Nicky Delgado, Chapter 4

Nicky woke up early next morning and was too excited to get back to sleep. He had to wait for his father to rise before mowing the lawn, a job which didn't seem to take as long as it normally did. He hurriedly stashed the mower away afterwards and asked his father to use the telephone, which was the rule.

Referencing the piece of paper from Eugene, Nicky had to dial the number three times before he got it right. He began to panic after several rings without an answer.

"Come on," he pleaded. "Be home."

An answer came on the sixth ring. The voice was gruff.


"Is this the Simpson residence?" Nicky stammered.


"Is Eugene there?"

"Eugene!" Nicky heard the summons from the other end. "Come down here and answer the phone."

A short wait later, Eugene's friendlier voice came on the line. "Hello."

"This is Nicky."

"Good deal. Can you come over?"

"Yes. My dad says you can pick me up after lunch."

The battered Impala arrived in the driveway about half an hour after lunch. Nicky went out to greet his friends. He noticed that a human foot had been painted on the driver's door with the other things there.

"Sorry, it took us so long," Eugene apologized. "I forgot we didn't know exactly where your house is until after I got off the phone."

"We had to look at mailboxes to find it," said Butch.

Nicky told them that his father wanted to meet them, so they followed him into the house.

Nicky introduced the twins to his father as Emily watched curiously from the bottom of the steps. Although the Simpsons each gave a polite "hello", his father only gave them a stern look in return.

"You guys don't look too bad," he eventually pronounced judgement.

Thank goodness Brian Muttilege hadn't come along, Nicky thought with chills down his spine.

"Eugene gets straight 'A's," Butch piped.

"Nicky and I study together," said Eugene.

"Nice meeting you, Mr. Delgado," Butch gave a sardonic smile. "Let's go Nicky."

"Nicky's not going anywhere," said the father, interrupting Butch's move for the door.

"What do you mean, Dad?" Nicky felt his stomach turn into a knot. "You said."

"I said your buddies could come over here," his father cut him off. "I didn't say anything about you going to their place."

Butch started to open his mouth, but Eugene stepped in front of him. "You don't have to worry about Nicky coming with us, Mr. Delgado," he interceded. "We're responsible." He pulled back a curtain on a nearby window so the driveway became visible. "See? Our dad trusts Butch enough to have his own car."

"Our dad wants to meet Nicky too," said Butch.

"We'll bring him back before supper," added Eugene. "Promise."

Nicky's father relented, and Nicky followed his friends out the door feeling waves of relief.

"We figured your father's strict," Eugene told Nicky. "I didn't expect him to be that difficult though."

"Good thing Eugene has a sweet mouth," commented Butch. "I wanted to tell your dad off."

The three teenagers jammed into the front seat with Eugene in the middle.

"Now I can finally take you for a cruise, Nicky," Butch stated once they were under way.

"I don't know," Nicky had reservation. "My dad thinks I'm going to your house."

"We are," Butch smiled. "Who said anything about which route we take to get there?"

"What if he finds out?"

"How can he? Does he look into a crystal ball at home or something?"

Nicky gave up arguing with Butch. What's the big deal in going for a ride? He tried to convince himself. Still, he had the feeling of doing something wrong.

"Your sister's cute," said Butch, turning onto a main thoroughfare.

Nicky had never thought of Emily that way, but now that Butch brought it up, he supposed she was.

"She's almost got a boyfriend," Nicky tried to discourage Butch. He wanted his friend to stay on his father's good side.

"Have any other sisters?"

"No. Just a brother in college."

"What's he studying?" Eugene wanted to know.

"Pre-med," Nicky answered. "What do you guys have for brothers and sisters?"

"A brother in seventh grade," said Butch.

"His name's Irving," said Eugene.

Butch drove onto the freeway, taking the entry ramp at 35 miles per hour rather than the posted 25.

"I can always do these turns a good ten miles per hour faster than the signs say, provided the weather's good," he stated. "Once I align the tires, I should be able to do five more MPH."

