Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Work boots.

There we were: tearing apart my recent, but somehow remote childhood with borrowed crowbars and sledgehammers and mirroring stigmata, counting the echoes of the grunts and the falls that bounced between "them woods over there" and "this brown 'luminum wall back here." The skeletons of bike ramps lay drawn and quartered all around us in the wild ankle-high heather; the sun hadn't quite reached noon yet; and the pangs of hunger were sinking deeper into our guts as the morning's blaze attenuated and diffused to a familiar murky hue of hazy, cosmic grey. Blood did not seep where blood could not reach, still the pain was sharp, constant and (when left unchecked) debilitating. So together we limped, the reluctant participants in a three-legged race, paired together by circumstance, with only blood and blind chance binding us. On the dusty barn floor, we removed our boots and socks and compared wounds. "Yers go the whole way through, too?" Of course it had. Mine had been the first, the initial attack; his had been dumb luck, "fuckin' karma;" wasn't supposed to happen to him at all: "not just steel-toed, but steel-soles, too." Finally given the chance to breathe, the holes gaped and, when squeezed with dirty fingers and clenched jaw, spat rust-colored ooze from their pallid, wrinkled mouths. So the accidental blood brothers bandaged up their wounds, using strips of cloth torn from an old Purchase Line Varsity Track and Field shirt, split a hoagie from the gas station down the street, and got back to work; looking to get done before the old man got home from his meeting in town with the judge.

He mostly stood and watched me; but he stood well and statuesque and, framed by the sun at its highest point, discoursed in a homely, but uniquely eloquent vernacular on his favorite topic: women. "To me it's all about the morning after," - looking up at two turkeybuzzards circling the pasture beyond the barn - "they gotta shine in the morning." He spoke of golden down, tawny hairs that cover them all over, like stretching fields of wheat that captivate and affront the sun's morning light with their brilliance. This, he said through azure exhales (in an excusable moment of ignorance to the malicious truth of the vast, spinning world around him), was the closest a grown man could get to the amazing agony he once felt as a young boy just discovering the "differences between her and me."

And just as he had picked up his sledge to get back to work, the new and shiny black truck of the old man's pulled up; something heated and static buzzing in the old man's aspect. "Why the hell ain't you limpin' then?" he asked me after the incident had been divulged. I looked down at my hands, tightly sheathed by my father's old, ever-shrinking, once-light-tan-now-dark-brown, suede work gloves, and saw that all but two fingers (both pinkies) poked through holes worn in them long before my palms were ever callused with labor; my toes throbbed with a secret pain. "Cuz both feet're sore and it won't do no good to favor one more'n the other." Staring down at the moribund purple pressing its ghastly face against the window of my left big toenail, the old man arrived at a decision: "Sammy, take the rest the day off'n go'won inta town and git that boy some goddamn work boots." The old man scribbled his name at the bottom of a check and handed it to him: "Take my truck if ya want, but git back here 'fore too long: Rita's cookin' venison fer supper."

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