“Zip it,” Midge always said.
“Zip it kid, or you’re gonna die.” And she would mug what she meant by zipping her thumb and forefinger across her grim lips. “Zip.”
So this is exactly what Ike did. He zipped it. He was eight years old at the time and figured that zipping it was his ticket to a meal and a longer life. He knew bank robbery was not a nice thing to do. He had learned at least that in his short and chaotic, some might say desperate, life. But Midge told him to “zip it and you’ll live to be an old man with eight year old kids to haul around in your pickup truck and buy Dairy Queen Strawberry shakes for.”
She did not expect him to participate in the bank robberies. But she let him know that Dairy Queen Strawberry shakes were not possible without the dollars acquired from a good heist.
Midge was Ike’s mother’s brother’s father’s third wife. Ike’s mother was dead. So was his dad who died in a hunting accident eight days after Ike was born. Ike’s mother died from depression. Her brother, whose name was Bob, was living in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, with his mother, Ike’s grandmother, who was Bob’s father’s second wife. Bob’s father was as close as Ike came to a grandfather. But he was not Ike’s mother’s father. This grandfather was working his way through destroying the life of yet another good woman. She was believed to be his fifth, though if truth be told, even he had lost count. He did boast that he had Xes, kids, and grand kids scattered in nearly every zip code from Ennis, Texas, to Ennis, Montana, including Provo, Utah.
Ike’s mother’s brother, Bob, was not a bank robber. He worked in a warehouse zipping around on a cool John Deere skid steer, moving stuff around and loading and unloading trucks.
He told Ike that someday he’d rescue him from a life of crime. It was just a little uncomfortable that he said something like that. He’d say it, then he’d wink at Midge who grinned at him. Then she grinned at Ike and moved her thumb and finger across her smiling lower lip—“Zip It.”
That summer, Ike and Midge lived in hotels, ate McDonalds and Burger King, and sometimes Olive Garden, sometimes at picnic tables in town parks and Interstate rest stops. Sometimes they had freeze dried soup in Midge’s green plastic coffee mugs. They drove through Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks and saw the Teton Mountains. They took pictures of bears, buffalo, and rock chucks. They waded in Yellowstone Lake and the Jefferson River. Once they went for a dip at Norris Hot Springs. They caught fish on the Yellowstone, the Clark’s Fork, the Madison, and the Snake. Midge did not like killing or gutting fish, so she taught Ike how to do it.
Midge and Bob had been in high school together. “I met the son of a bitch because I went on a date with your Uncle Bob,” Midge told Ike. “The rest is ancient history.” No need to explain who the son of a bitch was. Midge ended up with Ike in part because she knew Bob, in part because Ike’s mother was her pal, and in part because—in spite of her thievery—she was not a bad person.
She probably was not much of a bank robber either. But she lasted almost all that summer before the Last Lost River County, Montana, Sheriff—known as “Quick Draw McGraw,” cornered her outside the West Bench Dairy Queen. He pulled up behind her car, flipped on the flashers, flipped open the squad car door, fumbled out his Glock-9 and shakily leveled it through the open window of his squad car door in the general direction of Midge. “All right, girl, out of the car and on the ground,” he said, “Nice and easy, now and nobody’s gonna get hurt.”
Quick Draw McGraw didn’t see an eight year old kid sitting in the passenger seat. But Ike could see him in the rear view. Ike didn’t move. But he did go on slurping his strawberry shake. Quick Draw McGraw did not see the kid in the passenger seat until he was cuffing Midge, who was face down on the pavement outside the open door of her Chevy. Then a the slurp of a straw finishing a strawberry shake alerted him. Quick Draw fumbled again with his Glock-9 which he had holstered preparatory to cuffing his catch. Fortunately, before he could fumble the Glock-9 from its holster, he realized that he was not facing a criminal but an almost-nine-year-old kid slurping a strawberry shake.
And that was the end of Midge saying “Zip it.”
When his Uncle Bob finally arrived to bail him from the Last Lost River County Protective Services, and haul him back to Coeur d’ Alene, all he could say was, “Midge?! Midge?! The Border Line Bandit? Midge?!”
Ike of course just ran his thumb and forefinger across his tightly closed lips. He was telling nobody zip. Ever.