Tell EverythingRichard K. Weems
The old man, my grandfather: smiling, his hat atilt on his unnaturally bald head, his stinking excuse for a leg stinking up the room, his cane shaking in his grip.
This is not all...
"My boy," he said, spreading out a hand in way of invitation, as if motioning to sit. (O, had there only been a seat!) "My boy," he said, trying to be kindly, but achieving only an old-man-who's-a-stranger kindly, "my boy my boy my boy." Such a greeting by other elders intoned a ritual fishing in the pockets for loose change. He offered only an outstretched, unclenched hand, limp and erect both, like rotten melon rind. "My boy my boy my dear sweet Walter."
I am offered up, prodded forward by the parental ones, my thighs announcing their fat by way of the skeeving together of the shorts clad about them. I approach the old hand groping motionlessly for me; I notice now the odor of pickle on his breath.
I swear I am telling the whole thing as it happened, front to end, sparing no detail.
His cane in the right hand, his left hand outstretched. (I've considered the reverse, but I am certain that things were this way.) "My boy my boy," he said, "my boy my boy. My boy my boy my dear sweet Walter." He was not repeating himself---this is recap to keep hold on the moment for full disclosure, the smelly leg and the cane and the shorts around fat legs and the pickle far from everything I need to tell. Before I go on the moment must be fully assessed, evaluated, deciphered, for there is no going on without that... No, no going on at all.
So here we are: "My boy my boy my boy my boy. My boy my boy my dear sweet Walter." Please notice the punctuation ascribed, the suggestion of cadence---the placement of the period was by far the most agonizing part.
He smelled thus: tumor, pickle, hospital antiseptic, spoiled aftershave. His cane shook, even as he tried to hold it still, both hands desperate with shaking. The vinyl beneath him creaked flatulently as he leaned forward to float his shaking paw into my vision with horror-movie clarity.
All this, mind you, still inside that moment. All this, and the parental hand prodding me on, pushing me by the left shoulder blade (the left one most assuredly---I can feel it even now) through my slightly sweaty cotton top, I cannot tell you what color no matter how hard I try to remember...I'm doing my best.
"My boy my boy," etc., his hands shaking, his smell all the aforementioned and something else, as if the coffin were already around him. The coffin, and the mothball effervescence of funeral parlor carpeting.
That smell, those mothballs were there, were there---I can't express this point clearly enough.
But it's in the hand, I tell you, all in the hand. This story is nowhere near telling you what I need it to unless I make clear to you that hand...
Copyright ©1998 Richard K. Weems. All Rights Reserved.
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