Saturday, February 26, 2011

Flatheads, Crescent Wrench's and Pliers (Part 10)

“You ladies gonna sit there all afternoon staring into space?” came a booming voice from behind us. We turned and saw Fish’s dad standing in the doorway of the garage. He was still in his riding gear, faded and worn our blue jeans, a beat up old leather jacket that was unzipped and barely hiding his Harley Davidson t-shirt and biker boots. A cigarette was dangling out of his mouth and in his right hand he was holding Fish’s motorcycle helmet.

“We just finished painting the frame, Pop. What’s up?” Fish asked.

“Your mom called and wants me to go up to the store, you wanna ride?” Mr. Minnow responded.

“Uh, sure.” Fish said and then looked at us “You guys wanna put the frame away?”

“No problem, it’s getting late anyway and I need to get home.” I told him.

“Alright, see you guys at school tomorrow.” Fish said as he got up, dusting off his pants as he headed over to where his dad was standing. Then he turned around, reached in his pocket pulled out his smokes and tossed the pack to Fin. “Here, I’ll get another pack at the store.”

Fin watched as the red and white pack sailed toward him and land right next to where he sat. “Thanks Fish.” He said as he scooped them up in his hand and we both watched as Fish and his dad disappeared into the darkened garage.

When we heard the Harley start up we got up, untied the bike frame, stored it in the garage and went back to pick up the paint cans and trash. “What do you think it’s like?” Fin asked me.

“Think what is like?” I asked as we put the paint cans on the workbench in the garage. The acrid smell of the Harley’s exhaust still hung in the air, enveloping us with its promise of open roads and high adventure.

“Riding on a motorcycle.”

“It’s fun. I rode with my dad once when he had a bike and I’ve ridden on some mini-bikes a few times. One day I’m gonna have a motorcycle too.” I boasted.

“Cool. I’m gonna get one someday too.”

“That’d be cool, we could ride together, go up North, ride in the mountains or we could head south to the Dells.”

“Nah, let’s head west, to the Grand Canyon and then on to California. We could ride all the way to the ocean; hang out on the beaches there. That’d be cool.” Fin fantasized as we shut the doors to the garage and started to head home.

As we walked home, first down Allouez Ave and then down Libel, we spoke of all the adventures we’d have. We spoke of how we would camp in the Painted Dessert, visit Mount Rushmore, ride our bikes through the Rocky Mountains and take US-1 from Southern California all the way to Alaska and then getting a job on the pipeline. How all our problems would just disappear once we hit the open road, the way we figured it, we could get odd jobs here and there to pay for our food and gas and then move on. Drifters, that’s what we’d be. Living off the land and not having anyone to tell us what to do or when to do it. No one to rely on but ourselves; they were the pipe dreams of two kids who knew nothing about the world except what we’d read in the pages of Jack Kerouac and Jack London.

As we cut through the new home construction on Libel street near Brookridge Fin looked at me and asked “You think we can do all of that stuff? You know, just up and split? You wouldn’t worry about your family or nothing?”

“Well, yeah, I would.” I said “But by the time we are old enough to get our motorcycles and hit the road my sisters will be out on their own. It’ not like we’re gonna just up and leave tomorrow or next year. Hell, Fin, we don’t even have money to buy the tire of a motorcycle let alone two motorcycles. Yet.”

“I guess.” He said “But it would be nice to be able to take off now. No more crappy school, no more bullies, no more waiting to start our lives. You know?”

“Yeah, I get where you’re coming from.” I said and we walked the rest of the way home lost in our own thoughts. I can’t speak for my pal but I was trying to figure out a way to make enough money to make my dream come true. As we approached the back of the Jamrogs’ house I noticed Fin was frowning.

I didn’t say anything to him; I knew what he was thinking. Every time we cut through the Jamrogs’ backyard and Dennis, Glenn or Mike saw us, they would harass us. Especially Fin, he seemed to catch the brunt of the teenagers’ angst. I think it was because he was still thought of as the new kid even though he’d lived next door to me for almost two years.

Today though, we got through the yard and past the garage with no problem, a fact I can only attribute to a box of Playboys that were most likely being drooled on as we snuck past. Once we got to the end of the Jamrog’s driveway I noticed my mom’s car was not in our driveway and the garage door was open with no car inside. Good news for me, I wouldn’t have to deal with being yelled at for now.

Jim and I said our goodbyes to each other and as he headed next door I told him if he wanted to hang out in my room later to stop by. He just shrugged and waved at me as if to say “Yeah, man, maybe.” I headed to the back of the house and used the back door to get back in the house. Everything was pretty quiet and I couldn’t tell if anyone was home. My sisters room was empty, as was the entire main floor of the house.

As I wandered through the house I checked the kitchen table, the end tables in the living room and the door to my bedroom for a note from any of my family members but the only thing they had left behind was dust. The door to my bedroom was still closed and as I approached it I wondered if my family had even realized I had left earlier in the day. Had they knocked on my door? Checked on me? Thought about me? Are they even thinking of me at that very moment? Had anyone read the note I had left on my bed?

As I opened my bedroom door I thought I heard someone come in the back door of the house. I ignored the noise and continued into my bedroom. When I stepped into my room I noticed the note I’d left not eight hours earlier was still sitting on my pillow undisturbed. I glanced around the room and saw none of my toys, clothes or school books had been disturbed either. I realized at that moment that no one in my family even knew if I was home, out running the streets, alive or dead.

“It’s about time you came out of your room.” My oldest sisters’ voice called to me from down the hall, interrupting my epiphany and self centered reverie.

“Uh-huh.” I mumbled and turned to face her. She was coming down the hallway towards me, completely oblivious that I’d just gotten home myself. “Yeah, I, um, I’ve been doing homework and just hanging out.” I quickly said and sat on my bed and grabbing the mornings note, crumbling it into a ball then tossing it into my Green Bay Packers trash can by my bedroom door.

“Well, Mom and Bob went up to Crivitz and they won’t be home until tomorrow. Are you hungry? What do you want for dinner?”

“I’m not really hungry. Where is everyone?”

“Debbie’s out with friends, Suzy is in the kitchen and has been with me all day. Are you sure you’re not hungry? I was going to make some goulash.”

“Goulash? Ok. I think I could eat.” I said and smiled at my sister as I got up from my bed.

She stood there in my doorway with a pained expression on her face, “He really did a number on you last night didn’t he?” She said staring at the bruises on my face.

“Yeah, but it looks worse than it is.” I mentioned with false bravado and unconsciously rubbed my cheek and wincing slightly at the aching pain the slight touch caused me.

“You really shouldn’t mouth off to him. You know he doesn’t like it when you get smart with him.” She cautioned.

“I know, but I don’t like how he talks down to me either. So I guess we’re even.” I said with a grin and then shrugged my shoulders and added “Besides, he’s not family yet and I just don’t understand how he thinks he can just come in here and always boss us around.”

“Please can you at least TRY to get along with him?” She asked me as she turned to head back down the hallway “C’mon, you can look after Suzy while I make dinner.” She ordered in her mother hen like way.

I followed.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Flatheads, Crescent Wrench's and Pliers (Part 9)

“Did you tell him you stole the parts from Przbylski’s?”

“SHUT UP FIN!” Fish and I yelled, only Fish smacked Fin upside the back of his head.

“Ow! What’d you go and do that for?” Fin asked rubbing the back of his head.

“Cause man, if my Dad found out what I did, I’d be in deep shit. So leave it alone. As far as anyone knows we bought this stuff. Now, let’s take this frame to the back yard and paint it.” Fish ordered.

Fin and I grabbed the white primed bike frame and headed toward the back yard. Fish followed behind us with some rope, rags and the cans of paint. We set everything up next to the clothesline that rand from the oak tree to a home made five foot tall wooden “T” that had three lines of rope attached to it.

Fin and I flipped the frame over and held it up to one of the clothes lines while Fish tied the frame to the line with the extra rope he’d brought out. Once the frame was secured Fish tossed me a can of paint and said “Since it’s your bike you get to do the honors. Try not to leave any holidays or drips. Shake the can up real good too.”

“Ok.” I managed to say as I popped the plastic top off the can and started to shake the can vigorously.

“C’mon Fin, let’s go get some sandwiches and some drinks. Skip, we’ll be right back.”

“No problem.” I answered and watch them disappear into the garage. Once they were out of sight I turned to the bike frame that was slowly spinning in the afternoon sunlight. It didn’t look like much, just a white frame that still looked a bit dusty in a sad sort of way. I couldn’t help but think of all the hopes and dreams the three of us poured onto this piece of metal. Dreams of riding to Lambeau field, the mall and arcade, the comic book store, record store, head shops and of course the camp grounds. To me, this bike represented a level of freedom I’d not had in a long time. The freedom to get away from the neighborhood, the bullies, the cliques and all the shit I had to deal with at home.

I smiled to myself as I reached out and stopped the frames slow rotation, lined up the paint can about six inches from the front forks and pressed down on the nozzle. The blue mist of paint spewed forth and did what it was made to do. Make something beautiful out of discarded trash.

