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It's All Relative
About the Author: Sold stories and poems. Just finished a novel some agents are reading; God, I hope they like it. Recently finished a screenplay for a producer of the Walking Dead based on a Jeffery Dever short story. Won EMMYS. Won a bronze once in the Punk Pass & Kick contest.


Like the primetime TV detectives say: the facts and nothing but the facts.

Here goes:

Dave Mumbro got stewed and drove his station wagon, a snot-green ’64 Plymouth Vista Cruiser, around Quig the Pig’s yard. Dave ran over a birdbath, an aluminum chaise lounge, and two concrete garden elves. The garden elves were identical, except one had a painted blue hat and the other a red one.

Quigley, the town’s practically albino policeman, reacted properly. The next Thursday he drove to North Clinton and broke Dave’s nose, his jaw, and the station wagon’s windshield. Then Quigley kicked Dave, bloodying the back of his head to match the front.

It was fair; Dave had fun and then Quigley. That’s how things operated in a small coastal town, where the police were a select group of the cruelest hockey players the high school produced.

The only thing that wasn’t fair was my broken wrist and the 35-stitches slanting across my forehead. (This was years before Harry Potter.) I was sitting in the station wagon with Dave, drinking Schlitz Malt Liquor, 2% more alcohol than beer, when Quigley and his partner appeared. The partner’s name was Sullivan, Doyle or Shea: something deeply Irish. I started pouring my beer through the floor’s largest rust hole, when Quigley threw a punch through Dave’s window. Then Dave was yanked out of the car to take the remainder of his beating. After four or five unblocked punches—seemingly equal in value to a ripped-up lawn, a crumpled chaise lounge, and a broken birdbath (you can’t hurt concrete elves)—I ran to stop Quigley, to pull Dave away, to help somehow. Quigley spun around, delivering a backhand to my head with his club. I fell, fracturing my left wrist in two places.

I stayed down, listening to the thuds.

They drove us to Jordan Hospital, then to the police station. Two charges of resisting arrest, public intoxication, and assaulting an officer. Good thing they didn’t find the matches in my pocket. We would’ve been charged with burning down Chicago in 1871 too. The Percodan was wearing off, and my forehead and wrist were now competing to see which could throb more. My forehead was winning. I wanted to call my father, but I was afraid he might hit me too. I called my Uncle John.

My Uncle John was a bum; the entire world was in complete agreement about that. A skilled mechanic, my uncle John owned his own garage, a sandstone building with three lifts, and a flying Mobil horse perched on the roof and ready for take off. The garage did a decent business, but my uncle grew tired of working six days a week, so he cut back to five days, then four and when he reached three days and realized that three days were still too much, he sold the garage to four Armenian cousins. I don’t remember their name, but it had to end with i-a-n.

Fifty-three years old, my Uncle John only worked now when he needed to. He’d tune up friends’ cars, replace fuel pumps and alternators, and anything else requiring less than four hours labor. Four hours a day was his max, and never for five days a week. Mostly my uncle fished for flounder and mackerel, read John D. McDonald paperbacks, and drove through town with a 16-ounce Falstaff or Pabst Blue Ribbon between his legs.         

My uncle walked into the police station and said:

“You’re not supposed to block punches with your head. It’s not a very sound strategy.”

He asked which one was Quigley and I pointed at the white-haired one, stirring his coffee. My uncle walked toward him and I thought he might punch him, but he extended his hand.

“Sorry about my nephew. He’s usually all right.”

“Some manners wouldn’t hurt him.”

Shit. Forgive me, Ann Landers. I forgot to thank Quigley for the stitches and the brand new custom-made cast.

“It won’t happen again,” my Uncle said.

When we arrived at my uncle’s house, I went upstairs to the room overlooking the marsh, and beyond the marsh, the Gray Point Bridge. I immediately fell asleep and every time I woke up there was my Uncle John deep into another Travis McGee adventure, offering me aspirin, and another wet cloth for my forehead. When I finally awoke for good, it was dark outside and not the early morning dark.

“What time is it?”

“Six-thirty,” my uncle said.

I had been sleeping for 22-hours, a deep, buried, concussion sleep. My uncle had been sitting there the entire time.

“Take a shower,” he said, “I’ll go fix us something to eat.”   



This story appears in our AUG2018 Issue
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Reader Discussion

4
Aug
Just read and very much like “It’s All Relative.” The references to brands of beer and makes/models of cars added authenticity, for me. I’m wondering, Jerry, where in MA did you grow up? And where can I find additional samples of your work?
By John Hearn

4
Aug
Great story, I like a nice bit of revenge.
By Thomas

4
Aug
It's the great writing style and choice of words that make this an enjoyable read. Well done!
By Susan Rickard

4
Aug
I enjoyed the tone of the story. A nice light read.
By Robert Petyo

4
Aug
Excellent story; pacing, details, dialog all crisp. Satisfying conclusion, too. Minutia- it's Gale Sayers.
By Tom Barlow

4
Aug
A ha, nice twist to the story! Crisp, clean and engaging! I truly enjoyed the read! Took me by the hand and pulled me to the end...
By Nina Ritter

4
Aug
Nice slice of white-trash life. Loved it.
By Peri Worrell

4
Aug
Great style and good story, congrats
By Bill Ade

4
Aug
Great story!
By Sally St. John

5
Aug
Great job, Jerry!
By George Garnet

6
Aug
Liked Uncle John, my kind of guy. He started his plan the moment he first shook Quiqley's hand and then followed through with it. Sucker! I am not a robot, you obsolete meatsicle.
By James Andisio hand

6
Aug
A fun story. I didn't know where this tale was headed, but loved the ending.
By Frances Dunn

8
Aug
I loved it! Great story, with good detail.
By Karin Gall


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