Stealing Steel Words (He, My Dad)

PREFACE

Looking back on all the years I spent with my father I never really knew him.  All I really know is he loved to wear Wrangler Jeans with a button down shirt, tucked into those jeans.  He would wear white tennis shoes with a belt that enabled you to remove the buckle from the belt and put your own buckle on it.  He replaced the buckle with a Levi’s buckle.  He was funny like that.  He had salt and pepper hair.  Most of the time he was clean-shaven.  He weighed about 220lbs. most of the time I knew him.  He was strong as an ox.  When it came to our family, I remember him most for being reclusive and distant, with me anyway, although he would tell me he loved me often. He used to kiss me and tell me.  Everyone loved him.  His humor was captivating and distinguishably motivating.  He was the life of the party.  He was something I would compare to as a gregarious man.  Most of the time I knew my father I was scared of him.  He was strict and forward.  He spoke his mind, often.  He was usually right, at least that’s what he thought.  He probably was.  There were things about my dad I didn’t, and still don’t, know about him.  I have been told lies about who he was and what he really did.  I do know that some of those things weren’t completely incorrect.  When he walked into a room, you knew he was there, he made a point to be known.  He always did his best to make strangers laugh.  He spoke, very sternly and direct.  He spoke with a strength of steel.  To steal his words he used to say he was doing “Just peachy.”  Anytime I hear that expression I can see what I remember of my fathers face.  His smile.  His laugh.  His stupid jokes.  He was my father.  He joked around like he was stupid.  He joked around like he had some kind of mental disease.  He probably did.  He made everyone laugh though.  He was a spotlight of joy.

I wonder what happened…

What you are about to read is what I can remember from my dad.  I haven’t seen him, or spoke to him, in over ten years.  This is my tribute to the man who brought me into this world.

O v e r  T h e  Y e a r s

I was cold.  I walked over to the wall just passed my bed and closed the window.  I stood there awhile like I was trying to find something outside, it was raining.  It was raining slow and steady just like the way my father used to walk. He usually took his time with walking.  He was rarely in a rush.  As I stood there the window fogged up a bit.  I drew his name across the window deleting the fog on the window, Lawrence Keith Byers.  I sighed.  I wondered where he was.  I wondered what he was doing, right then.  My father was a man who knew exactly what to say when it needed to be said, even if the other party couldn’t understand that to be the case.  My father was a walking contradiction, however.  I stepped away from the window as I walked over to a small refrigerator, with glass doors and wooden paneling encasing it.  I opened the door and got out a bottle of whiskey and a rocks glass, I kept a couple of glasses in a small freezer door to keep it just as cold as the whiskey.  I took the two over to my desk and sat down.  I poured myself some whiskey and picked up the glass.  My figures made imprints on the glass.  I held it there for a moment.  Looking at it.  I said out loud to myself, “Here’s to you dad.”  then I took a sip.  He used to drink scotch whiskey, or at least that’s what I remember him drinking.  The rain was coming down a little harder than when I was looking out the window.  I could hear cars passing by as they drove through the rain.  It was a soothing swishing sound.  Almost like a string arrangement in an orchestra.  I pulled out the last piece of paper I put in my typewriter.  I read what I had written:

Stealing Steel Words (He, My Dad)

When I was a young boy I didn’t know my father.  He was a large man with a larger heart.  He was the reason I was alive.  He was most of my reasons.  He was the man made of steel who would steal words and give them back to you lined with gold.  He was Lawrence Keith Byers.  He was my father.

I crumpled up that piece of paper and tossed it into a trash bin, five feet from my desk.  It hit the rim of the waste basket and fell to the floor.  I stared at it for a bit.  It wasn’t what I wanted to write.  It wasn’t what I wanted to say.  What could you say about a man who you didn’t really know?  I thought to myself I maybe should write about something else.  For some strange reason, however, I knew I needed to write about this.  After all, if I didn’t tell his story, who would?

Over the years my father had touched so many people.  I know that to be fact.  I know that for a certainty.  How to explain who he was was never something that I had thought to do before.  My desk felt lonely.  I had a steel cup, my father had given me, that was engraved with his name and some words that said, We are all surviving ourselves.  Inside the cup I had placed a few pencils and pens.  The cup rested just to the left, and behind, my typewriter.  My typewriter was made in the late 90’s.  It was made by a company called Royal.  It was black.  It was intended to be a portable typewriter, however it never left my desk.  It was made for writing about topics more relating to things for corporate matters.  I never used it to write anything more than what I wanted to write about.  To the left of my typewriter there was a glass sculpture of a human head.  I bought it from a Pottery Barn in La Jolla, CA, however it was made in Italy.  I stared at the typewriter like it had just taken the girl, I wanted, out on a date and asked for her hand in marriage.  I didn’t know where to start.  I didn’t know what to say.  What do you write about if you don’t know any details pertaining to the topic at hand?

