I WROTE THIS BOOK ONE TIME, MAYBE YOU’VE HEARD OF IT, BUT PROBABLY NOT, BECAUSE NOBODY READ IT, INCLUDING MY FATHER. I CALLED IT BEND WITH THE KNEES & OTHER LOVE ADVICE FROM MY FATHER. HA! GET IT?, fiction by Benjamin DrevlowLeave a comment
September 6, 2015 by RJ
Here’s an image: Yours truly six feet tall, but probably closer to five eleven these days, three hundred and fifty pounds of straight trans fats, triglycerides, and stretch marks as far as the eye can see. Or as far south as the frayed threads of my wifebeater will reach down my distended beer gut.
A half-assed mohawk because I’m over compensating for being so incredibly fat and a lowly adjunct professor at some no name community college—not even a tech school—instead of working with my hands like my old man—who doesn’t have a mohawk, doesn’t need a mohawk, he has his hands—those hands, I’ll get back to those.
In addition to my thread-bare wifebeater, I got my boxers with holes in the crotch and so bunched up under the insides of my sweaty thighs right now that if you were about to give me a blowie under the desk, you’d think I had on a pair of really saggy man-panties, which is just one of the reasons you wouldn’t be under the desk in the first place.
I had a girl put her hand down my pants once to get a feel of things, and that was the last I ever heard from her. She couldn’t quite get over the fact that it was all shaved off down there. Something queer about it, she was probably thinking. Both strange and homosexual is what I mean by queer.
Sure she was a good sport and tried to get things going down there for a while, but she kept bristling at the way the stubble felt against the palm of her hand. That’s my pun. Bristle. Anyway, she couldn’t stop stopping between strokes to wrinkle her little nose at me and sigh this big sigh as if I were asking her to give me some butt play.
This was back before I was quite such a tubbo, but after the hernias, which were just a couple of the reasons. She was my one and only redhead and I never held that against her, nor the fact that she wasn’t shaved or waxed, that goddamned jungle of ginger pubes my fingers had to untangle just to reciprocate. And I did reciprocate by the way. And with none of this sighing and nose-wrinkling business either.
I’m trying to get you to like me, if you haven’t noticed, this bit about me reciprocating and how the ungrateful bitch never called me back after that.
Or maybe just pity. That’s been my whole life probably. Pity and trying to get people to like me.
Like my father, for one.
And hot chicks with low self-esteems for another. Some of them being redheaded and unshaven.
In my book, pity and liking somebody are basically the same. But also why I’m so goddamned fat all of sudden.
Another of the reasons. I live a block from Culver’s and all their glorious butter burgers. I got about fifteen empty Mountain Dews cluttering my desk, a handful of Red Bulls, which are my favorite, but sometimes taste a little too much like Crystal Meth, which I’ve never had, but from what I’ve heard.
I was a fry cook for a couple years. The sous chef from nights, he used to tell me how he’d have to tip back a forty for breakfast every morning just to come down before heading off to work.
He tried to stab me once to make a point about never walking behind another cook who’s dicing a tubful of onions.
He probably wasn’t really trying. It seems like he was the type of guy who would’ve gone ahead and stabbed me if he was trying. Not to get into any character assassination or anything. You don’t even know him. And he wasn’t half bad to work with. A helluva cook.
Sorry. Another pun. Or maybe not even.
Back to my dad’s hands. Hamhocks but with these stubby little sausage fingers. Strongest goddamn fingers you’ll ever feel patting you on the back. I never did, but I could imagine. Man could twist out fully imbedded wood screws that I couldn’t even get with two hands and all my weight on the screwdriver.
You probably don’t believe that but it’s true. Or it was when I was ten years old.
Which is sometimes what I do.
Lies by omission, half-truths.
For instance I haven’t told you that I’m married now. Or that after ten years and a hundred pounds, she wouldn’t be caught dead under my desk eyeing up my bunched up undies.
Or washing and folding them for that matter.
Once way back before we’d started messing around, she asked my friend what to give me for my birthday. What did he say?
He said The fuck you think you give him, lady. You give that man a beej. Christ. Hasn’t he been through enough?
That’s what my friend called a blowie. He was from West Virginia. This accent like Yosemite Sam doing an impression of Barney Fife. But don’t worry. I’m not going to try to capture that shit on paper. It’s too good.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. My father, my book.
Maybe you’ve heard of it? A little self-help thing called Bend with the Knees and Other Love Advice from My Father.
