Gavin’s wife, Maureen, was storming from the front door toward his 2001 Pontiac Montana. The drivers side window, still down, left the 37-year-old history teacher vulnerable. Gavin was concerned, and for good reason: his wife had a wicked temper.
Gavin met Maureen at a roller disco on New Years Eve. It was either 1995 or 1996; he can never remember. He was wearing a tuxedo, crying and eating a strawberry flavored popsicle in what he thought was a stall in the men’s bathroom. Maureen, an employee at the facility, marched into the restroom after receiving several complaints about a man holed up in the women’s lavatory, screaming about then-New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Gavin remembered her loud banging on the stall door, followed by her threats to whack him with a plunger if he didn’t vacate the restroom at once. He remembered opening the door, their eyes meeting for the first time. They embraced briefly, before Maureen pulled away and asked if he was married – Gavin giggled. Maureen slapped Gavin and sternly repeated her question. Petrified, Gavin said no and, to his surprise, the duo resumed sloppily consummating their relationship.
Gavin and Maureen spent the next fifty-four minutes talking and loving, loving and talking, capping it off with some more talking and loving. The lusting duo felt inseparable, and when police arrived to escort them from the premises, Gavin realized this was the woman he had been patiently waiting for – the one he would marry.
He felt at peace in her presence, so much so that he proposed they move to Missoula, Montana, purchase a Pontiac Montana – you know, for humorous anecdotal reasons – and raise a family. Maureen, kicking and squirming in hopes of escaping the grasp of her arresting officer, accepted her future husband’s proposal.
The happy couple had been together for fifteen days when Maureen discovered she was pregnant. Gavin, fresh out of college, applied for a teaching position at The Danson & Danson & Danson School in Missoula – a private high school owned and operated by Hollywood actor Ted Danson and two his cousins. The schools board of directors saw great potential, highlighting Gavin’s volunteer work with inner city youths and his intramural volleyball championship at Framingham State University as signs of great promise. They offered Gavin a starting salary of $52,000 and the remaining $13.27 on an Applebee’s gift card the vice-principal “just didn’t have the time to use.” Ecstatic, Gavin accepted.
With a job waiting, the duo packed up their belongings, drove from Framingham, Massachusetts to Missoula in Maureen’s 1994 Ford Bronco, and welcomed the opportunity to start fresh. For Gavin, it was a chance to move out on his own, perhaps even dabbling in some standup comedy on the weekends. He had always dreamt of comedic success, though he told no one.
For Maureen, well, she was simply thrilled to start a life with someone unaware of her troublesome past. Her new husband was oblivious to her lifetime ban from traveling within the European Union or about the arson charges in two Canadian provinces. She debated mentioning her five-goal performance for the Icelandic women’s national hockey team during the 1992 Pan-Am Games, but withheld that as well, fearing she would accidentally include key details in the unsolved kidnapping of a horse belonging to the Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg.
Had Gavin been made aware of these instances, the chances of it altering their Romeo & Juliet dynamic were slim. Maureen was what Gavin had been searching his entire life for: an attractive woman who didn’t gawk when forced to be in his presence in public. Her ability to find Gavin even the least bit sexually attractive would have been a reason for him to ignore the toxic baggage. Not to mention, Maureen seemed to give Gavin more of a leash than his previous partners.
When Gavin used his first paycheck to put a down-payment on a 1996 Pontiac Montana, Maureen could not have cared less. She even suggested they elope in the van before driving it off the lot. Such a reaction enthused Gavin, whose only prior girlfriend had dumped him following his impulse purchase of a 40” Magnavox television instead of booking them a cruise to Aruba. He tried to defend the purchase by telling Catherine, his ex, that a larger television meant the Patriots were guaranteed to go 11-5 and win the AFC East. By the time he had finished explaining how the AFC East was a particularly difficult division, and how a division title meant Drew Bledsoe would be the best quarterback in NFL history, Catherine had packed up the few belongings she kept at Gavin’s and left.
For Maureen to stay with him after his purchasing of a non-humorous van meant a great deal to Gavin.
Gavin was at work, watching a Bob Ross video on his computer, his U.S. History class busy scribbling away on yet another exam. The cellphone in his pocket began vibrating: it was Maureen.
Gavin knew not to answer his phone in front of the teens. They would undoubtedly hear his wife shouting through the phone and tease him about it. Gavin hated when the teens teased him, so he informed his class his bowels were flaring up and waddled into the hallway for some privacy.
