Purple suede leather jacket with fringes
She always tells the one detail. She thinks it’s funny and it’s funny how it frustrates him, the way he keeps protesting no no that’s not true, you weren’t there, that’s wrong.
Mom doesn’t normally tell stories about before Dad, unless you ask her. She tells stories about kids being born and she tells her side of the stories she shares with dad and she mentions the coat that didn’t exist. He had a purple coat, she says, with fringes.
She holds up her arm and makes the fringe motion, wiggling fingers for fringes 12 inches down, smiles and we said really?
That’s how people knew he was a drug dealer, she says. Dad says though they knew because they knew who he was or somebody told them or, before that, before jail making him serious and organized crime’s making him the LSD dealer, because he’d stand on a corner with all the Berkeley students and the hippies and everyone 10 thousand a day walking by and he’d say in a low voice a list of drugs he could sell. He had a leather jacket, western style like all the hippies then playing out some tweaked over reversion of Cowboys and Indians and my dad was doing deals in the parks where they usta play with cap guns. And he had a purple shirt, velour, something that pulled over. And blue pants, cotton striped with different patterns. And a VW bus painted like an American flag and after the People’s Park riots they were in the unorganized parade celebration right up front honking the horn.
Mom doesn’t tell Dad’s stories, not like we kids do going back to the beginning and saying well you gotta understand in the beginning my dad was a drug dealer on LSD for two years and LSD’s only dealer and then he was converted by a street preacher and a cop back with the first wave of Jesus People. She treats it like a fact, if she mentions it, and she says Dad doesn’t have a short version of the story only the long and the longer. And she says he wore a purple leather jacket with fringes.
It’s not like a purple jacket woulda been out of character for my father. He coulda worn a purple leather jacket with fringes, like it’s the one crazy thing that didn’t happen but of all the insane details she doesn’t remember how he got sick eating abalone out of season or how one of his bodyguards ended up beheaded or how the city’s sergeant promised promotions to anyone who busted him but they never did.
It’s this other detail, the wrong one, that fascinates her and seems to symbolize my father, picturing him appearing so mad with charisma you’d either have to hate him and want to break him or you’d have to follow him, even if he was just standing on a street corner. To her, that’s my dad.