Which is hilarious to me because my father has never given love advice to anyone so far as I know. Never even kissed my mom while I was around.
But it ain’t like my old man molested me or anything, if that’s what you’re thinking.
Seems to be what those publisher people thought the implication was, that somewhere in there there was a metaphor for my dad giving me the old bad touch when I was a little kid. The subtext is what they kept telling me. Or maybe the title.
Metaphors coming back to bite me in the ass again.
Probably the only reason they agreed to publish the damn thing in the first place. Thinking they could’ve gotten me yelled at by Oprah on national television or something.
But then maybe that was the problem: too much subconscious molestation subtext, not enough loud and clear molestation in the text.
My dad didn’t molest, you gotta believe. I would’ve been more than happy to’ve used that to sell books if he had.
But he did always used to yell at me for lifting hay bales with my back and instead of my knees. But then I went and showed him. Broke the school record for deadlifting in high school. Then about ten years later went and got me a couple of double hernias for my trouble. The ones where they have to shave you down there and then you gotta go and shave your treasure trail yourself otherwise things look a little funny. The road to nowhere.
Goddamn high hilarity, right?
Sometimes I just kill me.
But god’s honest truth, I did write a book a few years ago and they even published the silly little thing.
A mem-wha! that’s what they called it.
Local farm boy goes and tries to kill himself six different times and lives to write about it, the feel-good story of the year.
And there I go trying to make you like me again.
Or feel sorry.
No molestation though.
Prescription painkillers, which accounted for four of those times, are the teenaged drama queens when it comes to methods of suicide. The last time, I didn’t even have to get my stomach pumped. Everything was coming back up red and purple by the time I’d gotten to the bottom of that bottle of Wild Turkey.
And again with the half-truths.
It was Kahlua actually. Only thing that girl had to drink at the time.
Ha! That girl was me.
But don’t worry. In the book, I made sure to exaggerate everything and make it seem as if I really might’ve had it in me to kill myself in a manly fashion, like say with a well-placed lasso hanging from the hay elevator up in the barn. A lot of long lingering gazes at my father’s hunting rifles locked up in our basement.
My mom said that it hurt my old man the worst. The book, the blaming—not the not being able to kill myself, nor the attempt thereof.
She said it always embarrassed him when people from around town would ask him about it.
What’s it called then, Boss?
Bend with the Knees and Other Love Advice from My Father?
Sure is a funny title there, eh Boss?
It any good?
You even read it yet?
As if my father would’ve read some sissy little mem-wha from his only boy who all he ever could do was piss and moan about everything, and now low and behold, he’d gone and found a way to make a living off it.
There was no talk of if my mom or dad had thought that I had any molestation subtext in there or how they interpreted the title of it.
Figuratively, you know?
I’m not a healthy man, you know, but then again that’s why I had to write myself a book. A mem-wha.
Except the molestation part, which probably would’ve made it more successful.
Not that my father has ever said anything to me about it. Never even read a page of it so far as I know, thank God.
But my mother’s read it, and she’s said more than enough for both of them.
And there I go again trying to make you like me.
In case you haven’t noticed I don’t have much of an ego, which is another reason I wrote a mem-wha about how sad and pitiful I am.
But then you already probably know that by now. I’m not exactly “Hills for White Elephants” or whatever that Hemingway story is where it turns out the elephants are abortion.
Seriously, that’s the type of shit they make kids write papers about and then they wonder why people hate writers and writing and give guys like me a bad name.
Anyway, my wife and I had an abortion once, or more accurately, she had an abortion and I went to work to teach college kids how to cite sources.
And that’s not just another sick joke.
She had to walk past eight of those praying protesters and everything. Or my wife said she had to. Of course she wasn’t my wife at the time. Which is one of the reasons we probably ended up tying the knot after so many years of just plain old no-hassle cohabitating.
You wanna know what that whole scene looked like?
Fuck you, it looked like the type of scene that you’d wanna punch somebody over.
But then probably I was a bit sensitive because I didn’t even have the stones to cancel class and go with her. I mean, I she was pretty adamant about not making it a big deal and just wanting to get it done.
But seriously what kind of man doesn’t even have the stones to go along with his girl to get his unwanted baby aborted? What kind of man lets his girl go and walk past all those damn Jesus freaks and their fetus signs by herself?
Seriously, I’m asking because I don’t know and now I’m afraid I’ve let this woman down too many times to go ahead and try to kill myself for a seventh time, though I’d be lying if I said I don’t have the box cutter and a juicy vein on my wrist all picked out.
