Flocking, frolicking juncos scratching seeds in frosted gardens;
roiling, boiling, crackling, cooling lava blanketing the landscape.
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Saturday, December 02, 2017
Mother recently told me about a childhood friend,
A boy I’d played Caped Crusader with
Nearly everyday after kindergarten.
I was Robin to his Batman.
At his house we wore towels for capes, and
Were actually permitted to jump from
Sofa to coffee table to chair in pursuit of
The Joker or, my favorite, the Penguin.
At mine, our capes were mimed as a
Backyard plum tree provided the obstacle
To climb, dodge, and drop from as we narrowly
Escaped injury in time for PB&Js dunked in milk.
Our mothers kept in touch through the years
As we moved about the country,
She and her husband still in that cozy northern
Ohio home a block or two from our first house.
“Apparently he works for the CIA now,” Mother said.
Since learning this news, I’ve envied him. At first for
Becoming what I’d only ever dreamed of. But as I grow older,
I am jealous he can return home to a place he knows well.
My family continued to move, finally depositing me
In a New England college town like sediment left
Behind by an iceberg on its travels; the rest
Eventually migrated to Southern California.
In the year before he grew ill, Dad was accompanied
Everywhere he went by a new security guard. Mother
Would complain that the guard was eating with them
Again and sleeping in their guest room again.
The guard even traveled with Dad to his new
Destination of China and places around the region.
We wondered why Mother was no longer invited
To journey with him as she had so many times while
He visited the English plants that he managed from
This side of the pond, the German manufacturers with
Which he often did business, and his Italian relatives
With whom he was pleased to finally become acquainted.
None of us knew why he was suddenly sending us selfies
From the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square, yet saying
Little about his new Far East adventures other than they
Were equipment-purchasing forays from retired mills.
In an office desk drawer, which Mother thought
Was jammed as, upon his death she cleaned out
His personal effects, and which my brother
Successfully jimmied open, was a handgun.
“He was a decent shot,” said the guard who
Suddenly darkened the threshold, there
To retrieve the weapon. But we knew
Dad could not possibly have been. After all,
We’d seen him shoot his 22, balancing the butt of
The gun in his armpit as he used a hand to cover
His eye and the other to pull the trigger because
He couldn’t blink. How could he possibly sight a pistol?
Apparently he’d been trained to work around his
Odd handicap. He’d had to learn for his own
Protection. Not even an undercover CIA operative
Posing as the new head of security could protect
My father twenty-four-seven from the
Hit that had been placed upon his head
By a foreign government. Perhaps all his
Training had been for naught after all.
When he suddenly fell ill with stage-four
Cancer—dying five months later—he often
Said cryptically that it probably wasn’t
Natural causes that got him in the end.
Dad had been spying for Congress. Foreign steel had
Flooded the marketplace, purchased illegally by unscrupulous
Businessmen who dared blame their shady dealings on legal
Loopholes that allowed them the luxury to shun domestic steel.
A contingent from a country south of north had allegedly taken a
Contract out on my father. Either they or natural causes—
Or perhaps all those chemicals he’d been exposed to over
The years—got him before he could deliver his expert testimony.
He’d spent many more than Malcolm Gladwell’s ten
Thousand hours earning his reputation for greatness
In the wire mills of the world, and could easily identify shifty
From legal, frugal from dangerous, and strong from fragile.
He also knew how to recognize working mills from
Reportedly retired ones, which may have been the
Final nail in his coffin—
Or cancerous tumor in his spine.
My father had worked undercover with the CIA
As a super-secret agent for our government,
Giving me yet another reason to admire him.
I wondered if he and my kindergarten Batman
Ever worked together, feeling a sudden pang of
Jealousy if they had. But as time continues on,
What I most envy is that my childhood friend is
Still able to return home and visit with his father.