I took my time, tried not to get any runs or leave any holidays and in almost no time I had the frame coated in blue paint. Once I had finished I sat down a few feet away from the frame and stared up at my handiwork. Not too shabby, I thought, as the frame began to slowly spin on the rope.

I hadn’t been sitting there long when my buddies showed up carrying three cokes and a half dozen bologna and cheese sandwiches.

“Got her painted?” Fish inquired.

“Only one coat.” I responded “It’s drying now. I figure after we eat we can do another coat.”

“Man, you got drips all over the place on this thing.” Fin complained. “Aint you ever spay painted before?”

“Only graffiti on the overpass.” I said “I don’t think it’s that bad of a job.”

“Don’t worry about the drips, we can sand them down and paint over them.” Al told us as he handed me two sandwiches. Fin sat down next to me, frowning, he handed me a coke. “You’re making extra work for us Skip.”

“Fin, you really need to work on your shitty attitude. Look, this is supposed to fun and every time you open your mouth you’re complaining about something.” Fish said pointing at him with his finger on his right hand as if to emphasize his message. “You just see bad stuff everywhere. Lighten up.”

“Easy enough for you to say” he responded through bites of his sandwich “You’re not the one who has to sand the frame again.”

“Ok, Fin, FUCK YOU! Skip and I will sand the damn frame and you can paint it when we’re done and we’ll see how perfect of a job you do.”

“Fine.” Fin yelled and then took a big swig of his coke. I think he did that just so he wouldn’t say anything he’d regret later. Fin and Fish, it was pretty well known, had been enemies when Fin first moved into town and it took months of me talking to both of them to get them to even hang around with me at the same time. The rivalry between the two had never seemed to go away even after a year of being friends. Each one wanted to lead the other one and neither wanted to follow. Hell, they even competed against each other for girls. If Fin liked a girl, Fish tried to get that girl to notice him and vice versa.

We sat there for the next ten minutes eating in silence with only the occasional burp breaking our silence. It seemed the fight had put a damper on the day and even the birds had stopped chirping in the trees. When I had finished my sandwiches and soda I stood up and walked into the garage, retrieved from the work bench some sandpaper and walked back out to where Fish and Fin sat. They were glaring at each other like a black hat versus a white hat in one of the Western Roundup movies we watched.

“Look guys, I messed up the paint so I’ll sand it. Besides, it’s my bike so I should do most of the work.” They both stared at me as I went to work sanding the forks, down tube and anywhere else I saw dried up runs and drips. Whenever I thought I’d finished sanding down a bump in the paint I’d run my hand over it to test the smoothness only to learn I hadn’t rubbed long enough. My hands quickly became covered in a fine blue dust.

After about 15 minutes of working I looked over at my buddies sitting on the grass, Fish was smoking and Fin looked as if he’d been kicked in the gut. “Skip, you want to take a break and have a smoke?” Fish asked, but he wasn’t looking at me, he was looking straight at Fin and shaking his head. “Sure man. Thanks.” I said and sat down between my two best friends. Fish handed me the smokes and matches, got up and went over to the bike frame and started sanding some of the drips I’d missed.

“Heck, another fifteen minutes of work then we’ll wipe her down and add a second coat.” He said and turned his back to us as he steadied the bike with his right hand and started sanding with his left. I looked over at Fin, shrugged my shoulders and handed him the pack of Marlboros and the matches.

“Light up man.”

“I don’t feel like it. I think I’ll go home.”

“Fin, man, you’re acting like a total baby. C’mon, just have a smoke and by the time you finish it we can start painting again.”

“I suppose.” He said and took the smokes and blaze up one.

Fish tuned and looked at us, smiled and went back to sanding.

“I just hate doing more work than is needed.” Fin offered.

“Look, none of us want to do more then we have to. And I really thought I’d done a good job until you guys came out here. But you don’t see me complaining about it do you?”

“Nah, but you don’t complain much. Except when shit is really messed up.”

“And this aint messed up is it?”

“Nah, I guess not.” Then he got up, walked over to the where Fish was working and grabbed the front forks of the bike to steady it for Fish.

A few minutes later all three of us were wiping the paint dust off of every inch of the bike with the rags Fish had brought out earlier. Once we had gotten all the dust off Fin grabbed the can of Krylon I had been using, shook it up and said “Stand back, it’s my turn.” And he began painting with gusto. Fish and I stepped back and watched. “Guess he’s feeling better? Huh?” Fish commented.

