“Kee-rist,” the Old Man’d say when he settled into his chair, some kind of cheap fake Laz-E-Boy recliner maybe even from the Salvation Army or, like he said it, “Salivation Army.” If anybody’d ask him, “Say, Pop, just where did that chair come from? Where’d you get it, Pop?” he’d just say “Watch a you seff” and that was that. Maybe we’d laugh about it, you know, but not so’s he could see.
The Old Man liked to do things one-handed; boy I remember that, whether it was splitting the tax stamp on a pint of Jim Beam or, like he said it, “Mr. Bem” like that, or lighting a match for a usable White Owl stump or giving one of us a crack on the back of the head with those thick, hard knuckles of his. It used to bug me a bunch, but I think I know why he liked to do it, why being able to do things with one hand like that made him feel like he knew what he was doing and it showed when he could do it. The Old Man loved it when he’d catch one of us trying to do something one-handed. He’d grin, you know, he’d be “bemming” from ear to ear.
Came in handy, too, that habit, when the Old Man got one of his paws jammed up in his lathe, split it down the middle like a codfish and in those days they weren’t trying to save nothing, they weren’t sewing nothing back on. It was, like, “There you go, Mister, there’s your hook and there’s a couple grand, too. Send one of your boys around when he’s big enough to stand in your spot and do what you did for the rest of his life.” Even those days a couple a grand didn’t go too damn far and when it was gone, it was just gone and that was that.