With his sandpaper voice of gravel and chalk
from across the room
my father called to me.
He was drinking.
You never went to him immediately
when he was drinking,
to case-out the situation.
I could see there was no danger
His Fred MacMurry sunnyness
had not yet succumbed to
Boris Karloff gloom.
had yet to become Mr. Hyde.
One more tall can of Brew 102 should do the trick.
Knees crossed, head resting on the palm of his hand,
I saw his world-weary Humphrey Bogart eyes
so sad behind the smoky Marlboro curtain,
as he looked down to snuff out
He cleared his throat to speak.
(He was continually clearing his throat
as though he could grumble away
a lifetime of nicotine sin.)
Son, he said, you’re almost sixteen…
(I wasn’t sure I liked where this was going.)
And soon, you’re going to need a car of your own…
He kept me waiting
as he tapped on another cigarette
lit it, took a deep drag
and exhaled a toxic cloud of death
into the air between us.
Maybe he was waiting for an answer,
but I knew better than to speak.
What do you say I pick a car off the lot tomorrow
and drive it home for you?
I allowed my eyebrow to arch
in barely-contained skepticism.
my dad had no problem telling you
what he thought you wanted to hear.
I knew better than trust
the promises of a used car salesman.
I said something like:
He cleared his throat, farted
(He was always farting.)
and uncrossed his legs to retrieve his wallet.
Removing a ten dollar bill
he handed it to me
with his shaky hand of red, cracked leather.
Maybe this would buy me off.
Blood money to ease his tortured conscience.
Maybe this would help the pain fade,
the fear recede;
help erase the ugly memories of a livid dad,
belt in hand
looking to hit someone- anyone!
(Surly one of us had done something…)
I was home the next day
when dad returned from work.
He was driving his own car.
He walked right past me
… saying nothing.
(7- 2- 12)
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED