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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 21 page 07


road climbing steep hill

Old Pops

by John Koch

The sound would come faint and low and deep out of the mists of a Pennsylvania dawn.

The dawn would give you a chill and make you wish the blankets you were huddled in could hold back the loneliness which was creeping into your bone marrow as you heard that sound.

That sound, that low and deep and lonely far-off and hovering, distant sound muffled by the ghost-like early chill and damp mist rising, rising out of the cold, cold earth, and you would curl yourself a little tighter and hug yourself with your blankets and still that sound would come, and you knew that it was time to get up, but if only you could just lie there a little while more.

Then there was Pops. Old Pops. Dear old blessed Pops. Old Pops and his rusty, tempered and ready iron skillet.

Pops would lie there too and listen, and know. He knew, Pops did. He knew that sound in the distance and he knew that the sound wouldn't wait for him or for anyone but would keep on coming through the mist and cold and damp of the Pennsylvania dawn. For Old Pops knew, and he knew what that sound was.

It was the sound of a good and well-tuned 18-wheeler diesel screamin' down the grade of the foothills not altogether too far off and distant as the echoes of the terrain allowed. Pops knew that, and he also knew what was comin' next and he smiled and Pops was already up and putting on his long johns and buttoning his honest suspenders already and smilin' his God-fearing, lovin’-his-Mama-every-mortal-minute-since-the-day-he-was-born smile. Pops was already doing that and smiling his Old Pops smile because Pops knew and he counted: 3, 2, then 1, and there it was. Old Kentucky Eddie slammin’ them on and Eddie's jake brakes a-blarin' and lettin' everybody know that the boys were headin' in for:

Breakfast Time!

And out of the mist they would come: The searching headlights, probing and grabbing like crazed, starving work-weary fingers, groping for anything they could see. Over here, the deer bolting away. Over there, an emergency exit ramp off to the side. If you need it.