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As I mentioned in my previous blog, when I started my job 30 years ago I worked with an outlaw biker named Bill C., who we called Grunt. As my boss said, "He's named that because of his disposition." I always thought it more aptly described Bill's communication skills when he came in hung over, which was often.
Bill was a big guy, at least 6'2" tall, with legs that seemed too short and a trunk that was too long. He had a massive chest and huge long arms that gave him a gorilla appearance.
He was a Marine Corps deserter. He said he joined when he was 17, realized he was in over his head, and just walked away. A couple of years later his dad talked him into giving himself up and he did after finding out that by going on probation and working two years for a non-profit organization (like our school district), he'd earn an amnesty discharge. He was about six months into the amnesty process when I first met him.
Most guys we worked with gave Bill a wide berth, but I liked him for some reason. I liked him well enough to caricature him in these comic strips I did after he quit. I mixed in Bill with another guy I knew from a former job, since they were both lowbrow characters; rednecks, really.
Bill had a pink '62 Harley-Davidson full-dresser, with saddlebags on the back. Bill wore his hair in a ponytail held in by a rubber band with two pink Lucite beads. The hair-tie was obviously meant for a little girl and he had found it on the floor at an elementary school. I remember the first time our secretary saw him with that band tying back his hair she said, "I love your little pink balls, Bill."
The whole pink-thing fit Grunt because when he was on the run from the Corps he had taken on a false identify, having bought a birth certificate in the name of J. Pinckney Glidewell. That caused me a lot of glee, and I knew I was working with a walking cartoon character.
One time Bill didn't show up for work, and our boss told us he'd called in sick. He was out for three days and when he came back his head looked like a pumpkin, his face badly swollen. He'd been in a bar fight. The fellow members of his motorcycle club had stood by while rival bike gang members had beat him up, at one point knocking him to the floor, one guy standing on his hair to hold him down while another kicked him in the face. I asked when I saw him, "Did you see a doctor?" He said, "Hell, no! I don't need a doctor!"
I'm sure he suffered some brain damage in that beating because he never was the same after that, becoming more moody, withdrawn and even more violent. He eventually quit and everyone breathed a big sigh of relief, because our lives had become full of Grunt threats to, "Beat the shit out of you," "Go get my gun and shoot you," or my favorite, uttered by Grunt when he was completely exasperated by the needling of another employee: "I'll blow you up. I swear to God, I'll blow you up."
He worked in town for another couple of years and I'd see him occasionally, in a grocery store or riding his pink Harley, but after awhile I heard he moved to his dad's hometown in Southern California.
Guys like Grunt wouldn't be hired anymore, since the school district has tightened their policies to keep felons out.
I have one memory of Grunt I'll never forget. We went out after work one day to go home. His Harley had a flat tire. I asked if he needed to take the tire off and get it fixed, because I was willing to take him to a service station. He said, "Naw," and from one of his saddlebags he produced a can of Fix-A-Flat. He inflated the tire enough to ride on it, and then rode off. I followed him on the freeway, and he got his Harley up to 80, ducking in and out of traffic like he wasn't riding on a mostly bald tire held together by Fix-A-Flat. That to me was the essence of Grunt, that "Fuck all of you," death wish sort of behavior.
After all these years I still wonder what happened to Grunt. I wonder if he's working some warehouse job in Southern California, still riding his Harley, still threatening to blow people up, or maybe dead by now, buried with his little pink balls.
Ciao for now, El Postino