This is a second part short story of the wisdom of Pete and Repeats dad told through the eyes of 11 year old Repeat. If you missed Part One you can find it here.
My best buddy Glenn Ford sat beside Pete on the ground, perilously close to the Kaline’s repetitive path. As was Glenn’s habit he merely sat, content to watch and listen to Pete and me, content with this sunny day’s freedom to use his fingers for interior nose exploration rather than for any baseball industry. We always figured Glenn would become a nose doctor of some fashion given his fascination and dedication to the subject. Not a smart doctor, but maybe making it on diligent application of craft alone.
Pete was on the wooden end of our little sports business deal. The bat in his hand was a genuine Al Kaline Louisville Slugger. The name of the Tigers great was emblazoned in the standard ‘burned in wood’ fashion that was the custom of Louisville Sluggers and as far as my 11 year old mind knew it was hand ‘burned-in’ by big Al himself.
I was bent over in my best imitation of the Yanks Tony Kubek, gobbling up Pete’s Kaline propelled grounders with the grace and craft of Kubek; looking runners back to third and then firing to an imaginary Moose Skowron at first base.
This was our deal; my big brother Pete hit em and I caught em. Later on Pete would be known for his hitting and I was selected earlier than other kids for most teams just to patrol shortstop; the just and predictable reward of our ceaseless hours of role playing in the steaming Texas summers.
Glenn’s little brother Darrell, who had already managed to survive four whole years in the screwball Ford family, was roaming around the front door of the Ford’s small three bedroom family enclave wearing a Roy Rogers outfit. From time to time he got the tan fringe on the red vest stuck in the screen door and one of his two Ford sisters, diligently attempting to bake imaginary cookies on a fake plastic oven that set next to a fake plastic refrigerator at the dead center of the Ford driveway, would be required to extricate him so he could get stuck again five minutes later. He could have played with the toy guns in the little patent leather holster lashed around his round belly but they had long ago joined ranks with a thousand other lost Ford children toys. Toward the end of the screen door play with too many acts, the two Ford sisters, slamming down their plastic tea cups and being somewhat brighter than the Ford boys, had moved their entire cooking and tea operation to the porch, using the screen door as a backrest blocking Mr. ‘Roy Darrell Rogers’ from his previous incarcerations. His older sister Kay, with practiced patience but using the trademark Ford family way with words, had told Darrell “you little testicle sack, why don’t you go see if Glenn needs help picking his nose;” which she knew herself to be merely a ruse attempted on an unsuspecting four year old as Glenn was already well beyond the point of being amateurish or needing help.
That was about the time the wail known thereafter around our neighborhood as the ‘shriek of the big breasted Ford’ had occurred. Mrs. Ford, the maternal genesis of the previously described bakers and booger pickers had come running from around the side of the family house, her big Jayne Mansfield-like milk jugs flying up and down in a remarkable dance of togetherness as though they had actually worked out the choreography for this very moment, her mouth wide open and her arms raised in the fashion of a hallelujah choir member in God-seeking climax, her fingers clawing at the air and the most god awful screech that I had yet been privileged to witness in my 11 years of confusion was running from her open mouth in a continuous wail of fear or tragedy. I wasn’t sure which until I heard the word ‘snake’ intermingled with other traditional and colorful Ford family vocabulary as she disappeared around the other side of the house intent on saving herself, the children be damned. Best that I could tell however she was on a panic driven course to make a complete circle around the house, thereby ending up once again at the original point of what appeared to be a significantly terrifying snake sighting. This, I predicted, was going to be even scarier for the snake the second time around.
As is the human custom, all us kids took off running toward the back yard following the terror befuddled Mrs. Ford. Years later I wondered why humans tend to run toward the source of trouble instead of away and decided I still didn’t know; though my best excuse for this action on that day is that I was somehow caught up in the ‘Ford-ness’ of the moment.
Rufus beat us all there. Rufus was Mr. Ford’s first name but my folks always insisted that Pete and I refer to him as Mr. Ford. We only did that when the folks or the Ford family were around though. In the night, sharing a common bedroom, we would form the name Rufus into a dog bark. Pete would bellow out “Roof Roof Roooooofuuss” and both of us would collapse in fits of rufus laughter until my dad would yell out he was “coming with the belt” unless we piped down and went to sleep.
Rufus worked at the GM plant down the street and was also famous for telling Pete and I that Ford built cars were for ‘shittin-in’. Pete and I howled, but Rufus didn’t even bust a smile indicating this ‘shittin in a Ford’ business was more like a serious living philosophy of his than a joke of any kind. He drove GM station wagons filled with little Fords was mine and Pete’s ignorant everyday joke. Then of course after the joke we would bark out “Rooooofuuus… Roof Roof Roooofuuss !” We also started locking the doors on my dad's 1959 Ford at night.
Rufus pointed out what appeared to be a very jittery grass snake. It slithered a short distance away looking like it hoped Mrs. Ford wouldn’t continue to scream at it. She was now cowering on the high ground of the back porch steps holding a bleeding shin, which she busted on the steps when the big boobs lost their common beat and her heaven-seeking hands didn’t reach the steps prior to the shins introduction to concrete. The snake underestimated her though; she was still screaming in what was now a curious mixture of pain and fright.
Rufus turned slowly to Mrs. Ford and shouted firmly. “Shut up woman, it’s a ignorant ol grass snake!” She did too. Just like she was gonna get beat or something if she didn’t. She got quite as a baptism and bowed her head the same as if she was at one too.
Rufus followed the snake and then looking sideways at Pete reached out his hand like he wanted Pete to hand off the Kaline, which had made the adventure seeking trip to the backyard with Pete.
Pete was figuring Rufus was gonna use it to shoo the snake deeper into the grass toward the railroad tracks behind the house.
The heavy end of the Kaline however was destined for a killing fate. Rufus brought the end of the Kaline down on the snake with the full fury of a man disgusted with his wife, and Pete and all the rest of us watched Rufus bring the snake to a standstill, a small glob of red/black blood spilling from its abdomen.
He handed the Kaline back to Pete and stomped off to his garage to finish rotating the tires on his decrepit ‘little Ford haulin’ GM station wagon, ordering Mrs. Ford to get up off her sorry ass and get him a cold Falstaff.
The children circled around the snake in the curious manner that children have, squatting down close, sensing that Mr. Ford may have missed something important in not staring for a while at a real live dead snake.
Then Pete, since he was the oldest one there helped us put it all in some sort of understanding. Pete was good at that. He has always been that way. He said to me “Repeat, you know what dad would tell you this means don’t you?” I told Pete that I really didn’t cause all I could see was just a dead snake. Glenn even took his finger from his nose, I think because he knew Pete was pretty good at explaining things and he wanted to concentrate real hard.
“Dad says fear can kill and hurt things that don’t need killing or hurting. He says when people are afraid of things it keeps them from figuring out if that thing can really hurt them before they just haul off and attack it or kill it. Looks like this here snake was just too scary for Mrs. Ford and Mr. Ford didn’t want to hear any more yelling on her part, but I don’t think this ol snake meant any harm to her.”
Pete said he wanted to go “wash the Kaline” and put it away for a while.
Darrell pointed his finger in imitation of the long missing toy guns and fired imaginary Roy Rogers bullets into the body of the no longer terrifying grass snake.
Copyright 2006 Riddle