This is a continuation of the intro to my latest manuscript from a few weeks back that was titled Sand in the Sahara. Intro grandpa, mom, dad.
Every picking season would give my grandpa plenty of provision to spin stories about later. Sometimes he’d tell them at home, sometimes on a rickety bar stool, but where he told them was like measuring the difference between the number six and a half-uh-dozen. He could make folks you’d never laid your eyes on come to life in your mind, make you feel like you were there, like you were part of the stories.
I was looking forward to meeting some of the folks that starred in his stories. Like the one young man from Tupelo, Mississippi. The kid with hair that rode on top of his head in brown and unruly locks like a hat. He showed up to work the fields in dress shoes and fine black slacks. My grandpa said he rolled his slacks up ‘cause he was too hot and the chiggers damn near ate him alive. That didn’t stop him from singing Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, Franki Valli, and the Beach Boys at the top of his lungs all day long. He worked like a man possessed. His name was Doug, but he insisted on being called Douglas. My grandpa would just nod, smile, pat him on the back, and say, “Okay, Doug… whatever you say.”
Even though they were my mom’s parents, she had reservations. She wasn’t quite ready to send her son for a full summer into a life that she despised and was trying to distance herself from. I think part of it, looking back, is because I was the oldest and she was trying to fight that dreaded fight that all of us do in this life if we’ve lived long enough; wrestling with the formidable and undefeated hands of time. Maybe too, she was a little concerned about her dad. She knew he was more than a little rough around the edges. He possessed some of the sharp ones that she tried in vain to shelter my siblings and me from.
My mom and grandpa were close. She was his youngest, ‘his baby’ he still called her. My mom was young when she had me and didn’t look much older than a high school kid herself. She was in good shape and was attractive, built like a runner. She had auburn shoulder length hair, cat glasses, and my grandpa’s brilliant green eyes.
I hated the guy’s, like the manager at Safeway, that always tried to flirt with my mom. She’d just ignore them and pretend they were just being friendly and wave them off. I always liked it when one of those guys happened to run into my dad on the rare occasion he’d go into town. They looked like they’d pissed themselves and scoot clear of my dad as quickly as they could.
My dad was bigger than average, about six foot two inches, but he looked like a hungry lion with a bad disposition and carried himself like a soldier. Though the fifties were long gone, he still wore his jet-black hair combed back like he did when he was a kid. His rolled-up t-shirt that kept his Marlboro cigarettes secure showed off his biceps and rugged arms that looked like they’d been carved from stone. The old acne scars from his youth made my dad look mean. Plus, he didn’t smile much. His hazel eyes could say more with a glance than a Southern Baptist preacher could in an hour while hammering on the pulpit like he was trying to beat it into submission.