My Mind

My Mind
This is my mind

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Finger circles near my ear

“That’s pretty stupid, nef,” said Clyde.
“I don’t think so,” I said, looking him in the eye.
“You’re wrong,” he said dismissing me.
“Yeah, well, maybe you are,” I shouted at his back.
He was walking away shaking his head.
“What’s all the yelling in here?” It was my grandmother.  She had walked out of the kitchen to see what I was yelling about.
“It’s nothing, mom.  Just Rickey being stupid again’” Clyde said to her.
“Am not!” I shouted again.
“Alright, Rickey.  No need to yell. Do you want to tell me what it’s all about?”
“Nome,” I said while looking down and dragging my toes to and fro on the hardwood floor.
“Clyde?” She looked at him.
“He wants to give the school library a gift.” Clyde looked at me like I was an escaped loon.
“A gift?”
“Yes’m.  He wants to buy a Christmas gift for the library.  Dumb, huh?”
“Well, I never heard of such,” she said looking at me.  “Whatever for?”
“I like the library.  I wanna get it a present.  I just wanna.”  I was still looking at the floor.
“Sounds a little foolish to me too,” she said.  “It’s his money, Clyde.  Let him be.” She returned to the kitchen shaking her head just like Clyde.  It must have been in the genes.
Clyde was watching me when he started making circles with his finger next to his ear.  He crossed his eyes and stuck out his tongue angling it to the left.
“What a Bozo,” he said, then, he left the room.
“Well, I don’t think so,” I said to myself quietly.
The day carried on.  It was Friday so my mother would be picking me up soon.  She had promised we would go to Edwards this weekend to shop for Christmas presents.  I had my allowance and some I’d saved in my piggy bank all year.  My mind was made up on all the presents I would buy.  I just needed to pick out the right book for my last gift on the list.
Clyde came in slamming the screen door.  I looked up from my comic book to see him making circles again next to his ear.
“You still gonna buy a present for the school library?”
“Yeah and I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”  I returned to my comic book.
“I got crazies for relatives.” I heard him whispering to himself as he passed by
I made a raspberry noise in his direction with my tongue.   It was then I heard the screen door open on the front porch.  My mother was here. I tossed the comic book into the pile on the couch and ran to her.  She took me in with open arms giving me a week’s worth of hugs.
“Momma!  I’m so glad to see you.  When do we go shopping?”
“Tomorrow, sweetheart.”
“Can’t we go now?” I practically yelled it.
She hugged me again.  “First thing tomorrow.  Right now we have to get your things together so we can get ourselves home.”
She walked into the kitchen. 
“Hello, mother.” I heard her say.  I ran into the bedroom to get my stuff.
“Did you tell your mother what you are going to do?”  It was Clyde sitting on the bed. 
“No. Not yet.”
“Boy is she going to think you’re one dumb bunny,” he said.  He began to laugh.
“Will not,” I yelled back to him.
My mother poked her head into the room.
“What’s all the yelling?” she asked.
“It’s your son.  He’s being a ninny,” said Clyde.  He started to tell her then shook his head.  “I’ll let him tell you.  It’s too crazy coming from me.”
“Is something wrong, Rickey,” she asked me.
“No ma’am,” I shot back giving Clyde the evil eye.  His finger was making circular motions for the third time today.
“Get your stuff, then.  I have to get dinner started.”
I got my clothes and books together.  We said goodbye and walked out to the car.  I looked back to see Clyde cross-eyed making finger circles next to his ear.  I stuck my tongue out at him.
Dad was not home when we got there.  I went to my room to put my stuff up and mom settled into cooking.  Friday evening dragged on simply because I wanted to get started on my Christmas shopping list. 
“Wakey, wakey, rise and shine,” I heard in a half dream. “Come on, sweetheart, up and adam.”
It was Saturday!
“Yes ma’am!” I yelled. I jumped out of bed.  My feet hit the cold linoleum floor.  I jumped, ran into the bathroom.  I splashed my face with cold water and brushed my teeth faster than mom could say breakfast is ready. 
“You put your shirt on inside out,” said mom as I plonked myself into my seat in front of two boiled eggs in Santa and Mrs. Claus egg cups.  Beside them lay two rows of bread and butter soldiers.  Mom had buttered two slices of bread and cut them into strips just large enough to fit into the soupy yellow center of each soft boiled egg.  Dad had always called these bits soldiers. 
I pulled off my shirt and put it back on right side out this time.
“Go ahead, eat your breakfast,” she said smiling down on me.
“Isn’t dad…”
“He had a rough week so he wants to sleep in.”  Dad always worked eight hours and more every day.  He put in so much overtime all the time that his employers always put him on salary in the end so they wouldn’t have to shell out overtime.  Dad wasn’t concerned.  He just wanted the job done right.  It ended up with him always sleeping in on the weekends.
“You and I will go this morning.  Perhaps, in the afternoon your daddy will take us out again.  But I know you have things you want to get.  As soon as you’ve finished your breakfast we’ll go.”  She left me to my soldier dipping.
When the soldiers were gone I forced my spoon around the shell scooping the remaining white out.  This I popped into my mouth and happily chewed up quickly.
“I’m ready!” I shouted.
“Shhh!”  My mother had her finger at her lips letting me know I should keep the noise down. “Mustn’t wake your dad.”  She smiled and helped me with my coat.
On the drive into town I tried to figure what book to get for the library.  My mother interrupted my mental quest.
“Do you have your list?  And your money?” she asked.
“Yes ma’am.  It ain’t very long.”
“Don’t say ain’t, dear.  You sure you have enough money?”
“I think so, mom.  I counted out ten dollars when I knifed my piggy bank.”  On TV kids took a hammer to their piggy banks but I could never destroy mine.  A knife and a keen eye in the slot would bring the quarters and dimes sliding out without harm to my porcelain pig.  It had been with me for about three years, ever since first grade when I started receiving an allowance.  My folks always watched me drop a part of it into my rotund pig listening for the clang against the bottom.
“Are we going to Edward’s?” I asked.
“I thought we might go to the other end of town to Silver’s and Woolworth’s.  Maybe dad will take us to Edward’s either tonight or sometime before Christmas.”  She stared out the windshield watching for the turn to King Street. 
We parked a block or two from the shops.  I closed my door.  She took my hand and we walked past the Riviera Theater.  I looked at the coming attraction windows. 
“Mom!  Robin Hood!  Robin Hood’s coming!” I shouted.  The poster showed Errol Flynn pulling his bow taut, the arrow aimed at me.    “Can we come see it?”
“We’ll see,” she said continuing to walk.
My head filled with fantasies of the Merry Men and Sherwood when mom turned into Silver’s.  She knew everyone there because she had worked behind one of the counters years before.  While she caught up with all the gossip I wandered around the old store.  The floor boards were worn from all the foot traffic that had walked over them all the years before.  Some of them squeaked as I trod on them. I took my eyes off the unpolished floors and began searching the counters.
And there it was.  My search was over before it began.
TARZAN AND THE CITY OF GOLD.  The cover shown Tarzan with his bow drawn back, arrow ready to fly.  Behind him was a bridge leading to the City of Gold.   The cover was magnificent in bright shining color.
