Dog Days of Summer
Some love him, some hate him, and we can all agree that his parenting skills pretty much suck. It’s no easy feat serving as president of a massive outlaw organization, but Kenny Teague is undoubtedly the man for the job. Readers like to call all the boys “alphas,” but to my mind, there’s only one alpha male in this jungle, and that’s Ghost.
When it comes to childhood trauma, Ghost is no exception. It’s the familiar sad story: kind, soft-spoken mother in cheap cotton dresses, drug store lipstick kisses pressed to little foreheads, quiet whispers of affection. And a father with big hands and a bad liver. Mom and little Cal died in a car accident, and after that Dad went off the rails with the drinking, channeling all his anger toward Kenny. Only Kenny had an Uncle Duane who was president of an MC. Duane was the one who encouraged him to join the military, and he did so, after marrying his high school sweetheart, Olivia. Kenny was involved in the Invasion of Grenada in ’83, and Aidan was born in ’84. Olivia left in ’88, and well…then everything went to shit.
Four years later, he met Maggie.
The thing about clubs is: club comes first. MCs are little societies unto themselves, and they look out for their own. Considering the outlaw nature of the club, and the near-constant threat of arrest, outsiders are viewed with great skepticism. They’re clannish, these club boys. So the safety and welfare of the members and their families is paramount. Ghost’s responsibility is to his boys, their wives and kids.
He’s a bit of a tyrant, I won’t lie. But I always want it to feel realistic – an outlaw MC prez looking out for his club first, rather than going soft and gooey and doling out charity because “it’s the right thing to do.” One of my favorite(?) reminders of the brutality of this world is in Price of Angels, when we see that Ghost is willing to hand Holly over to her father to spare his club a hassle. It’s a moment meant to be horrifying, and it always tickles me when people react so strongly, “I hate Ghost! What an asshole!” I like that dark reminder – he isn’t running a shelter, but a highly dangerous criminal organization. If he wants to keep that organization up and running, and successfully so, he has to be brutal. The president is the one who makes the calls no one else wants to make, and in that arena, Ghost excels.
Ghost is a good husband because Maggie would tolerate nothing less. But he could stand some lessons in fatherhood. From my writer perspective, it’s a realistic highlight – to me it makes sense that a man who orders outlaws around all day would have trouble switching gears and being a cheerful, supportive parent. He loves his kids, he’d die for them, spend all his money on them, but he doesn’t know how to be tender with them. It’s easier with Ava – barring that whole Mercy business – because she is just his child. But Aidan is one of his soldiers, too, and his high expectations aren’t fair, but they’re present, and Aidan has spent his life reacting in almost the only way he could. They’re so alike, father and son, that Ghost can’t figure out how to be Aidan’s counterbalance.
Rest assured that Ghost’s hypocrisy is intentional. Because, well, parents tend to be hypocrites. They don’t want their children to make the same mistakes that they did. And all humans are insulated from their own shocking behavior, making excuses for the same things they condemn in others. In Ghost’s case, it caused real pain for Mercy and Ava. And in some cases, it provides some levity, because none of his crew is going to let him get away with thinking he hasn’t done the same damn thing himself – I’m thinking of that moment in TLC when Candy had to remind him about their whole pot/kettle situation.
The Lean Dogs MC of Ghost’s Uncle Duane was a dark, intolerant thing. Property patches, petty theft, and open drug use. A completely totalitarian leadership in play. James was a holdover, someone loyal to Duane, without new ideas of his own. A kind man, but a largely ineffective president (all of this is stuff we’ll see in-person in Ghost and Maggie’s book).
Ghost, however, has much more forward-thinking ideas about the club and the men in it. He likes having members who bring skill and independent opinions to the club, but who are still able to follow orders when that’s what’s best. Ghost is the first real agent of change in the presidential line of succession, and he struggles between his personal ideals and those pounded into him by his brutal predecessors. He’s a man caught between generations, but one who handles it fairly gracefully, without showing weakness.
As its writer, the attraction of this series isn’t guys in leather riding motorcycles. If that’s all I thought I was doing, I’d have to take a major hiatus. For me, the MC environment is an out-of-the-ordinary, almost medieval backdrop for the examination of human behavior. For looking at the way trauma affects people differently. I love Ghost because he’s everyone’s boss, and essentially everyone’s dad, and the weight that carries stifles the soft, paternal parts of him. He’s a version of an abused kid – the kid who spit out the blood and pulled himself up, hard, and serious, and unforgiving. Despite all his personal faults, all his human fallibility, he’s a good leader, and he’s unquestionably human, excelling in some areas, failing in others. He’s probably not most people’s favorite, but I’ve got a real soft spot for the boss man.
Here’s a look at the real-life Ghost, an old mixed-breed farm dog who was dearly loved at the barn where I grew up. I’m about thirteen in this picture, and that’s my horse Skip, on my right. I’d just bathed him and braided his tail for a show the next day. And that’s Ghost on my left, sporting his summer clip, all arthritis and happy smiles.