died at Liberty Corner, four miles west of Muncie Indiana on SR 32, on a spring day in the early fifties
Driving around Lake Union sometimes you notice the Calacala
resurrected from its own private junkyard in an Alaskan slough
where it served finally as a makeshift fish processing plant
after that career as an ahead-of-its-time curiosity on Seattle’s ferry fleet
resurrected and towed back to Seattle, like a refugee from Flash Gordon movies
to gaze blind windows from a boatyard where nobody recalls Flash Gordon, and perhaps to remember better days.
Those were better days after the war was over
everybody working, buying a prefab house
and Japan was occupied and Germany was occupied
and American workers, they were occupied with the way a 49 Ford would
snap down in the rear like a beat dog flinching when you
stomped the clutch, jammed the column shift into second gear and
caught rubber passing by the drive-in.
Herman Bailey paid no attention to all that.
Herman was thin as a rail, and always wore what they called moleskin trousers
hanging down off where his ass would have been if he weighed thirty more pounds
and in the hip pocket always a half pint whisky flask he’d take to work with him
there in the bottle factory, to share with my dad and the glasshouse men and
he’d stop by grandpa’s after graveyard shift, after sipping whisky all night in there
beside the conveyor belt that carried red-hot mason jars into the annealing lehr
stop to visit but I never saw him drunk.
He’d stare into space sometimes but then he’d chuckle and hug Edith, his wife
who seemed always at his side, wearing an apron even away from home, visiting
in the old Plymouth coupe they drove like they were afraid it would break
drove like they had their own world of old dogs and old cars and old times
they both remembered, old times before the family left Kentucky
to work in those factories up north, and they seemed always to be
going fishing or just been or in the winter just visiting at Grampa’s.
But most people were in too much of a hurry for that old stuff.
Only another decade or so would pass before the world no longer saw need for
folks like Herman and Edith, folks who made things and used what they had
instead of buying new, folks who visited and talked and joked in the old style,
folks who didn’t mind physical labor, who weren’t embarrassed to be frugal,
yes the change was years away but maybe Herman and Edith and folks like them
saw it coming, and maybe that explains why Edith’s conversation would
sometimes take on that nervousness like farm animals get just before a bad storm.
Maybe when Herman pulled into traffic that spring afternoon back in the early fifties,
pulled into that Liberty Corner intersection into a collision into stretched-out seconds
of perhaps hearing the crunk of impact where the entire auto resonates like
a tin toybox dropped onto the floor, rising stars in a line across the brain’s horizon, or
feeling the point of immediate sickness bumped head into something solid,
like dropping a melon, maybe they recognized in that last instant the time was come
and I wonder if they heard remarks from the crowd that gathered.
Another car to rot in the junkyard, headlights shining on better days gone by
Maybe he had seen coming a world where the Calacala is just not worth keeping
a world where going fishing is something on TV and people don’t visit just because,
a world where Orville Johnson singing "Whisky and Blood on the Highway" and
playing his Dobro to make tears in your eyes drowns in coffeehouse babble
anyhow Herman and Edith climbed into their old Plymouth coupe and left and
I think maybe they knew where they were going that Sunday and
I’d bet a glasshouse dollar that whisky flask was in his pocket.
Copyright © 2002 Thomas Hubbard. All Rights Reserved.