This is the second in a series of excerpts from Tom’s Bad Man Memoir. The first is available here.
What percentage was I born? I don’t know. But I say I’m about seventy-five percent bad man. That’s pretty good. But still there’s the question: what about all the rest?
Twenty-five percent of me you never heard about. Twenty-five percent you never knew. That’s why I wrote this. So you would understand. Because bad man needs compassion too. In fact, he needs it more than most. Why you think everyone’s arguing about prisons? You think it’s all cut and dry? San Quentin’s got a view of the Bay. Maximum security with a Bay view. Anybody who’s taken the ferry from Larkspur heard of that. How else you going to San Francisco? You got a heart, you wave at the prisoners and they wave on back. Nothing in life is a hundred percent. If it were, we wouldn’t be here.
Twenty-five percent: where I get it? I’d say half from my mother and half from my father. They were bad men all their own, in their own ways. My dad, he’s a guy. My mom, she’s not. Guess what? Bad men all the same. But don’t you tell her that. I say one thing, you say another. I’ve got what’s called the privilege of the first born. I’ve got primogeniture of the mouth. I can say what I want. I bought this book and now I’m gonna use it, because anything else wouldn’t be wise.
What book you got? You been on Wikipedia? What you know, I don’t know, but all I know, I say what I think.
I’m twenty-five percent not that bad man. Break that down. I grew up in Kentfield. You been there? I had a friend. We both had the bikes. We did it. Now where’s my friend? He’s in business in Buffalo. Check out that place. Grab a Labatt. He moved to the Canadian border and set up shop. He’s an attaché. It says on his card. He sent me three. I put them to use. Make use what you got. He gets paid. He’s got a dog. Most people pick one or the other. Bad men take both. Now you go on and try. You know the math. I did it for you. Seek out your place and own it. All school is trade school. Life is a business. You don’t want a dog, don’t blame me.
Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.