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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 21 page 07

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And then they would start the last climb. Old Alabam' knew how. He knew how to do it and he would grip and gulp and thrust into gear down low. Way down low and the motor would be screamin’ its God-awful never-say-uncle scream for half a second and man oh man that gear was GONE! and then another for half a second more, and another, grip, gulp and thrust, grip, gulp and thrust, and again, and another and shriek and whine would go the gears and Old Betsy his trusted tractor wouldn't let crazy old hungry-eyed, heavin' starvin’-bellied Alabam' down because she was first and foremost to him and Old Betsy knew it and she was evermore an honest to goodness down to earth lady and if he ever slipped on the clutch lever man she would let him know it with a chunk chunk and a moan. Then Alabam' would ease off. He'd ease off real gentle like and whisper to Old Betsy the sweet nothings she was accustomed to because like I said she was a lady and just wanted to be treated like one like all good women do.

Then the boys would head up the last grade and several miles up the hill towards Pop's place, and Pops was already inside a-rustling and a-hustling them eggs all nice in a row so sweet and buttery and neat and grease fat flyin’ from the bacon thick-hunked slices with honest to goodness home-cookin’ lovin' behind every snap and bless your soul sizzle and that's what the boys were comin’ for and that’s what Alabam' was easin’ up on Old Betsy for, for he was hungry after a 36-hour cross-country long haul without sleep or hardly any food for that matter.

But he’d seen the sights of the heartland and romanced along the way and delivered his load like he always does, and behind Alabam' came Sweetwater Willie who hailed from the Michigan swamps and he was playin' old Willie Nelson on the radio easy and low, just right to rest his heart on the good things that settle the mind and what was on the mind of Sweetwater Willie were a dozen over-easy samples of Pop's best all smothered in fried onions and mushrooms. That's what Sweet Willie was a-hankerin' for and that's what he would get because Pops was on the job.

Pops. Old Pops. Old nasty-mouthed, lovin’-every-living-mortal-who-breathed Pops, who could cuss up the devil and never hurt a fly. Old dear heart-tender Pops.

And then one morning the sun poked up over the rim of the hill. Lazy-eyed rascal, that old peepin’ sun. Hey buddy, we’re here you son of a gun! the boys would say.

And, uh, hey. Hey, hey Pops! It’s getting late. Hey Pops? Can you hear me? Can you hear me Pops?

But Pops, he hadn’t heard them. Pops was sleepin’. That sleepy-eyed old grump was sawing away at the wood pile on the other side and stackin’ up bundles of cordwood for St. Peter and the good folks up in Heaven.

He’ll be roustin’ himself outa bed tomorrow morning as the saints pull up in their golden chariots. Big puffy cloudy old parking lot there is at the celestial truck stop and Ho! Look inside! Why, there’s Pop! There he is! Ornery as ever and, naw, he don’t mean it, the old sweetheart. He’s happy as all get out, Old Pops is. He’s got his trusty iron skillet and he’s turnin’ over the griddle cakes one by one with his spatula. Silver dollar flapjacks, tender and tasty! Oh my, there’s wholesome good home cookin’ and the chariot boys are grinning up there, way up there, and they’re saying:

Welcome aboard Pops! Welcome aboard old iron skillet!

And pops? He just smiles.