The freeway gave Butch more fun changing lanes than anywhere else. He careened across four lanes of traffic twice before Eugene reminded him not to draw attention to himself.

"I forgot," said Butch. "We're responsible."

For the rest of the ride, he drove as careful as Nicky had ever seen his father drive. They passed by downtown Minneapolis and headed towards St. Paul.

"What happened last night at the football game?" Nicky inquired after several minutes of wondering about it to himself.

Butch didn't say anything so Eugene provided the answer. "Laura didn't talk to Butch. She's mad at him for running over Larry's foot."

"None of her friends talked to me either," Butch said with no apparent resentment. "They're all stuck up."

"Harris couldn't play and we lost the game."

"Everyone's probably blaming me for the loss," Butch laughed.

They circled through St. Paul and back across the Mississippi to the suburb where they lived. Butch parked in front of a two story multi-gabled house, painted brown with white trim.

"This is our house," Butch announced.

Nicky stared at a fancy yellow sports car in the driveway as they walked past it.

"Marshall's Jag," said Butch. "He'll beat me up for just looking at it."

"Your uncle beats you up?" Nicky was curious. Is there someone else who gets beat up at home?

"He has to catch me first," Butch said with his usual cocky smile.

"Why does he beat you up?"

"Because I deserve it."

They reached the door with Nicky shaking his head. He didn't understand how Butch could be so cheerful about his uncle beating him up.

Stepping inside the house, Nicky found himself in the living room. A middle-aged man watched television, leaning forward in his lounge chair amidst a scattering of newspapers, pretzels, and empty beer cans. His head of hair, full except for some receding at the temples, was brown with touches of gray. He wore a tank top, allowing Nicky to see the full set of his powerful arm and shoulder muscles.

"Come on!" he bawled at the television. "Deck him." Nicky recognized the voice as the one he had spoken to earlier on the telephone.

"Uncle Marshall," he heard Eugene's whisper in his ear.

Marshall was engrossed in Olympic boxing, and he boxed along with fists swinging through the air. Nicky stood with Butch and Eugene by the door. He could see enough of the television set to see one of the boxers pummel the other one against the ropes until he dropped to the mat.

"Eiyiah!" Marshall exclaimed, jumping to his feet. Then he began yelling at the downed fighter as the referee counted over him. "Come on! Get up! Come on!"

"Yes, yes, yes!" he shouted as the boxer dragged himself to his feet. "What a great fight!" But then the referee examined the staggering man's eyes. "Don't call it," Marshall pleaded. "Let them fight, stupid ref."

Despite the pleas, the referee signaled the end of the bout. "Aw, this sucks!" Marshall tossed a fistful of pretzels at the screen. Then he finally noticed the three youths standing by the door.

"Oh, hi," he said, composing himself.

"Marshall, this is Nicky," Eugene introduced.

Marshall and Nicky said "hi" to each other.

Butch asked his uncle. "Is Benjamin in his garden?"

"Where else?" Marshall snorted.

Nicky's hosts led him through the kitchen into the back yard.

"Boxing is Marshall's passion," Eugene told him as if he didn't notice. "He used to be a pro boxer."

"And wishes he still was," added Butch.

Benjamin's garden was the largest Nicky had seen in his life. The Simpsons had an extra lot, and the garden covered all of it. There were cucumbers, pumpkins, peas, tomatoes, carrots, and strawberries among other things. They had to search through the rows of corn to find Benjamin.

His tan testified to many hours spent in the garden. He had the same amount of hair and the same color as Marshall, except his lacked the gray. He leaned against a hoe on one arm, which Nicky soon noticed to be the only one he had.

"Dad," said Eugene. "This is our friend, Nicky."

"Welcome," Benjamin dropped the hoe to shake Nicky's hand. His smile was so friendly that Nicky liked him immediately. "I'm glad you could come over."

"You've got quite a garden here, Mr. Simpson," Nicky complimented.