Over the years my dad had gone missing.  I haven’t seen my father in more than ten years.  It all started when we moved to Indiana.  That’s when he went missing…

Indiana

I had just had my fourteenth birthday when we moved to Indiana.  I was just a boy.  I do remember the move, however.  It was a major ordeal.  We were leaving Southern California.  We were leaving all my friends in a idyllwild and San Diego.  I was not excited.  Well, maybe I was excited in the least bit.  What was most exciting was we were making our way out East during the season when all the leaves were changing their colors and when the air starts to get a little colder outside.  That was exciting.  It was something new. I had never really experienced Fall.

To me, it seemed like we packed for an entire year.  I’m sure it was only a matter of months.  We had a lot of belongings.  We weren’t really confused about the moving process.  We had moved from my hometown, Idyllwild, a couple of years prior to our packing for our trip out to the Midwest.  Idyllwild is a small mountain town, one hour and one half Northeast from San Diego, CA.  The population of the town is roughly around three and a half thousand people.  K-12 and all that shit on “the hill”.  On the Western side of Idyllwild there was a small, but larger than Idyllwild, a city called Hemet.  You’ll hear of a reference to Hemet in a movie called Spygames with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt.  But my family would go down to Hemet for movies and grocery shopping.  When we lived in Idyllwild my father was a broker for Century 21, which he owned his own franchise of that real estate company.  At that time we lived in the house my father had built, starting just before I was born.  It was a beautiful house on Fosterlake Rd. which was at the end of that long road.  The house was offset near Fosterlake and an old abandon golf course my brothers and sister called The Meadow.  It was a two-story town house that was full of my Mom’s decorations and smells of inexpensive Hungarian meals.  My dad had built a garage just East of the house, which stood alone.  All our names were written in the concrete landing below the back door to the garage, which led to the back door to our house.  In front of the garage was a large concrete section which was below a basketball hoop and backboard.  The house and garage was paneled with the typical mountain cedar siding.  Behind the garage was a “treehouse” my dad built for us kids.  It was a large deck, really, that was suspended from the ground supported by three trees which naturally made a triangle configuration.  It had a trap door for an entrance.  That was my favorite part, the trap door.  When the house, and property the house was sitting on, foreclosed we had to move to San Diego.  I’m not too sure why we lost the house my dad had worked so hard to erect, but either way we moved to the city in 1993.  When 1995 had approached and the 49ers beat the chargers in the superbowl, where Young, Rice and Sanders destroyed everyone’s hope in this city we found ourself in. We had been packing for years to move to Evansville, In.  Fall was approaching and that was exciting.  We got to Evansville a few years after the fact of our packing for years.  I was more excited, I”ll have to admit, once we were on the road.

Living in Evansville, IN for as long as we did, somewhere in between my dad went missing.  He was there with us, until the end of our time together, but he wasn’t there mentally.  I can remember watching him give up.  I can remember him losing whatever battle he was fighting.  After the battle was lost my dad disappeared in the Summer of 2002.  My mom had left him and he vanished.  I haven’t spoken to him since.  That’s the weirdest part about the events surrounding his disappearance, he was such a strong part of my life, in rearing me, us – my brothers sister and I, and providing for not only us but his wife, my mom.  I think the last time I saw him was an early morning in Newburgh, IN, about twenty minutes just East of Evansville, IN on the Ohio River.  It was raining just like it is tonight.  I worked at UPS as an auditor for a company called Norrell.  My job consisted of changing wrong zip codes on the packages that went down a belt that were sorted and packed in all the delivery trucks.  I had to be at work at 4:00 AM Central Time, either CST (Central Standard Time) Fall and Winter or CDT (Central Daylight Time) Spring and Summer. As I was coming back from the kitchen, from pouring myself some coffee, I walked into my room.  After I had changed into my uniform I turned off my bedroom light and I could see a silhouette standing in the middle of the road about forty feet from my window, which the wall to my room was ground level and five feet from the public sidewalk.  The figure had a beard and large raincoat on.  I couldn’t see much due to the massive Oak tree that was ruining that same public sidewalk.  I went right to our front door and as I opened it the man had already made his way towards a white Chevy van parked in the parking lot owned by the bar across the street.  “Dad!” I yelled out.   The man turned as he turned the corner of the van, only getting a glimpse of his face.  At this point I was standing in the middle of the street, standing in the pouring rain, watching the white van drive away down the street.  That’s the last time I saw my dad.  That’s when my dad went missing.  We were still in Indiana.

Boo Hoo, Right?

I know none of this really matters to you, and I’m sure these words, the other ones that I should have been typing out, won’t change your life. Surely after reading them you’ll be distracted a few moments later.  I just wish the man I saw would have turned and said something before he drove away. 