I reached for it.  It was just beyond my fingers.  On tiptoes I hefted myself onto the counter. My fingers just touched the glossy slick surface.
“Young man!”
Startled, I fell on my butt.  Dust clouded up around me.
“What do you think you are doing?” the floor walker was standing over me.  Dust from my butt slam to the floor was settling on cuffs over unpolished shoes. I looked up from those shoes along a frumpy faded blue suit into the eyes of a decidedly grumpy man.
“I…I… I was trying to reach that book.”  He looked from me to the shelf beyond my reach.
“You can’t lean on the shelves like that.  They can’t take the weight of chubby boys like you. Don’t let me catch you doing that again.  Understood?”
“Yes sir.”  He turned and walked off.
“You could have gotten the book for me,” I muttered to myself.  I watched him walk to the front of the store and when he wasn’t looking I leaned on the counter and jumped. My left hand pushed up from the counter as my feet left the floor.  I tapped the book with my right hand in the split second I was mid jump.  It toppled to the counter top. My feet hit the floor with a bang shaking dust up and onto my shoes.  I ducked below the counter.
Rising slowly I looked to the front of the store.  He was up front talking to one of the girls behind a counter.  I grabbed the book which was now within my grasp.  The cover was slick.  The pages were heavy and the color of cream lined with words of ink.  There were illustrations on several pages I noticed as I flipped through it.  This was it.  Perfect.
I scraped my feet along the floor as I searched for my mother.  The sound of my shuffling feet made me happy.
“Pick up your feet, boy!” It was the same man in the bad suit.
I looked up at him holding my book tight.
“And just how did you get that book, shorty?” Gravity took hold of the loose skin of his face as he looked down at me.  He looked similar to a hound dog, so much so that I began to snicker to myself.
His mouth opened but before he could begin to speak my mother put her hand on my shoulder.
“Can I help you,” she said.
“Uh, no ma’am.  I was just telling this boy…”
“This boy is my son.  Just what can he have done for you to talk like that to him?”
“Well, uh, he was climbing on the counter and…”
“If you had simply reached for the book he wanted it could have been avoided.” She was very stern.
The man wilted within his wilted suit.
“Uh, yes. I suppose you are right. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize to me.  Apologize to my son.”
“Uh, yes ma’am.  Rightly so.  I’m so sorry little boy.  I should have helped you.  There’s no excuse.”
“Can we go now, momma?” I asked turning to her.
“I think so, sweetheart.” She turned taking my hand. We walked to the front of the store.  I paid for my book.  I looked back.  He was staring at us.  I made circular motions with my finger next to my ear and stuck out my tongue.  I’m thankful my mother didn’t see it.  She was too busy leading me out onto the sidewalk.
The rest of the items on my list I found in Woolworth’s.  They were easy.  The difficult gift I held fast to my side trying to keep Tarzan from letting his arrow fly.
On the ride home my mother kept looking at me.
“Who did you buy the book for? It was the highest priced item you bought today.”
“It’s my gift for the library.”  My smile spread across my face.
“For the library?” she asked.  “Your school library?” The pitch of her voice grew higher.
“Yes’m.”  There was pride in my answer.
“Sweetheart, people don’t give Christmas presents to a library.”
“Why not?” I couldn’t believe my mother would say that.
“Christmas presents are for people, not things.”
“The library isn’t a thing. It’s full of books.  Books are friends. I want to give to my friends.”
“That’s not really…”
“What, momma? Can’t I give presents like I want to?”
“But Rickey…   Well, it’s your money I guess.”
I smiled.  Yes, it was my money and I didn’t care who thought I was crazy.  I’m giving this Christmas gift to the library, I thought to myself as we turned into the driveway.  The old gray house sat there as we parked beside it.
I wrapped the Tarzan book in festive Christmas paper the next day.  On Monday I’d give it to the library.  After I tied the bow I slipped it into my book sack.  My smile grew broader with each passing moment.
That morning at school I walked along the breezeway between the old school and the new units built more recently.  Across the sandy playground I saw some kids on the monkey bars next to the see-saws.  My eyes traveled over them onto the newest brick building at the end of the covered walkway.  I took a left into the hallway lined with cinder blocks that had been painted a light gray.  Coats hung on the hooks lining the hallway.  My class was the last room on the right.  I went in and slammed my book bag onto my seat.  I opened it to be certain my brightly wrapped package was still there.  My smile said yes.  Today was Library day.  The class would be given a chance to pick a book from our one room library.  It was a small cozy room with shelves on every wall lined with books to which my present would soon be added.
The teacher came into the room.  I dropped my bag at the side of my desk and sat down.
“Good morning, class,” said the teacher.  “Please answer the roll call.”
Class began as it always began, with roll call. This was followed by the Bible reading and the pledge to the flag after which we sat down.
“Alright children pull out your English books.”  The teacher was in control until about eleven.  It was around then that we were squirming in our seats. 
“Put away your books.  It’s time for our library visit.” Our teacher closed her book.  “Don’t forget to return your books from last week if you have finished them.”
The rustling of book bags filled the air.  I reached into mine and pulled out my book and my package wrapped in Christmas paper with a red bow squashed onto the top.
“What’s that?” the girl behind me asked.
“It’s my present for the library,” I said my smile showing teeth.
“That’s dumb,” she said.  “Nobody gives presents to libraries.”
“Well, I do!” I said frowning at her.
“That’s dumb,” I heard her say under her breath.
We stood and walked single file out the door, down the hall and into the library which was on the left two doors down.
I slipped out of line to take up the last position.  When I turned into the doorway there she was.  My heart skipped a beat. She was a brunette.  She was beautiful and young with a smile that could melt snow.  She looked up at me and that smile made my knees buckle. 
“Hello, Rickey. Do you have a book to return to me this week?” Her voice was music floating into my ears.  Her deep blue eyes became my world until my teacher tapped my shoulder.
“Rickey, are you alright?” She leaned over me looking squarely into my face.  Her hand settled on my brow.  “No, no fever.”
“I’m fine, Mrs. Riecke,” I said.
“I hope so,” was her response.
But I was no longer concerned with her concern.  I dived back into those two pools of deep blue.  I walked forward with my hand outstretched.
“What’s this?  A gift for me?” she asked her smile encircling me.
“Uh, no. It’s a gift for the library.  I, uh, wanted to give the library a Christmas present,” I stuttered.
“That’s highly unusual but I will say thank you for the library.”  Her eyes smiled at me.
Behind me I heard whispers, “ …sittin’ in a tree, K I S S I N G…”
My cheeks flamed red.  The librarian smiled at me. She nodded causing her chestnut brown hair to slip across her right eye.

I turned and ran back to the classroom.  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rain, rain stay the day

My cousins lived next door.  It was a convenience I never thought about.  I just got up and walked over to the next yard, climbed the steps to the back porch and walked right in.  Everyone was at the table when I walked through.  My aunt was at the stove cooking.  She had bacon frying in the pan.  A half a dozen eggs sat on the counter soon to be fired in that bacon grease.  I could see the handle of the pot that had grits bubbling away on the burner. 
