This is my favorite Pop Pop story
When I was a kid, Pop Pop, my mom’s dad, was sort of a mercurial character. A little man, standing a little over five feet six, he always managed to spin tales and make us laugh. Even into his early nineties, my Pop Pop continued to swim and play tennis daily. When he could, he always told an old Henny Youngman joke, and then as a bonus would make up a story that would make us all go crazy. We loved Pop Pop, even when he failed to turn his hearing aid on. Yes, he did that which could make conversations interesting, but nonetheless, his stories were always the best.
I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was my brother’s ninth birthday. Being that it was a slumber party, he and his friends wanted to watch scary movies. My brother’s friend Ricky Rose, an asthmatic child with all sorts of health problems, suggested Ghost. Apparently, Ricky’s sister’s and her boyfriend had watched it during a babysitting adventure when they were left to mind the youngster. Yes, it was one of the many times the film had to be stopped because Ricky had an asthma attack. My mom previewed the film, attempting to be a good parent; instilling boundaries as well as wanting to know if it was appropriate. When my mom saw the love making scene with the pottery, she gave the film the axe. No wonder Ricky had the asthma attack.
On the eve of this particular birthday party, my father was out of town. He was in California doing a casino deal for one of the many mountain tribes. As a result, my mother was left with a basement full of rowdy nine year old boys high on sugar and video games. My sister and I of course were the barely tolerated party crashers. That’s when my mom, being extra close with my grandfather, called him to come over. She wanted some company, there was extra pizza, and the boys were quickly getting bored of the video games.
“Girl’s drool.” Bobby Taylor said to me as he snatched the piece of candy from my hand.
“Well boys are from Jupiter because they are stupider.” I retorted, trying my best to be mean and nasty to this boy who had been tormenting me all night. Bobby Taylor was the meanest of my brother’s friends. A lad who liked to burn ants with a magnifying glass, he had a mean streak like no other.
“Give the candy back to the lady butt brain. She beat you in the video game.” Josh Groves snapped. Josh was a nice lad, hailing from a broken home where Mom had prison pen pals as a result of a biological dad who couldn’t get it together. Since then, Josh’s Mom had remarried to a fireman and they seemed happy, but she was still as crazy as ever taking child rearing advice from the horoscope column.
“Like hell she did.” Bobby Taylor countered.
“That’s a bad word.” My sister Skipper reminded him gently.
“Wendell, your sister’s suck.” Bobby hollered.
“Leave my sister’s alone. I know they are like annoying fungus but they are my annoying fungus.” Wendell reminded the idiot.
Just then, my mom, seeing the natives were restless, announced, “Hey everyone, Wendell’s grandfather has a story.”
My Pop Pop made his way down the stairs. “Oh great, the old man is going to tell a tale about the war.” Bobby Taylor mused.
“Do you ever shut up?” Nick Marx asked him. Nick was a quiet kid who moved from one town over. Nick’s parent’s, former hippies, made him do self-help nature walks in order to find inner-peace. Raised on a diet of granola and natural food, he always indulged when he saw things one could buy in the supermarket.
“My grandfather’s story’s are always good.” My brother Wendell informed everyone.
My grandfather, unphased by the Bobby Taylor’s of the world, sat down. He began, in a deep but hushed voice, “When I was in Nagasaki, we were a part of the troops Harry Truman sent to drop the atomic bomb. I was on the plane dropping the bomb. The blast would devastate the country of Japan and America would later win the war. However, it was a tense evening. There was a full moon. On board, there was also a gorilla rescued from the jungles of Africa after Rommel was defeated. He was a flesh eating gorilla. I was in charge of looking after him as the troops were dropping the bomb. They said when they drop the bomb, don’t look.
Well, they dropped the bomb. The blast was so powerful that it not only destroyed the city of Nagasaki, but it drove everyone in the plane back towards the gorilla cage. As the bomb was blasting, my best friend Jeff was knocked so far back, he bumped into me. Because he bumped into me, I turned my head mistakenly looking at the atomic bomb exploding. Next thing I know, the rays from the atomic bomb are coming my way. The gorilla, angry his cage had been rattled, lunged to attack and eat me. But the waves from the bomb and the gorilla coming at me emerged, and I became one with the gorilla.
