It’s moving time, and the detritus of a half century plus a half score years plus a half decade begins to float to the surface: pictures of the kids, half-forgotten mementoes of long ago, artifacts of their childhoods and mine. There are the Pinewood Derby racers that I, like every other dad in their Scout Troop, “helped” them build, in flagrant violation of the rules. They both finished out of the money–hey, did I tell them to have a word-besotted jack-leg man of letters for a father, instead of a guy who could actually operate a power drill? You’ve got to choose your parents carefully.
I rummage through cardboard boxes, sending them text messages, asking them what should be saved and what forsaken at the “take it or leave it” section of our town dump, when I stumble upon the only model kit I ever completed with any semblance of success: The Wolf Man, the spit and image (and plastic and paint and glue) of the werewolves who roamed through dry-ice fog, thirsting for blood, in the horror movies my mother wouldn’t let me see.
I emit a little snort of self-disparagement. I was all thumbs when it came to model kits, even though I yearned to have the products of my little paws appear in the “Hobbies and Crafts” displays at the Missouri State Fair, or–in my wildest dreams–in Model Car Science magazine, which had once featured the handiwork of the orphan son of my sophomore English teacher in its glossy pages. What higher honor could a pre-teen boy achieve? Not National Spelling Champ for sure. Maybe the Little League World Series, but the teams from the Far East owned that tournament. Was it something in the sushi?
I take the Wolfman in my hands and after looking him over, I have to say, I didn’t do too bad a job. For once I didn’t spill glue on the plastic surface, which I would then make a bigger mess of by trying to rub it off using paint thinner. There were no decals to apply, so I didn’t mess that job up either. Decals were my downfall; I’d either slip them past the point where they were supposed to go or rip them. If my English teacher’s kid ever saw them, he would have laughed, and he would have had a hard time hiding his amusement.
I start to put him back in the cardboard box that holds my baseball cards and Scout badges when I hear a little voice with the tiniest hint of a growl in it.
“Don’t put me back in there, would ya?”
I look down and see that it is in fact–and fiction–the Wolfman who has spoken.
“Sorry–I thought you were a lifeless relic of my childhood.”
“And I thought you were the Duchess of York.”
“Nope. You’ve got me mixed up with Sarah Ferguson a/k/a ‘Fergie,’ the British writer, charity patron, public speaker, film producer and television personality.”
“And author of children’s books about helicopters . . .”
“I believe his name is ‘Budgie.’ There’s Budgie the Little Helicopter, Budgie at Bendick’s Point, then Budgie and the Blizzard, followed by . . .”
“I was kidding,” he snaps, so I stop with the woolgathering.
“How did we get off on that tangent?” he asks as he steadies his legs, groggy after fifty-plus years in storage.
“In the immortal words of Marvin ‘Bad New’ Barnes . . .”
” . . . and the ABA Spirits of St. Louis, ‘my fans be demandin’ it.'”
“I wouldn’t think you’d have any fans,” he says, as he dusts himself off a bit.
“3,272 last time I checked . . .”
“Which was probably thirty seconds ago,” he says as he pulls himself up to his full 12″ height. “You really were the laughingstock of the pantry.”
“That’s where you kept your models, in the little cabinet under the shelves where your mother stored the deep fryer.”
“Now I remember it.”
“We used to call it the Junkyard of Broken Dreams.”
“Who’s this ‘we’?”
“Me and the other models. There was the $25 Jaguar XKE you got for Christmas and ruined before New Years.”
I cringe at the memory.
“And the ’49 Mercury–”
“Oh God,” I groan.
“Whatever made you think that you, a Spelling Bee maven, could execute the difficult ‘chop ‘n channel’ maneuver?”
“And turn a hum-drum mom ‘n pop car into a bitchin’ cool street rod.”
He shakes his little head at me with an expression that conveys suppressed disgust. “You know what you need?” he asks.
“You need to get in touch with your inner wolf.”
“You know, I just finished re-reading Steppenwolf. It’s better than I remembered.”
“No shit, Dick Tracy. Everybody reads it when they’re an undergraduate, before they’ve put on the brittle carapace of bourgeois civilization.”
“You may be right,” I say. “I actually went into the office today.”
“On Patriots Day? That’s the number one goof-off free space in the whole phony-baloney Third World-like calendar of Massachusetts holidays.”
“You’re starting to mix your metaphors,” I say. “That’s not allowed in this house.” My undergraduate concentration as a philosophy major was figurative language.
“Check the newspaper–there’s a full moon tonight. I’m starting to get in touch with my pre-rational primitive side.”
“Are you thinking perhaps of terrorizing those hairless Chihuahuas next door?”
“The ones who bark at the drop of a Kleenex, much less a hat?”
His eyelids narrow, and hints of saliva form at the corners of his mouth. “That’s them. Let’s roll.”