The House on the Highway (updated Nov. 2018)

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transport1

Rain again.

The boy is sleepy

But becomes alert when reminded

Of school.

He’s dressed in minutes

His cowlick springs up

Over dry cereal at

An empty kitchen table

 

I cover a stained shirt

With a sweater

That fits tighter than last month.

We say goodbye

To a sleepy mama.

The missus

Misses coffee

But rubs

Her pregnant belly

And winces and ooohs.

 

She oozes exhaustion

Mumbles words of plans for plants.

 

Will the missus miss us?

Now we’re a mile away from her

When the first red light

Stifles our progress

Toward timelessness.

I hate

Being late.

The rain hardens, stiffens,

Strengthens.

The sky sends pellets,

Mini-bombs onto my windshield.

 

Green light.  No movement.

The head of the driver

In front of me

Is visible

In his side

mirror.

His phone’s more important.

I honk and say

Something

He can’t hear.

Something

The missus wishes

I wouldn’t say

when the boy is around.

Or ever.

 

Seconds pass. The guy looks

Up and eases forward.

Waveless and unapologetic.

Another point-eight miles of green lights,

Momentum rises,

Blades wipe away wetness.

The next stop is our turn.

The left-arrowed lane fills behind me

As the rest of the east- and west-bounders

Pound down the splashy path.

 

A long, loud transporter

Booms by on our right,

Bearing one-half of a modular home.

“Look at that house,” I say.

The boy, of course, looks

For a stable structure

On land

And sees.

“Whoa!”

Each letter filled with wonder.

“Is there people in there, Daddy?”

“Not likely,” I say.  

But I fixate on its

Its future inhabitants.

Where are they at this moment?

Waiting at the lot?

A few cars behind me?

Boxing up picture frames

And kitchen utensils

In another area code?

Did they pick that color?

Is this their forever home?

<<EEEEEP!!!>>

Will this rain ever quit?

<<BLAAMMM—BLAAMMMM!!!!!!!>>

 

The half-house punctured the flow.

The fractioned structured caused

Distraction.

I prevented traction.

I delayed the day.

The missus misses us.

We miss her.  

Work should wait some days.

 

Moving along, the boy bites

Into the lull.

“Daddy?”

“Yes?”

“I’m glad you’re taking me to school today.”

 

My son really says this,

Just like that.

 

I lower my window,

Brave the rain,

And stick out a sleeve

To wave my apology

To the cars behind me.

 

It Starts With a Football

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This blog starts with a football.  By no means should it be imagined by you, dear reader, as an ordinary football.  I could probably spend the next several hundred words describing the ball in distinct detail (e.g. number of laces intact versus those that are not), but let me save you a little time and just say this.  It’s old.  It’s not completely inflated.  It’s worn in the expected places.  But that’s not what intrigued me the moment I saw it.  I felt there was a story hovering over it.

[background info]  Perhaps what’s mildly interesting about how it came into my possession was that I did something I do not normally do.  At a garage sale in a strange town, I perused a few items on a table in the garage of a couple who were probably well into their seventies.  The ball was not on the table, but rather, on a shelf in plain sight right behind one of the tables, so instead of leaving it be, I asked the homeowner about the ball.

So, here are my initial thoughts jotted down moments after buying the football.  [and today’s edits in brackets]

It was the first nice April Saturday of the year.  [You know, that first spring weekend that announces with a commanding WHOOSH that winter is deceased.]  Among commemorative glasses, Bible audio tapes for twenty-five cents apiece, and a quantity of children’s apparel that makes one wonder how any child on this earth could ever be without clothing, a dented [leather] football protrudes from a transparent plastic tub designed for inconspicuous placement beneath a bed.   [This garage sale], a biannual event, where proprietors along the well-lamped lawns and cul-de-sacs clean out their closets and guest rooms and essentially exchange wares, [received gifts, and memories, has seen more populated times.  Word has it that, just a few years earlier, two of every three houses participated while only now a mere one in four opens its garage doors for the public sale.] It is behind a makeshift display table in the garage of Mr. and Mrs. Suburbia, Ret.

The first item to catch our eyes was a Royal typewriter bolted to a metal desk with flanked folding shelves and a computer-generated sign identifying a suggested price of twenty-five American dollars, crossed out with a twenty-percent discount.  The sellers’ chief incentive to any prospective consumer included a typewriter manual, [which was hanging loosely inside the comfort of a transparent three-ring sleeve and attached via a chain–the type often found dangling from a standard household ceiling fan.

The gentlewoman, upon my respectful summons, informs me that she would need to speak to her husband concerning my inquiry into the availability of the ball.  She opens a flip phone, dials, and informs a stranger beside her that he’s inside and that calling him is much easier than searching for him indoors.  A moment passes and he’s standing beside me.  Sporting a bright red polo and pleated khaki pants, he is a full six inches taller than his wife and carries himself the way I’ve always pictured J. D. Salinger did at that age.  Upon expressing my interest in the football on the shelf,] a gleam of the past crosses the old man’s eyes.  He chokes out the words “Couple bucks if you want it.”  [Then, what feels like a lifetime of Polaroids catapult through both our minds–I imagine the hours logged with his unseen son decades ago in the yard just a few feet away.  I imagine laughter from the boy and pride from this man.  It’s all of a sudden incredibly simple to look at their lawn and visualize heroic catches and slides all involving this two-dollar ball.]

I buy the ball, and walk away wondering if he regretted selling it.  He’s not selling the memory and he knows that no one will ever relieve him of his early days as a father.  This ball.  This icon of Americana, transcends–and becomes more than a simple Saturday transaction between strangers and fathers.