Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It Was The Tin Man That Had No Heart

Dad was always in the kitchen when I got there and that made it home.

I remember the patterns of the place. The linoleum swirled and looped this way and that, colors revealed and subsumed again, made still more random by the scrape of a million footfalls in a way no mechanism could replicate. The radio was molded hard, but still looked like the kind of plastic mash it was made from, and fought a determined rearguard visual action against the battered red dinette tabletop. The chrome legs stabbed at the floor.

There was a strange man there and I mean it in every way. He had a pinky ring and smelled like cologne instead of work and his suit was shinier than the table leg ever was. He had a gold tooth and a galvanized smile.

"We're not getting any younger, you and I..."

My father was the you. I immediately got the impression there was no I there.

"Climbing a rickety ladder every year, and for what? To do it all over again next year. You should be at the ballgame, not scraping and priming. Our space-age aluminum siding never needs painting, and once you set it, you forget it. Our easy terms put it in the reach of even a family with a modest income..."

He kept going, but I was distracted by my father. He drifted from his usual quiet self to an Easter Island face. The man was pushing all the buttons, as he had done before countless times to numberless people, no doubt. But all men's buttons are not the same, are they? Or maybe the buttons are all the same but are mislabeled on some people. The man was trying to talk incessantly without saying anything, but that's hard to do. Can you do it? The man reminded father of things gone, but not forgotten. Of wear and tear. Of loneliness and loss. Pain and regret. Of sitting alone at a battered table under a picture of your life gone away.

"It will always look good from far away, and every day that passes you'll thank yourself for forgetting it forever," he said, and held out the pen.

My father seemed startled, and he looked at the picture of my mom, dead and gone fifteen years, that hung over the table.

"Get out of our house."


Sam L. said...

Another fine piece of writing!

Sam L. said...

Another fine piece of writing!

lorraine said...

when are you going to put out a book and just keep wood work as a hobby?

Cascadian said...

I like the "our house", our home might have been better, but guys are like that they think in terms of house, women think in terms of home.

It does not matter, I'm guessing he wanted the house to stay exactly like his wife left it.

There is something to be said for continuity.

SippicanCottage said...

Thanks Sam

Hi Lorraine- Most people need only cut out extraneous activities to finish a book. I do not have five minutes of extraneous activities a week, so mine will take longer. But it will happen.

Hi Cascadian - Thanks for reading and commenting.

Sam L. said...

I had a prof in the late 70's who knew an old guy in town who lived in "the house that time forgot"--GE monitor-top refer, etc. His wife died and he saw no reason for updating. I got re-married 3 years ago--new wife wanted fixing-up, repairs, painting, so I told her about "the house that time forgot" and that I appreciated her for that.