My earliest memory of Grandpa Melvin was when he fought Ronald McDonald out near the McDonald’s Playplace. It was my fifth birthday, and family and friends watched through the glass as the two men squared off.

Grandpa had spent a fortune making sure we had half the restaurant to ourselves. He bought the kids Happy Meals and the adults Big Macs. He spoiled me with Ninja Turtles toys and a bike. Everything went well until Ronald stumbled in, stinking of beer with his white makeup smeared over his red mouth, making some kids cry.

“Where’s my birthday boy?” he hollered. Zach, a boy I didn’t like, pointed at me, and the large clown came waltzing toward me, arms stretched, looking as if he’d trip right into me. Grandpa stepped in front of the man, grabbed him by his oversized white collar, and pulled him into the Playplace.

In between the red slide and the ball pit, the men yelled for a few minutes, pointing at me sometimes. Both of them towered over everyone at the party, but Grandpa made the other man look like a Slim-Jim. Suddenly, Ronald threw a punch that landed right inside Grandpa’s giant palm. The clown’s arm was then twisted around, and his face was slammed against the glass we were looking through, leaving behind a streak of white paint. My uncles rushed out to stop Grandpa from stomping the man to death. Police arrived, and they knew Grandpa from his days as a Hayward cop. They shook his hand, laughed and joked about the bloody clown.

Grandpa whispered something to them. Their smiles dropped. They apologized, handcuffed Ronald, and took him away. Blood dripped from his nose, leaving a dotted trail behind. He struggled to keep his eyes on me, and it wasn’t revealed until years later why that was. Ronald McDonald was my father. He’d been absent since my birth, and Grandpa thought it would’ve been a nice birthday gift for me to finally meet him, his son. It was the first and last time I’d ever see him, shamefully drunk with lipstick smearing his mouth.


Justin Melville is a high school English teacher in his native East Bay, CA. One of his major accomplishments was teaching middle school for five years, where he herded cats. His interests include dive bars, talking to Uber drivers, and finding a decent parking spot when he gets home.

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