Synaesthesia Magazine Americana - Page 37

A rusty handsaw in an antique shop near Missouri says more to Robert than any old newspaper ever could. He’s a rustic man, craves sweat in his eyes and blisters in between his toes. He doesn’t double knot his Red Wing boots in the morning just for grins. He was born with a pair of Jersey gloves on and didn’t take them off until he was home safe in his crib. The man don’t look at sunsets unless he’s driving towards them and antique tools, handles worn smooth and splinters all forgotten, are his interpretation of high class art.

Robert has bought enough corroded blades to know which ones had actually been used to hack and those who were used to hang. Being a connoisseur, a real hand tool enthusiast with magazines and all keeping him up to snuff, he don’t mess around with anything that didn’t pull its own weight for at least awhile. And those that have been repaired, either shoddily or supremely, don’t even get a second glance or a handling from his big palmed, work hewed hands. He was fooled once or twice in the beginning, some of those old repairmen put soul and pride in masking their life-giving revivals, but now going on a lifetime of looking at them, Robert knows firsts from frauds and takes great chest-welling pride in knowing so.

He’s not much on fish not out of rivers, channel cat and buffalo being the cruxes of his finned food, tuna making him feel too much like a feline, and therefore too close to a female. Tomcats aren’t made for sipping tea, so Robert says, and he keeps to hitting the red can Folgers both before his bacon/eggs/toast breakfast and after his supper with desert. His wife Louise isn’t a housewife of forgettable features, broad shouldered and big hipped, her hair a ruby red from chemicals. She brews that Folgers both times for him and her cooking makes the coffee all the harder to quit drinking, what from the grease from those slices of pig and those pies with real butter melted across the strips of her lattice crusts. When Robert thinks that he has had his fill, Louise is there saying “there’s just one bite left honey, and I don’t want to have to feed it to the dog,” making sure that Robert stays at a consistent range of between 265 to 275 pounds, despite the doctor’s warnings of diabetes and high cholesterol and high blood pressure and death.

But what does he know? Robert goes once a year for a little check-up because his insurance gives him one, but that’s the full extent of Robert’s involvement with the medical profession. Yes sir, he’s not convinced that those that make the medicine and those that prescribe it don’t have a quota to fill each month and Robert’s not much on having steel wool pulled over his eyes. He’s an honest man on top of everything else and doesn’t like smirks or practical jokes from strangers, and particularly from friends.

When Robert’s mowing his yard, a big sprawling piece of Missouri dirt covered with genuine Kentucky Bluegrass which he paid top dollar for and sewed the spring after they moved in some 19 years ago, he’s wearing a baseball cap and plenty of sunscreen on his nose. His t-shirt is a plain color with nothing written on it and denim does the job of covering the rest of him up. Not surprisingly, he takes great pride in his lawn care and Louise does her due diligence to match him, sweating clean through her blouse under that heavy Missouri heat keeping crabgrass out of her cosmos and dandelions out of her daffodils. Every fall when everyone else leaves their patches and plots to themselves before winter comes on like a wine drunk and knocks them over, Robert and Louise are still at it, though in flannel and shivering when the wind picks up near dusk.

And when winter comes Robert takes to his shed where all those pristine timeworn instruments are that he picks up in antique malls, flea markets, and estate sales. He picks out a project every winter and uses those old blades and mallets and presses to put something together his ancestors would be proud of. Last winter there was enough snow to keep him holed up in the shed for whole days and he came out in the spring with a bow that’d make a true outdoorsman shiver from its purity. Red Cedar, Locust, and Witch Hazel wrapped around one another, sanded down until it was smoother than the underside of a peach, and coated with a heavy dose of liquid shine. On the grip just below the arrow rest in the heart of a limb of Locust, Robert carved his initials with a hand chisel twice as old as he was. He doesn’t shoot it at all, just has it hanging across the antlers of a 10 point buck deer he has mounted on the wall of his bedroom, looking at it first thing in the morning and last thing before he goes to sleep.

The moon is big over Missouri, seems to be full more often than not, and sometimes keeps Robert from getting a working man’s rest. And when it does, he takes to repeating the prayer his mother taught him some years ago now, her eternal voice speaking right along with him, his eyes closed:

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep…”

And when he finally sleeps he dreams of earthworms on hooks attached to fishing poles, May rain hitting a tin roof, and the smell of alfalfa drying yellow in streaks as long as highways.

Avery Gregurich is a student at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. There, he studies Writing and Journalism, and serves as an editor of Periphery Art and Literary Journal.