So every full moon night, on nights like this. I turn into a gorilla.” My grandfather explained.
“You are lying.” Bobby Taylor informed him.
“Yeah, I am with Bobby for once. There are no such thing as flesh eating gorillas.” Josh explained.
“My big sister says Santa isn’t real and neither is this story.” Ricky Rose snapped.
“It is a good story though.” Nick Marx said, trying to be supportive.
“It’s true. He turned into a gorilla frequently when I was a little girl.” My mom said leaving the room.
“Believe what you like.” My Pop Pop said as he left.
When he left Bobby Taylor said, “That was the lamest story ever, back to video games.”
“Shut up, your lame and I will trump you in Super Mario Brothers.” Wendell informed him.
“April, what if it was real?” My sister Skipper asked scared.
“Look, it’s a story. Just like the Hook Man and everything else.” I said trying to comfort this obviously trembling five year old child.
Just then, there was a rattling at the window. “It’s the gorilla!” Skipper screamed.
“No, it’s not the gorilla. Calm down.” Wendell assured my sister.
The rattling continued for another minute. Suddenly, Aaron Smith, a quiet, fat kid who was helping himself too much to the M and Ms spoke up, “Guys, it is a full moon. It could happen.”
That’s when I suddenly had my doubts too. Seconds later, there was a loud banging. “Wendell, do you think a tree branch fell? You better check.” Nick Marx said.
“Nah. I think it’s nothing. If it happens again, I will get my mom to check.” Wendell told him.
“Or are you scared?” Bobby Taylor asked.
“Look, shut up Bobby.” I snapped.
“Shut up fatty, and stay away from my M and Ms.” Bobby told me.
Just as I was about to take an entire handful of candy and throw it at this boy, yes this Bobby Taylor, who had ripped the head off of my favorite Barbie Doll, there was a loud growling sound. “Ahhh!” Ricky Rose shrieked.
“Stop overreacting.” Josh Groves told him.
That’s when the door burst open and appearing there was a giant, black gorilla. Growling angrily, it lunged at us. There was no time to be paralyzed by fear. Fight or flight took over. Despite the fact she moved quite slow and was a sickly little thing who needed iron shots, I grabbed my sister Skipper and forcefully yanked her. We all ran to the laundry room, taking refuge against this beast creature who had apparently come to devour us.
Bobby Taylor was not about to be eaten. Sprinting to the door, he pushed Skipper aside and was the first to get into the laundry room. Josh Groves, being the stepson of a firefighter, made sure everyone was safe and instructed us to hit the floor so the beast could not detect us. Ricky Rose, the sensitive lad who had asthma, didn’t give into needing his inhaler but made a funny smelling, yellow, fear induced puddle. Aaron Smith, accidentally stepping in it, hit Ricky. Wendell, trying to be the peacekeeper admonished his insensitive friend. Nick Marx assisted Wendell in breaking the two boys up. Skipper cried. I held her the entire time.
“We are going to die!” She yelped.
Just then, we heard the growling stop and the sound that replaced it was laughter. When we looked out into the game room it was our Pop Pop, mask off and in a gorilla suit, laughing. As we looked out he said, “Gotchya, or as you kids say, psych!”
We all expected Ricky Taylor to say something nasty, but instead, to our surprise he admitted defeat. “That was pretty good.” Ricky said.
We all agreed. My grandfather got a bunch of high fives from his new group of young fans, and he gave both my sister and the aggrieved Ricky Rose hugs for their pain and suffering.
When the school bell sounded that Monday we all knew it was the start of a new week. However, now the whole school knew how cool my Pop Pop was. As a matter of fact it was the only thing people could talk about for the next few days. There are somethings a math book cannot teach you and somethings we all just know innately.
One lesson is that, no matter what, every full moon, April’s Pop Pop turns into an angry, flesh eating gorilla.