“Yeah, I suppose he is.”

“Well, let’s get all this trash picked up before my ol’ man freaks out.” He suggested. I looked around and saw that besides our crumb filled paper plates; there were empty soda cans, cigarette butts, worn out sand paper sheets, the bag from the hardware store and some napkins. I tried to figure out how all this crap got on the ground and where it came from but Fish started grabbing the trash so I jumped in and helped him.

We got all the trash up and took it into the garage and tossed it in the trash can. By the time we got back to Fin he was standing back from the bike admiring his handy-work. “Not bad if I say so myself.” He said with a grin.

“Nope, not bad at all.” Fish offered. “Couple more coats like that one and we’ll be doing assembly work.”

We sat there for a few minutes in silence literally watching the bike frame spin and the paint dry. Then Fin walked back over to the frame, stopped it from spinning and tested the paint to see if it were dry. Apparently it was because he started shaking the can of paint, making the marble inside the can rattle, sending out a dull clacking sound across the yard and causing dogs a few houses down to start barking.

Fin was halfway through the second coat of paint when he ran out and asked for the second can. Fish retrieved it and handed it to Fin. “You’re doing really good Fin.” He said and walked over to me so we could both watch as Fin busted his ass in the waning afternoon light.

Fin finished painting and walked over to where we were sitting, he held the can of blue Krylon paint in his right hand. His fingers had a dusting of blue paint on them and there was some overspray spots decorating the front of his “I’m a Pepper” T-shirt and jeans. He was grinning as if it were his birthday. “Man, that was fun.” He said as he sat down next to me. “When that coat of paint dries, I’m gonna do the next one if it’s cool with you guys.”

“I’ve got no problem with that.” I said.

“Me neither.” Fish commented

We sat there in silence, literally watching the paint dry on the bike frame. I don’t know what my buddies were thinking about; I don’t know really what I was thinking about. But I do know that regardless of how battered and bruised I was, how insecure Fin was, and the guilt Fish may have felt for stealing on the day his father said he was proud of him, we were all pretty happy and satisfied with ourselves and how much we had accomplished on our project over two days.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Flatheads, Crescent Wrench's and Pliers (Part 8)

“C’mon ladies! Get a move on, we’re burning daylight.” Fish called to us. He was now almost half a block ahead of us and he showed no signs of slowing down.

“Wait up man!” I called to him, then I looked at Fin and said “Don’t worry about what Fish does, just try not to be near him when he does shit like he did today. And for God’s sake, stop picking fights. None of us need any more trouble than what we already get into.”

“I’ll try but you know it’s not as easy for me as it is you. Hell, your sister has protection orders out to all the teenage boys on you. No one dares mess with you.”

“I know, I don’t like it but I have to live with it. Besides, who says those orders don’t apply to my friends?”

“Kids are gonna mess with me regardless of our friendship. You know that.”

“Wanna bet? I’ll see what I can do to get you some protection but you have to keep your mouth shut. Can you do that at least?”

“I’ll try.”

“That’s all I can ask I suppose.” I said as we caught up to Fish who was standing in the middle of the sidewalk trying to light a match off the seat of his pants. He had a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth and a string of profanity was spewing forth as he broke the match and tossed it on the ground alongside a growing pile of other broken wooden matches.

“I don’t know how the fuck they do it in the movies.” He proclaimed “Bastards make it look so easy.” He said as he pulled another wooden match out of a box.

“Fish, just use the side of the box like normal people.” I said.

“Fuck normal people. I want to do what they do in the movies. I’m gonna learn how to do this.” He said as he broke another match on the seat of his jeans.

“Gimme a smoke and let me see the matches before you break them all.” I said. He handed them to me; I dug out a smoke, lit the match on the side of the box and blew the smoke in Fish’s face. “Fish, just light up and stop playing games, also, next time you steal from Przbylski’s shop, make sure Fin and I aren’t there. We can’t afford to get busted.”

Fish glared at me. “Fuck you Skip. I did it for your damn bike, so get off my ass.”

“I know you did, and I’m not complaining about that. It’s just, you know what will happen to me if we get busted. And you know what will happen to Fin. All’s I’m asking is that you think about our situations before you do something like that.” I handed Fin the Marlboros and the matches and he promptly lit up and passed everything back to Fish.

“Why do you put up with that shit anyway?” Fish asked me “I mean if my old man beat on me like that I’d be at the police station as soon as possible.”

“First, he aint my old man. He’s my mom’s boyfriend. Second, if that son-of-a-bitch is willing to do this to me in front of my family and they stand around and watch, what else is he capable of when no one is around?”