Maureen, unusually calm in her opening statement, mentioned her desire to bake a cake to celebrate her two days of sobriety earlier in the week. His wife’s discussion of her prospective baking expedition was brief, however. As quickly as she mentioned wanting to bake the aforementioned cake, she shifted her focus to complaining about her son’s insistence he throw cat litter at the mailman, as well as his obsession with their neighbor’s daughter. Maureen had caught him staring at the young woman through the kitchen window, the bathroom window, the living room window, their own bedroom window and when he went outside to “study the wind”.
Gavin attempted to calm his hysterical wife, explaining their son was probably just becoming a man – at least, in the sexual sense. It was overdue, he felt. His son rarely discussed a desire to meet someone and start a relationship. The closest the boy had come to dating was in preschool, when he sat on top of another girl and proclaimed “Fuck off, this one’s mine.”
As Maureen ranted and raved, insisting they explore the option of chemical castration – in an effort to prevent the boy from “eloping with that Satanic dumpster of a woman”– Gavin, reacting to a scream from one of his students, ran back into the classroom. Gavin asked Maureen if she could hold on. Instead, she ended the call, raced upstairs to their bedroom, opened the window, whipped out the drawers in his antique oak dresser and began wildly heaving his belongings onto the pristine, unsuspecting Kentucky bluegrass below.
At the conclusion of Maureen’s tirade, she fired off a text message to her husband. Gavin would have given the request inside said message more than a quick glance if Tommy, one of his denser students, had refrained from placing his hand in the pinchy hamster cage.
Maureen’s thunderous stomps grew louder. He turned his eyes slightly to the left, where they met the piercing stare of his wife’s ghastly green eyes. Gavin faked a cough, permitting himself, in his mind, a valid excuse to break eye contact. He lowered his curled fist away from his mouth and looked out into the seemingly infinite stretch of grass that encompassed his backyard. Gavin began internally debating if he could dig a hole deep enough back there, in his massive yard, fill it with water, replace some of his beloved grass with sand, and create his own personal beach. He knew it was impossible, but it served as a distraction from what he had known since he drove past Andy’s Market, and something that Maureen now knew as she bared down on his four-wheeled safe zone: he had forgotten to get eggs on his way home from work.
Spittle from Maureen’s gargantuan trap brought Gavin back to reality. He noticed, over Maureen’s shoulder, his son, Eddie, holding something resembling a rocket launcher in his left hand and a sack of potatoes in his right. Gavin’s pudgy index finger slowly crawled toward a button on the doors console, pressing down, enacting the slow process of separating himself from Maureen. As the window raised, her shouting grew louder. Gavin, terrified, had his eyes fixated on the sheet of rising glass.
The window came to an abrupt stop, sealing itself off against the top of the door much to Gavin’s delight. It had protected Gavin, at least momentarily, from his wife, who was in the midst of one of her patented tirades.
A windmill of bones began striking the door: Maureen’s’ hands, wrists and arms crashing against the metallic portal. Gavin admired his wife’s efforts. She had always been gritty, tough, not one to back down from anyone’s bullshit. And yet, at that moment in time, Gavin wanted to get as far away from her as possible.
Gavin established eye-contact with his better half, imitated a Queen’s wave with his left hand and shifted from park to reverse with his trembling right. Maureen threatened to get her flamethrower, but Gavin didn’t care. He had always doubted the existence of her flamethrower, unwilling to accept her tales of fighting side-by-side jungle militias in South America during the early 1980s as truth.
Pressing his foot against the pedal was freeing. The van moved backward, and as the distance between Gavin and his wife increased, he felt his stresses begin to disappear. He took a deep breath and smiled. Calmness, an unfamiliar emotion for the patriarch of the St. Germaine clan, felt good.
The vans backward crawl was interrupted by a loud bang, an explosion of shattering glass, and the roar of an unceasing horn. Gavin, thrown against the driver-side door, shook his head, sending tiny pieces of shattered glass onto his lap. His neighbor, Derrick, who had been driving the automobile Gavin inadvertently backed into, began berating him from his wrecked Honda Civic.
Derrick, in two of the more coherent moments during his tirade, referred to Gavin as a “detriment to Montanan society” and “the kind of driver the good Lord would banish to hell for all of eternity.” Gavin felt there was redundancy in Derrick’s criticism, explaining to his neighbor that all of eternity was unnecessary. Derrick, in Gavin’s eyes, could have simply stated “banish to hell for eternity” – and that’s just what he told him. Enraged, Derrick promptly instructed Gavin to “make like a dead dinosaur and fuck off.”
