Jun 8, 2004

Whatsoever you lock

When my brother was 6 he had the key to the Bank of America, our local branch. He'd found it in a parking lot, I think, stamped "BANK OF AMERICA" and I don't know why Dad didn't take it from him and return it, but he didn't. David added it to his key chain, another one in this mass of keys that went to every lock he'd ever known. It looked like a huge softball jammed in his 6-year-old pocket and he jingled more than Christmas when he wore those keys and grinned.

We talked about how we could get into the bank because David had the key and we could rob them. This outlawery appaled my mother, and she'd remind us it was wrong to steal, but it wasn't about stealing it was about power and how David had found some in the parking lot.

Marvin knew that and kept giving David keys. Marvin was this woodcarver, pecan farmer, and Texas good old boy we knew who'd lost two and a half fingers in a tractor accident and had his wife leave him because she wouldn't live with a cripple. He had a dark sense of humor. He'd always promise to "be there - unless I'm dead." But he taught us a lot about knives and gave David keys.

We'd ask, but he didn't know what they were to. "I've got keys to half the old trucks in McClennan county," he'd say, waving his half a hand, "I don't know what they're too."

And when we drove around David'd sit by the van window, looking for old trucks he might have the keys to.

I got keys to the apartment second or third day I was in Ambler. A couple weeks later I had keys to the Texaco station - the wanted sign was cumpled in the trash and I had a jaggedy little key on my ring that fit the front door of the Texaco if I gave it a good stiff wiggle.

Two more keys on my ring. It made me nervous, actually. The weight of my pockets was off. I started worrying about remembering which of my four keys was which and started thinking about how I've never settled down.

I never liked keys. With power comes responsibility, they say, which is a pretty goddamned benign way of saying it when you realize it's a Faustian proverb. Other men are rattling around their keys scaring away ghosts and for me, they're being conjured. I understood that kind of power. That deal.

I'd seen furniture hawked to pay rent, seen vehicles stranded on the edges of highways and on the back sides of parkinglots. I'd seen where the sweat rolled through the grime that made you look like someone they'd decided not to bury alive afterall, at least not today, and they paid a quarter of what they leached from your soul.

And when we drive around I'd look out the window, looking for abandoned old trucks and wondering who's still carrying that curse of a key for seven years, who's soul is still locked by that lock, who's ghost is still trying to get the engine to just turn over.