Now that I am old myself / It doesn’t seem so bad / Because sometimes simple rhymes / Are the only ones we have / I wouldn’t have name him Frank / But I never had a son / I sold my soul in different roles / Not to be outdone.
One morning, five years after Frank Reuss’s death, Alan and his mother sat in the kitchen of her house, nibbling on toast and jelly, sipping coffee. They shared memories, mostly humorous, of Frank.
“It never suited Daddy to do things the way everybody else did,” Alan said. “He lost interest if he couldn’t pull something over on somebody. He’s the only man I ever knew who could drive to another town to watch me and Nick play football, fly a Screamin’ Eagles flag on both front windows, and convince the poor fellow at the gate that he was supposed to park in their booster club’s lot.”
“He dared you to stop him,” she said.
“He could say the most ridiculous thing you could imagine, with a perfectly straight face, like you were the one who was crazy, and he’d get away with it because it was just too much trouble to stop him. We’d pull on in, and I’d look behind us, and the poor guy would be standing there, scratching his head.”
They laughed and laughed about the time, when he was twelve, that Daddy got him and Luke Musgrave in the State Fair free by claiming they were under six, how he routinely parked right next to the fairgrounds by claiming he was exhibiting livestock, and how he’d get eight into a Clemson football game with six tickets.
“God, he could lie,” Alan said. “Not little ones. Big ones, the kinds only a fool would believe, but they didn’t have to be fools. Just like what he always yelled at me and Nick. ‘Don’t dispute my word!’ That was his attitude with everybody, and everybody went along with it, just like me and Cliff. That was Daddy in his glory, back before the fall.”
The fall. They dwelt on it silently, but just for a few seconds. It was no fun.
“You remember that time those two stud horses broke out?”
“Oh, yeah,” Alan said. “Broke out of the barn, started fighting, both of them jumped the fence, me and Nick hopped in the back of the pickup, and off we went, chasing two studs in heat right through the middle of town.”
They both started laughing, tried to suppress it, couldn’t stop.
“They, they had a big … drawing or something …” Linda Reuss recalled.
“It was at the Piggly Wiggly parking lot. There was a big flat-bed trailer, Johnny Whitson standing up there on the P.A. Here come the two of them, one quarter horse and one Appaloosa. The crowd parted, folks diving for cover, and here we show up on the scene … in hot pursuit.”
“Lord, they took off through the mill hill, ran through clotheslines …”
“Shit all over town. Me and Nick had to come back up there with a shovel.”
Mom got up and got the coffee pot, had to bring it back to the table because she was laughing too hard to keep from spilling a cup. Alan topped off his and crumbled up a packet of Sweet ‘n’ Low in the cup.
“Mama, maybe it’s a good thing he’s dead,” Alan said, stirring the coffee. “They’d th’ow him in jail now.”
She had her reading glasses on, having picked up the local paper to see if there were any good coupons and hoping it would get her stopped laughing. She looked at Alan over the top of them.
“They th’owed you in jail back then, too,” she said. “Not your daddy.”