“Good morning, Rickey,” said my aunt in greeting.  “Join us for breakfast?”
I was always welcome for breakfast.
“Yes’m, please,” I answered heading for the bench seat on one side of the table.  My girl cousins sat across from me after I slid in on the other side.  My other cousin sat in his chair at the end of the table opposite the two windows facing out over the driveway.
“I got a new record,” said Hayne.
“You do?  What is it?” I looked over toward the shelf that held the record player.  It was a white player with cartoon characters painted on the side.  A stack of 45 records sat on the thick pole at the center of the turntable.
“It’s a story about Henery Hawk and Foghorn Leghorn. Would you like to hear it?”
Hayne was unable to play like the rest of us due to a condition he had from birth.  He was confined to a chair but he never complained.  He was always with us when we played.  Though confined to a chair his imagination brought him right into the middle of whatever we were doing.
I told him yeah and jumped up to turn on the player.
“Where is it?”  I had shuffled through several records trying to locate it.
“It’s already on the player.  Just hit the switch.  Take those ready to drop, off first, though.”
I slipped the stack of records off the spindle then turned it on.  The needle arm moved over and down.  Through the speaker came the Warner Brother Looney Tune music followed by the voice of Mel Blanc introducing himself as Henery Hawk and soon after as Foghorn Leghorn.
“Not again,” said one of the girls.  “Mom! Do we have to listen to that again?”
My aunt took a moment to walk to the end of the table.
“It’s not going to hurt you to hear that story again,” she said looking at the frown on the girl’s face.  “How many times have I had to listen to that new singer, what’s his name? Elvis Presley? That’s not even real music but I let you play it over and over and over.”
She returned to the stove.
My oldest cousin of the two, on the opposite bench, stuck her tongue out at me. She didn’t see me do the same because she had already returned to reading her movie magazine.
I went back to listening with Hayne until the record needed flipping it to the other side.  I jumped up to switch it.  At the same time my aunt called out for us to come get our plates. 
“Which one is Hayne’s?” I asked. My aunt smiled handing me a plate with an egg and bacon and a pile of grits.  I took it to him.
“Watch out, it’s hot,” I warned. He got his fork at the ready as I went back for my plate.  The girls gave me a shove as I went back for mine.
The record ended.  The machine automatically shut off.  I mixed my eggs in with the grits and broke up the bacon to mix in as well. 
My cousin, who always made faces at me, was making one now.
“Eww!  How can you eat that mess?” She was looking at the plate piled with yellow grits specked with dark bits of bacon.
“It’s good.  You should try it.  Your daddy always says it mixes together in your stomach.”
“Yeah, but you don’t have to eat it like that.” 
“Read you magazine,” I responded.
“So what are we going to do today?” I asked.  The sky was a dark gray.  It was supposed to rain all day.
“How about Monopoly?”  Hayne offered.  Monopoly always brought a smile to his face.
“You always win that game!” we all chimed in.
“Yeah, it’s fun,” he said.
We finished breakfast and took our dishes to the sink.  My oldest cousin went to get the Monopoly board.  She opened the playing field on the breakfast table.  We chose our pieces and placed them on GO.
I gave Hayne the dice.  He rolled a twelve.  Linda beat out the count with the Top Hat.
“Draw a card!” I shouted.  I pulled one off the top of the deck.  “Get out of jail free card!  You always get the good ones.”  I handed it to him and he tucked it away for a rainy day.
This would be one of those days.  The rain had begun in earnest now, pelting the windows. A rumble came from far off.
We played until Hayne had collected all our money in rent.  He always won.  His chances to buy choice real estate were methodical as if he could control the dice with his mind.  It was OK.  We spent several hours watching our money slip through our fingers into his cash pile. 
I looked outside to see if it was slowing down enough to go home.  It was a steady rain. 
“Do you think it’s too wet to go out on the porch?”  We all enjoyed watching the rain fall.
Outside it was still raining but not quite so hard.  I opened the door so Linda could ease Hayne’s wheelchair over the threshold.  His smile at the outside world was as big as always.  He loved outside.  He loved life.  He never fussed about having to live it in a chair.  His enjoyment of family and moment to moment living was remarkable.  What we often took for granted he savored. 
The porch had a wood floor painted gray.  Midway facing forward was an opening between two bannisters that graced the edge open tothe road.  Steps led down to a flag stoned walkway leading to the street.  Two brick columns about a foot high sat at the end on either side. 
A swing hung from the ceiling to the left of the door.  Richie and Linda were already piling into it.  They swung outside the cover of the roof into the steady rain.  They giggled each time the rain fell upon them. We two boys laughed at their silliness.
I sat on the floorboards next to the wheel chair.
“You know what would be great?” he asked me.
“Ice cream?” I asked.
“No, to be able to run out into that rain and splash in puddles.”
I looked at him thinking, I like being dry under the roof.  It was hard for me to imagine wanting to go out into it.
“You’d get all wet,” I told him. 
“Yeah, but it would be great fun.”  He spoke while I noticed his eyes fill with wonder at the ability to do such a thing.  I knew he missed out on so much because he couldn’t run with the rest of us but it never occurred to me that he thought about it this way.
I believe it was the first time I ever truly realized he was not able to enjoy fully the things we so took for granted.  His was a second hand enjoyment.  Sure, he loved playing with us and he always laughed along with us at whatever we were doing but here in this moment I realized how much he missed but how much he loved life and the world around him.
“OK,” I said.  I jumped up, rain down the steps and jumped into the first puddle I saw.  The rain came down beating on my head plastering my hair to my skull.  My clothes became wet, then drenched, as I jumped up and down in every mud puddle I could find.  Soon the rain poured harder and harder still.
On the porch my cousins were yelling at me to come in out of the rain. 
“Don’t you have any sense?” yelled one.
“You don’t have the sense God gave an animal cracker,” shouted the other.
My aunt came to the porch opening the screen door just wide enough to see what was happening.  When she saw me jumping up and down in the muddle puddles holding my hands up to the sky she joined in the outcry.
“Rickey, get back up here on the porch.  What would you mother say?” she shouted at me.
The grown up had spoken.  I began to trudge back stomping puddles on my way.  Climbing the steps I saw my aunt shaking her head at me.  As she went inside she looked down at Hayne who looked up to her and smiled. She smiled back.
“Guess I better go home,” I said to Hayne as I finished climbing the steps.
“Yeah, you better go home and change into dry clothes, weirdo,” said my oldest cousin.
“You were right,” I said quietly to Hayne.
His grin was wide.  His eyes gleamed.
“Thank you,” he said.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Just call me Lucky

We stood under the pecan trees across from my Great Grandmother’s house.  The cars were parked under the old trees.  Someone had placed the posts in such a way that the fence moved into the field beyond, making a short area of parking. I had run out of the house, scattering chickens, across the dirt road to this parking lot searching for Clyde.
He had slipped out of the house apparently to evade my tagging along as always.
I saw him knelt down beside one of the cars.  He had that look on his face when I found him.  It usually meant, oh no not again. It was a look I often saw when I ran to catch up with him. 
