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House Guest

At some point in everybody’s marriage, there comes a point that we all fear. I suppose its one the common tie that binds us all together. It may come early in the marriage, after several years, or even after decades, but it does come eventually. Husbands and wives all dread the moment when the deadbeat relative moves in. For some, it’s the lazy brother, or worthless sister, the remote few see a slothful stepchild. I my case, it was Charlene’s nephew, Lyle.
In some ways, I almost feel sorry for the guy. His mother, Robin, is not a shining star of motherhood. She drinks heavily, parties as if she’s still 16, and demands to be the center of attention regardless of the cost. Several years earlier, Robin got so upset the night her husband, Ray, had to work on her birthday she stormed off and slept with Charlene’s husband. He had a secret crush on her since they were both in high school and was more than willing to oblige the unhappy Robin. Although to this day, she claims she slept with some other guy, however; the resulting child looks very much like John.

Lyle is a work unto himself. It must be hard having a mother only 16 years older than yourself, but that is no excuse for his bizarre behavior. I suppose the excessive drinking and drugs his mother imbibed at parties before and during her pregnancy might explain his oddness. Lyle is the walking embodiment of an inner city youth. Never mind the fact that he’s never been in any major metropolitan area or has. .. um . .. er . . .the wrong racial coloring a true “home-boy”. He thinks of himself as one the “homeys” nonetheless. He’s a firm believer that school is a waste of time. After all, big time rap stars donna need no schoolin.
Unable to cope with life or his mother, his Uncle Alan took him in and put him to work in his drug dealing – my mistake, I mean, carpet-cleaning business. All he had to was drive the van with the supplies in it. Nothing complex, he just needed his license. How hard could it be for a young lad of 20 to get his first license? Damn hard when you can’t spell your last name. I wonder if he could have asked the DMV for a verbal training manual in Ebonics.
Unable to secure a driving license from the Department of Motor Vehicles, his uncle put him to work loading the company van with supplies, the real kind, not the drugs. Lyle did well here. He put his headphones on, cranked up the rap music, and loaded away, provided nothing was too heavy. This is where he should have stayed, but in some drunken flash of idiotic inspiration, Alan thought to put him in the front office.
As a front office employee, Lyle was required to maintain certain standards. Off came the eyebrow rings,out came the tongue piercing, the large gold earring studs, the gold chains, the gold finger bars, and the bandana. Alan instructed Lyle to bathe each and everyday, and he could not have rap music pounding away in the office. Alan ordered him to treat every customer with respect regardless of his ethnicity. After re-explaining that means he had to be nice to everybody regardless of skin color, Lyle exploded in a fit of rage. He refused to treat others with respect until they gave it to him for who he was. The final straw for Lyle came when Alan laid down the law of wearing clean and non-wrinkled clothes everyday, clothes that LYLE would have to wash and iron.

Charlene felt sorry for the guy when Alan fired him, and begged me to let him stay with us. Oh, dear reader, did I refuse. I knew better. Lyle called me a promised me that he would only stay 2 months, no more. He (and I) noticed the abundance of fast-food and strip mall locations in need of employees. The plan was for him to get a job, sock away the money, and move out. Like everybody else out there, I had that moment of weakness. I capitulated. I let him come and stay, but with one addition, while he was looking for employment he would enroll in the local community college, and at any time should he failed his classes or dropped out, he was out and on his own. My hopes was that should the economy take a down turn, he would at least be getting smarter, perhaps even learning some job and social skills. Perhaps, even deep down I knew it would be longer than two months.
With his 7th grade education, all the classes, even the most basic ones were far beyond him. He also failed to understand that, unlike high school, college expects you to want to be there. When his instructors announced they didn’t’ take roll, Lyle stopped going. With no system like detention, he stopped doing the assigned work. He argued with students, and threatened them. He was a child suddenly thrust into adulthood.
The job adventure fared equally poor. He got interviews, but arrived unwashed, in wrinkled “gansta” clothes. Lyle’s reasoning was that these possible employers should, nay, MUST accept him for who he was. He wasn’t going to change just for some stupid job. He also got very upset when one fast food location refused to consider him for President of Marketing or President of the company. He proclaimed that he knew what real people wanted to hear, he even offered to write a rap song for the television commercial he wanted to film. I wonder if he should have told them he couldn’t read.

The two months came and went, and quickly became three. Lyle spent his days sitting on the couch eating pop-tarts and drinking beer. When it hit the 4-month point, I decided to push him in another direction. I talked about the wonders of the military. I pained such a rosy picture of life in the Army and Navy I thought my nose would grow. I was so successful that both he and one his fellow deadbeat, dropouts, flaky friends decided to enlist. After their initial testing, Lyle was rejected but his friend was accepted (its amazing what a few extra years of high-school will do for you, huh). Lyle was enraged, he argued with his friend about abandoning the “hood” and his friends (Lyle was his only friend). Very quickly, Lyle was alone.

Unable to palm him off to Uncle Sam, I had to take the last resort. I got him drunk on peppermint schnapps, and convinced the drunken lout that he needed to be on his own. I poured him into a cheap hotel blocks from his mother, paid a months rent and fled. When he sobered up, he still thought it was a wonderful idea. He sat in his hotel room, watching television, eating pop-tarts and drinking schnapps (oopsie). When the end of the month came and he had no rent money, he wasn’t so happy. He was very mad that nobody would come to his aid and pay the rent. Broke and homeless, he swallowed his pride and return to Alan for employment and housing.
To this day, three years later, he is still an employee of Alan, but now lives with his Grandmother, Beverly (see the other tales to understand that housing arrangement) rent-free. There actually was a concentrated effort by his Uncle, Mother, and Grandmother to get him to pay rent, but he refused unless he could paint his room black. I don’t know how much you know about interior painting, but if he paints those walls black, nobody will ever be able to repaint. The black undercoat will bleed through. You’d have to paper or panel over it. I often wonder if this was his plan all along, of course that would be giving him too much credit for cunning. Since the stand off is unresolved, he doesn’t contribute to any of the utilities. One must wonder what he does with his money. His uncle, as his employer and technically his landlord, could easily just withhold the rent, but, like everybody else, has given in to Lyle's demands.

He does have is drivers license, however, but he still dresses, walks, and talks like an employee of “Suge” Knight. Most of his free time is spent drinking gin and eating pop-tarts (what is it about pop-tarts) and waiting by the phone for Tupac to call him from beyond the grave with a record contract for rap tapes he makes but never sends to anyone. There is a moral here I’m sure, but it eludes me.

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