Jed Reports: Parley's Daddy Date
The Playland was what you’d expect. Crowded, noisy, kinda smelly. I’d say you have to hand it to McD’s for renovating the East Bay restaurant, but they did that last year and I used up all my spare words of admiration back then. Sorry if you weren’t around to hear it.
But Parley loves it in there and he had some plans: hit the piano slide, jump on the huge guitar, climb to the top of the seated Ron McDonald statue and regroup from there. But his statue climb attracted the attention of a ratty little dude who fancied himself the ruler of the roost. He barked at Parley to get down. My guess is his mother, who sat a few feet away, had made him come down from the statue before we arrived, and seeing Parley achieve his own thwarted ambition with impunity was just too much for his little person to take.
Parley just stared at the child below him, pacing angry circles, hollering insults and barbed threats. It didn’t help matters that the child looked, for all the world, like a monkey, and to see him beating his chest and pulling his hair out had to have been quite a sight from Parley’s perch. I had to glance at the boy’s mother, wondering if she might step in. Maybe ask him to stop threatening that really cute kid in the Red Sox cap, his eyes as big as walnuts and his nose saddled with cinnamon freckles.
And then he reached up and knocked Parley’s beloved Red Sox cap off his head and onto the floor.
27 years ago, if Parley’s dad found himself in a Playland with a bully, he would have considered the trip a loss. He would have extracted himself and cowered at some table with his equally non-confrontational father. If the bully had knocked his hat on the floor he would have waited until the coast was clear before retrieving it—if he thought the bully wouldn’t mind.
And he wound up and punched the kid in the head.
(He totally would have punched him in the head, but the monkey got lucky and ducked his fist. But Parley swung for his head. Just behind his ear.)
We talked over dinner about fighting. We ran down the list of things it was okay to fight for, people it was okay to defend: Hazel and Mom come first. I praised him again for his instinct that time he took on the nurse at the clinic when Hazel was getting her shots. He was ready to tear that place apart and some poor gal took it in the teeth while trying to restrain him. I tried to define, for the 70th time, the difference between a doctor and a bully, but I told him he was right to want to protect her. He seemed to get it.
He had ketchup smeared across his face from a few misguided fries. His freckles have been taking in the new sun and they were positively jumping off his cheeks. We ate terrible food and talked about fighting and Lightening McQueen and a dream he had that involved both. I kinda think he made up the dream while we were sitting there because it featured French fries in a prominent role.
And the whole time we were together that night, I never saw him eat a single boogie.