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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wherein My Father Relates the Tale of the Hand

Gather around, chilrun, for another Scary Story!  Wooooo!

My father drove the 600 mile round-trip every weekend.

“It was 1960,” he says, fiddling with the woodstove.  “Mumma and I had been married a couple of months, and 600 miles a weekend is small potatoes when you’re 21 and in love.”

He pokes at an unruly log, steps back to consider the flames.  The darkness presses against the windows of their garage/extended living room, a clean, comfy space with carpet-remnant flooring and hand-made, wood-scrap cabinets.  I pull the crocheted afghan closer.

“Chandler, Minnesota, was down in the southwestern corner of the state – over by Pipestone? – an area far too far from my bride, but what could I do?  Uncle Sam needed me.”

He sighs.  “Highway 23.  Every weekend, Highway 23.”

He chuckles.  “Of course, I had to be careful.  We’d go out on the weekends, sometimes I’d even play in that little three-piece I was a part of in them days.  I’d be lucky to get more than five, six hours of sleep the whole weekend.”

“Paul!” my mother shouts from inside the house.  “Are you telling stories again?”

He winks at me.  “No, mumma,” he calls.

My father wanders over to the fridge.  “So anyway,” he says, “come January, I think it was, I get caught in a blizzard.”  He looks over at me, visibly calculating my age.  “You want one?”

I nod, and he grabs two beers.

“This was a real blizzard,” he says, popping the can open and handing me one, “back when snow was snow and the roads weren’t always plowed.”  He takes a deep pull from the can and frowns.  “My 300 miles back to the Air Force base – a trip that should’ve taken maybe four hours in that Rambler I had – was pushing on to seven.”

He takes another drink from his beer.  “Eventually,” he says, “I was forced to stick my head out the window, just to keep myself awake.  Of course, then I was pulling icicles from my eye lashes, but it beat the alternative, if you know what I mean.”

I do know what he means.  I nod and take a drink. 

“Of course, you can only stick your head out the window so many times before even that doesn't do the trick; and I’m realizing that I haven’t seen another car in almost six hours when up ahead of me, way off on the horizon, I see a shape.”

He wanders over to the woodstove, opens its door.  A roaring fire lights the bottom part of the room.  A cat wanders in and flops on to its side, yawns lazily.

He pokes the fire, throws another piece of scrap wood in.

“This shape,” he says, shutting the door, “is getting larger, and I’m thinking ‘what is this’?  I mean, it doesn’t seem like a car or a truck to me.”

He sits down in his chair, a recliner, puts his feet up, retrieves the beer can he left sitting on the end table. 

“And it gets larger and larger, until suddenly I see what it is.”

There is silence.  The fire in the woodstove crackles energetically. 

“Well?”  I say.  “What was it?”

“It was a hand,” he says.  He looks at me, eyes narrowed, nodding.  “A hand.  A hand shot down the center of the road, palm out, and commanded that I stop.”

The cat leaps into my lap.  “ A hand,” I say.

He nods.  “A hand.”

I smile.  “So what did you do?”

He slaps his thigh.  “What did I do?!  Well, I did what you do when a hand flies down the center of the road at your car!  I stopped!”

It is silent again.

“I pulled over,” he says quietly.  “Turned the car off, pulled a blanket over me and slept.”

He takes a pull from his beer. 

“Slept almost an hour,” he says.  “Too cold, of course, with the car off, but you can’t sleep in a driving snow with your car running, it’ll kill you.”  He stops.  “You know that, right?  That you can’t sleep in a car while it’s snowing with the car running?”

I smile.  “Yes, Dad,” I say.

He nods.  It is his duty to remind his middle-aged daughter of the dangers of covered tailpipes, of unrefrigerated potato salad and playing with matches. 

He stares toward the wood stove.  “That hand saved my life.”

I smile toward the wood stove.  “It wasn’t an actual hand, though, surely,” I say.

He turns and smiles at me, taps the side of his nose in acknowledgement of the softball I’d just tossed him.  “It was an actual hand,” he says.  “And don’t call me Shirley.”


Simply Suthern said...

Maybe if you would have looked in your back seat during your previous story you might have seen a hand?

Shelly said...

I love this story. "...back when snow was snow..." :) Reminds me of an older relative who would tell us stories on those steamy 100+ degree days in the middle of summer and always added, "Back then it was a real heat."

~Sia McKye~ said...

Good story and well told. I've heard a few wild tales of a similar nature by tired drivers in bad situations. All claim the *apparition* or whatever it was, saved their lives.

Sia McKye Over Coffee

Dawn@Lighten Up! said...

Voices in the back seat yesterday, hands in the road today. What'll it be tomorrow, Pearlie?
Spooky. And lovely.

Anonymous said...

If it saves your life it's real.

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Another great scary story...and I like Delores's comment!

rcazares said...

"The darkness presses against the windows..." I love, love how you describe things, Pearl. So REAL. And how you make us wait for the pieces of the story in the same manner you had to wait as he told it. Shivers! Looking forward to tomorrow!!

Daisy said...

Someone was looking out for your Dad, I think (and for you in yesterday's story). :)

Happy Halloween, Pearl!

jenny_o said...

You tell a great story. So does your dad. I love the bit about him telling you not to sleep in the car when it's running. Parents do that, don't they, to their grown children. I may have even done it myself.

wellfedfred said...

love the advice! my dad's advice got odder as he aged, but he always had some to share.

Elephant's Child said...

This is another wonderful post Shirley. Really wonderful.
And I am so glad that your Dad's hand was with him - so that your voice could be there for you.

Me-Me King said...

What a wonderful story and so well told. Happy Halloween!

Linda O'Connell said...

Lordy, you took me for a ride. You are amazing.

Eva Gallant said...

You must have inherited some of your Dad's story-telling talent!

Nessa Locke said...

Nope. If I had seen a real hand come flying at me on the highway, I don't believe I'd be able to sleep. Nope. Nope. Nope.

Anonymous said...

I'm loving your Halloweeny stories, Pearl. Looks like you and your Dad have a bevy of angels looking out for you. I'm glad.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
...ah, that Bob Hope has a lot to answer for surely...

No doubt about it, you're your father's daughter Pearl. A fine thing to be.

Stay safe. YAM xx

HermanTurnip said...

Seems some sort of force was looking out for your dad on that day!

...do you like movies about gladiators?

Pat Tillett said...

I love stories from "back in the day." It's like a mile was longer then, freezing was colder then, parents were harder on their kids then, and so on and so on...

I was waiting for him to say that the fast approaching hand slapped him awake.

River said...

I see where you get your story telling from. I love your dad and his tales.
The only advice my dad ever gave was to stop having children. I didn't listen of course.

the walking man said...

Your Pops saw a hand in the middle of the road, then you know what? He saw a hand in the middle of the road palm out. Good thing it wasn't 2010 because the hand would have been in a completely different configuration or had a completely different meaning.

vanilla said...

I do believe your family has a whole fleet of guardian angels watching over all y'all.

Busy Bee Suz said...

I'm in love with your family. So in love.