He was cradling his BB gun.  I ran over to him.  He rose slowly from his crouching position.
“Whatcha doin’?” I asked.
“I’m huntin’,” he said ratcheting the lever.  “Ain’t that your momma calling you?”
I looked around.  I saw her at the door but I never heard her call.
“Nuh uh,” I said.  “What are we huntin”?”

“We ain’t huntin’ nothin’!” he said. He took a pot shot at the farthest tree. A piece of bark flew off the side
“Can I shoot the gun?” I asked.
“No.  You don’t know how to shoot.”  His words hit home.  I hadn’t shot anything but a cap gun.  All they did was make noise. Nothing ever came out the barrel so I could see how good a shot I was. 
“I don’t think that’s fair,” I said to him.  “How am I gonna learn if you don’t let me?”
“Get your own damn gun,” he said.
“Ooh, you said a dirty word,” I said, covering my mouth. 
“I say ‘em all the time.  You just ain’t heard me before,” he bragged.
One of granddad Kicklighter’s pigs sauntered past us on the rutted red clay.  Clyde eyed him with interest.  He forgot about my intrusion into his hunting excursion.  At this very moment, he needed an audience.
“Watch this!” he said.  The pig bounced along at a slow trot as Clyde lifted the rifle to his shoulder.  He squinted along the barrel lining up the sites. He pulled the trigger and there was a pop.  That BB connected with its target, that poor pig’s testicle.  The anguish of that pig’s squeal reached down into my depths and up came a laugh. 
“What are you doing, Clyde Lynn?”  It was my mother crossing the road with a box in her arms.  “Did you just shoot that pig?”
“Nome,” he lied.
“If you want to keep that BB gun I better not ever see you do that again.”
“Yes’m,” he said digging his toe into the ground in a semi-circle at his other foot. 
“I mean it.  I don’t want you teaching Rickey those kinds of things.  That poor creature wasn’t hurting you one bit,” she continued to scold.
I could see Clyde’s eyes had glazed as he stood hanging on to the rifle, behind his back, with both hands.  It rocked around him with his foot movements.

“Now you two go play and leave the animals alone,” said my mother dismissing both of us.  “Ricky, please open the back door of the car for me.”
“Yes’m,” I said as I ran to the car.  I could see Clyde had already headed up the road leading to the branch.  Mom put the box in the seat and closed it. I turned and headed toward my uncle.
“Wait up, Clyde!” I yelled as I ran along the red clay road.  He was already halfway past the field when I finally caught up.
“You coulda waited,” I huffed and puffed trying to catch my breath.
“Yeah, yeah,” he said.  His pace was brisk.  I had to walk, run to keep up.
“Can’t you walk slower?” I wheezed.
“Got huntin’ on my mind.  Got no time to worry about you.”
“What are we huntin’?” I asked for the second time.
“Ain’t decided.  Gonna look for tracks at the branch.”  With that, he began to trot.  He looked back and I saw him grin.
The branch was a small trickle of water that came out of the forest that sat beside the fenced in field.  There was a bend in the road that we continued along.  About ten minutes later we were surrounded by woods on either side of the rutted red clay that functioned as a road.  The branch was a bit further.  This stretch of road was so quiet that the call of the crows shocked me when they pierced the air.  The forest bed was covered in fallen leaves.  The trees were losing their green covering which had changed color and now drifted to the ground beneath.  The branches were becoming gnarled arms and fingers reaching into the air around them. 
“Look!” I yelled.  “Squirrel!”
Clyde looked raising the rifle.
“Too far away,” he said and picked up the pace.
When I lost sight of the farmhouse I was always a bit jumpy.  The quiet of the area was eerie to me with the wind rushing through the bare limbs and shaking off the remaining leaves.  There was a lonely quality to it that rubbed off on me.  I often felt as if we were no longer part of the world.  It was rare that a car ever travelled this old clay road unless they were coming to visit.  There was another farm about two miles further up this road then nothing for 10 or more miles.
My great grandparents were quite content with it.  They had no phone.  If ever they needed anybody there was an old goat’s horn with a wooden mouth piece at the skinny end.  I picked it up one day and was blowing on it like a trumpet.  The last sound I made was fairly loud when Granddaddy snatched it out of my hands.
“Don’t do that, boy.  The only time we blow on that horn is if we’re in trouble.  The neighbors come arunnin’ if they hear that, so don’t be messing with it again.”
He hung it on a nail high above me to be certain I didn’t touch it.
“Yes sir,” had been my answer.
“Go outside and play,” he said.  I ran out, the screen door slamming, to find the dogs.
“There it is,” said Clyde, breaking into my drifting mind.
“The branch, goof ball.  Come on.  Let’s see what’s been drinking the water.”
He ran to the tiny stream.  The water was a deep rich brown and moved very slowly.  Leaves could be seen at the bottom of the darkness.
“See that?  That’s a deer’s tracks.”
“Wow!” I said.  I always marveled at how much Clyde knew.
“Over there is a coon’s track.  They don’t just drink the water they wash their food in it, too. They grab whatever they are eating and hold it just like this, then wash it off in the water.  Only, then, do they eat it.  They don’t like dirty food.”
He turned to look in another area. 
“Now that track looks like a wildcat, one of those little ones. They call them Bobcats ‘cause of their bobbed tails.”
“So what you want to hunt?” I asked.
 He looked at me.  Considered for a minute and, then, with a twinkle in his eye, said, “Fairies.”
“Fairies.  You know those little creatures with wings. Surely your teacher has brought up the Fairies and Brownies stories.”
“Yeah, we read some stories about Brownies and Fairies.  They don’t like each other and are fighting all the time.”
“See, I knew you were smarter than you looked, nef.”
I smiled.  It wasn’t often Clyde complimented me.
“I’ve never seen a real Fairy though.  Have you?”
“Shoot, yeah. All the time.”
“Really?” I was amazed.  They had just been stories to me.
“You bet.  Look over there.” He pointed at a bunch of toadstools.
”Come here and look close.  See how those toadstools make a ring like that?”
“Yeah.”  They did.  They were almost a perfect circle.
“Now take a look in the middle of that circle.  See how there’s nothing really growing in there?”
“Yeah,” I said not really seeing any difference but knowing Clyde was a better woodsman than I was, I agreed.
“Well, that’s where the Fairies dance.  They were here last night.  Let’s find a place to hide and get the jump on them.”  He looked at me, a twinkle in his eye.  Looking up in the sky he said,” Well, we got some time.  Let’s wade downstream for a bit.”
“I’ll get my shoes wet.”
“No you won’t because we’re going to take them off.”  He sat at the edge of the road and commenced to taking off his shoes and socks.
I followed suit.
“Give me your shoes so I can put them in a safe place.  Brownies like to steal shoes.  They take them to the Elves to be worked on.”  He took mine along with his.
“You mean there are Brownies and Elves in these woods, too?”
“Of course there are.  Any time you find a bunch of Fairies dancing around in a Fairy ring there are going to be Brownies and Elves trying to figure out how to beat them up.”
