A short story by Rocket
She was not really my aunt. I don’t think she was ever anyone’s real aunt. But, she lived down the street a block away with my Dad’s best friend and they thought of themselves as brothers.
“Daddy was a rollin’ stone; don’t you know,” they would sing with arms draped around each other and bottles of beer swinging wide.
She was the first adult person with whom I a felt a connection: a common ground, a kindred soul mate.
She liked to tell stories. And I liked to listen. God only knows if any of them were true. She’d been telling the same stories so long that they become her reality.
lupe liked to drink and smoke; (both tobacco and wacky weed). I never saw her with pot, but I later learned to recognize a stoner. And aunt Lupe, she liked her ‘wild weed’.
Our backyard had two picknick tables and a well used charcoal grill. “Gas is something you get from eating food cooked over coals, boy!” dad liked to say.
Lupe and Kurt would come over toting a partial 12 pack box of beer and voices set beyond loud and into half drunk roaring mode.
Some where, after hamburger scraps and ketchup were smeared across discarded paper plates that now served as ash trays, aunt lupe would light up one of those long ass brown smokes of her’s and she would tell me a story.
“Did I ever tell you I was a great rock and roll singer? Did I ever tell you about the time I played Woodstock?”
I propped my head up on my folded arms and settled in for the the meandering ride that was my aunt’s storytelling.
“Did I ever tell you I slept with Mick Jagger?
“We was on our way to Woodstock. He was on the front of the bus I was in the back. We were both passed out.” Big belly laugh from Aunt Lupe, she was always her own best fan.
“True story, we were on our way to the music festival at Woodstock… yeah that’s right ‘the’ Woodstock. 1969, summer of love. Race riots in LA, they killed Martin Luther King and then Bobby. And they sent baby boys out to die in the Nam. Summer of love my ass.
“But, for three days, we got to sing and love and bathe in a little muddy pond … did you ever seen the film they made? I’m the third naked girl from the left. You only get to see my back side…oh, I had a great ass! But, did they get one frame of me singing on stage? No. It was just a sound check they told me. In between acts, but I was there, I sang on stage at Woodstock… and I can’t prove it. there ain’t no film. But, you believe me don’t you baby boy?”
“Sure, Aunt Lupe.” I never did. I loved my ‘Aunt’ and I knew, when she was in her cups, she was a big fibber. As a grown up I would have just nodded and grinned at her stories, but I was just a kid then and was about to learn a lesson about discretion; the hard way.
“Aunt Lupe,” I said with the earnestness of youth, “my teacher said the Rolling stones weren’t even at Woodstock. You could not have rode there with them, so you probably weren’t there either. “
She got real quiet, as if trying to remember the track of her tall tales. I thought we would have a good laugh at me having caught her in a lie…. but, I was about to meet her ugly side.
“Are you calling me a liar?”
Her face was cold and dark, she put a cigarette in her mouth, lit it and blew the smoke away. All her motions were quick and hard.
“Well, mister smarty pants, were you there? Was your big college going teacher there? Do you think I’m a liar? Do you think I make up big stories to impress some punk little boy at back yard barbeque?”
Something dropped out of my gut, I thought I might throw up dad’s half cooked hamburger. I’d never seen this side of her. She was like a wounded animal striking back in pain. She did not raise her voice, in fact it lowered like a low crippled dog’s growl. She was even scaring me now.
“I’m sorry aunt Lupe, I didn’t mean…”
She got up and slung her purse across her shoulder.
” ‘You didn’t mean”? You didn’t think calling your aunt a liar wouldn’t hurt her feelings, or did you just not care?”
She left our yard and walked down the block to the home she shared with dad’s best friend.
Hot tears rolled out of my eyes. I had meant that maybe, aunt Lupe had been at a different concert. Or, maybe, it was another band.
What I was hoping to say was; I was in on the gag, it could be our secret. I had enadvertly hurt someone for whom I cared. The world suddenly felt cold and sad, empty of joy. I wanted to be sick. I wanted to take back those last few minutes. I could feel my mother’s eyes on me, but this was nothing she could fix.
And to leave it there would be a gloomy way to end this story, but it ain’t my story it’s aunt Lupe’s story.
An hour later, she came back to the party, sat next to me and put her big sweaty arm across my shoulders and pulled me in close with a hug.
She grew a deep breath and sighed. After a couple heart beats, I drew in a deep breath and sighed even deeper than she.
Then aunt Lupe sighed again.
And I made a big sigh.
Then we both sighed together.
And then… we both laughed.
“You know what I hate?”
“What’s that aunt Lupe?”
“When you tell a lie for so long; you begin to believe it, know what I mean. baby boy?”
“Sure, aunt lupe.”
“Now whose the liar? You are too young to have told a lie for that long.”
I grinned through tear dried cheeks. I still felt sick to my stomach but I was beginning to think I might survive.
We sat that way for a while, then she fired up a new smoke.
“You right, the Stones weren’t there. But, I was!”
She took another drag as if steeling herself.
“I was there, and I did sing on the stage! Not just in any sound check, but as one of the main performers. I kicked the crowd into high gear and they loved me, all one hundred thousand of them, they loved me.
” I faked my death not long after; I had to get out of the business. I went into a kind of witness protection program…. twenty years later, here I am swapping lies with my best friend. You see baby boy, before I was your aunt Lupe, I was a big recording artist and concert performer….
“I was….” her voice trailed off and she bent forward me and looked deep into my eyes…
“I was…. Janice Joplin.”
I sat there stunned, gut punched. I was young, but I knew about traveling the back roads with Bobby McGee. I knew I had just been taken in and trapped by my aunt Lupe, the great fibber of the backyard cook out.
We just looked at each other until she laughed. Then I laughed, then we laughed together.
We laughed together and Lupe hugged me to her and we rocked and swayed together until my mom looked over at us and smiled.
“Are you getting my boy drunk, lupe?”
“Naw, I’ll I’m just teaching him the fine art of of story telling. He’s gonna write for TV someday.”
“Now, tell me the one of how you slept with Jim Morrison.” I said. I was happy again being on the inside of the joke.
“He was on the front of the bus, I was on the back!”
We both laughed our secret laugh and mom turned away, shaking her head and rolling her eyes; reassured that all was well again in our little backyard world.
And that’s it. That’s the story of my aunt Lupe….or at least, one of her stores.
Maybe, someday, I’ll tell you another.