The Golden Norsemen

Illustration: Liz Argall

Illustration: Liz Argall

fiction by Candace Simar

I wanted to give up when Myron, the town cop, nabbed my driver’s license after my failed eye test. It felt as if my life were over.

Something snapped. I had been a law-abiding citizen all my life without as much as a traffic citation. I served as Sons of Norway president and was a proud member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. A staunch Baptist, I never drank anything stronger than communion wine.

The walls started closing in, and a TV infomercial spouted the value of seniors owning electric scooters to keep active in the community. I bought one that very day. What freedom to drive again! I felt like an eagle soaring in the sky. I convinced my younger sister, Ollie, to buy one, too.

Ollie was only 85, but her memory was gone. We looked alike with our wispy white hair and blue eyes, but let’s face it—Ollie was never the sharper knife in the drawer. Even post-it-note directions didn’t help her remember where she was going.

This forced me to take the lead. Ollie followed whenever we went to the Sons of Norway Hall, the post office, or the Senior Citizen Center. But poor Ollie just couldn’t get it. She plowed into the back of my scooter whenever I slowed down, putting me in jeopardy of whiplash.

Almost in self-defense, I invited my neighbor to join us. J.R. already owned a scooter. I figured if Ollie followed J.R., then she would bump into him instead of me.
You can blame J.R. for the tattoos. He had a Viking printed on his right bicep from army days, and suggested we get them, too, only on our upper chests. We would be a gang, and no one would mess with us. Ollie came up with the name, Golden Norsemen.

Ollie felt squeamish about the needles, but did fine after I slipped her one of my nerve pills. The tattoos looked great. We agreed it a waste of good ink to hide them.

J.R. ordered leather halter-tops and matching chaps from a biker catalog. The tops showed off our cleavage, and the Vikings. The order took almost my entire social security check, but it was worth every penny.

Ollie complained of her hair blowing wild, and so we bought gold-colored “do-rags.”

“I won’t have to worry about sunburn.” J.R. placed one on his bald head.

Soon others from the Sons of Norway Lodge begged to join our gang.

Ed Peterson’s mother hadn’t permitted a tattoo when he was in the Navy. We all agreed it was about time. He was 89 years old, for pity’s sake, just a year behind me in high school.

Burt Benson proved even more forgetful than Ollie. He pulled up the rear of our procession whenever we went out on the town. Soon we were regulars at the Sons of Norway Lodge meetings, the Senior Center congregate meals, bingo on Friday afternoons at the Lutheran Church, and fresh doughnuts on Wednesdays at the Baptist Church. Burt tattooed his name across the back of his hand so he wouldn’t forget it.

Burt’s tattoo looked so nice that we all had our names inked on the backs of our hands. We pierced our ears and wore heavy golden hoops. Then Ollie pierced her eyebrow and we followed suit. Burt insisted on getting a tongue stud.

“I love it,” Burt said with a distinct click of stud against dentures.

You should have seen the raised eyebrows when we wore our new garb to the congregate meal the next week.

“Satan worshippers!” Lila Pepperidge pointed at our tattoos while we were eating the macaroni hot dish being served. “I knew it!” She misunderstood the horns on the Viking helmets.

Burt blasted a spoonful of macaroni at her face, and Lila screamed bloody murder. It was like the Vikings invading Ireland. Macaroni flew everywhere. Myrtle Brorson slipped on some macaroni and had to go to the hospital by ambulance.

“You are blacklisted from this place,” the manager said with a firm set of her chin as she held the door open. “Don’t come back.”

We stalked out. Burt forgot our scooters had electric motors, and suggested we rev our engines around the Senior Center in protest.

“Good idea!” J.R. scavenged an old boom box and taped the roaring motorcycles from an old James Dean VHS. He rigged the boom box to share the scooter’s electric charge. We cruised the sidewalks in style. Whenever we passed the Senior Center, Ed cranked up the volume. Sometimes we’d wait and harass Lila Pepperidge. We’d rock the joysticks forward and back, like racehorses waiting to run.

Then scatter at the sight of Myron’s squad car.

It was out of pure boredom that we turned to drugs. Ed’s grandson sold him our first weed. Our hearts raced as we smoked behind the feed store, our electric scooters lined up in a circle like a wagon train in the old westerns, all of us wearing leather vests, chaps, do-rags, and halters.

I puffed and passed the pipe to J.R. He took a drag and passed it to Burt. Burt cried, Ollie nodded off, and Ed told Ole and Lena jokes.

Myron interrupted with lights and sirens. “What’s going on here?” He snatched the pipe and sniffed it. “This isn’t marijuana.” Myron shook his head. “Smells like oregano.”

After that, we turned to good old Uncle Sam and the Medicare D program to finance our recreation. Among us, we pooled enough pain pills, happy pills, and nerve pills to keep everyone supplied, with hardly a co-payment.

The neighbors complained about the cranked up Lawrence Welk and loud parties.

“If you don’t like the noise,” J.R. hollered down the hallway, “turn off your hearing aids!”

Myron served my eviction notice.

“I don’t understand you, Selma,” he said. “I’ve known you all my life, graduated with your son.”

“Leave us alone, Pig,” Burt said.

“Quit messing around behind the feed store and stalking Lila Pepperidge at the Senior Center.” Myron lectured about the dangers of living on the edge. “Stick to the Sons of Norway meetings—good clean fun.”

“We prefer life on the edge,” J.R. said. “And what we do in the privacy of our own homes is not your business.”

“Then keep it in the privacy of your home, and quit bothering everyone. You’re a bad example for our youth.”

We started the commune after the eviction. Burt’s house stood big and empty except for his cats. I didn’t mind the free love of communal living, but hated the cats. J.R. had allergies, and Ollie never remembered, so I was always stuck taking care of the tabbies.

I was dumping the litter box behind the garage one evening when my retired son, Ronald, came by in his Lincoln.

“Uff-da, Ma,” he said. “What’s going on?”

“I’m free, white, and 21,” I said. “It’s none of your business.”

“Myron says you’ve joined a cult,” Ronald said. “And you’re in trouble with the law. What will I tell the kids? You’re disgracing the family name.”

Ronald hadn’t worried about the family name when he was arrested for that sit-in back in the sixties.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “It’s time for me to live my own life.”

“The Good Samaritan Home won’t even take you,” Ronald said. “They’re afraid of gang violence.”

J.R. came out on the deck snapping a baseball bat into the palm of his hand, his do-rag cocked over his bad eye. “You heard the lady, Boy. Time to move along.”

Ronald wore a puzzled look as he backed out of the driveway. I threw him a kiss and checked my pockets for another happy pill.

It was almost time for Lawrence Welk.

This article originally appeared in the May 20, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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