There were times I literally lived in fear of my dad. At the time, it wasn’t fun, and it darn sure wasn’t funny, but now, looking back, some of the things that took place were a bit humorous in a terrifying sort of way. This is one of them:
Did you ever have to hold the flashlight for your dad while he worked on something? Man, I hated that! Flashlights seem to have a mind of their own; they won’t stay still, and seem to want to point everywhere except where they’re supposed to be.
One particular time when I was about twelve, the old man’s truck broke down. He had a friend tow it to our house, and said he had to have it fixed before morning, or he’d need somebody to pick him up and give him a ride to work.
So there we are, the old man cussing, twisting bolts, and busting his knuckles, while I did my darndest to keep the flashlight aimed where he was working. It would get heavy at times, and just start drifting downward away from his hands. Naturally, he always noticed before I did, and his bark, “BOY!” would cause me to come off the ground about a foot and a half. It also made it even harder to keep the flashlight still, since at that point I was trembling with fear. The guy terrified me.
Then the moth showed up, and not even realizing I was doing so, I began to chase the fluttering creature with the beam of the flashlight. And, unfortunately, I didn’t notice when my old man stopped twisting on the bolt. I was entranced by the moth. Round and round, zigging and zagging, gone for a second then back.
“BOY!” the old man bellowed. I think my heart stopped, and I know for a fact my brain ceased to function, because what I did next will live in the annals of boyhood blunders for eternity.
“What?” I yelled as my feet came back to earth, and I pointed the flashlight into his eyes. The look of sheer rage in those pale blues almost made me wet my pants! I dropped the flashlight beam quickly to his hand that was moving slowly toward me, and prepared myself for a sudden death. An angel saved me.
“Roy,” mom sang in a voice as sweet as any I’d ever heard. “Supper’s ready.”
I shot the beam back up to his face, and watched him blink then raise his trembling hand to shield his eyes. I quickly dropped the beam to his mouth where one side of his lips began to curl into either a grin or a vicious snarl. I dropped the flashlight in the grass, and bolted for the house.
Before he sat down at the dinner table, the old man reached over and laid the flashlight beside my plate. He was definitely grinning now, but one could never tell what thoughts were behind his grin. Most of the time his actions proved they were not good thoughts.
I glanced at the flashlight, then at him, forked up some mashed potatoes, and as I swallowed hard, I thought, I’m not gonna live long enough to be a teenager.