Family and/or Autobiography

Red Squirrel’s Indian Summer (Part 2)

Indian GuidesThis is the second part of my Indian Guides story. If you haven’t done so already, you should first read Part One. Go on. You’ll like it. I’ll wait for you. 

***

I wasn’t sure how I had gotten myself into this situation – or rather I did. It was Tall Oak’s fault.

Tall Oak was Dad’s Indian Guides name. Mine was Red Squirrel. These names conjured up terrible memories: Mind-numbing lectures on Lenae Lenape wedding rituals. Sweaty, aimless hikes in remote woodlands. And the near constant, condescending, passive aggressive drone of our tribe’s chief, Grey Hawk.

Despite accumulating a lifetime’s worth of boredom, anxiety, and irritation during our first year in Indian Guides, Dad had signed us up for a second. The only consolation I could take from this was that Indian Guides was a father/son organization; so, yes, I have to suffer, but Tall Oak would be suffering right along with me.

Adding insult to injury, Dad volunteered to host the very first tribe meeting of the new season. I translated this to mean that a bunch of kids would be tromping through my house touching my stuff. The very idea made me cringe. Even though I had an older sister, we were born seven years apart and our paths rarely crossed. Therefore I was an unofficial only child, and, like many only children, sharing did not come naturally.

Dad, on the other hand…

“Hmmm…” Wearing a thoughtful frown, Dad peered into the fridge. The other members of the tribe would be ringing our bell any minute and he wanted to make sure he was prepared for their arrival. “I probably should’ve gotten more beer. Oh, well,” he shrugged. “It’ll do.”

Indian Guides meetings didn’t normally have beer, but Dad decided to blaze a new trail. Another trail he was blazing was his plan to have nothing – absolutely nothing – prepared for the evening. The Indian Guides host was supposed to have an appropriate Native American-ish activity on hand. As far as I could see, the only activity Dad had in mind involved a fridge full of Budweiser.

Chief Grey Hawk was not going to like this. Not one bit. And when the chief didn’t like something, he lectured and tut-tutted and generally made himself insufferable until everyone present fell into an eye rolling stupor.

The guests soon began to arrive. As each father shrugged out of his coat, Dad threw a can of beer at him at him.

Most were surprised by the projectile, but all of them caught it. All of them also followed up their catches with a paraphrase of “Now this is my kind of meeting!”

Dad laughed every time the line was uttered as if it was the first time he had ever heard it ever. He gave the father and son a hearty handshake and led them to the basement with promises of bottomless bowls of Doritos.

The only brave who didn’t get beered upon his arrival was the chief, who showed up last.

The chief heard the merry commotion wafting up from the basement — booming laughter and an elephant herd of scampering kids. “Everyone is here already?”

“Yeah, they’re here.”

Grey Hawk squinted at his watch. “Am I late?”

“Nope. I suppose the other guys were just eager to get started.”

Everyone is early! The chief beamed. This was clearly evidence that he was a beloved leader. “So, Tall Oak, what do you have planned for this evening?”

“Come on down, I’ll show you.”

What Grey Hawk found was a party. A roomful of dads on their second or third beer and wired kids with their distended cheeks crammed full with chips.

He did not like it. Not one bit.

“You’re serving beer?” Grey Hawk sputtered. “There are children here!”

“Oh, the kids aren’t drinking,” Dad replied. “I have soda for them.”

Before Grey Hawk could work himself into full blown level of insufferability, Dad whispered into my ear.

“Why don’t you take the boys up to the family room and show them that new video game of yours. You know the one: Revenge of the Cars.”

“Yars Revenge?”

“Right. That.”

As one, the young braves and I clumped up the basement stairs. I revved up the Atari 2600 and was soon dazzling my audience with my gamesmanship. The incessant beeps and boops of the TV were interrupted by an occasional raucous shout from the floor below, but we paid it little mind. This was the best Indian Guides meeting we had ever had and we didn’t want to squander it be eavesdropping on adults.

After everyone got his turn at Yars Revenge we switched to Phoenix, then Breakout.

The hollow thunks of the basement stairs alerted us to the fact that someone was coming up to ruin our fun. We turned to find a Grey Hawk seething in the doorway, his face beet red and his eyes little more than two malevolent slits peering through his glasses.

“Eric. Get your coat.”

So that was Grey Hawk’ kid’s name! I only knew him as Red Robin. Red Robin was wielding a joystick pulverizing me in Combat, the one where tanks battle each other with ricochet bullets.

Red Robin — someone I had always thought of as obedient and easygoing — ignored his father’s command. Instead, he viciously send my tank to kingdom come for about the dozenth time.

“Eric. Get your coat. Now.”

Red Robin turned from the game and shot his father a stare far more lethal than anything my tank had endured. I didn’t know he had such anger in him. No wonder Red Robin was so good at Combat, I thought; it was a much-needed outlet for his hostility. If I had Grey Hawk for a dad I’d be hostile, too.

Fortunately, I didn’t have Grey Hawk for a dad. I soon found out I didn’t have Grey Hawk for a chief either. As we boys destroyed our enemies in an imaginary 8-bit universe, our fathers were downstairs destroying a real enemy. An enemy of fun.

Tall Oak, of course, was the leader of this beer-fueled bloodless coup. In gratitude, he was unanimously elected chief. As the tribe cheered his victory, Tall Oak gave me a smile. I couldn’t help but smile back.

Things were about to change.

***

Tune in next week for the thrilling — or at least potentially amusing — conclusion to Red Squirrel’s Indian Summer!