Dust and Wrenches
by Sheila Elliott

Oil, paste wax, the dust churned up from the roughly paved street where
he spent so many weekend afternoons. Dad—he was that sort of soul
who always needed something he had to get done, a man at his best
when we were all quite young. I remember now, how he seemed to
duck and hide inside the Chevy's propped-up hood, how his Saturday
mornings unspooled into afternoons. None of us understood then the
serious mysteriousness of what was going wrong, so set were we on just
getting on. But from our kitchen window, you could see him out there,
he was always catching up with something in the car that needed repair.

As kids, we knew he'd made do with little; then, caught by love, the wife and
children followed. For years, he whittled that littleness into the things that
made up lives, but, still, he hid outside, sometimes. He did, presiding there,
where most of us are still lost in the mysterious seriousness of what's needed
to get going. Thinking of him—I still don't know where to look. He knew how
timers went off track, if an ignition's precision was on the fritz and, sometimes,
his mind tinkered with 'What Ifs.' But I recall it all fondly now—him, his space
out there, the comfort he took in oil, in dust and wrenches, a new task just begun,
able to convince himself that there was another thing he just had to get done.


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