Victor and Rosemary
When I was seven I was employed as a BF Goodrich tire salesman. I was a Bald Tire Spotter. My job was to ride around Oakland in the backseat of Vic’s 1940 Plymouth and look at the tires of a car to see if the tread had worn down enough to warrant me taking down the license plate number – while the car was still moving! If you didn’t get the whole number in the short time you had to do this, you whipped your head out the window to get the rest of the number – on the front license plate. Mark sat on the left side, and usually got it right – the first time. He was a year older than me.
Looking in his rearview mirror, with disgust, my father saw that I was a Head Whipper, and may not be cut out for this job. However, this did not mean I got to stay at home with my Mommy.
After Victor went on Strike, and refused to go to work because he saw he got the raw end of the deal, and, after we came back from our merciful vacation at our relatives house, Captain Victim called for a family meeting, and announced in a stern voice;
“From now on. There is no free lunch in this family. You boys are going to work – with me!”
My brother noticed off the top our younger sisters were not going to go to work. Christine was his favorite child. There already existed rumors I was not conceived by Victor, but by a stranger my mother used to attack his masculinity, and, render him impotent. This is why Victor kept a close eye on me because there is that Oedipus thing. Never mind Vic is not my real father, in his mind. Like I said, Vic went out of his way to butcher Freud.
Suddenly Vic hits the breaks, grabs the back of the seat and whips his head around in order to give me his best menacing stare. I do my best to conceal my terror.
“What about that car we just passed! Why didn’t you get its license plate? What are you, a moron?”
Vic throws the car in reverse, and hits the brake.
“What did I tell you. If it’s under a quarter of a inch – IT’S BALD!”
When Victor was hired for this job, his boss never dreamed his employee would use his sons as slave labor. We were not paid a dime. We worked for food and shelter. Rosemary was not allowed to show us affection because she was the Presco Family Secretary. After Rosemary drove Victor out of our house with a knife, our mother told us her husband refused to wear a contraceptive, he telling his help-meet when she begged him;
“It’s like taking a shower with your socks on!”
Vic’s job description was for him to drive around Oakland, by himself, spot a balding tire, then go up to the door and knock. The problem with this, Oakland was full of working stiffs, and many housewives who were home alone were afraid to open their door to this menacing looking man – who was always in a rage! He was not allowed to leave a card, or brochure. Sometimes he knocked on the wrong door.
“That’s not my car, Moron! Why don’t you get a real job, and stop playing grab-ass!”
This is when he had a brainstorm. He would take down the license and have his buddy Skip run it at the police department, and get the name and address. He then got these cards printed up that looked kind of official. There was talk about how a bald tire could cause an accident. I am sure Vic asked for permission to use the Oakland Police seal. I do not recall seeing it. But, the idea was to Bust the Dangerous Baldies, and shame them into buying new tires from Mr.Presco.
If you dare give Victor ‘The Leo’ an angry look, it was evidence you wanted to kill him so you can have your way with his beautiful secretary. The fact that Mark and I would not reach pubescence in four years, or so, did not alleviate Victor’s paranoia. As the weeks wore on, he became more convinced we wanted to do him harm. With my father, the Golden Rule……never arrived! I believe Vic owned much anger towards his father, and, he needed to see what that looked like, with his sons.
As God is my witness, I will make his cruelty famous one day!
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Because all four of Vic and Rosemary’s children became hippies, I believe it is historically and culturally vital to tell their story, along with ours. ‘The Wonder Years’, was fiction.