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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Part Two: That Farm-House Attic Dang-Near Killed Me

Part Two of two.  Didn't read Part One?  Posted yesterday.  You run over there, I'll get a cup of coffee, and I'll meet you back here in, what, three?  

Sounds good.

“You know Burton, right?”

I look down to find a cat in my lap. 

When did that happen?

“I knew him a little bit,” I say.

The darkness, like the cat, has crept in quietly, and neither of us has bothered to turn a lamp on.  In the darkness of a winter’s afternoon, my father nods.

“Burton Danielski was my best friend.  Man was that guy a talker – and handsome?  Pfft.  The girls loved Burton.”

I smile.  Good ol’ Paul here was no slouch himself in the looks department.

“So it was mid-week, and I was going out to the Danielski farm, up by Arthyde.  It was a good piece out into the country, maybe a 35-, 45-minute school bus ride.  We would shovel snow and manure, throw hay.”

Dad leans back in his chair.  I can see him smiling.

“Man.  Those dinners.  Mrs. Danielski was a fabulous cook, Patty.”

My father, a man incapable of remembering the names or ages of his children, frequently calls me by his sister’s name.

“I can imagine,” I say.

He shakes his head.  “Roast and mashed potatoes, bread, hot and buttery…”

My father drifts back to a meal eaten over 50 years ago.

“Musta bin some meal,” I tease.

He laughs.  “She kept an impeccable house, too.  She ran a tight ship, did Mrs. Danielski.  I always admired that.”

There is a moment’s silence.

“That night,” dad says, “it was a good 20 below.  Burton slept in the attic – there were two small beds up there – but that night it was far too cold for us to have our own beds, so we shared one.  Four thick blankets over us – couldn’t hardly roll over!“

He shakes his head.  “An unheated attic,” he marvels.  “I think it was January.  Wow.”

I stroke the cat’s head, and she looks up at me, eyes narrowing in pleasure.  Dad opens the door to the wood stove, throws a mitt full of wood onto the flames.  He closes the door, brushes his palms one against the other.

He sits back in the La-Z-Boy, has a quick sip of beer.

“Anyway,” he says, “we fell asleep at some point, and I probably woke up about 1:00, 2:00 a.m.  Had to see a man about a horse.”

He chuckles to himself.  For a man who rarely swears, a conversation with his daughter involving seeing a man about a horse is risqué.

“So there I am, middle of the night, in perhaps the coldest room I’ve ever been in, in a fog.  Where am I, again?  Where’s the bathroom?  I kinda sit up – and I nearly have a stroke.”

The fire crackles.

My father is nodding to himself, the vision of the Danielski’s mid-winter attic before him.  “There at the end of the room, silhouetted against the bright winter sky, is a headless figure, five, maybe six feet tall.  It’s arms were outstretched, reaching for me.”

Dad helps himself to another quick sip.  “It seemed like forever – although I’m sure it was far less than that –“.  He leans toward me, winks.   “Eventually, of course, my eyes and brain came together, and there it was, hanging from the ceiling on a hanger, meant to be drying but now frozen solid:  Burton’s longjohns.”

He shakes his head. 

“I wondered for years why Mrs. Danielski would’ve made his arms like that, but thinking about it now, I’ll bet I filled that part in…  She was not the kind of woman that would’ve made his sleeves freeze like arms coming toward you.”

My father rises from his chair, walks toward the fridge.  “Yep,” he says.  “Turns out I was scared by a pair of Burton’s undies.”

He turns toward me.  “Another beer?” 

Paul on the drums, Burton on the trumpet.  


Delores said...

that would give him nightmares for years....what a story teller your dad is.

vanilla said...

Oh, you are sly. Or your Dad is. Or, likeliest, you both are.

Pearl said...

Delores, seriously, he still thinks about it. :-)

vanilla, neither of us can be trusted.

jenny_o said...

I have witnessed frozen longjohns and they are a fearsome sight. And that was in the daylight.

jenny_o said...

... and is that your dad on the drums?

Pearl said...

jenny_o, there IS something scary about frozen longjohns. And yes! That's good ol' Paul on the drums, Burton on the trumpet.

esbboston said...

I have been frightened by underwear before, but in a completely different context.

Diane Tolley said...

Frozen underwear. Gives me the shivers just thinking about it . . .

Joanne Noragon said...

I hope ole Burt was sleeping in his other pair and the frozen pair were saved for spring. Or until Mrs. Danielski took pity and hung them in front of the fire.

fishducky said...

esbboston said...
I have been frightened by underwear before, but in a completely different context.


Elephant's Child said...

Even second hand this is the stuff of nightmares. Mind you I think longjohns are nightmareish at the best of times.

Daisy said...

Frozen long johns--hahaha! Those will give you a start one way or another. :D

Gigi said...

You know? I think I AM the type of mother who WOULD freeze the arms like that!

Rosemary Nickerson said...

How do those frozen garments ever get dry? If they bend, do the fabric fibers break? It seems they would have to melt and then dry...a very long process. Of course they do talk about "dry cold"......

Daisy said...

Mine used to freeze hanging on the line. The wind would blow them into all sorts of shapes. I KNOW the fearfulness of it all. Glad your dad survived, Pearl! :-)

The Chicken's Consigliere said...

I would have had a heart attack if I had to put those frozen long johns on. Yikes.

Christian at Point Counter-Point Point Point said...

When he said 20 below he meant 20 below 30 right? No? Damn that's cold.

bill lisleman said...

good story. I'm glad I didn't need to see a man about a horse before I finished it. That cold beer will do that to you.

Jayne Martin said...

Wonderful story. Can't tell you how envious I am. Never had any relationship with my own father. Can I come visit yours?

HermanTurnip said...

Your dad and mine both share the same affliction. My dad sometimes calls my son the name of our cat, or his best friend from college. Personally, I prefer it when he calls my son 'Tim' instead of our cat's name 'Nemesis'.

Rose L said...

LOL I used to be afraid that there was a monster in my closet and under my bed. One time I forgot (or my sister did) to close the closet door and when I rolled over and could see it, I swore there was a figure moving inside. I screamed for mommy. Turned out it was just shadows from the cars driving by outside.

Geo. said...

Much of human belief in the supernatural can be traced to frozen underwear.

River said...

Frightened by underwear! Understandable in the fog of half-awake in a strange place in the dark.

Linda O'Connell said...

Lucky he didn't crash head long into those long johns. What a fright for your good looking dad on a cold winter night.

Suldog said...


I say this with the utmost sincerity: I am never anything less than totally engrossed by your writing. I lose myself in your stuff, completely, and if you never have your writings published in a way that could lead to fame and wealth, I will not understand why.

(OK, I know how much of a drag it can be to find folks who love you enough to publish you for real cash money. There's tons of heartbreak and rejection out there via the folks you send it to who just won't get it. BUT you have a true gift; that's all I'm saying.)

TexWisGirl said...

mrs. d. made quite the impression on your father!