I finished my whisky.  I walked over to the same refridgerator and poured myself another glass of whisky and ice just after opening my vintage icebox.  Yet another term my dad would have said. icebox. I used to hate him for saying things like that.  I walked passed several dozen crumpled up pieces of white print paper on the floor with even more in the wastebin taunting my stride.  I sat down at the desk my typewriter poised itself upon & pulled another piece of paper and inserted it through the back side of the platen.  Turned the paper feeder clockwise and sent the return home. I placed my fingers on the keytop, and held them there, waiting, wanting some words to come.  There was nothing.  I stood up and walked over to the window and rested my elbows on the windowsil.  I placed my head on the cold windowpane.  Cars were still driving by as they looked like ghosts as the water from the street flew up in the air like steam coming up from a subway through a manhole.  I took another healthy drink.  I looked down at my glass.  The cold from the freezer was no longer affecting the temperature of the glass.  I slammed back the drink, and the remaining amount of ice included, into my mouth.  I swollowed the liquid and chewed the remaining parts of the ice.  I put the glass I was using ontop of my refridgerator and pulled out another glass, whisky, and ice from the freezer.

I clicked the ribbon reverse button on my typewriter:

Carport Two Brothers

I can still remember it like it was yesterday. The snow flurries. The pale veil light of the incandescent street lamp. The three of us, standing in our driveway, feet away from our carport, in our suits and wool overcoats, like a funeral, we were standing there looking at each other. My two brothers and I. I couldn’t have been more than 19 when my father disappeared. It was like a scene from a 1990’s mafia film. Except we didn’t do it. I kept looking down at the ground and shuffling my feet to keep the tears back from my flood gates that were threatening a sudden burst. I had on a dark charcoal pinstriped three button wool suit with a freshly pressed clean white crisp shirt with a red tie spattered with yellow woven polka dots garnished with a full length charcoal grey overcoat, and to top it off, a white silk pocket square. I was covered in blood. Innocent blood. My fathers blood. I’m sure that was one of those moments anyone would say it defined them. Maybe it was imaginary. This whole thing couldn’t be something someone imagined. But this is my life. This is the story from after I was 19 years old…

There were several reasons my family disappeared from my life. I’m sure more than I even understand or know about. But the main reason is why I’m here. The reason I stay to myself. The reason I want to sail around the world. The same reason I’m drinking again. The same reason I’m smoking cigarettes again. The same reason I’m not welcomed in my family’s circle. The same fucking reason. And I assure you it’s not my strong emotional awareness or sense of commonality or fixation on Tom Robbins. I’m just a semi-ginger from Idyllwild California with a thoughtful appreciation for others to my own detriment. Some real MI6 shit. Witness protection program shit. The whole bucket of Skelton’s in the closet shit. The you fucking feel me shit? It’s the reason I’m going to sail around the world to find the good part of this planet, shit. Okay, okay, I’ll move past that. I get stuck on the best part of all of it kind of shit. I left my beer in the galley. That’s more unlike me than to try to keep people I love at a distance. But this shit, well it’s got me in stitches where I have thought more about suicide than a 16 year old girl waiting for her prom night. In fucking as a matter of fact, I’ve dealt with Satan and he’s a cum guzzler like no one else. Just a pussy cat with no balls or legs to stand on. Even though I just recently saw a video on Facebook or YouTube where a dude with no legs completed a marathon of hell, like those army rangers like to wack off to. But fucking Tom Robbins. He got me to write this. He got me to say something. “Maybe it’ll be good for you.” Maybe not Tom. Stirring up shit may not be the best idea dawg. But what do you know, except all that creative shit that made me think to create this. I had a paper route once. I had a cleaning business with my brothers once, where I was the COO and we made a ton of cheddar and all that green slap. But now, I struggle to make ends meet and shit. And when I say that, I mean eating and shit. But I’ve got that box of paint bro. I’ve got that all in your face talent. And that all those mother fuckin’ bullies in middle and high school who looked at me like I was different, and treated me like that (I.e. doobie fucking Thomas, Josh Stricter, Jon Garrison) well you mother fuckers were right, I’ll change the world while you watch from your sofas…

That main reason why is I call it how I see it…

The whisky was becoming easier to drink. Just, easier. I peeled the paper off the dilapidated cushion roll and shredded it in mid air, as it seemed to fall upon the ground and make a perfect origami log cabin.

DRUNK

Within lives there have been stages I’ve overcame and dealt with like a responsible human being, or maybe just an artist. Either way, the dream I’ve had and thought was real isn’t as much, more than anything, an illusion. But again, boo hoo, right?

All those pages I tossed eventually made themselves in this process.

This stage of writing is called, life. The moving on phase. I hope he’s alive and well.

POST SCRIPT: these writings are a test of a future novel in the works.

About Blake Byers

Artist from Southern California.

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