Friday, February 23, 2007

Rich Men Have Real Estate

Momma was quiet. Daddy was silent.

I'd come home from school, and momma would hug me like she did. I could feel her snuffle on the top of my head. It was like she needed the smell of me, too. I'd sit in the chair in the kitchen, and talk and talk about the day, and she'd murmur along with me. It wasn't words, really, just a little string of sounds to let me know she still heard her little yo-yo spinning, and I hadn't reached the end of my string yet.

I can't picture her face anymore in my mind's eye; I have to fish through the box of pictures to find one of her. I touch it when I look at it. I don't know why I run my hand over it but I do. I hear her murmuring all the days of my life.

Dad never spoke, or so it seemed. You could have hung a sign around his neck that read: "I don't know" and saved yourself a world of trouble. He said it all the time, when he said anything. I think it's funny that he always knew, but said that anyway. Daddy knew everything. Momma said knowing is in daddy's head, but it's in my mouth. He was alone all day in that field, and got used to it. Or it got used to him.

I'd watch him wash the day's dust from his hands and face and the back of his neck while momma placed the dishes just so on the table. He seemed to linger over it a minute in an odd way. Daddy always seemed to move slow, but I noticed no one could ever keep up with him. I never could. I never will. I asked him why he liked to wash his face like that. He said: "Oh, I don't know." When daddy put an "oh" along with his "I don't know" it meant something different. It meant he didn't know exactly, I think.

We sat for a long minute at the table. I remember how the sun would slant in that window, the same angle every day plus a little or minus a little, and you could tell the time and the season by it. The afternoon would settle the air but the curtain would always sway like a dancer with it.

We worked at the food. Dad seemed all wrist at the table. His clothes never made it as far as he did. The teacher had told me about the lever you could use to lift the whole earth, and they all laughed at me when I said I'd seen it coming out of my daddy's sleeve. They all have fathers that don't say "I don't know" and their wrist fits in their sleeve and only lifts the newspaper.

Five minutes had gone by, easy, by the clock, and I could tell daddy was still turning over my foolishness in his mind. Why does a man wash any certain way? A man washes as much as his momma makes him, and no more.

The oven cooled and ticked, the clock tocked, the glasses tinked, and the curtains swayed. Daddy said: " A rich man like me has a lot of real estate, and carries it around with him. I like to take it off and look at it from time to time."


P_J said...

Did you ever read the creative bits Lileks wrote based on an old comic strip? He did it as a writing exercise -- take a hackneyed old four-panel "crime mystery" and write a back story for it.

Your writing reminds me of that, in a good way.

SippicanCottage said...

Pastor Jeff- I've never seen that. Lilek's page is like a marvelous rabbit warren with lots of little holes in it. Must be one I missed.

I once had something I wrote listed on Pajamas media between Lileks and Mark Steyn.

I didn't mind that.

P_J said...

Pretty good billing, I'd say.

Have you read Steyn's America Alone? I'm going through it now. I think you'd like it.

SippicanCottage said...

No, I haven't read that.

I'd read a assembly manual for a porch swing written by that guy. He's such a lively prose writer. He knows music really well.

P_J said...

Steyn reads an awful lot like G.K. Chesterton. He could write about the most profoundly serious subjects in a disarmingly humorous and lighthearted way.

He could write anything -- newspaper articles, theology, mysteries, essays, poetry -- and it was all good.

I love Chesterton.