“That doesn’t seem nice.  Why would they do that?”
“Good grief, nef.  Sometimes I’m not sure how you learned to tie your shoes.”
“You taught me, remember?”
“Oh, yeah.  Well, you can at least do that. Ready to wade in the water?” He stepped into the brown water.  It rose to his ankles.
“Be careful, nef.  Try not to disturb the mud under the water too much.”
“How come?”
“That’s how the Fairies know if someone has been here.”
“What if those someones don’t like to wade?” I asked.
“Of course they would wade.  Anybody hunting Fairies gives them a sporting chance.”
“I don’t get it.”
“It’s one of the rules for hunting Fairies.  They have to be given the chance to know if they are being hunted.  It’s a rule.”
“Mighty dumb rule,” I ventured.
“It’s really a good rule because it can make hunting Fairies easier.”
“Now I definitely don’t get it.”
“There are two kinds of Fairies, smart ones and dumb ones.  The smart ones would never get caught.  The dumb ones think they can escape and it gives them a thrill.  So, we hunters are really making their lives more exciting.” He looked at me grinning.
“Well that kind of makes sense but…”
“But, nothing.  How many Fairies have you seen?”
“Huh?  Exactly, what?”
Once again he sighed.  “Gosh, nef.  Alright, how often do you wade in streams in the woods?
“Hardly ever,” I said.
“There you go.”
“You aren’t making sense.”  We had gone deep into the woods and the stream was up to my calves.
“It’s a rule that you have to wade in the water to give Fairies a chance to evade hunters. If you don’t wade in the water then you aren’t following the rules and they won’t allow themselves to be seen.”
“I just don’t get it.”
“I don’t know how to explain it any better.  Come on we need to go back.  It’s getting late and we have to find a hiding place.”
I started to splash my feet as I walked.
Clyde stopped.
“Now see what you are doing?”
“I’m letting them know we have been here.”
“You aren’t supposed to be deliberately letting them know.  I try and try but sometimes I can’t get through.  Ok.  Stop doing that.  I want to bag a Fairy.  I’d at least like a sporting chance.”
We were near the road.  The sun was slipping below the horizon and dusk was settling all around us.  Clyde motioned me to stop.
“Shh.  I think I see them.”
“Where?” I said in a whisper.  “I don’t see anything.”
From somewhere deep in the wood behind us came a “Whooo!”
“Shh.  I said be quiet.”
“That wasn’t me.”
“It wasn’t?” Clyde turned to me.  In the dark I could still see that twinkle in his eye.
“Must have been one of the Fairies.  They might be on to us, asking who?”
“Can we move?  I don’t like being in the woods when it’s dark like this.”  I pushed on him.
“Come on, but keep quiet.” He bent down and moved, crouched over.  I followed suit. 
“My feet are getting cold.  Where’d you put my shoes?”
“Shh.  They’ll hear you.”
We stepped out of the woods next to the road.
“Here that?”  A noise came from the other side of the road in the area of the Fairy ring.
“No.  When are you going to cock you gun?”
“I’ll have to do it now.  Real quiet.”  He pulled the lever toward the body of the gun very slowly.  There was a loud click as it engaged the BB.
The darkness was deepening, the sun having disappeared. 
“Keep watch,” Clyde said.
I looked across the road trying to see anything but there was nothing but darkness.
“Clyde, I’m scared.”
“Just watch.”  Another noise broke the silence.
“Hear that?” asked Clyde.  “Listen close.  It’s those Fairies dancing.”
I stared into the darkness.  There was nothing, only the wind in the trees.
Then a noise came from behind us.  I jumped.
There was noise from across the road, then, another from behind me.
“Where are my shoes?  I wanna go!”
“Shh.  Just a few more minutes.”  As he said that I saw his hand arched toward the other side of the road.  On that side there was sound like leaves being hit with a rock.
“Hear that?  I think it’s time we sneak over.  I’m going to get me one this time.”
He slipped away and over across the rise of the road.  I ran after him.
I stopped in the middle of the road. There was nothing.  There were no Fairies.  There was no movement.
“Clyde?” I croaked.
No response.
I said it a little louder, “Clyde?”
Still no response.
This time I yelled, “CLYDE!!”
“Shhh!  Don’t turn around.” It came from behind me.  I t sounded like a bullfrog trying to talk.
“I don’t want to hurt you.  I just want these shoes.”
I stood still as a boulder. I had the sudden urge to pee, but I didn’t.
I stood there forever.  Darkness surrounded me.  The wind whispered through the tree branches.  There was a rustle of leaves on the other side of the road.
A scream broke the stillness.  Then a BB shot.
“Clyde?! Are you alright?  Help me!”
“Stop your screaming, nef.”
“There’s somebody behind me stealing my shoes!” I yelled at him.
“Don’t be silly.  There’s nobody here but us.”  I heard him approaching.
“I’m telling you.  There is somebody behind me.”
Clyde came over to me.  He walked behind me. 
“There’s nobody here,” he said.
“He told me not to turn around and he was taking my shoes.”
I could hear Clyde go back to the side of the road.
“That’s weird,” he said.
I was still too frightened to move.
“What’s weird?”
“I found my shoes but yours are missing.  Your socks are here, but no shoes.  Maybe we should head back,” he said.
“You really can’t find my shoes?”
“No, I looked right where I left them.  They are gone.”
“What am I going to do?”
“Run!” yelled Clyde.
We both took off down the road.
“Did you get a Fairy?” I wheezed as we hot footed it.
“Missed,” he shouted.
When we saw the house lights we slowed to a walk.
“What am I going to tell mom and dad about my shoes?”
“Brownies got ‘em.  You could just go to bed.  Maybe that Brownie took them to the Elves and they will fix ‘em.  I’ll bet they leave them on the porch step, all bright and shiny.”
I sneaked in and got into bed.  Clyde went into the kitchen for something to eat.  He told my mother I wasn’t feeling too good so I went right to bed.
My mother came in and sat on the bed.  I feigned sleep.  She felt my brow then leaned over and kissed it.  After she left I lay awake all night until I fell asleep early in the morning.
When I got up next day, I ran to the porch.  There on the top step sat my shoes, a deep cordovan luster glistening up at me. 

My uncle Clyde was the smartest uncle alive.  I was the luckiest kid in the world to have such a smart uncle.

Monday, October 21, 2013

That's no flag, that's my wife

The day I arrived in Iceland was very deceptive.  The sun was high and bright.  A few wispy clouds decorated that blue which fell right to the horizon for 360 degrees.  There were no trees or hills to obstruct the view of that blue.  One could see for miles.  There were no hills but there were volcanic mountains in the distance.  The Icelandic air was so clear that those mounds that seemed maybe a mile or two away could be twenty or thirty miles away.  For visual clarity one could not beat the pure air of this island.
Was it always like this? One word: nope.
I wasn’t prepared for my first encounter with the weather change.  It came a few days later when the clouds blocked the sun.  The air chilled.  Then the first rain drops smacked me in the face as I was walking to the O Club for breakfast several days after arriving.  I was wearing my London Fog since it was my only coat and it served to keep me warm.  I pulled my collar up to ward off the winds which were picking up whipping rain into my face.  I was a block from the club when the phenomenon I had heard about smacked me square in the face.