“That’s what I’m talking about; you could get put in a better place.”

“Fish, you aint listening. What would he do to my sisters if I’m not there? I mean, beating on me is one thing but I have three sisters that would take the brunt of his shit if I wasn’t around. At least this way he won’t mess with them. Ya know?”

“I guess. But it don’t make sense. You should look out for yourself.”

“Like you wouldn’t try and protect your sisters if someone tried to hurt them?”

“Well, yeah, I would. But I don’t think I could take getting my ass kicked every week.”

“It’s not like I don’t try and fight back. He’s bigger than me and he has that fucking horse whip he likes to use too.”

“Didn’t you break that tip of that thing?” Fin chimed in.

“Yeah, I did, but he still uses it. I’ve been wanting to throw it away but I know he’ll just get pissed and use his fists again.”

“Whoa… hold up. The fucker uses a horse whip?” Fish asked.

“Yeah, a riding crop, like the jockeys on tv use in the horse races.” Fin informed.

“That’s fucked up.” Fish commented, his voice trailing off in wonder.

We were at the corner of Meadow Lane and E. Allouez Drive, not two hundred yards from Fish’s house. Our collective mood had become quite somber in light of all the shit we’d been talking about. Fish spoke up “Look, let’s can the shitty family talk. We got a bike to build and I don’t think talking about this crap is going to solve anything right now. Besides, we gotta get ready for Friday night and the camp out.”

We all agreed, and as we approached Fish’s driveway we threw our cigarette butts on the ground just as Fish’s dad came barreling around the corner on his Harley. We all stopped and watched as the big man clad in leather powered the metal beast into the drive way, revved the engine and shut her down.

“What are you three shit-heels up to?” he said as he dismounted his steed.

“Hi Pops.” Fish said rushing over to his dad.

“Hi Mr. Minnow.” Fin said as he tried to make himself invisible.

“Hi Mr. Minnow, how was your ride?” I said.

“Yeah, yeah, it was good. But you guys didn’t answer my question. What are you up to?” he asked again as he pulled off his riding gloves and unzipped his jacket.

“We’re building a bike Dad. We just got back from the hardware store and now we’re gonna paint it.” Fish said enthusiastically.

“Really now? And where is this bike?” Mr. Minnow inquired. Fish headed into the garage calling out to his father “Right here, we’ve been working on it for a few days and we almost have everything we need. We’re building it for Skip.” And then he moved the box we had the frame hidden behind, picked up the frame and started to carry it out to the driveway.

“Not a bad job boys. Hmm, you say you’re gonna paint it today?”

“Yes sir.” I said, “I have two cans of Krylon blue.”

“Well, good luck, and don’t make a mess and you better not get any paint on my HOG.” He warned as he walked inside. He paused for a moment by his son and looked down at the bike, and whispered something to Fish, and then he walked inside.

We all stood there in silence, the sound of the Harley’s cooling engine interrupting our thoughts with a ticking noise every now and again. Fin and I slowly walked over to where Fish was standing.

“What’d your dad say Fish?” Fin asked to Fish’s back.

Fish slowly turned to face us, his head down and his hair hiding his face. He raised his head and there was a big grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye. “He said he was proud of me.” He managed in a whisper through the veil of hair. “He’s proud of me…”

Fin and I just stared at him. Neither of us knew what to say or what to do. We did know that what Fish was feeling was completely alien to us and we also knew we were both very jealous of him at that moment.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Mid Week Extra

Happiness and Objectivism

“Does money make you happy?” She asked me in a casual tone.

I paused, looked up from my phone and replied quickly and confidently. “Yes.”

“That didn’t take you long. Most people have to think about it.” She responded.

“Not me. “ I said and went back to answering the text message on my phone.

“I’m taking a class in college and that’s one of the questions we have to ask people.” She volunteered, followed by “Why does money make you happy?”

I pressed the “SEND” button on my phone, fold it, stuff it in my pocket and looked at my co-worker. She is in her mid to late 50’s has a football team of kids and grandkids, has worked hard all her life side by side with her husband just to eke out an existence on this mud ball known as earth. Twice a year or so she spends some money on dyeing her hair to get rid of the gray. She can recite in order all her children’s names, grandchildren’s names and everyone in her families’ birthdays. She’s pretty amazing in that aspect. When she smiles, the happiness she feels is broadcast through her eyes to whoever it is she is speaking with. She is sitting across from me, holding a steaming cup of coffee in her hands just in front of her mouth, blowing on the top of the coffee to try and cool it down before she takes a sip. “That’s the wrong question.” I say. “What you should ask me is; How does money make me happy?”


