I heard the old man’s truck pull up on the gravel out front. It was about noon on a work day. I had never known the old man to come home in the middle of a day unless it was raining. But it was summer and it wasn’t raining. So thinking something might be wrong, I went to the front window as the old man tried to walk down the slope of the driveway—the house being set down below road level—bent over at 90 degrees.
His back had seized up he said, and he couldn’t straighten up. Then he sat down at the kitchen table and ate his lunch from the paper bag because nothing was going to disturb his routine. He munched in his Fritos while old lady called to make an appointment with a doctor. He came back still bent at 90 degrees. The doctor had said that the only thing to do was to get him on his back resting in traction. The doctor said it might take 4 weeks, even longer for him to straighten up.
I am not a fucking ingrate. I might not have much positive to say about the old man as a human being; but he was a good and steady worker. Seeing him knocked out of commission like that made me feel vulnerable and rightfully so. He was the bread winner. The old lady hadn’t worked since WW2 and she didn’t drive. Also according to the old lady, we were always teetering on the brink of destitution. She was an expert at poor mouthing, and if you asked anything about the family money, she wouldn’t tell you or she would lie.
One hot summer afternoon the old lady told me to go into their bedroom and collect the glasses in there the old man had been using. He loved canned lemonade. So I went in. The room was close and hot and stuffy, and the old man was asleep with his big belly sticking out from under his t-shirt and half of his old, pale and gnarly looking penis hanging out from under the stretched out elastic of his underpants. He was snoring and drooling. Flies buzzed over him because of all the sticky lemonade glasses around.
I got this horrible feeling that he was never, ever going to get. The guy had just died and gone to pig heaven. I don’t mean he had died really, but he had found pig heaven right here on earth.
But after about six weeks he got up and went back to work. His back never seized up like that again. But when ever he sat for while, the back would stiffen up. When he got up, he would give out a groan and sort of launch himself out of the chair. About half way across the room he would straighten up, and if he knew you were watching and he had it in him, he would let out a fart.
Farting was his highest form of humor. He was a good farter, so why not. I remember hearing a comedian say if something makes people laugh keep doing it till they stop. I had stopped laughing a long time ago, but if his farts irritated the old lady, I still enjoyed it as a form of masculine bonding, I guess. About the only thing I inherited from my old man, aside from my toothpick legs, was a vigorous and robust bowel. I am incredibly regular. Once when I was constipated and couldn’t shit for three days, I thought I was going to fucking die.