BROTHER-IN-LAW

Slim introduced us as follows: "Kerry, this is Gary. Gary, this is Kerry." Then looking back and forth rapidly at both of us he said, "He doesn't like Kennedy either," laughing at his own joke.

"Yes," said Brother-in-law, "I think John F. Kennedy is a menace to the country and I think he ought to be assassinated."

We shook hands heartily.

"Oh goody! I was a catalyst!" Slim interjected.
We laughed, and I said, "At last, somebody in the French Quarter who isn't a Liberal!"

"Not only that," Brother-in-law retorted, "but I'm a Nazi and, actually, we won the war, Kerry. Did you know that?"

"Yeah, Slim told me you said the Marshall Plan proves it. That was beautiful."

"Yes, but that was only a joke. Kerry, have you ever heard of a company called I.G. Farben?"

Something in his voice scared me a little. That it may have been genuine bitterness beneath a National Socialist cover did not occur to me. But ever since arriving in New Orleans I had been putting up with nothing but Kennedy Catholics and Kennedy Democrats and Kennedy Liberals. It was refreshing to discover someone who hated J.F.K. as much as I did.

"It's a German company that Hitler put together during the Third Reich, Kerry."

As was to become my habit with Brother-in-law, I probably tried to change the subject at this point.

But Gary persisted. "In the political realm only did the Germans lose the war, Kerry. In the economic arena, they won."

Note 2

To a more perceptive ear, Brother-in-law's words may have sounded like thinly veiled complaining. But since I bought the Nazi cover story without thinking, to me it sounded like right-wing delusions of grandeur -- something like the hollow boast of a motorcycle gang member.

As I told Slim afterwards, I liked this brother-in-law of his more than I thought I would. "Why didn't you tell me he hates Kennedy as much as I do?"

"And spoil the surprise?" he said, laughing at the outrageousness of his humor. "Now I wouldn't do that. My name's Slim -- not Scrooge!"

A bald head was Brother-in-law's most striking feature. In retrospect I wonder if he polished it. This is a serious possibility, for he must have been in disguise and may have shaved and shined his pate, wearing a toupee while on less clandestine missions.

The back of his head was rounded, protruding. I mention the shape of his head in hopes that his identification might be facilitated if he was in fact pretending to be someone else.

Gary was the named he used. Perhaps he was in his late thirties or early forties.

Of medium build, he stood at about my height, five foot ten. Muscular arms were offset by a beer belly and sunken chest.

A somewhat protruding lower lip had possibly resulted from his constant pipe smoking.

An unsavory character by my 23-year-old French Quarter standards, besides being a reputed underworld fringer, he dressed like an off duty policeman or an engineer.

Slacks, a belt, a little key chain on something that looked like a steel tape measure spool, and a short-sleeve shirt with a plastic pocket guard for pens and pencils comprised his attire.

A somewhat nasal Midwestern twang could be discerned in his voice. Clipped words and abrupt sentences often dominated his speech patterns at the same time, however. Short giggles occasionally punctuated his sentences.

Standing very straight and drawing his head back until double chins appeared -- though he was by no stretch of the imagination obese -- he would remove his pipe from his mouth and hold it in the air in front of his chest, grin, protrude his lower lip rather belligerently and say something in a high-pitched, smart-alecky tone, as if to assert, "I'm horrible, I know it, and I like myself this way and what's more there is absolutely nothing you can do about it -- so there!"

At such times he looked to me like a species of insect and his choice of words usually reinforced that impression. If what he said was not cruel it would disgust me in another way. "I like smoking a pipe," he told me once, "because it fumigates my mouth."

Among the gentle and beautiful inhabitants of the French Quarter he seemed as misplaced as the metallic slam of a car door in a flower patch. And I gathered the perhaps erroneous notion that he avoided mingling with my Bohemian friends and acquaintances whenever it wasn't absolutely necessary.

His eyes were not a Germanic blue nor his eyelashes blond, I recall vividly, however, they were either hazel or green or blue-green, of a shade light enough that I was not moved to doubt his vaunted German ancestry.

Sometimes I would look at Brother-in-law's eyes intently, and he would meet my gaze grinning mysteriously, defiantly -- as if to say what Lee Oswald said later to his brother, Robert, when he visited Lee in jail after the assassination: "You won't find any answers there, brother."

Gary's pupils were neither dilated nor contracted. There was no glint either. They were like closed solid gates.

With faint amusement, he would just wait patiently, returning my stare as if he could guess the questions in my mind, but knew that never in a million years of looking would I be able to guess the answers in his.

By and large I was tragically unimpressed by Brother-in-law.

I never thought much about him when I wasn't in his presence, except when Slim mentioned him. Once he told me that Brother-in-law had secured a job as a bouncer in a Bourbon Street night club owned by a colorful Mafioso thereabouts. Soon afterwards, he told me that Gary and Ola were now living together in an apartment in the vicinity of the Saint Louise Cathedral on Royal Street.

Ola Holcomb became Brother-in-law's lover shortly after his arrival. A month or so earlier I had myself tried to develop a romantic relationship with her, with disastrous results from the standpoint of my tender young male ego.

A mysterious woman to me, Ola professed to be an atheist but insisted on wearing a little gold cross around her neck. She rejected my advances for reasons she refused to fully explain. And now she was living with Slim's unusual Nazi brother-in-law, of all people.