“Yes; How.”

“Ok Skip, How does money make you happy?”

“Simple, money allows me to pay bills, and put a roof over my family’s head and that makes me happy. Money lets me take my family out to dinner or a movie or both on occasion and that makes my family happy which in turn makes me happy. Money in large quantities would free up more of my time to be able to spend with my family and that would make me happy.” She stared at me, not blinking, not moving, and just staring through the steam of her coffee at me.

I was about to go on because I had more to say, but this is the exact moment when the first customers of the night came into the restaurant that I work part time. So, we stood up, put on our happy faces, because really, who wants to see a sad or grumpy waiter? And we went to work.

But, and this is a big but, if you know me, and I’m sure some of you do by now, you know that my mind constantly has stuff bouncing around inside of it. This is one of those super-ball thoughts. It didn’t stop bouncing that night and it has not stopped at all every day and every night since. This means, I have more to say on this subject.

Now, I wish I could do justice to my ideas on money and its power to grant happiness to people. But, truth be told, I’m not Ayn Rand and I’m not a character in one of her books. However; I do believe that people who say “Money is the root of all evil.” Are incorrect. Why? Simple, money holds no alignment to either good or evil. Money is a tool, a tool to be used by citizens to build better lives for themselves, families and their communities. If you use this tool improperly or selfishly you will surely end up in a bad situation. But, if used as it is intended, which is a means of exchange for goods and services then you should not have a problem.

I believe the biggest issue is most people do not know how to properly handle the money they either earn or are given. And thus are subject to abusing the money or misusing it in a fashion where they become deeper in debt or lose all of what they have. Which tells me, certain people, or maybe all people, are at times irresponsible with their finances and thus blame the fact that they do not have enough money to cover their debts. At this point, I’m sure, one can make a very solid argument against the lending and banking institutions that pretty much dominate our country and have a stranglehold on the government in Washington. (I’m not going into this because it just spawns more contempt and conspiracy theories about our country.)

Back to what I was saying; to say money is the root of all evil or that money is evil in general is like saying a hammer is evil because it helped build a building on a construction site that temporarily re-routed traffic and made you late for work. It’s not the hammers fault; the hammer is just a tool in the machine of progress. Besides, that building could be a new multiplex cinema that you’ll be bringing your next date to. And who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love with that person, settle down, get married, buy a house, have a couple kids, send them to good school and maybe one day, when your kids are teenagers and going on their first dates to the same multiplex cinema and you and your spouse are sitting on the front porch drinking Metamucil talking about the good ol’ days of 10 dollar movies you’ll remember that you once blamed a hammer for being late to work, which then made you take an elevator ride with a woman or man that you finally had the courage to ask out to that movie theatre and fall in love. Course it won’t be the hammers fault then, will it? Nope, you’ll say it was God or Destiny or Fate or some other such gentle and good being that gives you the warm fuzzies at night. But it most definitely won’t be the hammers fault.

Just like it’s not money’s fault. Now, don’t get me wrong, money or hammers can be used for evil/bad purposes. But they have no idea what purpose they are being used for. How could they? They are inanimate objects! If money is used to purchase a hammer that is then used to build a homeless shelter we say it is a good thing. But, if that same money is used to buy a hammer that is then used to smash in someone’s skull, then we say that the hammer is bad or evil. The hammer will most likely end up at the bottom of a river or in a Police evidence locker. If it does end up in an evidence locker then it will most likely be used in a court case where the District Attorney will waive the hammer in front of twelve jurors’ horrified faces with all the blood and bits of hair dried and dangling from the business end.

Now, the DA will say the killer is evil and must be put to death, the Defense Attorney will say the defendant wasn’t loved enough as a child and is the product of an abusive home and needs our understanding and care.

Who’s right, who’s wrong?

I don’t have those answers. I wish I did, I wish I were half as wise as King Solomon or even had a quarter of the wisdom of Socrates, but I don’t and I most likely never will. I’m about as average as you can get in the wisdom area. I do however try to recognize the difference between right and wrong and adhere to the truths in which direction I choose. Am I saying I’ve always been responsible with my money, my choices, my tools and my life? No, I’m not. I don’t think anyone can say they’ve always been 100 percent responsible every second of their lives. And I don’t think anyone can say that about themselves well, except for Jesus and he’s not around anymore.

