Leaning against my brother I closed my eyes and drank in the sounds that swirled about me. I wanted to cherish it as I had remembered it. “The Whale” drenched in sweat thundered from the pulpit as I knew he would. His message was inundated with emotional interjections followed by a series of blowhole sputterings into a growing pile of used tissue.
Try as I might, I could not block out the images of the past that poured forth. Images brimmed across my mind like a rock skipping across the surface of a lake.
The room swirled dizzily about me as the steamy humidity suffocated me. My senses had long shut down upon hearing of my father’s sudden heart attack.
Had “The Owl” been there I would have surely been chastised for speaking aloud. Whenever the church doors swung open “The Owl” was perched for action. With large glassy eyes she’d croon her neck to the left and to the right observing head to toe every person who dared enter.
“Whooo is it?” I would whisper into my brother’s ear.
“Whooo’s that heathen?” He’d giggle back.
WHACK! My dad would slap my leg with his worn leather bible.
SCOOT! SCRAPE! THUMP! My eyes popped open finding “The Tank” wedged between my sheepish grown brother. My four-year-old son, Paul, howled watching his mom be swallowed alive in “The Tank’s” embrace.
“Good to see you Sister!”
”The Tank” gazed down at me with moist eyes. Her tank top bulged from all crevices just as I had remembered. Her thick black arms enveloped me again as I quickly sucked full lungs of air sure to last the duration of her embrace.
Could “The Tank” know she was the reason that as a child, I could hold breath under water longer than any other swimmer in my class?
Surrendering to her embrace I closed my eyes bobbing in waves of emotion--first sadness and then anger that crashed against the empty cavern of my broken heart.
“Mee ma, you okay?” Paul tugged at me with concern.
“It’s ‘Mommy’, not mee ma.” I scolded.
“Dad, I think I need to have him tested for dyslexia.” I told him over the phone last Christmas.
“You worry too much. You know dyslexia was originally called lexdysia but the man who named it was dyslexic and pronounced it backwards.” He chuckled lightheartedly.
“I just want Paul to be normal--not be another kook surrounded by people who don’t fit into the real world.”
“You turned out okay.” He assured.
“I grew up in Kooksville where people don’t even lock their doors!”
“If they take it, must need it more.” He replied.
“I’ll prove how backwoods you are.” I spouted. “Do…do you have DSL?”
“Got ABC’s. Ain’t that just as good?”
“Dad! How about caller ID? Do you even know what that is?”
“Course--got that. I pick up the phone and say, ‘Hello. Who’s calling?’ Paul like the wooden walkie talkies I made him?”
“He thinks their real.”
“They are. Bring them next summer and I’ll show him how his walkie talkies are superior to his mother’s.”
“I don’t have any Dad!”
“Sure you do. Aren’t you walkie-ing and talkie-ing to me on your phone? Paul’s are more technologically advanced than yours. Can talk to God on his radio.” He mused.
“Is that so?”
“God’s got caller I.D too. You should call him sometime.”
“I’ll do that Dad.” I slumped exasperated at his twisted humor. “See you in July.”
The congregation stood to their feet as “The Whale” bowed to pray over the casket.
Suddenly the room erupted with static and a child’s voice chimed, “10-4 Good Buddy. Come in God. Come in Grampy.”
I shirked grabbing Paul’s walkie talkie. “Dad told Paul he could talk to God on this, sorry about that.”
One by one the kooks stood, talking into the carved walkie talkie towards heaven and to my father.
Hem haw Hank” went first. “You were both a father figure and the brother I never had.”
Then Jake-the-snake. “You taught me to value people and not things.”
The “Weeping Willow” spoke softly. “You’re a friend of God, a friend to us all.”
On they wept, laughed, rejoiced, and grieved my father, the Kook Magnet, before handing it to me.
It had been years since I dared talk to God.
“Thanks God for the richest, most magnetic man I’ve known. Dad gathered friends with one hand and built a radio to the heavens with the other.”
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