.
"Good," he chorused. "Now use more effort."
"Yang." I punched with one fist, ducked my head, and then punched with the other.
"Rang." Gaining a second wind, I slammed my fist into the bag, pain traveling up my arm. This time, the bag budged, combing back to hit me in the stomach.
"Vang," I said weakly, barely above a whisper. My midriff was on fire, and the bag, when it struck me, had stolen any bit of the second wind left. More aware of my body, I could feel pounding above my ear, the now defrosted vegetables taped to my head that I had long forgotten, and the heat of an invisible venom scorching my hands and slowly coursing upwards, through my arms.
By now, my arms were limp, and I could hardly hold them up to defend my face and body, but with one, last effort, I extended my arm and lightly tapped the leather target. "Lang," I gasped, finishing the sounds of the chakras.
Rather dramatically, I dropped to the concrete floor, sprawling my body across it. I brought my hands up to observe them, and cringed when I saw them stained with blood. Instinctively, I sucked the blood off and transferred the saliva onto my pants.
Uncle Robbie bent down, and shoved his arm out. I grasped his hand, and shook it. "Not bad," he said, and pulled me up, but I instantly fell back down. "We'll try again after dinner. They shouldn't hurt much then."
I'd never expected learning Asian could be so hard...and painful. But I supposed, with no prior background in Asian, it would have been specifically worse on me as I was learning from scratch.
I mocked disappointment when I realized there was a football game Grandma Georgette and Grandpa Henry had to attend tonight. There was no way I could practice. I voiced my concerns.
"I know," said Uncle Robbie. "You're going to practice on real people now." I stared at him for a moment in disbelief, trying to discern whether or not he was lying. I decided he was serious.
My mouth dropped open. I was flabbergasted. "Who are you wanting me to hit?"
The answer, to him, was simple. "The mascot."
My breath refused to escape my lungs, but I wasn't sure how to motion for Uncle Robbie to step on my chest either. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, the automatic garage door opening captured his attention. Grandpa Henry's yellow Datsun pulled in, stopping a foot away from my body.
He blared the horn as loud as it would go, which wasn't very loud. It sounded like a dying llama as the sound faded even though his hand was still pressed firmly against the steering wheel.
Instead of getting out of the car, he hand cranked his window down, stuck his head out the window, and yelled "Adelaide, you best move before I tell the po'lice I was unable to see you lyin' like that."
Uncle Robbie pulled me up and away from the vehicle so Grandpa Henry could park. The garage door closed behind him.
I wiped the dirt and grime from the floor off the seat of my pants, and Grandpa Henry got out of his truck. Walking towards me, he paused, and queried, "What's that taped to your head? Tryin' to grow a garden?" For the most part, Grandpa Henry didn't really have an accent, he was too lazy to pronounce his g's so people mistook it for one.
Flicking out his pocket knife, Grandpa Henry cut away the tape and flinched when he saw the growth. "What happened to your head?" he demanded, tossing the vegetables in the trashcan next to the door.
I shrugged, not wanting to say much. Uncle Robbie replied in my stead. "And that's not all. Look at her eye."
Grandpa Henry put his knife under my chin, tilted my face up, and made a disgusted face when he noticed the swollen, bruised skin. I thought it looked like one of the bags under my eyes had somehow gotten infected.
"Who beat you up?"
Uncle Robbie carefully pried the silver tape from my hair, using some kind of grease for the stubborn spots. "The nurse called me and said it was an accident, that she'd banged her head on the water fountain. Tell him who it really was, Adelaide."
Grandpa Henry looked at me expectantly, with one eyebrow cocked.
He looked pensive, presumably going through all the males he had in gym. "Edwin Harvey? The boy has negative muscle mass. How'd he manage to clobber you good?"
Bursting out laughing, Uncle Robbie supplied an answer. "She scared him and he hit her with his laptop." He sobered up and continued. "She didn't even hit him back, but I can see why," he said, forgetting I was still present, "she can't hit for anything."
Grandpa Henry opened his mouth to speak, but Uncle Robbie cut him off, getting the last bits of duct tape out of my hair. "Don't worry, I'm teaching her how to fight."
"Just keep her from killin' herself in the process. Caskets are rather expensive and I doubt she wants to be cremated."
While we waited for Grandma Georgette to return from her keno trip, Uncle Robbie and Grandpa Henry initiated an 'educational' wrestling match, stating it'd be useful if I watched. But really, all of us knew they were both incredibly fed up with each other, and beating each other up was a good stress reliever.
Once or twice, Grandpa faked a bum hip and would strike when Uncle Robbie eased up a bit. Grandpa Henry had no qualms choking Uncle Robbie, saying, "A grown man of 25 still livin' at home deserves to be choked. Take it like a man."
After being bitten, Uncle Robbie stole Grandpa Henry's dentures. "You're such a fickle old man, you're a danger to those around you when you wear dentures. I really don't think you need them." He proceeded to throw them out of reach.
I ran over and picked them up, knowing it'd be far worse to keep them from my grandpa in the long run.
Just as Grandma Georgette was pulling in with her diesel Mercedes, Grandpa Henry elbowed Uncle Robbie in his privates and calmly stood up. Uncle Robbie laid in the fetal position for quite some time, rocking back and forth, with a pained expression on his face.