Lastly, does this mean I’m always going to be responsible? Nope. But it does mean I know what makes me happy and I am willing to admit it. I know how to go about getting what I need as well as what my family needs and I know what tools to use and in what manner to use them. In the end, it all comes down an individual’s personal choice in how they want to use the tools they’ve earned through their labor and sweat.

I hope you, dear reader, know what makes you happy and if you don’t that you recognize the tools of happiness when they show up knocking on your door.

Talk to you soon.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Flatheads, Crescent Wrench's and Pliers (Part 7)

“Alright, we’ll get two cans of Krylon, hit the bike parts department and pick up some other stuff.” Fish said as he pulled the door to the hardware store.

The brass bell attached to the door jamb announced our arrival and the middle aged owner at the cash register greeted us with a smile. “Afternoon boys. Looking for some more BB’s for that gun? You’ll find them back in the corner by the Lionel Trains.”

“Don’t need more BB’s Mr. Przbylski.” I said “We’re looking for some spray paint and bike parts.”

“Ok, paint is back in that corner.” He said and pointed towards the back of the store “and the bike parts are a couple aisles over near the sporting goods.”

“Thanks Mr. Przbylski.” I said and headed for the paint. Fish and Fin headed over to the bike parts section. As I walked down the aisle towards the rear of the store, the sound of my footfalls were absorbed by the well worn wooden shelves and the overpowering smell of fresh cut wood, kerosene and oil all mingling together made me wish I could stay in the store and discover all the secrets of fixing anything I ever found that was broken.

I passed by cans of interior house paint, exterior house paint, wood stains and paint thinners to the section of spray paint in all their multitude of colors. The cans of Krylon were lined up on the wooden shelves like soldiers on a battlefield. Rows of yellows, greens, whites, reds, blacks and blues in my mind had become infantrymen, air cavalry, artillery units, armored cavalry and airborne units all ready to lay their lives on the line for the cause.

I scanned through my soldiers until I found two cans with the right shade of blue. I grabbed them and went to find my compadres. I found them two aisles over, they were laughing and having a lightsabre battle with some kickstands. “Hey guys, I found the paint. Fish, did you find the parts you wanted?”

“Nah, not a big selection here Skip. But I am kicking Fin’s ass!” he called out as he lunged with his makeshift lightsabre “Take that Vader!” and landed the tip on Fin’s chest.

“Ow! Dammit Fish!” Fin cried out, dropping his kickstand. “That fucking hurt.”

“Yeah, yeah, take it like a man. Geez, you get so sensitive.” Fish said through his laughter and dropped his kickstand on the floor.

“C’mon, let’s pay for the paint and get out of here before Mr. Przbylski kicks us out.” I said pushing past my buddies.

As I approached the counter I noticed Mr. Przbylski giving me a funny look. “Everything ok back there Skip? I thought I heard some fighting.”

“Yeah, my buddies are goofing off. I told them to stop.”

“They better be careful or I’ll kick them out and call their parents. I know the long haired ones dad. He’s a good customer. The other one though I don’t know.”

“He’s a neighbor of mine. He’s ok, he just doesn’t get out too much.” I covered for Fin. “You guys want a soda and a Snickers?” I called over my shoulder “I’m buying but you gotta get up here.”

“Yeah we do. Be there in a sec.” came the reply.

“I guess you can add three cokes and three snickers bars to the cans of paint Mr. Przbylski.”

“Ok. That’ll be $7.68 Skip.” He said to me after pushing a bunch of buttons on the cash register.

I pulled the wadded up money out of my pockets and started counting out 8 dollars while Mr. Przbylski bagged up our stuff. I could hear Fish and Fin approaching behind me. They were muttering under their breath. I turned and saw Fish give Fin’s arm a hard punch.

“Ow…what’d you do that for?”

“Skip, we’ll meet you outside.” Fish said and turned to Fin and said “Just shut up and let’s go.”

I smoothed the money out and handed it over to the owner “Here you go. Eight dollars.” I said.

“Nice friends you got there. They always act like that?” He asked frowning down at me.

“I guess. We all kind of do.”

“Uh-huh.” He said as he counted out the thirty-two cents change. “Here’s your change Skip. You be careful with them two boys. You hear me?”

“Yes Sir. I will.”

“Ok, have a good day then. Oh, and I don’t want to see any graffiti on any walls around here with that paint.” He warned.

“Oh, no, this is for the bike we’re building.” I replied.

“Good luck with it then.” I heard him call to me as I walked out the door with my bags of paint, candy and soda and the sounds of a brass bell tinkling in the building behind me.

Fish was leaning against a telephone pole at the entrance to the parking lot and Fish was sitting on the curb a few feet away from Fish. I could hear them talking but I couldn’t tell what they were saying.