Eddie took after his father in many ways: introverted, highly judgmental, moved about with an unintentionally sneaky pitter-patter and was a devoted fan of the British game show Countdown. Every Wednesday night, father and son gathered around the television set, watching as Rachel Riley rearranged letters and numbers in a slick manner that left the disturbed teenager and his aloof patriarch in awe. These evenings were Gavin’s most enjoyable: Eddie relatively in-check, sans for the occasional fits in which he, unprovoked, attacked the refrigerator with a light saber, and Maureen relaxing on the porch, chain-smoking cigarettes, shucking corn, and berating the neighbors for purchasing drapes “far too similar to the ones she had in the guest bathroom last Fall.”
Routinely finding new ways to live up to his billing as “the craziest spawn this side of the Mississippi,” Eddie often created a great deal of animosity between his parents. When he wasn’t threatening to wrestle the mailman, he was hacking into the Prime Minister of Japan’s twitter account and posting pictures of Hollywood icon Brendan Fraser eating hot dogs. Gavin tried a patient approach to quell these troublesome endeavors, insisting it was a phase and the boy would soon grow out of it.
If Gavin arrived home from his job at the high school and wasn’t greeted at the front door by a member of the local authorities, or in some instances the FBI, not only was it unusual, it was considered a cause for celebration as well. In Gavin’s eyes, his son had begun the process of cleaning up his act, to be rewarded with a quality meal at the Outback Steakhouse.
Maureen argued it was simply an excuse for her husband to avoid one of her home cooked meals, and the boy had likely been too tired to act out that particular day. Gavin, having downed two glasses of pinot grigiot and an entire basket of complimentary rolls, would sigh and explain to his wife that she was wrong. This conversation occurred several times, and while Eddie’s mischief continued, Gavin never considered his wife may have been right.
During his junior year of high school, Eddie was ejected from the school’s prom for chasing his history teacher, Dr. Fortune, also an event chaperone, around the hallways of Gillette Stadium with a fire extinguisher. When asked why he pursued Dr. Fortune, Eddie told a member of the Foxboro police department he hadn’t been mentally stable since late August in 2011, when the Yomiuri Giants defeated the Hiroshima Toyo Carp on the final day of the Nippon Professional Baseball regular season, costing the Carp, Eddie’s favorite Japanese baseball team, a postseason berth.
Eddie further elaborated the game led to his inability to eat seafood, and its resulting effect on his vitamin E levels. With lower vitamin E than an average human male he, Eddie, legally transformed into a werewolf from 6:35 to 11:15 every night, or so he explained to an amazed group of law enforcement officials.
The story soon slid into headlines nationwide, and before he knew it, Eddie found himself at the center of a high-profile study performed by several of the nation’s most promising doctoral candidates. Following several months and millions of dollars in scientific grants wasted, no data backing his werewolf claims was discovered. The local newspaper, The Stampeder Times, famously penned of the event:
Again, we, the proud and noble citizens of Montana, find ourselves looking to heavens and asking “Why God? What did we do to deserve such a bizarre and horrible and demonic being in our community? Jesus Christ, think of the children.”
When all was said and done, Maureen was quite fond of her son’s story, praising his creativity and wit.
Eddie settled into a job as a day trader following his high school graduation. Each day, he awoke at the crack of noon, traded stocks for an hour or so and tossed a freschetta pizza onto a baking sheet ridden with globs of burnt excess cheese from previous afternoons. When the pizza finished, he would slink back into his wobbly desk chair and continue researching ways to approach, and talk to, Elizabeth – his neighbor of thirteen years and love interest for the previous nine.
A lack of dating experience had caught up to Eddie in his late adolescence. When a female acquaintance of his best friend asked him to senior prom, the lone St. Germaine offspring, in a move brought about by a lack of confidence, pretended to wield a sword and made a series of high-pitched shrieks as he lunged toward his admirer. The girl, a semi-finalist in the Miss Montana pageant, ran off in tears.
The following morning Eddie once again graced the cover of The Stampeder Times: “Local Boy with ties to Islamic State Frightens Fellow Teen.” The claims of assisting an international terror organization were later disproven, but the damage had been done – no woman wanted anything to do with Gavin.
Planning a way to court Elizabeth had, in essence, become a second job for Eddie. He sought help from online sources, in hopes of learning the tricks of the modern man. Posts detailed women’s desire for a man with muscles, so he began lifting weights rigorously. He learned tricks of the seduction trade, memorizing pickup lines he felt would make him irresistible to any woman, sans those related to employees at The Stampeder Times, of course.
