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Some Words of Faction on My Father

July 7, 2010

I was looking back at some of the 750 words stuff. You can export it from the site, and I was reading through stuff from a few months ago, and I thought some of it was maybe interesting. I should get back on this. There’s something about unhooking the brake cables on the pen and seeing which tree you crash into. Here’s something from April which, if not factually accurate, captures the spirit of something true.

My father used to cross the country in the back of pickup trucks and cabs of semi-tractor-trailers, flatbed farm trucks with migrant workers.

My father once pinned down a Japanese souldier. That’s what he called the man. Not a soldier–he spelled it out for you: S-O-U-L-D-I-E-R. A spirit warrior, one of the ancient feudal Japanese warriors who had taken an oath to defend the empire. They came back even after they were dead, as vapory translucent clouds. My father once pinned one down with a bayonet.

My father once wrestled a grizzly bear. He and his college buddies were passing through Appalachia on a fishing trip and they stopped at a roadside saloon that advertised bear wrestling. They had a black bear in a pen in the middle of the bar, and for $30 a man could wrestle the poor bear, which had been de-clawed. My father, being the largest and strongest among his group of friends, was the obvious choice and after slugging down several quarts of beer each, they all chipped in and sent my father into the pen. My father gave the bear the biggest whoopin’ of his life until the bear owner (who also happened to be the bar owner) had to pull my father off. Dinner and drinks were on the house that night.

My father raced his motorcycle across the country once. He saw a woman on a game show, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She was smart too–she won the show that day and as such was invited back to compete the next day. As soon as she won, my father hopped on his motorcycle, an old Indian, and rode it across the country. He ran out of gasoline somewhere near the Nevada-California border but had enough speed built up that he was able to coast on into Hollywood. He found that woman coming out of the studio after the second day on the show, in which she had also won. He asked her out, and a week later, on the way back across the country, they stopped in Vegas and were hitched. That game show contestant was my mother.

My father once slugged Mickey Mantle in the chin and knocked him out cold. Mickey was in Chicago playing a game, and my father, an avid Cubs fan, had been harassing Mantle all game. In the seventh inning, Mantle lost his cool and shouted something at my father. Then he shouted something crass about my mother. My father was over the dugout and had laid Mantle out in the batter’s box before the catcher could even come out of his stance. My father spent the night in a Chicago jail cell–the first of several that he would spend in jail–but was released the next day as soon as the Yankee’s left town. There weren’t many Mickey Mantle fans in Chicago, and my father became somewhat of a hero.

My father once disappeared for just under a year and returned with strange tattoos on his now rough and tanned back and arms. Tribal tattoos, like something from the islands. His hair was long and tangled and he had a wiry beard which he shaved off a few days after his return. When the neighbors asked, my mother just told them that he had been away for awhile, that it was something he did from time to time, though I never knew him to have done it before or after. When he came back, my father seemed different, as if he had seen something out there, something that frightened him. As if he had been lost at sea in a shipwreck and while clinging to the wreckage of the ship had seen in the water the long tail of a creature that altered his entire belief system. Forced him to consider what he had never considered before, something big in physicality or concept, he had encountered something out there. And when we asked him what it was, what he’d seen, he spoke in a strange language that clicked along like a percussion band and a string quartet. I have never in my life heard such a language, and when we told him we couldn’t understand him, that he should speak it to us in plain English, he looked at us with a far-off stare and said that it would not matter, that he could no better explain it in our language, nor we understand it. What he had seen was incomprehensible.

And then he took a job at an insurance firm as a salesman, first behind a desk and then behind a wheel of a car, but we knew that wasn’t going to last.

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