"Thanks. It's my hobby, but please call me Benjamin. Mr. Simpson makes me feel too old."

Benjamin told them to go in for a snack, and he'd come in later. The teenagers needed no further motivation to head for the house.

"Gosh, your dad's nice," Nicky was amazed. He didn't think a father could be like that.

"Yeh, he's great," said Butch.

In the kitchen, Nicky was amused to see Butch and Eugene scrounge for anything they wanted. They dug root beer and ice cream out of the refrigerator and freezer to make floats; a real treat for Nicky. Butch augmented his snack with a couple of twinkies, offering another to an eager Nicky. Eugene found a bag of raisins and passed them around. Butch dumped some in his float, something Nicky didn't care to do.

"What happened to your dad's arm?" his curiosity finally got the better of him.

"Korea," Butch slurped.

"Oh." He paused a few moments before asking another question he had been pondering. "Where's your mom?"

Eugene handled that one. "She died when we were little."

Nicky felt foolish, wishing he hadn't asked. He couldn't imagine not having a mother, and the thought frightened him. He quickly forgot the sad topic since Butch and Eugene didn't appear to be upset by it.

Next, the twins wanted to show Nicky their room. They passed a younger boy on the staircase, whom Nicky knew had to be Irving. Butch grabbed his little brother and beaned him on the head with his knuckles. Irving wiggled away and ran downstairs with a whine.

"Picking on Irving is fun," said Butch.

The bedroom had blue carpeting and yellow walls. Butch had cars all over the place; posters of cars, models of cars, stacks of magazines with cars, and more pictures of cars. Racing stickers plastered the bunkbed so thick that Nicky could barely see any wood. He spotted a carburetor strewn in pieces in a corner. Butch closed the door. Nicky looked at a large poster on the backside depicting an oval speedway viewed from the air.

"I love Indy," Butch said emphatically. "I wanted to go to the race this year, but nobody could drive me. I'm going next year for sure. Someday I want to drive in the Indy 500."

"Who are your favorite drivers?" asked Nicky. He knew little about the Indianapolis 500, but had heard of some of the names.

"I rooted for Al Unser this year because nobody's ever won three Indy's in a row," Butch's face glowed with enthusiasm. "Of course, I always want A.J. to win his fourth, and I like Mario Andretti."

Butch probably would've talked much more, except Eugene shoved a book into Nicky's hands. Nicky read the title, Hablemos Espanol.

"You had this book when you took Spanish?"

Eugene nodded. "You have to tell me about what you've learned so far."

Nicky was about to, but he spotted a cage of gerbils past Eugene's shoulder.

"Whose gerbils?" he said excitedly. He moved across to the cage as if drawn to it by a magnet.

"Eugene's," said Butch. "He experiments with them."

"Experiment?" Nicky didn't like the sound of that.

"I don't hurt them," Eugene assured him. "Just mazes and stuff. Want to hold one?"

Did Nicky ever! His father had never tolerated any kind of pet. Eugene plucked one of the rodents from the cage and handed it to Nicky, who couldn't stop stroking the little animal.

The gerbil cage rested on top of Eugene's dresser in a corner of the room which Eugene had managed to claim for himself. Here the walls held a collage of pictures from the Apollo missions instead of cars, and a model of the lunar module hung from the ceiling. Nicky eyed one of the pictures of a Saturn V taking off.

"When I lived in Florida, my dad drove us up a couple of times to see a launch."

"Awesome!" Eugene burst. "I wish I could see one."

Butch interjected. "Ever go to the Daytona 500?"

"My brother went with some friends once, but I never did."

Butch suggested playing poker. Nicky didn't know how but was willing to learn. Eugene took the gerbil from him to put back in the cage. Butch got a deck of cards and some play money from a board game to use for betting. Eugene explained poker to Nicky while Butch divided the money into three piles.

They sat on the floor to play. After the draw on the first hand, Butch made a large bet. Eugene folded. Nicky had one pair. Since that was the weakest on the list of poker hands Eugene had written down for him, he folded also.

