Jewel and I come up onto Macy’s fifth floor. We cannot find a present for Pa and we are in bed and bath and lost. The beds look like shorn sheep with their hooves tucked under, heads bowed, prayerful before the slaughter bleeds brown eyes black. Fluorescents burn and hum with terrible impatience.
Deepening by safety elevator to men’s basics, Jewel stares straight ahead, his pale eyes glinting like plastic set into his hard plastic face. The elevator chimes. Jewel crosses the floor in eight strides with the rigid gravity of a mannequin dressed in a herringbone suit and endued with life from the waist down. Then he’s gone.
Revolving doors tuck Jewel back into the city’s wrenching noise, a pair of socks, angry with Atlanta Falcon, tongue from his back pocket.
If I knew what to get Pa I would have but I do not. The lights blur. I can smell my tears.
Durn them boys. I want them better teeth so I can eat the toughest and sweetest and doughiest of God’s own victuals. Got these old teeth when I got my new wife. I dont begrudge her for it. Come supper I mumble things, a-pointing to my bum mouth. I leave hints, I do. Set them teeth in a glass of blue cleansing spirits with a note said, “NEED NEW TEETH.” Them boys go on giving me socks and golf club coverins and IcyHot for my hump. I begrudge them an awful lot for it. And Dewey Dell, dont get me started on Dewey Dell.
I break my hump, driving them a-this way and a-that. It’s hard. Darl, Jewel, Vardaman, their eyes store bright. Not Cash. Cash sets home a-craftin. I dont know which is worse, the handmade things or the machined things. Cant they see I got new teeth flashing in mine eyes? Christmas brings so many victuals I cannot eat: hams, turkey, cane sweets. It’s a hard holiday on a man; it’s hard, but durn them boys.
Afore we drove to Macy’s I said come buy him something. It’s because Cash is cheap. I told him Pa don’t want your craftings. It’s like he wont see Pa’s smile when I give him these here socks. Cash stays in that carport where Pa can see him going DIY. DIY you some wine cork corkboard or some homemade chutney or other. And that goddamn glue gun going One more squeeze. One more squeeze. One more squeeze until everyone in the neighborhood will say what a fine DIY’er he is.
My step-mother is a gift card.
I’m in the stock room wadding paper into sneakers, thinking of how amazing it would be to hide land mines by the foot mirrors, when Jody comes back. “Bry,” she says, “there’s a young man out by the Crocks display, and it looks like he needs some assistance.”
“Kinda busy here, Jode,” I says.
“Said he needs a man’s help,” Jody says.
He’s weeping, half contemplating the Crocks as if wondering what they do. Through sobs, he talks to himself in this verbose metaphorical language. The real impenetrable shit my English teachers in high school got off on. I calm him down, get him to talk regular. All he needs is something for his dad. His own shoes are off-off brand and lack adequate arch support.
Darl was my hardest won commission this Holiday season. But in the end, he imagined a life benefitted by daily exercise and charitable father son 10K’s. He walked away happy, and above all the commissions and bonuses, isn’t that my job? I decided his dad would enjoy the Nike Soul Slam IIs and convinced Darl to treat himself to the Asics Record Ransomers. It put me just past Jason Gliptis for Holiday Sales Champ.
At home, everyone is as we left them: Cash hot glues some manner of bracelet and Dewey Dell clicks in the computer room. “Ain’t that a deal,” she says. Mousing so the screen slashes down kitchen appliances rolling thick like marbles on an endless sidewalk, her cheeks glow before the enfolding dark. She scrolls with straightening rushes. Whatever she gets Pa usually likes. I sleep with my new shoes on, Pa’s shoes in my arms, followed by the
Click. Click. Click.
of the mouse and hot glue gun.
I made Pa a set of wooden teeth. Each one is beveled, so the food wont gum up like it does. It will make for neater eating.