But what’re you gonna do? We weren’t even sure if we were going to make it through the winter at the year. Do you know what two adjunct professors make for a yearly salary? At a community college? Do you know what they get for insurance coverage so their newborn babies don’t end up retarded or dying from the polio?
Do you know how high those therapy bills would’ve been? How much mine cost my parents?
And just so you know, there’s more than a good chance my wife probably won’t never be able to have kids now even if she wanted to, which I sure as hell don’t, but she’s still on the fence, especially in lieu of this all.
It’s like that door at the loony bin locked from the outside, I guess. One day you go and try to turn the knob and realize everything in the sterile hallway lighting’s been taken away from you and you’re a prisoner of your own suicidal mind with no shoelaces or belt to hang yourself with.
Sorry, I’ve always been real shit for similes.
But one of things I did write in my mem-whas was how my dad used to try to make a man out of me by having me reach my slender womanly fingers on up the sheep’s love canal during lambing season in the dead of winter. Middle of the night. Sub-zero temperatures.
Just go on now, he’d tell me. You gotta get up in there abouts elbow deep. You’re looking for a hoof or a head to snag.
Don’t worry, son. You’ll damn well know it when you get those fingers around it.
Talk about metaphor, eh?
Maybe this is part of where that subtext came from, I guess.
Which is really just somewhat of an exaggeration. I’ve never had my little hands up the love canal of birthing sheep. My old man would’ve never trusted a lamb’s life in these hands.
But he did make me castrate them ram babies sometimes. Grab on to them testes and yank until the lamb quit bleating, til the lamb went soft and slumped over dead and de-rammed in your lap.
Which is traumatizing enough to write mem-whas about, don’t you think?
My mom sure didn’t. And she said my dad wouldn’t’ve either if he hadn’t’ve been too embarrassed to read it in the first place.
On upside, after the abortion, I’ll probably never have to worry about some whiney little mama’s boy of mine going and writing some mem-wha about me not hugging him enough and telling him how he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread even though he can’t even be bothered to roll up his sleeves and get his hands a little dirty and sticky up in the love canal during lambing season.
But there I go again.
Trying to make you like me.
By the way, just so you feel like this was all poetic somehow, I want you to know what all I can see out my window right now: a dog shitting next to my mailbox, some dude in short-shorts and a tank top who’s not getting out a baggie, not bending over or kneeling down.
I can smell the stink of the stale sugar pasted to my teeth and gums, the teeth I haven’t brushed in a couple, two three days. The sour smell of my sweaty balls, how it lingers on my fingernails for hours after twentieth time I’ve had to stop writing long enough to unstick them from the sides of my thighs.
And sometimes when I just cradle them for moment or two to comfort myself.
I can hear the spastic tapping of the computer keys as I use my slender fingers to type these words.
I can hear a lawnmower going somewhere down the block, probably a rusty one. There may be duct tape I imagine. I think it’s Saturday, but it’s summer and I haven’t checked a calendar or taught a class for a couple months. What I’m saying is I’m not entirely sure of why anything is anything today.
I can see the sky, the sun, and a bunch of clouds up there scattered all over the place. Some of them are probably Cumulus, some probably Cirrus or Stratus. Or could be none of that’s true.
Could be I don’t remember jack shit from seventh grade science.
Could be I’m just fucking with you.
Could be I’ve been making this thing up the whole time and calling it true.
Could be I’ve left out so many key details, so much subtext, told so many half-truths that you’ll never ever trust me again even if I laid my conscience bare. Even if I said I really wanted you to listen for once, I really had something to get off my chest, something you needed to know. Something that might help you begin to understand.
It’s like they say, I guess. Never trust a three-hundred-pound white man with a mohawk.
Never trust a writer, not the least of which, a mem-wha-ist.
Just ask my mom, my dad who never molested me. Just ask my wife, all my friends I never talk no more. My aborted son, the rest of the kids that’ll never have to call me dear old dad. All my many adoring fans.
It’s just that I can be a real son of a bitch like that sometimes. But I guess that’s just what comes with the territory, you know. What with me suddenly being this big time writer and all.
Benjamin Drevlow was the winner of the 2006 Many Voices Project and the author of a collection of short stories, Bend With the Knees and Other Love Advice From My Father (New Rivers Press, 2008). His fiction has also appeared in the Fiction Southeast and Passages North. He is the fiction editor at BULL: Men’s Fiction, teaches writing at Georgia Southern University, and lives in Statesboro, Georgia.