Having been banned from several local hangouts in Missoula, the opportunity to unleash his newfound persona on Elizabeth, a popular girl about town, hit a frustrating snag. He was a ladies’ man in a cruel cage, or so he stated in a letter to Harvard Law School. (Eddie also applied to Yale, Cornell and Stanford, but he only talked about the mating habits of armadillos in those letters, and that doesn’t really apply here.)
Gavin turned to his son, now rushing toward the accident with his rocket launcher propped on his right shoulder. Eddie stopped some five feet from the wreck, cocked the launcher in front of his lanky torso, and fired three shots in quick succession. Derrick grunted three times, before his body slumped against the steering wheel. Gavin looked at the unconscious body, then to his wife Maureen, who was wrestling the rocket launcher, converted into a potato cannon, away from her son.
Derrick was probably still alive, Gavin thought. After all, it was just a few high-speed potatoes and not something harmful, like bullets or a hive of angry wasps. His wife and son carried on, screaming and inadvertently firing more potatoes into the setting night sky. The disturbance lead to a gathering of onlookers; snapping photos and recording videos.
Eddie noticed one spectator who stood out from the rest. Elizabeth’s silky blonde hair caught his attention quickly enough to prevent his firing of yet another potato. His eyes met Elizabeth’s and, to his surprise, hers stayed focused on his dirt-covered face. She began walking toward him.
Sweating profusely and shaking from nerves, Eddie removed a banana from his pants pocket: he hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Quickly, he peeled the banana and began wolfing it down. As he chewed, Elizabeth grew closer and closer.
In the distance, the sound of police sirens blared. Gavin took a deep breath, wiped the particles of glass from his lap, and thought about the hamster from his class at Danson & Danson & Danson. He began wondering if he shouldn’t have replaced the hamster with a scorpion. Nor was he particularly fond of his telling the students it was a rare breed of hamster called the pinchy hamster. His immaturity cost poor Tommy a thumb. A beautiful, precious thumb. One that could be used for so many things that thumbs are used for. Gavin, tapping his thumb against the dash, was having a difficult time thinking of specific activities that required a thumb. Perhaps he was concussed, he wondered.
Across the lawn, Elizabeth, arms forcefully placed on her hips, now stood in front of Eddie. The boy, finishing the remainder of his banana, looked at her and shrugged. Elizabeth grunted back and did that thing where someone pretends to be a monkey by curling there arms up into their armpits and jumping around while making a high-pitched “ooo-ooo” noise. Now slightly erect and unsure of how to proceed, Eddie retrieved a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket, before placing it in Elizabeth’s hand. Perplexed, Elizabeth opened the paper, reading aloud “My favorite music is C.B. Radio static.” Elizabeth threw the paper down, thrust her lips against Eddie’s, and despite an initial clanking of opposing teeth, provided her mysterious neighbor with the happiest moment of his life.
Gavin, conducting a concussion test on himself inside the van and looking in the direction of his son, momentarily paused, raising his thumb in approval. His son waved back, before shouting that he was going to across the street to lay with a lady. The elder St. Germaine, blood dripping from his forehead, had never been prouder of his son.
As a police officer approached Gavin’s van, he thought of his own wife – presently some six inches to his left, yelling into his ear that, once again, he’d screwed everything up – and the young love they had experienced some fifteen years earlier.
He noticed beyond the screams of his beloved, Derrick struggled to regain consciousness on a gurney being elevated into an ambulance. It reminded him of their first week in Missoula, when Maureen wrestled a bear in the woods and had to be rushed to the hospital. As they rushed to the hospital, Gavin prayed that his wife and the child she carried be okay. He remembered staying with her each night of the week-long stay: how they giggled as they threw hospital food at the geeky interns, how they ordered $324 worth of Chinese food for the annoying Irish-Catholic family, the O’Shea’s, they shared a room with and how they fell asleep in each others arms while trying to think of clever and utterly hilarious names for their son, like Dong Haver and Colonel Poop.
A police officer loudly smacking gum around his mouth, tapped Gavin on the shoulder. The officer leaned in close to his face, his breath reeking of expired milk, and asked what had happened.
Maureen fell silent. She thought of the night in the bowling alley: their initial meeting. How it took a pair of police officers to restrain and place her in a cruiser. How, despite the financial burden of their son’s actions, she and her husband discussed late into the night how they admired and deeply loved their unique son. How, her husband was a simple man, one who once placed a bucket of chestnuts in the oven “for science” and she was simply a woman who wanted some god damn eggs.
Gavin turned to his wife, smiled, and spoke:
“I fell in love.”