“Hey guys,” I called out to them “everything ok? You took off out of there pretty fast.”

“Ask Fish.” Fin spat as he nodded his head in the direction of our buddy.

“Fish? What’s going on?” I inquired as I handed Fin the bag from the store. He reached inside and grabbed a Coke and a Snickers, popped the top on the soda and drank half of it in one gulp then he went to work on the candy bar.

“Aw, man, nothing’s going on. Fin is all worked up cause I pocketed a couple things while we were in there. Fin, hand me a Coke and a Snickers, would ya?” his voice reflected the nonchalant attitude we had all come to know. It made me a bit nervous that he could so easily talk about his theft while standing right outside the store he’d just stolen from.

“Why don’t you just go back inside and steal your own?” Fin said bitterly as he pushed the bag towards Fish.

Fish just stood there leaning against the pole, his right leg kicked out, his left leg folded up behind him against the pole, his hands in his pockets, his “Keep On Truckin’” shirt un-tucked, and you could barely see his boots peeking out from his Levi’s, the hair on his head hung down to his shoulders and needed to be combed. He looked like a greaser. Like the juvenile delinquent we all wanted to look like. “Fin, you’re too soft. If that little five finger discount upset you this much then you’re not gonna be in any shape for the rest of the stuff we need to do to get this bike built.” And then he unfolded himself, reached down to the bag, rifled through it, pulled out a coke, and tossed it to me.

“What about you Skip? You got the balls to finish this bike?”

“Man, I just want to finish this so we can go camping.” I said and caught the coke in my left hand.

“See Fin? Skip has his eye on the goal. You need to think about that. Stop worrying about the little details. That’s my job.”

“I aint going to juvie for no one!” Fin said in defense of his position.

“No one’s going to juvie. They don’t send you to juvie for takin’ bike parts. Beside’s I know pretty much where to get the rest of what we need.” Fish boasted as he pulled out the last coke, popped the top, drank most of it and let out a gut busting belch.

“Good one.” I said and responded with a burp of my own “Toss me a Snickers, Fish.”

He did so and then started in on his own candy bar. Fin sat on the curb eating his candy in anger and frustration. When we had all finished our snack we headed down the hill towards Fish’s house.

As we walked, Fish and I next to each other and Fin bringing up the rear, Fish began to pull out of his pockets a set of new pedals, chain, pressure brake and a couple of reflectors. “Damn, how did you fit all this crap in your pockets?” I said in awe.

“It’s easy man, just keep shoving things in and then un-tuck your shirt to cover the bulge.” He replied.

“You guys suck. This aint right.” Fin complained from behind us.

“Can it Fin, you’ve done nothing but complain all day. Shit, Skip should be bitching up a storm but he’s just taking everything in stride. You could learn something from him.”

I slowed up my pace and let Fish walk ahead as Fin and I started to walk step for step. “Look Fin, I’m not gassed about what Fish did, but he means well and it’s not like we can’t use the new parts. Just relax and go with it. No harm no foul.”

“I can’t afford to get in trouble, Skip. You know that. Shit, my Mom will kill me if I get busted for shoplifting not to mention what my old man will do to me.”

“I know, but no one got caught, Mr. Przbylski didn’t know Fish boosted that stuff so let everything rest and if Fish had gotten busted then you and I would only have been an accessory.”

“Hey. What are you guys yapping about back there?” Fish called to us.

“Nothin’ man. We’re just trying to figure out all the other stuff we need to finish the bike.” I responded.

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll make a new list when we get to my house.” He said.

“You know, sometimes I wonder why we hang around Fish. He always seems to piss off adults.” Fin complained quietly to me.

“Yeah? And you always get into fights and if it weren’t for Fish and me, you’d be getting your ass kicked every day.” I said harshly and immediately regretted it. The look on Fin’s face told me how badly my words had hurt him. “Look Fin, I’m sorry. But you do have a tendency to be a bit too cocky and it gets you in trouble. And, when that happens, usually Fish or I do try and help. You gotta admit, out of all of us, you’re the one who gets into the most fights.”

“Yeah, that’s true.” He said with a defeated tone in his voice. A tone that conveyed all his insecurities and pain to me that he’d experienced as an only child being fought over by his parents. “I don’t mean to get into fights, you know that right? It’s just… I don’t like being getting picked on.”

“I know Fin, I know.” Was all I could manage to say, in truth, I really did feel sorry for him not having any family around most of the time. I guess that’s why we became friends so quickly after him and his mother moved in next door to my family.