Vic is my brother’s five year-old daughter. Cute kid, small and thin, dark black hair that frames her face and rolls just over her shoulders. She walks with a purpose, like an old woman, hands clasped in front of her and back slightly bent with worry. Eyebrows as dark as her eyes, as dark as her hair. She will be a real looker when she gets older. Funny kid. Once she said to my other brother Mike, “Uncle Harpo,” (that’s what we call him because his hair is curly like Harpo Marx), she said, “Uncle Harpo, you make no sense.” Harpo thanked her, told her she wasn’t the first one to notice this, and then continued talking about the latest hockey trade. Vic continued playing with her Barbies. She calls them Marys.
Another time Vic walked up to a biker guy in a Blockbuster video store. He was leather clad, sun glasses, long hair in a pony-tail, mid-thirties. She stood at this guy’s feet, staring up at him. When my brother Kevin noticed where she was, it was already too late.
“Nice hair,” Vic said to the biker guy in a cute voice. He looked down and smiled at her. Then she added, “Not!”
Kevin swooped her up and left the store without looking back.
Vic calls people who get in her way ‘stupid fucking idiots’. Kevin doesn’t know where she got this from. Neither does Beth, her mom. But she’s got it, and she uses it with precision. Each one of us has been a stupid fucking idiot in Vic’s eyes, at one time or another. Even Grandpa Ronnie, but that didn’t go over as well with him as it does with the rest of us. She likes the word ass too, but this is used for objects. “This game is being an ass,” she said after playing monopoly by herself and loosing. Crayons are often asses too, when they break. Allie’s foot was an ass once because it was touching Vic.
Vic loves animals, and so does Beth, so there are pets in their home. A dog, a couple cats, a cockatiel, and Vic has a hamster. She named the hamster John. Every morning she asks John how his night was. Did he have a good sleep? Is there anything special he would like to do today? She confides in John. She takes John out of his cage for walks.
John made a break for freedom once and was missing for over a week. This upset Vic a lot, but it interested Fester, their glued-together cat who survived a hit and run in his early days. Fester stalked a chair in the living room for days. Something clicked with Kevin. The back of the chair came off and there was John, a little thinner, but probably thankful not to have been reduced to one of Fester’s hair-balls.
Vic made John promise never to do that again. She made him pinky swear. She used his stubby tail as the pinky. Everything seems all right now.
When they come over for a visit, Vic calls me Uncle Moe Joe. She likes to ask for things. “Uncle Moe Joe,” she asks, “Do you have any balloons in your house?” I tell her no, sorry Vic, But I think I’m out of balloons. Then she asks about peanut butter. About tissue. About three coloured ice-cream. About shoes, black pants, Allison’s mom’s name, my real name, milk, why I have so many books, pink carpet, and McDonalds for dinner.
Last time she asked me where Allison was. I told her, “At her mom’s Vic. She won’t be home until tomorrow.”
“You miss her a lot, don’t you?” she said. I laughed a little, and said that yes I do. She’s my little girl, like you are your dad’s little girl. I bet he misses you if you’re away too.
“Not Allison,” she said, “I mean her mom.”
Vic had my attention. “What do you mean Vic?” I asked, “Why would you say that?”
“You have pictures of her on the wall,” she said.
“I thought it was good to leave up some pictures for the kids,” I said.
She looked at me. “Do you have any candy in this house?” she asked.
I told her to go find Jackie. She would help her. And away she walked, like an old woman, hands clasped in front of her and back slightly bent with worry.