Fiction: Model F
It is important, Father always said, to do things right. So every Sunday it was the same. Wing collar up, starched the previous night. Black narrow tie, single knot. And always the same deep look of concentration; or maybe that was just what happened when you peer into too small a mirror.
Mother took less fuss – ready in a trice, and only fiddling with a lapel. She could have easily turned and taken the cover off the jalopy, but she knew her place. And handling vehicles wasn’t it.
When they’d got ready, and got the car ready, and got their prayers ready, I’d back away from the disappearing wheels, and stretch out, and then look to see what I could do. Sometimes I’d take the washing in. Or I’d try to hurdle the line. Or I’d try to look in the mirror the same as Father did and try to see what he saw. Sometimes I saw him. Sometimes I saw me.
Once Mother tried to make me go with them. Said it wasn’t Christian to be idling on a Sunday. I said that if the Lord hadn’t shown himself to me now, then it was no use forcing it. Because that would be a lie. And that would be a sin. She never asked again.
It had rattled and clunked and wheezed as it made an unsteady way up the path. ’32, Model F; it had seen better days. But Father was beaming as he swung the door open with deliberate care, resting one foot on the running board before stepping down.
He’d always wanted something better than the trucks and the tractors we already had, something that showed, “Well, we’re just as good as every other family here.”
And boy did it do that. His pride became my pride, as I scraped and sanded, spit and polished, loosening and tightening, loving as only a young man does, until it became a she, and she purred and gleamed as good as new. In her Sunday best, ready to be driven.
Her hand lingered over the knot. She was trying to find, what? Some looseness? A hole where his soul had come back in? Maybe it was the one thing of his that she couldn’t bear to part with.
In the way of the town, he had lain in our front parlour for days, as all and sundry, and those we didn’t know, came to say how sorry they were to Mother, and how he had been a good man, the best sort of man. And then they always looked at me and said, “And well, ain’t you got a lot to live up to boy?”
And I’d nod, and try to keep my face straight. Because that’s what the man of the house had to do. Take pride in what’s been said, but not be boastful. And because if I smiled it’d look like I was liking Father not being there any more.
But I knew that I could start to be a man now, nobody’s boy any more.