Uncle was an affectionate misnomer.
Uncle Chuck was our father’s longtime…associate…friend…crony…mysterious eccentric whose smirking, peripheral presence was reproduced through decades of our mother’s Polaroids, ink-jet 4x6’s and her now cringeworthy dalliances with Instagram relevance.
There was a roguish, 1950s swagger to Uncle Chuck, like he was the confidant of Hugh Hefner from the early days of Playboy, a man who preferred the stylings of bulky, black framed glasses and having his charcoal hair immaculately lacquered. He was also a perennial bachelor, allured by youthful beauty, his arm wound to the waist of an ever-changing array of fragrant, strawberry blonde princesses.
“The dude is fucking killing it…” My brother would sigh as Uncle Chuck approached to introduce us to his latest Tasha.
Afterward, with a beguiling whish of hair, Tasha would twirl away, invariably igniting my brother’s decades long bewilderment, “Dad, how does he do it?”
Our father would laugh, patting my brother on the shoulder, “It’s Uncle Chuck. That explains it all.”
“What does he do?”
My father would raise his index finger to his smiling lips, signifying his vow of silence to Uncle Chuck. “Someday, guys, someday…”
Over the years, Uncle Chuck would…vanish.
His absence from holidays, birthdays and the occasional dinner party evoking an almost funeral-like dispiritedness, a void that would elicit past-tense reminiscing and reverence.
Oh, it’s a shame…
He was always so much fun…
My father would chuckle, He’s just out of the country…He will be back in a month or two.
Oh! Where is he?
My father would smile, I can’t say…
There would be a chorus of laughter, Oh that Uncle Chuck!
A few weeks ago, as yawning revelers of my parent’s traditional after Christmas party began to stumble to their cars, my Uncle Chuck and my father withdrew to the upstairs library.
“I knew it!” My brother exclaimed, standing in the threshold of the library. “The after-party has commenced!”
“Go help your mom clean up or go the hell home…” My father responded to my brother, grinning as he handed me a cigar.
“Aunt Carol and Aunt Jamie are helping her… It’s their afterparty.” My brother accepted a lowball glass of whisky from Uncle Chuck as everyone settled into the worn, but plush leather couches and chairs of the library.
“I didn’t know your old buddy Kermit was still breathing…” Uncle Chuck puffed from his cigar. “He’s become a grating, intolerable mess of a man. His wife, wasn’t she Miss-Something-or-State back in the day, but, my god, she looks like she eats her pain away at McDonalds.”
My father nodded. “Yeah…they’ve become a miserable duo. And, yes, she was some sort of beauty queen back in the day.”
I turned to Uncle Chuck, “I thought you were gonna knock Kermie’s ass out at one point.”
Uncle Chuck’s eyes dismissively leaped. “I allowed him to pontificate on all things geopolitical. He hasn’t a clue.”
My father swirled his whiskey glass, his voice mimicking the accent of some grandiose, British intellectual, “Oh, indeed. I most enjoyed his contributing insights on the proposed border wall…”
“He’s the perfect example of what happens to one’s brain when you watch too much CNN or Fox News… But, what can I say, for a long time that was the realm of my expertise. So, he wouldn’t even be able to comprehend what’s going on there."
My brother and I turned to each other, intrigued by the ruffling of Uncle Chuck’s secretive veil.
“Once again, Chuck, congrats on your retirement…” My father raised his whiskey glass.
“Uncle Chuck…” From the cushions of the couch, my brother leaned forward. “Can I ask, what is it you know?”
My father laughed. “Christ, Chuck, since they were little kids they’ve been dying to know what you did for a living.”
“I thought you were a secret agent.”
Uncle Chuck smirked. “I was involved in…operations. I implemented…ideas. I fixed…concerns, if you will. And, then, about twenty years ago, I was recruited for—how do I term this, gentleman—experimental border security. Certain governmental departments were interested in monitoring the southern border. They were interested in building a wide ranging, technologically advanced surveillance system. One that detected and indexed the movements and migrations of those who breached the border. Certain…officers of mine were embedded within border patrol. During their routine captures, certain individuals—whether you wish to call them illegals, aliens, migrants or immigrants, that is up to you—were detained and injected with a…oh, let’s call it a chip. Once implanted, the individual would be databased, their entire movement, body temperature, health and yes, thoughts could be monitored. Also, some of the more advanced chips, could allow for remote access to the individual to control their mind, movement and thoughts. I would advice that anytime you’re reading some sort of conservative news piece about another undocumented immigrant running a traffic light or firing a gun that results in murder, to take some time and determine their motives, if you will…” Uncle Chuck stopped, sipping his whiskey.
“Holy shit…” My brother blurted. “Uncle Chuck, are serious?”
“I’m sure over the last few months, you’ve seen various prototypes of walls being touted by Trump. If you’re even more studious, you would know that along the border, at various stretches, there are structures one would call a wall or fence. But, eventually, there will be a wall. The purpose is not to keep you out, but in. Also, for any of you who have a dog, you may have installed an invisible fence on the perimeter of your yard. The dog wears a collar linked to the fence, and when the dog breaches that invisible border, it is given a little shock by the collar. I can tell you, throughout the southern border, there are parts that do indeed have an invisible fence. Certain individuals have an implant that prevents them from crossing or approaching the border. Of course, conspiracy theorists have been ranting about chips and implants for years. The Mark Of The Beast, they prophesize. Well, one day, everyone will have their very own chip, an RFID widget, that will have the same technology as your dog’s invisible fence. Many other capabilities as well, controlled by all those 5G signals. Which, will create all sorts of barriers to both the mind and body, as well, gentleman.”
“Holy shit, Uncle Chuck…”
My father snickered, “Chuck, I just wanted to see what pretty little thing you would be bringing tonight.”
Uncle Chuck smiled and sipped his whiskey.