Loose Cannons - Cover

Loose Cannons

Copyright© 2022 by Lazlo Zalezac

Chapter 8

Early the next evening, Max looked around his freshly painted office pleased with the quality of work. He headed to the kitchen and picked up two cans of beer from the refrigerator. His wife eyed the second can and looked up at him with a questioning expression on her face. He winked at her.

He went out to the garage where Robert was putting away the painting supplies. Clearing his throat, he said, “Robert.”

His son turned around to face his father. Somewhat defensive, he asked, “What?”

“Catch,” Max said tossing a beer to his son using a gentle underhand throw.

Robert caught the beer. Surprised, he looked at it and asked, “What is this?”

“It’s a beer,” Max said.

“I know, but...”

Max said, “You did a good job. I’m proud of you.”

“Thank you,” Robert said. He hadn’t been expecting that.

Max opened his can of beer. He gestured to the can in Robert’s hand. The young man opened his can and took a tentative sip from it. He had expected it to be a little sweet. The bitterness of it surprised him.

“Is that your first?” Max asked.

“Yes,” Robert answered.

Max said, “It’s right for a boy’s first beer to be taken with his father.”

“Did you have your first beer with grampa?” Robert asked.

“No,” Max answered. “I stole a six pack beer out of the refrigerator and drank it out back of the house with a couple friends of mine.”

“Did grampa find out?” Robert asked.

“Yes, he did,” Max said. He laughed at the memory and then said, “He took a belt to my ass. I couldn’t sit down for two days.”

“Grampa did that?” Robert asked shocked by that revelation.

“Yes,” Max said. “He wasn’t mad that I drank the beer, only that I took it without asking.”

“Oh,” Robert said.

“I never stole anything after that,” Max said.

“The whipping?” Robert asked.

Max shook his head no. “I learned a valuable lesson that day. You see, that six pack of beer cost about a buck fifty or so. It wasn’t really that much money. I took something that was far more valuable than that.”


“My Dad didn’t drink much, but whenever he finished a particularly tough job he would sit back and drink a beer – just like you’re doing now. It was a little reward for having worked hard. I didn’t steal a sixpack of beer from him. I stole his reward,” Max said. “Sometimes, it’s the little things that we do for ourselves that mean the most. You interfere with that and you’ve damaged something that is really important to someone.”

“I see what you mean,” Robert said.

Max said, “For a while there, I forgot what my job as father was.”

“What is your job?” Robert asked.

“I’m to teach you how to be a man,” Max answered.

“I’ll grow up,” Robert said.

“Do you think I’m having you mow the lawn because I’m lazy? No. You need to know how to do it yourself. You need to get in the habit of looking at things around you and realizing that they need maintaining. It doesn’t come natural to a person. You have to get into the habit. Every week the lawn needs mowing. Checking the lawn to make sure it doesn’t need to be mowed becomes a habit.

“Painting is another of those things you need to learn. You’ll own your own home one day and you won’t be able to afford someone to come and do the work for you. You’ll have to do it all – painting, plumbing, and other minor repairs. Five, maybe six years from now, you’ll be picking up five gallon buckets of paint and painting your own place. You’ll know what needs to be done to do the job right. You’ve learned that today.”

“I didn’t think about that,” Robert said.

“I’m supposed to help mold your character,” Max said. “That’s probably where I’ve been the most remiss with you and your sister. I apologize for that.”

“No need to apologize,” Robert said. “Things were just fine.”

Max laughed. “Things were fine because you were getting and doing everything you wanted. Being an adult isn’t about doing what you want. Being an adult is doing the things you don’t want to do and doing them with a smile. It is making tough choices when there are no right answers.”

“I guess so,” Robert said.

Max said, “I’m going to be riding your ass a lot more from now on. I’ve let things slide for too long. There are going to be times when you hate me, but just remember one thing.”


“I’m doing it out of love,” Max said.

He raised his can of beer and said, “You did a real good job on painting the study, Son.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Robert said.

Max said, “I better see what’s going on in the house.”

“All right,” Robert said.

He couldn’t figure out his father. There were times when he was a real hard ass and times when he was a nice guy. That morning, his father had taken him to the hardware store and had him pick out all of the painting supplies. It hadn’t been fun. They hadn’t gone home with much, but it had taken them almost two hours to get it all.

The first thing his father had done was send him over to the paint section to pick up enough paint to cover six hundred square feet of wall and thirty square feet of trim. He had picked out one gallon of paint. His father then had him read the label concerning coverage. The label said that it would cover four hundred square feet or two hundred square feet if two coats were required. Robert had gone off and returned with two gallons of paint. His father then pointed out that what he had gotten was paint for trim rather than flat wall paint. Then he had picked out two different colors of paint by accident. His father had been all over his ass about that. He ended up getting two gallons of wall paint and one quart of paint for the trim.

Then it had been paint brushes and rollers. Robert’s inclination was to buy the biggest brush he could find. His father pointed out that wouldn’t work so well on the narrow parts of the trim that were less then half an inch wide. He came back with a one-half inch wide brush. It was then pointed out that the trim had another side that was almost three inches wide.

Then it had been drop cloths and masking tape. He learned that drop cloths came in different materials, sizes, and thicknesses. Since they were not making a living by painting, his dad had pointed out they could get by with cheap plastic drop cloths. Robert had come back with the cheapest package only to learn that it was too thin and would tear when he walked around on it. Thick was fine, but it was also more expensive. The thin stuff could be used to cover furniture. Robert discovered that they did want to cover the office furniture rather than moving it all out of the room.

The entire process had been humiliating. He had run back and forth looking at one thing and then another before finding the right thing. It was like his father was enjoying his misery. Only now in hindsight did he realize that his father had not only criticized him, but he had also explained what was needed to do the job they wanted done and how what he had gotten was to be used for a different purpose. Each mistake was two lessons in one.

He wondered if half the reason his father had taken so much joy in each mistake was because he was given the chance to teach his son a little more about painting. Having his errors pointed out to him had made an impression that would last longer than a simple lecture would have produced. If his father had just talked about it, he would have tuned him out and learned nothing. Humiliating? Somewhat. However he was pretty sure that now, his father could send him to the store secure in the knowledge that he would bring home the right stuff.

He finished his beer and tossed the can into the rubbish bin. After all that work, he could now say that he’d had his first beer. He also realized that he would be boasting about this to all of his friends in school Monday. The last thing he was able to boast about was making another level in his computer game.

Inside the house, Max walked over to his daughter’s room. Her door was open and she was on her bed painting her toenails with black nail polish.

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