Anthony’s daughter, Julietta, had a boyfriend. A boyfriend named Lars.
Lars had a tattoo of a dragon or lizard or something on his arm. Lars had a motorcycle. Lars had a pierced nipple – he even pulled up his shirt to show Anthony one day, as if that was something Anthony really wanted to see. And what the hell kind of name was Lars, anyway? Swiss or something?
Lars was spending way too much time with Julietta. With Anthony’s only daughter. Julietta began bringing Lars with her to family functions. Anthony tried to avoid him, but it was hard. Sometimes Lars would walk up to him and try to strike up a conversation, right out of the blue. And Lars was always smiling. Trying to get on his good side, Anthony was sure. Well, if Lars thought any of that was going to work with Anthony, he was going to be disappointed. Anthony would NEVER like that sonofabitch.
But Lars continued to hang around. He continued to make small talk with Anthony and his wife, Marie, every time he saw them. Anthony noticed after a while Marie started to act funny, almost as if she LIKED Lars. And Julietta’s three younger brothers didn’t even pretend to hide it. They loved Lars. They loved his motorcycle – Anthony knew Lars took them for rides even though Anthony strictly forbade it. They loved Lars’ tattoo and were thinking about getting some of their own when they were old enough. It made Anthony cringe.
One Saturday evening they got some news. Julietta called from Las Vegas to tell them she and Lars had ridden out there on Lars’ motorcycle and gotten married. She talked to Marie first, but Anthony figured out the gist of their conversation well before Marie handed him the phone. Even though he loved Julietta, Anthony couldn’t bring himself to fake much enthusiasm. He just wished Julietta well and handed the phone back to Marie.
Anthony’s only daughter had eloped with a guy named Lars. He felt cheated. Cheated out of a big formal wedding. Cheated out of a son-in-law he could drink beers with and proudly introduce to his friends. And Julietta deserved better. Better than a guy named Lars with a nipple ring. But she was 24 years old and didn’t need Anthony’s approval. She hadn’t even asked for it.
Julietta and Lars moved into a house just a few blocks away from Anthony and Marie. Lars got promoted at the concrete plant where he worked, and they somehow scraped up the money for a down payment. They didn’t even ask Anthony to help – not that he would have been able to help much anyway given the cost of tuition, cars and other expenses for Julietta’s brothers. And Anthony was having some health problems that had forced him to take early retirement, so money was tight.
Julietta continued to bring Lars to family functions, and after a while their two small daughters came as well. Anthony loved spending time with his granddaughters, but he still avoided Lars as much as possible. At some point, Lars started coming around even without Julietta. Anthony knew Marie had asked Lars to tackle some household repairs she was concerned might stress Anthony’s health. Anthony pretended not to notice.
Then, Lars started to mow Anthony and Marie’s yard. He would mow his own lawn and after he was done, he’d wheel his lawnmower down to Anthony’s house and fire it up again. Lars joked about how it gave him more time to enjoy the noise of the lawnmower – he missed that sound ever since he’d gotten rid of his motorcycle. It WAS a big help, but Anthony hadn’t asked him to do it and wasn’t about to thank that sonofabitch.
Julietta’s brothers didn’t come around much anymore. One moved away to New York City and never seemed to have the time or money to visit. Another had a drinking problem and spent most of his time either attending AA meetings or drunk. The youngest lived right across town from Anthony and Marie, but he and Anthony had fallen out years before and weren’t on speaking terms.
So, family get-togethers and holidays now consisted of Anthony, Marie and Julietta’s family. And after Lars’ father died, his mother, Stepha, moved in with Julietta and Lars, so she started coming too. Marie quickly grew fond of Stepha and they started spending quite a bit of time together. But Anthony just couldn’t bring himself to like Lars’ mother. And what the hell kind of name was Stepha, anyway?
Lars did well at the concrete plant, and eventually became the General Manager. It sounded like a hoity toity title to Anthony – a fitting title for a sonofabitch. Lars and Julietta traded up to a larger house out on Sand Ridge Road, where all the rich people lived. It seemed to Anthony they were just showing off.
When Anthony and Marie’s medical bills started piling up, Lars paid some of them off without saying anything about it. Anthony also knew Lars had bailed Julietta’s brother out of jail on more than one occasion when his drinking had gotten bad. But it was hard for Anthony to appreciate these things. In fact, it wounded his pride a bit that sonofabitch Lars was usurping Anthony’s leadership role in the family.
The time came for Anthony and Marie to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Julietta planned a huge party for them as a gift from her and Lars. Most of Anthony and Marie’s friends were there, at least the ones that were still alive. It was also quite a surprise when all three of Anthony’s sons showed up with their wives and families. They even expressed remorse at having stayed away so long and promised to bring the grandkids around more in the future. One of them let slip the reason for his change of heart was Lars had talked him through it. And it turned out Lars had been in touch with the other two as well.
Anthony and Marie couldn’t get around very well, so they stayed at the head table all evening visiting with a steady stream of friends and family. Everyone had wonderful things to say about Julietta, Lars and their girls. But especially about Lars.
“Well,” thought Anthony toward the end of the party. “Maybe Lars isn’t such a sonofabitch after all.”
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