OCTOBER 31, 2009 4:07AM
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I would set a mood just like my youthful grandmother, aunts and mother would set out green plates and beige bowls ringed by burgundy and forest green lines most Sundays after Mass.
A large tin pot of chicken soup simmered on a gas range. Grandpa in herringbone pants, suspender-ed, had been home from the South Pacific for six, seven maybe even eight years by then and never slept real good, loving even cold coffee, sometimes even with a cigarette in his mouth as he cooked. Always chicken soup with lots of carrots and celery after church for all of us.
Often on those Sundays sunlight quieted the moment: brightly on the Chianti decanter.
I had a red pack of candy cigarettes for my back pocket. Hyperactive.
It had been an awful war, especially even in paradise, on jungle beaches. Years later it was explained to me that the Japanese had snuck onboard into his galley when it was dark and he had to kill two or three or many (they were kids) he had fought them with all his might, he would wake up in a night sweat it was explained to me, how he killed enemies with his butcher knives, when it was dark. Dark and hot. Often he would wash his hands all the way up to his elbows. Like he was a doctor scrubbing with Comet Cleanser, watching sparrows in the lilacs across the drive, sometimes barefoot even in winter, a kitchen sink rag rug beneath him on the tiny tiles of the black and white floor. Each tile was actually two tiles, the tiny sharp squares cut kitty corner.
The day faded grey through screens left on late in the year.
He was a rotund man with black hair, sparked blue eyes distant but focused like the base of the flame on his Zippo lighter he would always let me strike, a gold anchor on the lighter singeing Old Golds. Always another fresh pack, its thin slippery gold cellophane ring magically circling off those square boxes.
Just left of the picture window, a thickly stuffed floral chair resting the grandfather relaxing as his grey smoke blue smoke wisps. Children cheering for smoke rings tried to polk their fingers and tiny fists through nothing. The grandfather's cordovan glossy. The boy learning to talk laughing usually, "Paint! Pant! Pint!" then touching the robbin's egg and eggshell white dots on those shoes.
Adults were relaxing, waiting on lunch, those back from church, looking out through sheer curtains, watching, paying attention to the house across the street, elm trees in front of the curbing almost leafless.
Oddly the wind was too warm and did not pause. Outside it was strong enough to paste down your eyelids if you looked right at it.
"Well they'll find him," he said to one of the men. They talked about that neighbor across the street, the Captain --- missing in action --- they could not find his plane.
Far away by an ocean somewhere. Is the ocean where the sun hides?
The grownups kept using his name and referring to the neighbors as Mister. Or Captain Evering or Mrs. Everythin, I cannot be precise, knowing today that a pall enveloped that early Indian Summer Sunday. And the furniture television, big as a credenza, its screen a grey porthole, my eyes just higher than its top, the RCA rabbit ears, a doggy looking into the hollow of a big horn, "Don't stand right there," its radio sometimes sang 'Tennessee Waltz'
Right then Archbishop Sheen lectured emphatically and for attention I pranced imitating the Archbishop, repeating his words and scolding at uncles who filled the couches and fabric chairs. Learning them good boy lessons.
One of whom smiled then pursed his thin lip when I stared at a gold filling, my tongue and then finger and thumb pressing my own front teeth, perhaps convinced already of the thundered roar of life.
Like that story about a lion's mouth.
The men balanced filterless cigarettes, Camels I think they were, or some other short cigarettes, Lucky Strikes maybe, that for some reason had to be tapped down on table tops or concrete stoops or pale green Studebaker trunklids --- any flat surface --- or at least on the back of a hand or even a Timex watch before they would let me peel off that whorl line. At times then handing me silver flecks of thumbnail pinched silver triangles from the cigarette foil as wonderful as Roosevelt dimes along with those rectangular clear plastic wrapper tops like that, so I could look through making a monocle like a little dummy. Wanting a black hat. A hat black as licorice.
The men smoked their cigarettes alternating drags and beer swigs.
"Is he good with his hands?"
While little girls appeared from bedrooms all fessed up with red lips and blond-yellow scarves tied like cowgirls promenading conga-like interrupting everybody singing the Yellow Rose of Texas that I am going to see. Uncles sucking cigarettes in their mouths and pinching the Pabst Blue Ribbon bottles between their legs or between their Red Wing half boots or black penny loafers so they could applaud and hoot loudly. The dancing entourage ran out the front door that snapped, slammed on me chasing all two hundred something of the girl cousins, a clown running after his audience, down the front steps, the blur of gloss black wrought iron the sidewalk across the lawn on crunching leaves, my oldest cousin picking me up in her arms.
And then over in front of the Captain's house an important looking black car drove up. And men with hats like policemen got out of both sides, and walked straightly toward the Captain's front door. I ran across the street to see if I could help and saw myself in a black mirror. The oldest girl took my hand walking me backwards and I could not see what was....
A shiny shoe kicked a dead finch right near the porch.
A man in a black robe like a black dress got out of the back door. He let the door close and looked over at me as he put his index finger over his mouth.
The sky pilot followed those guys to Mrs. Everalways's front porch.
Sometimes you become the eyeinthesky
NOVEMBER 01, 2009 10:59 AM
Man on man, you sure know how to write...
NOVEMBER 01, 2009 01:27 PM
Oops, a little typo threw that last comment way off.
What I meant was, "Man o Man"
That's what I get for going back to the 50's to get my exclamations.
NOVEMBER 01, 2009 03:45 PM
Thanks, Bradley. I knew what you meant right away. I appreciate the kind words.
NOVEMBER 01, 2009 08:58 PM
I loved the way you started this post: "I would set a mood just like my youthful grandmother, aunts and mother would set out green plates and beige bowls ringed by burgandy and forest green lines most Sundays after Mass". You are one hell of a good writer.
NOVEMBER 05, 2009 06:55 AM
Marykelly: I thank you so much!
NOVEMBER 05, 2009 06:33 PM
You know, I haven't said this in a good while, but I would read a book of your writing. You have it.
NOVEMBER 13, 2009 11:02 AM
NOVEMBER 14, 2009 09:46 AM
A great piece of writing. (Late is better than never.)
Damon E Walters
FEBRUARY 16, 2010 05:41 PM
Hey Dan! Thanks for hanging out; your kindness is appreciated.
FEBRUARY 18, 2010 09:08 AM
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