The rains came.  Not from the sky as you would think.  No. It came straight at me, horizontally.  The wind was so strong and steady that those rains were carried in a horizontal line and into anything that stood upright.  I was almost bowled over.  It caught me completely by surprise.  My coat lay plastered against my body that was being pushed along by that wind.  Leaning into that wall of water was the most difficult thing I had done all week. 
I looked up.  The O Club was missing.  The air was gray with rain eliminating all landmarks over ten feet away.  I had to guess that I was still facing the right direction as I tilted my body into the wind and rain.  Each footstep was a victory as I pushed forward at a forty-five degree angle, my head gear opposing that wall of rain.  It was almost like swimming against an ocean current.  I held the brim of my cap and the lapel of my coat as the rain soaked through my rain repellant London Fog.  So much for that selling point, I thought, as a hand grabbed my arm and pulled me to my right.
“Hey, buddy,” said a voice through the howl of the wind.  “You were walking right past the building.  You don’t want to be out in this if you can help it.”
I looked up. My glasses were smeared with rain water so that I took them off to see.
“Thanks,” I said. I took my cap off.  It was drenched through.
“Yeah,” said the guy who had pulled me into the doorway of the O Club.  “You’re going to need a rain cover for that.”
“Never expected such,” I returned.  I hung my hat on a hook near the entry way.  I slipped out of my water logged rain coat.  They began a steady stream of dripping onto the linoleum floor.
“You can’t have been here long, then,” said my new found friend.  That is typical of this volcanic rock.  Horizontal rain, hurricane winds.  You’ll have to develop a whole new set of muscles just to walk in this crazy place.”
He and I wandered into the cafeteria as he told me about what I should expect during my tour of duty here.  His words were eye openers.  I sat listening with my jaw on the floor for some time while we waited on Western Omelets which he had suggested I try.
Over the weeks I found that his words had all been true, especially the weather.  I stayed in the BOQ until my bride back in the states went through hoops to accompany me on my tour here near the Arctic Circle.  It was a month or so before she arrived. 
Together we visited houses off base, which Marshall suggested, to find a place to live for my two year stint here.
In the middle of Keflavik we visited a two story concrete house.  The bottom floor was for rent.  The top floor was the landlord’s home.  The outside was rough concrete that was not painted a bright color like some of the others along the street.  All the construction was reinforced concrete.  I figured the winds blowing through the streets on regular visits made it imperative the houses be strong and reinforced concrete was the material chosen for every house.  I asked the landlord why it was not painted like the one across the street. 
“When we build a house in Iceland we must pay taxes at the completion of construction.  We have a ten year period in which to finish that construction.  As long as the house is not painted, construction is still in progress.  I will have to paint it in five years when my ten years are up.  When I do that I begin paying taxes.  Right now I don’t have that burden.”  He explained it with a smile.  Even here there were loopholes.
The wife and I were given a tour of the downstairs.  The front room was fairly large.  To the left as we entered we looked at a dining room and a door leading into the kitchen.  Straight ahead was a hallway leading into a bedroom.  The bath was to the left as we passed on our way to the sleeping quarters.  The room was dark so we flicked the light switch.  The windows were covered in aluminum foil.
The landlord saw the questioning look on my face and explained.
“The sun is in the sky for 20 hours a day in the summer. The last tenant felt it was necessary to block it out to sleep in this room.  You can take it down if you like but it helps when you are used to a dark night.  Of course in the winter the sun is up for only about two hours so you won’t need it then.”  He smiled.
After looking at the place we returned to Marshall’s house.  He had offered to let us to stay at his and Sella’s place until we found a house.  My bride and I said we had found the just the one.
As we settled in we were getting used to each other as well as this foreign land.  Living off base we were often unaware of what was happening on base, which was fine with me.  Many chose to stay in the base housing.  One of our friends, whose home was Louisiana, close to my bride’s home state, had decided to stay on base.  His house was a center of popularity. He and his wife often had guests over for cookouts and parties.  As I was leaving work one afternoon he stopped me to ask if we would like to join them and a few friends for drinks that evening.  I accepted and drove home to tell the bride.
When I stopped at the checkpoint the wind rocked my little VW.  I looked up at the sky to see clouds rolling in.  Trash was whipping past my windshield as I got the OK from the guard to pass through.
I pulled up at the house and hurried inside.  The wind was picking up.  I caught my hat as it lifted off my head.  I closed the door behind me and yelled into the house.
“I’m home!”
“In here!” came the reply.
Looking around the corner I saw my bride in a chair reading a magazine.
“Oh, good.  You haven’t started cooking yet,” I said with a smile.
“Not yet.  You have anything in mind?” she asked looking up from the magazine.
“To tell you the truth,” I started.  “We have been invited to a get together over in base housing.  He said there would be drinks and food, so no need to cook.”
She tossed the magazine on the side table and jumped up.
“What are we waiting for?” She said heading for the closet.
“Before you get all excited I want you to know the wind is picking up.  There could be a storm coming.”
“Pfft!  Haven’t you said if we wait for the weather to get better we would never go anywhere?  I’d like to go.  Just give me a minute to get ready.”
I changed while she was getting ready.  As I was settling into the newest novel she showed up in the doorway.
“How do I look?” she asked with one hand on her hip and the other fluffing her hair.
Now she was a tiny woman, standing four foot eleven and weighing less than ninety-five pounds but those pounds were well proportioned.  She stood before me her body silhouetting an S-curve that had captured my attention a year before.
“You look gorgeous,” I said, my eyes filled with admiration.
“Let’s go then!”
She was opening the door while I grabbed the keys.
There was no rain, yet, but that wind was stronger as we made our way to the VW.  I opened her door and she slipped into her seat.
The car took a moment to crank. It was always a little slow in the cooler weather. It caught. I slapped it into first and made a U-turn to head toward the base.
The man in the booth at the gate waved us through.  He stared at my bride with a puzzled look as we went past.
“Did you see how that guy looked at you?”  I turned back to look at the road.
“Ha! Yeah.  I can tell you why. “
“Do you know him?” I asked looking at her.  She broke out into a laugh.
“No, silly.  Marshall could tell it better, though.  That guy has seen me with you.  You and Marshall look so much alike that he doesn’t notice the difference in the two of you but when Marshall comes in with Stella, who is a brunette, he thinks you are having an affair.  To him the same man is going in and out of the base with two different women.  Marshall figured it out.  It’s kind of funny, really.”
“Oh,” was my only comment. The wind jolted the car.  I swerved to regain control.
“Wow that was strong.”
“That’s Iceland,” I said.
I pulled into the parking lot.  The party was two stories up.  My bride got out on her side and was coming around to me as I stepped out and closed the door.
At that moment the wind picked up. There was gravel on the pavement of the parking lot and my bride’s shoes began to slip on some of it.  The wind grew. She began to slide along the paved surface on top of the gravel under her feet.  As the wind picked up she slid faster.
“I can’t get my footing!” she yelled at me.
I stepped into the wind thinking to shelter her a bit.  She was gaining speed like a sail on the ocean. She reached for me.
“Help!” she screamed.
With that the wind whipped around her.  She floated like a piece of newsprint in a small eddy.  Her feet were swept out from under her.  She began to spin like a propeller.  I saw it all as she was lifted higher and higher. Like a kite she became a speck in the sky.  I could barely make out her voice when she was covered over by clouds.  Gone, like Dorothy, into the Land of Oz.
“RICKEY!”  I heard her scream.
I shook my head ridding it of that flight of fantasy. As the wind began to push me along I reached for her hand.  She extended hers and I grasped it.  Now the wind had us both in its clutches and my feet were sliding along top of the gravel rolling under my soles.
“Hold on!” she shouted.
“What do you mean hold on?  I’m losing my grip and my balance.” I shouted back.
As we slid along the pavement, her body lifted at a ninety degree angle from me.  I was holding her horizontally balanced by a steady force.  I felt like a pole with a flag rippling hard in the wind.  I was having a hard time keeping her hand in mine while trying to find solid footing.  The wind carried us both along.  We were nearing a lamp post.  I grabbed onto the lamp post with my arm, wrapping it around the pole to stop moving.  I put all my attention on our hands gripping for all we were worth.  She stayed buoyed by the wind until it eased off. 
When she was able to stand, we interlinked our arms and made our way to the apartment complex.
Closing the door behind us we hugged until the shaking was gone. 
“Ready?” I asked.
“Yes,” came her answer.
We took the stairs two at the time.  His door was the first on the landing.  I knocked.
The door was opened wide and everyone was facing us clapping loudly, accompanied by cat whistles.
My bride and I looked at one another, then at the group inside.
“What a show you guys put on!”
“You were great!” came the refrain.
“What are you talking about?” I asked our host.
“That rescue downstairs in the parking lot.  She was a goner.  We thought we’d never see her again.  Then you caught her and grabbed hold of that pole.  We’ve never seen anyone lifted by the wind like that.”

So we were the highlight of the evening.  There was talk of tying a string to my bride and letting the wind take her up into the clouds.  She squelched that idea as we began to down a drink or two, although, after three, I could have been talked into it.  I’m not so sure of my bride’s willingness.  Maybe after five.  Naah, better not.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Last Sole Man.

Whack!        Clang, clang, clang!
Whack!        Clang, clang, clang!
I reared back one more time to send that can down to the corner.  Wock!  I missed the can and caught the sole of my shoe on a jagged piece of pavement.  I felt my shoe snag, then give.  My foot shot up high as my shoulder.  My toes felt a cold shot of air through my sock.  Whap! That sound startled me.  It wasn’t the solid sound of shoe on pavement.
I bent at the knee and checked the bottom of that shoe like I always did when there was the suspicious smell of dog mess.  It wasn’t the smell from a pile of dog doo though. It wasn’t a smell at all. It was my newly air conditioned shoe.  The sole flapped as I touched it. 
“Oh, no!” I said out loud.  It was my brand new pair of loafers.  The sole hung loosely like a lolling tongue.  I had ripped it away from the body of the shoe with my last kick of the can, which I had missed. 
I took it off and pushed my hand down to the toe.  My fingers extended beyond and between body and sole. 
“Oh, no,” I gasped.  “I’m in deep doo doo now.”  I had only had this pair of shoes for a week.  It was my annual pair of shoes.  Each year I got a new pair.  They had to last the entire school year and some.  Not now.  Unless I wanted to walk around” step, flap, step, flap” for a year.
I looked around.  There was no help for me.  The houses were buttoned up and everyone was getting ready to eat supper.  I was on my own.  I stood there for a while trying to decide if I should go home, or not. 
“Where would you go?” I asked myself.  “You just gotta go home and face it.  What in the world will you do for shoes now?  The old pair have holes in the bottom.  And you’d just broken these in.  Broken in is right.  Put it back on and go home.”  I said all this to myself as I slowly bent over to slip the shoe back on my foot.
Step, flap.  Step, flap. The sound mocked me all the way back to the house.  I jumped the creek, as I always did, on the final stretch home. My toes caught the cool breeze as the sole bent down allowing air to whistle through.  At the last minute I pulled my toes up to land on my heel or the sole would have bent backwards when I landed on the other side of the water.
I moseyed through the path leading to my back yard.  The sun was going behind the marsh beyond the house as I grew closer to the back door and doom.  I stopped at the step to pull my shoes off.  Maybe I could hide them and just wear the others, but I knew that would never work.
With resignation I held the shoes in my left hand, stepped up and pulled the screen door open.  As I edged through the back door I realized it was a mistake to carry the shoes in my hand as the almost brand new piece of leather, that had once been attached so firmly to my brand new shoe, hung like a gaping mouth facing my parents who looked up to say hello.
“Oy! What’s ‘at?” Dad said lowering the News and Courier.
“Oh, dear,” said my mother who was at the stove.  “Your brand new shoes.  What happened?”
Mom pulled a piece of chicken from the skillet with the two pronged fork and dropped it on a plate lined with paper towels.  She looked again at my shoes, shook her head and turned back to the pan of frying chicken.
“Tell us what happened, son,” said dad putting the paper down and motioning for the shoes.
“I broke them,” I said shame facedly.
“I can see that,” said dad frowning.  “How did you manage to do it to a brand new pair?”
I handed them to him as he had requested.
“Well, I was kicking a can down the road while walking home.”  My mind was racing to find a reason for this but I was just never quick on my feet.  “There was a broken place in the road and the bottom caught on it.  I was trying to kick that can as hard as I could.  I missed it though.” 
Dad had stopped listening as soon as he had the shoe in his hand.  He was studying it closely as he always did when diagnosing a problem.  My voice just died out at the end. 
Mom dropped the last piece of golden brown chicken on to the plate, slipped the skillet to a back burner then pulled the wire pan from the pot of boiling oil exposing golden fried potatoes that she had sliced in the form of chips.  She could slice a potato with a knife so thin that they cooked in minutes.  She never cut a potato into the fries most mothers did.  They were always crisp and delicious. I stared at them as my mouth watered in anticipation.
“They just don’t make things the way they used to.”  Dad’s voice brought me back to my footwear problem.
“Do you think you can fix them, dear?” my mother asked as she stood over him looking at the damage I’d done.
“I might be able to,” he said a slight smile on his face.  He put the shoe on the table his smile growing.  My mother shook her head and quietly removed them from the table.
“Well, supper’s ready.  Let’s not do it now,” she said.  “Rickey, you want to make the tea while I dish up the food?”
I put the kettle on while dad walked to the back room and the TV.  My mother prepared the plates.  While she walked back with them I poured the boiling water in the pot, rinsed it out, placed teabags inside holding the tags as I poured boiling water over them.  I clapped the lid into the opening then grabbed my plate.
“Can you fix them?” I asked dad as I put my plate on the tray.
“We’ll see,” he said with that grin on his face.
