Oxy-acetylene spewed between my father’s teeth when he spoke. His pink welding cap’s brim turned backward poking out of the back of his protective black mask. Rod struck iron and an arc hot as the sun spouted up. Torrents of sparks like salamander tears. He drew the bead with love, my father.
I played the floor is lava and other games while I ran around the shop. I had favorite places. There was the back of my father’s welding truck. That was a favorite. There was a v-shaped crevice along the edge of the bed where dismembered metal beads accumulated. They dropped red-hot when my father cut strips of scrap metal down to appropriate proportions. He tightened them in the vice grip anchored to the truck and lowered his mask with a flick of the neck. His torch was as good as a light saber. When he finished I liked to loosen the vice. He called me Man-Cub and walked back into the main shop. I listened to hammers clang against anvils in the distance while I loosened and tightened the vice. Sometimes I put my finger in it and tightened down slowly. I tightened until the X-etched grooves in the vice were imprinted in my finger.
Another spot, and the one that I remembered when I sat down to write this: storage Shed B. My father was at the shop late washing what I called “The Big Green Truck.” There were three storage sheds. I don’t remember anything about the other two. I’m guessing there were too many spiders keeping me from pressing passed their entrances. But when I opened the door to Storage Room B the entrance seemed plenty free of arachnids. To the right were tall (to me) stacks of file boxes; the ones with the easily removable lids that were designed so that you could hang files in them. I looked to the left and found a hulking dusty surfboard. Until then the only surfboard I had ever gotten close to was my cousin Wyatt’s. His was a sleek 6’2” Al Merrick. If skateboarding is anything of a thing in your mind, having an Al Merrick board was like having a Tony Hawk Birdhouse deck at that time, which was somewhere around 2001 or ’02. By contrast, this board in Storage Room B was as clunky as stealing the wheels off your sisters roller skates and strapping them to a couple 2”x4”s duct-taped together. I touched it. The rough grit on its surface was the same as any piece of scrap metal at the shop.
“Stewart!” my father shouted, or hollered or grunted. Whatever noise he made, I ran out of the storage room.