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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Just Do What The Hand Tells You to Do

Because I spent yesterday with plumbing issues (the house's, not my own) and didn't save time for writing.  And because it was seven below zero Fahrenheit this morning at the bus stop.  

From November of 2014.  Enjoy!

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.  "I see a shape," he says again.  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 and demands that you stop!  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 un-refrigerated potato salad and of 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.”


Linda O'Connell said...

Still funny! And I have talked to the hand many times.

Anonymous said...

I love that story. It never gets old. Hope your plumbing issues (the house not yours) are resolved now.

NotesFromAbroad said...

LOL..my son used to say Don't call me Shirley .. makes me laugh every time.

Good story Pearl .. as usual .. thanks for that !

jenny_o said...

Again with the brain doing funny things - at least I think it's a brain thing ... one never knows, though, huh? Love this story. And it's always good to be reminded of dangers, even when we're middle-aged. It means someone loves us.

joeh said...

Good stories deserve to be repeated, and this was good the second time around.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
Every bit worth the re-read!!! Hope the plumbing's sorted... YAM xx

Jono said...

Shirley, you jest. Good luck with the plumbing. Luck is always involved in plumbing.

savannah said...

It was great 2 years ago and still great today! Hope the plumbing is all sorted and the weather is a tiny bit better when y'all go home! ;) xoxox

Elephant's Child said...

I do hope your household plumbing issues are fixed, and that your body doesn't feel the urge to follow suit.
And yes, add me to the list who loved this post when it first appeared, and loves it still.

Catalyst said...

I remember that one from before. Still a good tale.

Geo. said...

Delightful story, Pearl. Lifted my spirits out of our own plumbing problems. But 7 below? Without Daniel Fahrenheit we wouldn't know how cold it is. I prefer the Carlin calculus for non-weather numbers, like my age, 66, is only about 19 Celsius.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Very funny. If I read this before, I've forgotten.

Pearl's Left-Overs--Warmed Up and Served a Second Time, They're Still Quite Delectable!

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

No one tells a story like you, Pearl. That was wonderful!

Eileen B said...

Yup. Always good to do be grateful when someone gives you a hand.

River said...

I still love this story. Hope the plumbing is all sorted and righted by now.

Diane Tolley said...

I put this story in the same category with your voice-in-the-back-seat telling you you need to get off the freeway and seek medical help. Shivery good!

Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

Pearl, this is classic Pearl. Wonderfully-written. This is why you MUST keep writing. I enjoyed it the first time I read it ":)
Happy New Year!

Watson said...

Even better the second time! And glad your dad obeyed that hand.