Butch threw down his cards in glee. "I have garbage. King high!"

Eugene shook his head. "I couldn't call you with my queen high. What did you have, Nicky?"

"Two aces."

"You shouldn't have folded. You had the best hand."

Nicky felt ripped off. "How can you bet on a lousy hand?" he questioned Butch. "Isn't that cheating?"

Butch smiled. "You can bet anyway you want in poker as long as you get away with it."

Nicky had nothing the next hand, so he decided to bluff; except Butch raised his large bet and beat him with three fives. Nicky actually didn't mind losing. He didn't expect to win more than a few hands, and he eventually did win some.

Nicky jumped when the door burst open. Marshall's imposing form, the tank top now wet, filled the entrance.

"I was just using my punching bag," said Marshall, closing the door and placing a padlock on the latch. "Someone replaced the inside with a bag of water. You wouldn't happen to know who did that, Butch?"

"Irving did it," Butch inched backward.

"Yeh, Irving did it," sarcasm filled Marshall's voice.

He lunged. Butch was too quick and escaped behind the bunks. Marshall dove over the lower bed after him. Eugene and Nicky stood out of the way by the gerbils. Butch crawled out from beneath the bed and shoved Marshall into the space between the wall and bunks.

"You little swine!" Marshall yelled as Butch hit him with a pillow.

While Marshall struggled to free an arm trapped underneath the bed, Butch popped the window screen and crawled out. He was hanging with only two hands visible grasping the ledge, preparing to leap to the ground, when Marshall grabbed his arms.

"Aha! Gotcha!"

Butch howled as his uncle dragged him back into the house across the window sill. Marshall stood him up in the center of the room with a hand clamped around his neck, messing up the poker game.

"It's pro wrestling," Marshall announced. "In today's match we have Marshall Muscle Simpson versus Butch the Ultimate Wimp. Let the fans know you're here, Butch."

He squeezed Butch's throat for the desired yelp.

"Ding! And Marshall Muscle starts with a backflip."

He flipped Butch over his back, who landed on the floor with a loud grunt. Cards and play money fluttered in every direction.

"Now for the scissors," said Marshall, pulling Butch's trunk between his legs and squeezing hard. "Eugene," he called. "Pad the corner."

Eugene pulled the mattress from the lower bed and propped it in the corner on top of the carburetar parts. When Butch had provided Marshall enough satisfying screams, he tossed him headlong into the corner.

"Yes! Muscle throws him into the turnbuckle. He's going to do it again."

He did.

"Such brutal punishment. What next? Body slam against the door!"

That resulted in a resounding thud and Butch's poster getting striped away.

"Oh, no! It's the dreaded rugrub," Marshall scraped Butch's face in the carpet. He turned his nephew over and laid across him. "One! Two! Three!" he beat an open palm on the floor with each count. "And Muscle pins the Wimp. The crowd goes wild."

Someone knocked at the door and Marshall removed the padlock to let in Benjamin.

"Are you finished beating up Butch?"

"Yes. He deserved it," Marshall told his brother.

Butch's moans sickened Nicky. Then he saw Butch smile, and understood. They were simply roughhousing.

"Looks like you need to start a new game," Benjamin noticed the mess after Marshall's departure. "Deal me in."

"We don't have time," said Eugene. "Nicky has to be home by supper."

"You can eat here, Nicky," Benjamin invited. "We're grilling burgers."

Nicky wanted to, even though he had eaten enough hamburgers to last a lifetime, but decided against pushing his luck further. "Thanks, but I have to go home."

"Very well," said Benjamin. "You're welcome to come back anytime though."

He left. Nicky wished he had a father like him. Butch and Eugene were so lucky!

The letdown began on the ride back to his house. The rest of the weekend was going to be a drag compared to this afternoon. He walked in through the garage, hoping to avoid his father in the living room. Instead, he encountered his parents arguing in the kitchen. He was home.

Read Chapter 5.

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