Saturday, May 16, 2009

My Other Brother Darrel (er ... Charlie)

In this journal I've often mentioned my older brothers Joel and Roy, but I also have a younger brother Charlie. This weekend Charlie's in the Dallas area on business, so tonight we're getting together at Roy's. Charlie, like the rest of the family, has inherited Mom's meticulous ways. Though I myself freely admit to being anal retentive, I hesitate to bring such a charge against my little brother. Let's just say Charlie is very attentive to detail and his nitpicking ways are nothing new.

Perhaps a anecdote best illustrates what I'm talking about. Back in the mid-1960s Charlie's fifth-grade teacher had given him, as homework, an English composition assignment, and (as chance would have it) I came upon his unfinished manuscript on the desk in his room. Charlie had composed (with his perfect penmanship) an unfinished tale about a boy who takes the family cow into town as barter for things the family needs at the market. It's the old "Jack and the Beanstalk" story, but with a twist. In Charlie's account the boy finds that he's being followed by a mongrel dog.

Charlie's narrative identifies this very large mutt as being short-haired, black and brown, with a varied pedigree: mother a Doberman/Labrador cross and father a German Shepherd/Airedale mix. Once in town the unnamed boy sells the cow to the butcher (for $32.78) and then proceeds to purchase: two pounds of linked sausage (for $1.83), a dozen eggs (for 39 cents), a new spatula for Momma (for $1.69), ten pounds of whole-wheat flour (for a riveting $2.42), etc. All throughout this litany of extraneous detail, Charlie continually reminds the reader that the big brown dog is following our protagonist.

I (having trudging through almost two pages of Charlie's literary laundry list) decided this fable needed a snappy ending. So with a fat felt-tip I wrote the surprise ending: "On the way home the dog ate him. The End."

Of course, the inevitable happened. That evening, just after supper, Charlie discovered my editorial addition. Enraged, he took his protest straight to the top. With his homework assignment clenched in his trembling fist, he marched into the den where the family had gathered to worship the glowing oracle that delivers Hollywood's sewage straight into America's living rooms. Charlie angrily declared, "Bobby ruined my story."

I was called before the Lay-Zee-Boy dais to face my accuser. Dad (reaching out his hand and laying hold of the evidence against me) calmly intoned, "Let's see."

As the old man's eyes scanned down the page, it began to occur to me that perhaps I had overstepped. But then (much to my relief and Charlie's consternation) when Dad got to the carnivorous ending of this "tale told by an idiot", he burst out laughing. Dad looked solidly into Charlie's angry eyes and said, "No Charlie, Bobby didn't ruin your story -- he just put it out of its misery."


Mrs. JP said...

Oh man, I knew the last line of your story was gonna be "and I blacked out and don't remember anything until I woke up in my bed sniffling." I bet Charlie was ticked! You dodged a bullet there.

Jerry said...

I hope that your other younger brother doesn't read your blog. He is going to feel somewhat disconnected from the family.

(BTW, good story. I could visualize your Dad saying that. It is hard to believe that he has been gone almost 23 years.)

joyce said...

Jerry's right---your Dad died when James was a month or so old.

Missy said...

I would have loved to had you complete my homework! Great story!

Gladys said...

Sounds like Charlie took writing lessons from me.

Mrs. Who said...

A good twist on the 'dog ate my homework' line! Poor Charlie.

Bob said...

Mrs Who--
In lo these past 45 years that had never occurred to me. But now that you mention it, "the dog ate him" is just a variation on that old homework theme.

Nah! When it comes to English composition, we could all learn from you. Love your stories.

Actually, I think Charlie did turn that paper in. I assume he got the "A" I earned him.

Yeah, it'll be 23 years ago this November.

I introduce characters as they fit the story. Bart just wasn't involved here.

Mrs JP--
Welcome. Dad wasn't always in such good humor -- it could have gone the other way.

America's Next Top Mommy said...

So funny! Your dad had a great sense of humor!!

Buck said...

I like your Dad. A LOT. He sounds a lot like my Ol' Man, who's also been gone for over 20 years now.

Good tale, Bob.

ShalomSeeker said...

Ah...the more I learn, the more I like. And these anecdotes do explain so much about our family, both who we are and how we came to be the slightly off-kilter crew we are. Thanks!
Still laughing,

ShalomSeeker said...

P.S. Twenty-three years? It seems much more recent to me. That week is so crystal-clear in my mind. As I recall, I had the privilege of representing all the grandkids at the funeral. Wow. It all comes rushing back now.