I gave Grandpa Henry his dentures, and we went over to greet my grandmother, leaving Uncle Robbie to lay in misery and self pity.
Leaning in, Grandpa Henry pecked Grandma Georgette on the cheek and took her purse from her as she got out of the car. "How was keno?" he asked, lending her his hand to help her regain her balance.
He flicked her wrist as she looked at him disgustedly. "They stole most of my money, and would have stolen all of it if it wasn't for Myrt. She suggested our money would better be spent at a gentleman's club getting sloshed."
Even though she was sixty-four, Grandma Georgette had never quite grown out of her teenage years. I supposed the same could've been said about Grandpa Henry. They both acted quite young and vivacious, regardless of their physician's protests.
"Don't worry," added Grandma Georgette, "Peggy drove most of the way, she didn't drink much due to her diabetes, while we sobered up."
Grandpa Henry grabbed my chin and showed her my face, and exclaimed, "This rascal went and got herself beat up. Look, her first black eye." I didn't understand the sudden joy that filled his voice. My face was on St. Elmo's Fire and was the size of a plucked turkey.
She scrunched up her nose, lifting a lock of my hair. "Did the neighbor's cat piss on your hair again? I thought I told you to bite that old tom's ear and show him who the real master was."
"I bit his tail instead, he didn't like that too much, and Mrs. Thornton chased me with a broom because of it," I said.
"You didn't answer my question," her impatience was clear. Repeating herself wasn't something she did often. "Is that cat piss in your hair?"
I saluted her. "No ma'am. It's canola oil. Uncle Robbie had to use it to remove the duct tape stuck in my hair. There was too much of it stuck to cut it. I'd have bald patches."
She nodded, understanding my point.
Grandpa Henry led Grandma Georgette into the house, kicking Uncle Robbie in the ribs as we passed by him. "Get up," he ordered. "I'm hungry and you're just holdin' up dinner."
I heard Uncle Robbie moan behind us, then I heard him knock over the trash cans, probably attempting to get up. I left the kitchen door open for him and sat down at my previous seat.
"Robert's teaching Adelaide how to fight. The Harvey's grandson did this to her. Throttled her upside the head with his laptop." Grandpa Henry sat next to me as Grandma Georgette retrieved some thawed hamburger meat from the refrigerator.
Forming patties with the meat, she grabbed a skillet from the hanging pan rack above the stove, placed it on a burner, and turned the dial. A flame shot up, engulfing the pan, so she reduced the heat.
"That woman," she spat, "is always cheating at cards. They're all no good, if you ask me. Her grandson probably needs a good beating. Sometimes that's all it takes."
Uncle Robbie stumbled in the kitchen and took the seat across from me. Leaning towards him, Grandpa Henry licked his lips. "In my day, if you didn't work, you didn't eat. And you haven't worked since August."
Uncle Robbie shook his head, as if he'd informed Grandpa Henry of his plans many times before. "I'm working as an apprentice at the Hareeb Auction House. Apprentices don't earn wages." Grandpa Henry shot Uncle Robbie a detestable look, and if he'd had a cheek-full of Red Man, he'd have spat the tobacco juices at Uncle Robbie's face.
Both of them fell into an uncomfortable silence while Grandma Georgette placed four burgers on the pan. The sizzling patties and popping grease added to the intense atmosphere. Humming the Scarborough Fair, she added salt and pepper to the exposed sides of each hamburger. After they were throughly charred, she set them in the middle of the table.
I retrieved the bread and condiments from the fridge, placed them next to the burgers, and began to assemble my sandwich.
"Adelaide," said Grandma Georgette, taking the remaining seat, "there's some diced cantaloupe in the fridge, please get it. Ya'll need to eat it before it goes bad." I got up, following her orders, and dished it out to everyone.
"I was thinking," Uncle Robbie broke the silence, "at the game tonight, Adelaide should practice her fighting skills on a real target, like the mascot. With all the faux fur and padding, it wouldn't hurt much if the mascot hit her back."
Grandpa Henry didn't look too convinced. "What if people recognize her? Everyone will be out to get her. You don't mess with the mascot and expect not to get burned. It's what do they call it...taboo."
"It's in Touscal, far enough away for people not to know her."
Touscal wasn't much bigger than Westmont, but the University was there, so it was not only populated by the elderly, but with raucous students also. Fielding, my brother, was attending North Touscal University for his second year. He was a sweeper for their footy team.
Grandpa Henry grew quiet, while he thought over the proposition. Grandma Georgette chimed in after chewing on a piece of cantaloupe, "You two are absolute fools."
"We're teaching her how to be a man," said Uncle Robbie through a mouthful of hamburger.
"Oh, and you're one to talk!" chortled Grandpa Henry, dropping his fork in the process. Once he sobered, he patted me on the back. "Don't worry. We know what we're gettin' you into."
His words weren't charming, rather, they invoked a sense of queasiness. It was a promise of more bruises to come, and the closer we drove to Touscal that evening, the closer I was to chundering in the backseat of Grandma Georgette's Mercedes.
A/N: So, here is my redo for Forrester's. It's going to be more plot driven, and there will be changes as you can see. Half of the characters are being cut out. Adelaide's mother is dead. Fielding is at a Uni. It will still be zany, but I don't know. Anyway, feedback would be great, and I'll reply back to each and every one of you.