I met you on Route 18.
It was the ugly morning
two after my Mick’s ashes
were put besides his father
and his son’s bodies.
You could see that
I was willing to listen to just about anything
that was not my vacant body
colliding with each bump
in the road and swerve of the transit.
This is the route to his house.
The one I took every weekend I could get off
from the butcher shop in the grocery store in town.
This is the last time I am ever taking this bus.
You see that I am clutching an acoustic
in a flailing black coffin.
Like it is all I ever had.
You start telling me about your quest.
To bring Home Hardware to its knees.
They stole your idea,
your patent pending,
for an apparatus that is both
tape measure and magnifying glass and level.
They stole it right from under you,
and you didn’t care what stood in your way,
you were getting it back.
I thought about the windshield wiper guy,
and that movie that I think only robots
don’t tear up watching,
especially when you told me
how your wife left
and your kids were all grown up
and nobody was on your side
but you were gonna spend your days
making that corporation pay.
It wasn’t the money, either.
It was the truth.
You wanted the world to know
so you had the paper
write an article and you made copies of it.
You let me tell you about the guitar,
and how it was a piece of crap,
truly beyond repair, no strings, warped.
Mick had told me to take it one day last spring,
and it was that ugly day,
when his remaining children,
puffed chests and dry eyes,
had left the wake to go hear the will called out.
When I was told I was not to be their
upon their return, I left.
I left the crowd who
didn’t know my grandfather,
not the way I did.
Not as friend.
I walked past his house.
I finished my 6th beer.
I opened his pickup because
he never locked it.
And I turned it on and
put in the Johnny Cash cd
I had burned for him
a few years back,
when anything that impressed him
I did with a son’s joy.
I wept a little. I cried some more.
I got out with a mission.
I would go into his house
that was never locked, one more time
and I would take my guitar.
My useless, weak instrument.
And I would learn to play
Silver Haired Daddy on it.
It was a song he had cried to many nights
when telling me his own father’s story.
You, Windshield Wiper Man,
you had to ask then, why was I returning
the guitar in its tattered vessel now?
And so I told it true.
His children had called the police.
They had told them I had broken in,
like some criminal, and stolen the only thing
I had left with.
Something he had given me.
So the officer had forced me
to either return it,
or face charges.
It was only right.
Then, you looked at me,
and we shared that moment,
that realization we had both
been put on quests that were
about more than money.
More than family.
I told it all then.
How his children had become suspicious when
I started spending time with Mick.
How they had flown in from the West Coast
most having avoided any contact with him,
unless he was buying them condos.
They had learned to roll
their eyes in every language
when he got a few drinks in
and started to tell a familiar story.
And I was suspect.
Because I was interested
in every one of them.
That was when you looked at me,
strange man on a strange quest,
and you said that
no matter what they did
they knew they would never get his
love or respect
not like I had,
and that was all they could do,
was try to take everything else,
even a broken guitar.
You told me
“your story is his story”
and nobody will take that away.
Then you got off at your stop,
heading toward that massive
They were gonna hear from you.
Until you ran out of time.