This old man — he played one, he played knick-knack on my thumb.

This old man, my old man, my man, is a long haul truck­er. Here last week, gone this week. Back the week after.

Knick-knack, paddy-whack give a dog a bone. 

I’m singing to the big old hound lying on the kitchen lino. Useless thing. All sag­gy skin and knob­bly joints any­more. Snufflin’ in his sleep after rab­bits he’s nev­er caught. My old man sings that Elvis song to him. Says it’s because Booger is my dog, ain’t no friend of his. Which is why Booger sleeps on his side of the bed when he’s home? I don’t think so.

This old man, he played two. He played knick-knack on my shoe.

We met in ’84. I was still mar­ried to McGuire. Good match that. Family owned the American Tire store. Right on the turn­pike; tires for the semis and heavy equip­ment. Rotary break­fasts, sec­ond Tuesdays. He saved me the blue­ber­ry dan­ish, we took our cof­fee with sug­ar, no cream. We were real sweet­hearts, until I got knocked up. It came to noth­ing. I made sure of that. I could tell you some damned sad sto­ry about how we drift­ed apart. Not being able to get over the loss of the baby and all. But I’d be lying.

He played three. 

My old man walked in one after­noon, rolling slight­ly the way cow­boys and truck­ers do. He was hold­ing an invoice in his hand. Bitching about not being able to read it. Some fool left it on his wind­shield in last night’s rain. And we were lucky that he’d over­slept so that he was still here when we opened. Otherwise he’d have just start­ed up out of town and not paid until he came back this way next week.

He played knick-knack on my knee.

I fixed a new copy, took his check, record­ed it in the ledger. Apologized sin­cere­ly. American Tire. Good cus­tomer ser­vice. Timely, cor­rect, polite. Membership plaque from the County Christian Businessmen’s Association right there on the front counter says so.

He smiled.

And the next month when he strolled in, stacked jeans, black boots, need­ed a cou­ple of quarts of 20/50. He smiled again.

This old man he played four.

Two weeks after that he dropped by with a check from Atlanta Consolidators — just on his way through. I called down to Ruthie on the Atlanta desk. Yeah, she said, he asked if she could find him a favor. Bring some­thing up to me. She said, yes. Yes he could. We talked hors­es, he has a nice way of going, she said. I smiled.

He played knick-knack on my door.

I stepped up into the truck. You can see a long way from the cab of a Peterbilt. It had a nice bed, a lit­tle fridge and a microwave, a tiny TV. We made pop­corn. Ate it out of a big bowl while dri­ving through the lit­tle towns in Iowa and Nebraska and Kansas, mak­ing up sto­ries about the peo­ple we drove by.

This old man, my old man, my thumb, my shoes, my knee, my door. I’m still singing to the dog.

But then I for­got … five, six,

Five, all I can think of is Willie and the Hand Jive. He did that. The thing with his hands. There, at the wed­ding. Just like in the song. All dressed up in that vest, new boots, and pret­ty damned sober for a man about to com­mit the sin of mat­ri­mo­ny. We were both pret­ty damned sober. For the cer­e­mo­ny at least. There was some drink­ing afterwards.

He played seven…

Seven’s what? Eleven? Eight is on my gate. I remem­ber a cou­ple more words. The dog rolls over and grumbles.

Nine. Spine.

Ten, oh yeah, ten.

He plays ten.

He plays knick-knack, all over again. 




Originally pub­lished in Con­cho Riv­er Review .Vol. 29, No. 1, pg. 6 — Spring of 2015.