Monday, May 17, 2010

Re Run: Dad

I wrote this one a couple years back...

Do you have one defining image of a person? That when you think of them, the first thing that pops to mind is that defining event? It's an event that can be astounding or mundane...regardless, it strikes a tone so deep in your psyche, it transcends all logical thought, so that all your opinions, beliefs and values regarding that person use that as the starting point?

I was nine. It was 1986, and I'd just lost my very last baby tooth. The little bugger had started loosening a few days earlier, and had popped out during a viewing of Head of the Class. I was in a state I could only describe as ebullient...a level of joy I had never reached prior nor have I reached since.

I was still reeling from the satisfaction of essentially having a small bone pop out of my head, when I changed the channel to Night Court.

My dad taught nights. At least, that's what I believed, and still believe to a point to this day. At the time, he was teaching computer courses at the town just below ours, at the small college one could find there. I know he taught these classes, because I still have people in around my small town coming to me and saying "Your Dad taught me how to use Fortran."

To which I reply: "Fortran? Quit making up words, Aunt Charlotte, and make me a sandwich..."

Anyway, back to the point.

I settled in for a half-hour of sheer hilarity with the comic stylings of Judge Harold T. Stone. It was a fun episode, though I feel like it's important to note that this was while Selma Diamond was still part of the cast, and before John Astin started making his appearances as Buddy. I'll grant you that it was indeed a creative valley in the show's storied run, but I'll submit to you that no better use of a nine-year-old's time could I come up with, even to this day, than to learn about the ins and outs of the legal system in nightfall New York City, and to do so with a laugh.

As an aside, I still have a thing for Markie Post.

But anyway, the episode was nearing the end of the second act, when a commotion arose in the courtroom.

I was watching intently. "This is all quite odd," I said to no one in particular, though my mother was hosting her weekly McMinn County Lady's Mixed Martial Arts Cotillion right behind the sofa.

In the courtroom, just after Harry had rendered a verdict (Court costs and time served), a ruckus arose. The camera pans back, a little uncertain, I believe. And a rather large, hairy man starts throwing hookers, extras and bums aside. And by throwing, I mean picking up and heaving like logs of firewood through a pickup truck window.

The camera panned back for a second to Dan Fielding, who in a rare display of valour grabbed Christine Sullivan and pulled her off screen to safety.

The large man, whose voice became dreadfully clear to me, continued his rampage to the front of the courtroom. The bailiffs came running in, guns drawn. It was the first time I'd ever seen weapons displayed in the courtroom.

Shots were fired, and it was at that moment that the beast stopped his rampage long enough for the cameras to get a focus on his face.

For reasons known only to himself, my Dad was rampaging through the courtroom on that Sitcom.

The bullets didn't stop him. They slowed him down, though. Long enough, I think, to consider just how angry he was going to be.

With a sweep of one mighty arm, he smashed Selma Diamond against the defense table. She was on the next week, so he didn't kill her, thankfully.

In the next motion, he picked up a nameless bailiff (the one with red hair) and threw him against Judge Stone's bench.

He took one step, and found himself face to face with all 6 feet, five inches of Richard Moll's Bull Shannon.

The air was electric. These two behemoths, nose to nose. Each bringing hell with them in their hip pockets, each holding the power of Valhalla in their hands.

The fight was epic. It lasted seven minutes, and each blow was like an frog punch from God. Lights flickered, streets ruptured, and the Hoover Dam burst (though that was later revealed to be the result of a drunken Buddy Hackett playing with the controls...still, it was coincidental and dramatic).

At the end of seven minutes, with dust and smoke filling the courtroom, the broken remains of the prosecution table underneath his dying body, Bull Shannon said to my father "I yield!....I yield sir!...."

My father, holding a filing cabinet in one hand, let it drop with a muffled bang.

"It is finished. We now know."

And he looked at the camera.

"We all know."

And with nothing more said, he left the courtroom, and Night Court went to commercial.

My mother sent me to bed after that. She was too busy applying a triangle choke to have seen what just happened, and she didn't believe me. The next morning, while eating a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, I asked my father "Were you on TV last night, beating up Bull Shannon?"

My Dad looked at me as if I had tentacles growing out of my nostrils.

"No, I was teaching."

"Oh."

I wandered to school that day, and indeed many days after that, confused and questioning. I knew what I'd seen. Was it merely a creation of my own mind?

Several weeks later, during my Dad's summer break, we were sitting down, watching Night Court. Nothing much was said, until the third act. Harry Stone had just issued some edict or another, too which Bull Shannon replied "ooo...kay." I heard my dad utter a small, gravelly laugh.

And I heard him say "pussy."

He got up to leave, and he reached into his pocket, and pulled something shiny out of it. He tossed it to me, and went into the kitchen.

I still have it to this day.

It is a New York Court Officer's badge, with the name Shannon emblazoned across the nameplate....

1 Comments:

Blogger gooseneck said...

Sweet post, Tommy. I must have missed it the first time around.

7:28 AM  

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