Nino

Antonin Scalia died as he lived: raising a political shitstorm.

But let us imagine for a moment that he is still with us.

When the respected yet controversial jurist had his near-fatal heart attack in Marfa, the one thing that he could think of was Millie, kissing his cheek and telling him “You’ve got dandelion eyes, Nino”.

Millie was a hippie girl that Antonin Scalia courted many years ago in his youth.  He almost found a conscience then, in a tent in the woods where they ensconced themselves night after night.

After the heart attack in Marfa, Antonin Scalia renounced his regressive ways, and disappeared to grow alfalfa and quinoa on a small farm in rural South Carolina.  We are his neighbors and our children love to go to “Uncle Nino’s” for organic fruit roll-ups or fossilized shark’s teeth.

As the children play in the yard, we sit and sip on chicory tea on the porch, Antonin in his serape or in a beat-up Hawaiian shirt.  He talks about the Constitution and how to stake tomato plants.

His property is only about a klick away from the beach, just down a path through the kudzu and bean plants; walking from the farmhouse to the ocean, you can listen as the sound of the cicadas give way to the roar of the waves.

Antonin has a Rhino side-by-side, all splattered and greasy-hot, that he uses to take us down to the seaside bar, where occasionally Bruce Springsteen shows up to sip beer.  The bar has sweet potato fries and cold, cold Fat Tyre. Sometimes a Filipino guy from San Diego, named Raoul, shows up and plays gentle Hawaiian songs on his Fender Telecaster, and we get up to slow-dance at Antonin’s encouragement.  Antonin smiles and gets a far-away look in his eye as I put an arm around your waist, breathe in your seafoam hair.

The high notes of the guitar twang in and out of the sound of the waves, punctuated by the sound of bottles being set down on the bar.  Antonin tells a joke to Maria the bartender, she laughs like an elephant with a head cold.

I kiss your neck a little bit as Raoul croons, “kiss me each morning, for a million years…”

One night, when we come back to our farmhouse from the beach, we hear some strange music coming from next door.  We sneak over to check up on Uncle Nino, and he is in the yard, the porchlight on, dancing a paso doble with a beautiful older woman in a sundress.  It’s Millie, her once-golden hair streaked with gray.  But, she still has those cornflower blue eyes and mischievous smile.

Antonin and Millie dance with their eyes closed; they don’t notice us watching them from underneath the pine tree.

“Nino,” she whispers into his old, withered ear, “You’ve still got dandelion eyes.”

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