When he grinned like that I knew it was done in his mind.  I forgot about them and dived into my chicken while Lloyd Bridges breathed in air from the tanks strapped to his back unaware of the villain behind him slipping his knife behind the hose he was breathing through. 
Lloyd got out of that fix and the Friday night fights came on.  It was more fun watching my dad in his chair arcing a left into the air and blocking invisible blows from his unseen opponent as he watched the fighters in the ring.  Dad had boxed in the Royal Navy and never quite got over the thrill of being ship’s champ.  He was short by modern standards being five foot seven but he made up for his height with the width of his chest and the rock solid arms that pumped the air in an upper cut.  His attention was just as rock solid in his moves to help the man in the ring on the tube.  When the bout was over he settled back in his chair with a sigh, reach for his pack of Luckies, dug around for the last one and light up.  That’s when I poured the last of the tea. 
The next morning dad was up early.  Mom came in to wake me so I could help dad.  Well, that was what she said.
“Rickey,” she said leaning over me.  The morning sun shining through the window brought out red highlights in her chestnut colored hair.  It was early.
“Rickey, your dad is up and outside trying to figure what to do about your shoe.  You might want to go out there and help him.”
It had always been a thing.  When dad worked on something either mom or I would stay with him through the job at hand to keep him company in case there was something we could do.  Usually there was nothing we could do since dad was so deeply concentrating on the problem that he didn’t even know we were there.  At least that is what I thought but my mother knew differently.  He was always aware.  My job inevitably was bearer of the flashlight.
“Hold it there,” he’d say and I’d put the light on the spot he’d point out.  “No, here,” would be the usual response to my attempt to locate there.
“What can I do?  The sun’s out. He won’t need a light holder.”
“You may be right but I’m sure he would like your company.  Anyway, you might learn something.”
I got out of bed slowly.  I took my time dressing and brushing my teeth.  It wasn’t the way I wanted to spend my Saturday morning but it was my shoe, after all.  It was my fault it was in the shape it was in.  I owed it to him, didn’t I?  It’s an attitude that I think all boys regret later in life but what did I know at that age.
I peeked outside after eating some cereal and downing a cup of tea.  He wasn’t under the carport.
“Where’s dad?” I asked mom. 
She looked around from the sink dropping a dish into the drying rack.
“I heard him in the outhouse a minute ago,” was her answer. The outhouse was the shed attached to the house that had his tools plus the odds and ends he saved for just the right job.
I opened the screen door.  Stepping down I let is slam.
“Don’t slam the screen door!” I heard mom yell from the kitchen.  I had paused for just a second knowing it would be shouted out.  It was a comfort thing, I believe.
“Rickey, you want to get this?” dad said handing me a freshly cut trunk from a tree.  It was just a few inches higher than his knees when he sat with it later.
“What’s this for?”
“You’ll see.  Just carry it over to the step for now.  I have to get the last along with the hammer and nails.
“Last what?” I yelled out to him, but he was already around the corner.
He came back to the step carrying the hammer and several other items.
“I thought you were going to fix the shoe I destroyed?”  He just smiled that smile as he sat on the second step.
“Just wait a bit.  You’ll see.” He had half a Lucky smoldering between his lips.  His eyes squinted as the curling smoke licked up near his eyes.  “Hold this,” he said handing me the hammer.
The tree trunk he held with his knees was about four inches in circumference with a hole chiseled out of the middle.  He slipped a piece of cast iron that looked like a small flat foot into the hole.
“Not quite deep enough.  I can’t chisel any further down…”  He usually talked to himself as he worked out a problem.  He sat there with smoke circling around his white hair that he’d neglected to comb in his eagerness to get started on this shoe.  He sat very still.  The only movement over the next few minutes was his inhaling on the stub of a cigarette followed by his exhaling a cloud of blue smoke.  It took a few minutes then his face relaxed. He reached for the hammer, which I knew meant hand it here.  I gave it to him.  He had some bits of the wood from the tree trunk lying on the ground.  He pointed at them.
“Hand me those,” he said.
I reached for the wood. 
“No, that one there.” 
Nodding my head I reached for the other piece I had not reached for first.
He took it and split it in half.  He had some metal strips nearby that he wound around the stump between his knees.  He shook his head.  Getting up he laid it on the step and secured it with nails.  After this he began to chisel into the new bit he’d attached to the portion with the previously chiseled hole.
“What are you doing?”  I always asked. I always got that smile for an answer.
“Yes, that should answer.”  And with those words the tension would fall from his face replaced by a smile and twinkling eyes.
He dropped the cast iron foot into the newly deepened hole.  He tried to move it around but it was firmly in place.
“There you go,” he said.  He looked at me as if I was bright enough to know what he had done.
“You want to go get your shoe, son?”  He slid over to the left so I could get inside.  He pulled his pack of Luckies from his breast pocket, stuck his finger into the pack to make room for the last smoke to come out.  The cigarette popped halfway out as he flipped the pack.  He grabbed it with his lips and crumpled the empty pack.
“Ask your mother to make a pot of tea, will you?  We’ll have a cup before we get started.” He lit his Lucky and inhaled deeply.  I slipped through the door. 
“Dad asked if you’d make us a pot of tea,” I told mom.
“Of course, dear,” she answered. Her smile lit up the kitchen.  “Would you get the milk and the cups?”
After I fetched those, I picked up my beleaguered shoe slipping outside.  The screen slammed behind me followed by, “Don’t slam the screen door!”
Perfect, I thought.
“You really shouldn’t slam the screen like that, son.  It’s annoying.”  He frowned at me as he crushed the remnant of his cigarette on the side of the step.
He took the shoe and slipped it over the metal foot.
“You see this?” he said pointing at the metal holding my shoe.
“Yes sir.”
“It’s called a last.  It’s there to give this shoe a firm hold while I tap some nails along the sole to hold it in place.  This is one of the things your granddaddy and I did after the war.  He ran a boot repair shop and we took in the neighbors’ shoes for mending.  I thought I could rig up something and I believe this just might answer.”
“Tea’s ready,” said my mother through the screen.
“Let’s have a cup, shall we?” he asked me.
“I’d like one,” I said.
My mother had poured two cups and was waiting inside the door when I opened it.  She handed one to me.
“Don’t slam that door,” she said as she caught it mid-slam.
Dad reached up to retrieve the cup she held just beyond his reach.  He stood to get it.
“Ta,” he said sitting down gently.
We drank our tea and I took the cups back inside.  As I came back out he was tossing a handful of small nails into his mouth.  The shoe sat on the last. He took one nail from his mouth, held it at the edge of the ripped sole and with his left hand, he was a lefty, pounded that nail with two quick hits.  He repeated himself until the sole was once again firmly attached to the shoe.  He spit the remainder of the nails into his hand.  These he poured back into a jar beside him.  He removed the shoe, looked at it from top to bottom and handed it to me.
“There you go, my boy. Try that on.”
I kicked my old shoe aside and slipped on the new one.
“How does it feel?” he asked as I walked up and down the carport.
“It’s a little tight but it works.”
“I’m sure you will have to break it in again but it should last.”
“Ha ha,” I said.  “It should last.”
“I could use a cuppa,” he said, getting up.