Nov 2, 2006

Me and Mr. Parnell

The thing I liked about old men then (and now) is that they’ve already decided how they’re going to respond to the world. They’ve figured out what can be figured out and they’re doing what they want to do. You can look at that and learn from that. I did.

What ever had happened had already happened. It was over and that was that and now he was here in the garage. And that was alright. Besides that there was nothing to say.

He had a band saw and a table saw and a scroll saw and some others. He had racks full of tools and more racks full of more tools on the walls and in from the walls there were benches. There was sawdust on the benches and under the benches and on the floor.

There was just a little walkway through the middle of the place and in the middle of the walkway was his chair and he sat there. Sometimes his wife came to the door and said Parnell? You want some tea?

he would say. And that would be maybe all he would say all day.

And that was alright.

The kid came up and came in. He was wearing a red and black flannel shirt tucked into blue jeans and he stood next to Parnell. The kid was taller, broader than the man. Parnell sat there and the kid stood there. The kid was dressed like an old man. The old man smelled like Pall Malls and spam.

What you working on? the kid said. That was what he said every time. That was the way it worked between them.

A box, Parnell said.

He had six sides of mahogany, two small ends and two long sides and a top and a bottom. The wood was red and purple and when he ran the sander on the red and purple wood for too long in one place it burned black in lines. The wood sanded off in flying streams of dust. The smell of it, the burn-edged wood, mixed up in the air in the garage with the smell of Pall Mall and canned spam and flannel shirts.

They listened to the sander. They heard it whir. They heard the mahogany wood smoothing away. They heard the particles of sand slipping over the face of the wood and it was all alright.

You got it? Parnell said.

Yeah, said the kid.

The old man took the board in his vein-ridden hands and put it into the hands of the kid. The kid took it. The belt spun around its wheels. The kid took the board in both his hands and pushed the edge into the bite. He let the sander wear things away.

Parnell stood back. He picked up the glass of tea. The ice had melted into the sun browned tea and he pulled his head back and took a drink until there was nothing but a nub of ice laying at the bottom.

The two of them stayed like that, in the afternoon in the walkway between the machines in the garage, without saying anything for a long time.