Sepia Saturday: My Father Reminisces, Pt.4
This week's Sepia Saturday post concludes my dad's recounting of an episode with his Uncle Clyde in Elm, Michigan around 1933. (If you missed it, we started here.)
"When do you want me to work?" I asked with a certain trepidation.
"Well, we'll want to deliver several carloads of handbills first." Uncle Clyde tenderly and thoughtfully rubbed his whiskery cheeks. "After that, we'll probably need you some on Saturdays and Sundays, maybe now and then after school, and during the summer. Just a little work in your spare time so you can save up and buy that bicycle." (He referred to a tenth-hand bicycle I had seen some time ago in a Brightmoor shop; but it had the almost unreachable price of $7.50.) I was to gradually discover that Uncle Clyde's conception of spare time was the time you weren't sleeping or in school.
Uncle Clyde's eyes glanced into the living room where our Airedale (half collie), Mike, eight, the brother of Pat, lay with dignified reserve before the fireplace and, as usual, on the one forbidden spot, the Oriental Rug.
Uncle Clyde slowly lurched in that direction, his face twisted in what could have been intended either as moderate agony or as a felon's deliberation on the best mode of attack, arms extended like a sagging scarecrow, one leg dragging, his demeanor noiseless, tense, and absurdly threatening. "Well, if it isn't old Uncle Mike," he said, he said in a strange voice, happily.
Mike raised his ears about an inch and observed Uncle Clyde with scholarly penetration; his diagnosis was swift, sophisticated, and sardonic. Not for a moment did he have the illusion that this figure was Lon Chaney or a burglar; he casually arose and strolled toward Uncle Clyde, his stubby wagged tail forming a brown-tufted fanshape in the air.
Uncle Clyde, after he and Mike had had a brief bout, during which Mike kept up an amused, tolerant growl and a rather large wag, put on his coonskin coat and started for the door. "Can you get about five or six of your friends to help with these handbills, Uncle Nelson?" he asked. "Oh yes, I'm quite sure of that, Uncle Clyde. By the way, how did you break your kneecap?"
"Wrestling with that damned cat of ours, Reddy. You remember Reddy? He was just a kitten last time you were over, and now he weighs over 40 pounds. His mother was a skinny little thing you could lose under your hatband. The only thing I can figure is she mated with a bobcat.
(More obese kitties here)
"We wrestled Monday afternoon for over 20 minutes; it made me a complete wreck, but that infernal Reddy came out without a scratch on him." Uncle Clyde picked up his groceries, said goodbye, and hobbled into the storm.
Margaret and I, at the window, watched him disappear among still thickly descending flakes; the coonskin coat, flapping overshoes, and rakishly arranged hat moved more rapidly as they receded until, a block off, beginning to fade from view, and deterred by neither lump nor log, their motion appeared rather friskily debonair.
"Er, would you care to continue tiddling, Lord Abercrombie?" offhandedly inquired Lady Bluntboots.
"Most assuredly, old beast," I replied, nose aloft, "though I may be just a dash encumbered, don't you know, with this fractured wrist."
"Oh yes. Perhaps you should use less pressure on the — er, ah," Lady Bluntboots slid her lower lip out another inch, raised her eyebrows a bit more, and savored this piquant Americanism, "er, oh — the, er, tiddlywink."