“Claude Revenaugh was first a cowboy then one of Teddy’s Rough Riders and a merchant marine. He married late and then I came along. We tried working the land with teams of horses but the caked dirt was used up, limp sac-clothe. He dreamed of starting over in Alaska.”
Horizontal rain pummeled, flexing the loose window casings. My thoughts scrambled through lists for tomorrow’s classes when the dozy, old husk caught a second wind:
“The last ten years of his life he repaired automobile batteries. Kept a moderately lucrative business alive during the Great Depression. He was a big man, nearly as big as you. Great White Hunter type. Saw me as timid, a Mama’s boy, I suppose. ‘Hold the reins. Turn them, now, hold’em!’ Christ, I had nothing to prove.”
I can’t leave him stuck in the recliner, alone, but I’ve got to get to bed. Ivy will stay up visiting. He’s traveled to Alaska to say good-bye, accompanied by his eighty-three year old mother. The flight attendants who assisted the pair worried that one or the other might die before leaving the plane. Neil and I carried him, fireman-style, up eighty-seven slippery stairs from the street to the front door. Grandma was ready to go fishing. It’s been a long week.
“Were you in the service? No, I suppose you’re smarter than that. The war offered a lot of guys the chance to get the hell out, myself included, though once I was in, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Uncle Sam paid for a college education, and a chance to see the Pacific from a mine sweeper. I was a sonar man.”
He’ll hold you in a web of story for several hours, cover the most abstract subjects; politics, religion, modernist social strata, literature, backed by vivid accounts of the people involved. Then, ask suddenly if you’ve been formally introduced. It takes getting used to. Like body surfing.
Ivy leaned in from the dining room, kissed her poppa on the head and pulled a recorder from her robe, magician style.
“I’m holding the best friend a journalist ever had, primed with fresh tape to document the evening. What do you say, Revenaugh?”
“Well, Daughter, they tell me I’m dying of cancer and the disease is effecting my short-term memory, (hard on a reporter.)
There’s some concern I may not make the trip home to my companion of the last few years (we’ll see if I still hold influence with the airlines.) I’m honored to be with you, always, and I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine, (if he’d be so kind as to remind me who the hell he is.)”
Ivy winked. April Fools