The Offer (I’m Glad) I Didn’t Refuse- Pt. 5


It was almost half past 8:00 when the adults finally went to the kitchen to start their pinochle game. Brad and I were obviously antsy, waiting for the beginning of The Godfather, but no one seemed to notice our fidgeting.  Brad even made a potential tactical error by urging our parents to go get their game started.  Rather than raising suspicions like it should have, his gambit worked.  We were still left with a few problems to consider.

Our first issue to take care of was the television.  Our parents left the set on channel 8, which was currently showing All in the Family.  We needed to change it to channel 6 without drawing the attention of the adults and the lack of a remote control could make that a bit difficult.

The second issue was one we were willing to risk challenging.  Both of our moms expressly told us we were not to watch The Godfather under any circumstances.  Our dads backed them up with furrowed brows.  We, of course, questioned their pronouncement, wanting to know what could be so bad about an old gangster movie.  “The violence” was the reason our mothers gave.  “Just listen to your mother” was the reason our fathers gave, with even more deeply furrowed brows than before.  The fact they just allowed us to watch Archie Bunker and listen to his bigoted diatribes wasn’t lost on me.  Keeping this to myself seemed like the prudent course of action.

The third, and final, issue was our sisters: Susie, Jane, and Holly.  The three of them liked nothing more than to make life miserable for Brad and me.  We were forced to wait on the three of them to go upstairs to the girls’ bedroom before we could change the channel over NBC.  We knew that the odds of watching more than a few minutes without the girls tattling on us were very slim.  Very slim, indeed.

Brad and I went upstairs to his room to figure out how we could change the channel once we had the chance.  He concocted a plan that had a great chance of working.

We waited until we heard the girls come up stairs to Jane and Holly’s room before making our move.  We entered the kitchen at the same time: I went to the sink for a glass of water while Brad went into the bathroom.  A minute later, Brad emerged from bathroom and walked into the living room. I stood at one corner of the kitchen table feigning interest in the pinochle game.

“Who’s winning?” I asked.

“The men are,” Mom answered.

“They’re cheating,” Nancy added.  “Just like they always do.”

Dad wasn’t having any of that.  “Oh, now, bullshit,” he chimed in.

Jerry laughed.  I laughed along with him.  Soon, the moms were as well.

Meanwhile, in the living room, Brad casually walked across the room to change the channel on the television.  His fake cough told me he was now sitting on the couch and everything was in readiness.  I walked out and joined him on the couch to watch and see just how much violence would be shown on network television.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“MOM!  DAD!” came a screeching voice from directly above us.  “Brad and Thad are watching The Godfather!”

We looked up in time to see Jane’s face peeking through the spindles of the stairway handrail.  Holly and Susie squealed with delight as they raced back into the girls’ bedroom a few steps ahead of Jane.

We heard the scooting of two chairs on the kitchen floor as first one dad yelled “Brad!” and the other yelled “Thad!”

We looked at each other the way two doomed soldiers in a foxhole might have during World War II.  “It’s been good knowing you, brother.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Once our dads were finished giving us the business about disobeying our mothers, our mothers came out and calmly gave us their version of the business.  They were much easier to deal with and more open to listening to us.  They didn’t give us a lot of leeway, but they would listen.

While Brad was trying to reason with Nancy, I was doing the same with Mom.  “But what could be so bad about this movie?” I implored.

Mom saw her opening and tried to end this quickly and decisively by going straight for my soft, white underbelly.  “They cut off a horse’s head and put the head in the owner’s bed.”

“They do?” I sheepishly asked.

“They do,” she answered, leaving me suddenly aghast.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The horse.  A symbol of strength and grace.  A symbol of the American West.

Virtually all of the heroes of my youth rode a horse.  The Lone Ranger had Silver.  Tonto had Scout.  The Cartwrights, Ben, Little Joe, and my favorite, Hoss, all rode a horses.  As I grew older I began watching John Wayne movies with Dad.  The Duke rode horses in all of his great Westerns.

Horses had become my favorite animal.  I desperately wished I could ride horses.  Sadly, one of my worst allergies is the one I have of horses.

One summer our family went with Grandma and Granddad Studebaker to a family reunion of some distant relatives down south of New Castle.  The reunion was on a farm.  And on the farm was a horse.  A teenager who was presumably a distant cousin and whose name I never remembered and who I probably never met again following the reunion owned the horse.  He spent part of the day taking kids for rides on the horse.  I stood by and watched, envious of those urchins.

I watched until the desire to go for a ride overwhelmed me.  Mom rebutted my pleading, telling me I would regret it if I rode that horse.  I had never wanted anything as much as I did this.  Mom finally caved.

I got my horseback ride with Distant Cousin.  Distant Cousin led his horse down the length of an empty field.  He turned the animal around back to the stable before handing me the reins.  I was in heaven.  Never before or since had I experienced such exhilaration.

I paid for it mightily.

Within minutes after ride my breathing became shallow and labored.  The effort to breathe became worse throughout the afternoon and evening.  Then the rashes developed.  The inner parts of my legs, my torso, and my arms were covered.  I had to sleep on the recliner in the living room to help with my breathing.  Mom did her best to comfort me.  I realized how right she was and how I should have listened to her.

But I was glad I didn’t.  The memory of riding that beautiful horse helped ease the discomfort just enough to make it worthwhile.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The thought that anyone could be so evil as to kill a horse in such a fashion turned my stomach.  I could feel the hot ember of anger and disgust building inside.

“Who are ‘They’?” I wanted to know.  “Who killed the horse?”

“The Godfather,” Mom answered.  “Well, his men did it on his orders.”

That was all I needed to hear.  Any desire I had to watch this movie stopped at that moment.  And The Godfather?  Don Corleone?  I despised him.  He was pure evil as far as I was concerned.

The whole thing made me wonder just a little bit, though.  Years ago, Timmy had mentioned that he has a Godfather.  Surely his wasn’t like Don Corleone.  I wanted to ask but felt stupid for not knowing.  Who on earth would ask someone like him to be a Godfather for their children?


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