Monday, July 8, 2013

Jacky Brown

This is part of a long story called "Jerry's Garage". Another installment to come soon.

  The Brown’s lived off the road. Jacky has lived off the road all his life. There was a dirt road leading in to a dirt road which was the driveway to the Brown’s house. They tented out most of the first year they lived there twenty years ago. Amiel and Woody, who had been high school sweethearts, were not even married yet. Amiel was carrying Jacky. Jacky was born in the tent that Woody got from the Army Depot in Bangor. It was a barracks tent Woody set up on a platform under the trees. Woody cleared a place in the woods. He cleared out all the brush, leaving only the sweetest, straight trees. You could barely see the tent in the trees even from the driveway. The town never did come in to look. It was just too far off the road. Before the first winter they jimmied a trailer in amongst a clump of sugar maples. Woody got Nash Hadley’s loader and Billy Bucks was about the cleverest operator you might find for jimmying something through the trees just wherever you’d want it. It was November and the mat under the trees was fresh frozen, so you never noticed a sign of a bucket loader. Amiel was overjoyed with how the little grey house trailer fit in the trees. It was a starter home. To Amiel the words starter home had meanings that never got old. They had just enough money left to dig the well before the first snow, and Woody installed the pump and got the water running. That’s how they lived for ten years, outhouse under a tree. Linda, Skye and Freddie were born one after another. All the kids seemed to love the woods. Jacky was always in the woods; he always had something green stuck in his hair. He was out chasing a white tail or a raccoon; or hunting varmints with a 22. He wasn’t but ten before he was fishing and hunting with Woody. Jacky would let you know he didn’t like indoors too much. From the very first of the fair weather in summer he slept in a screen cabin he rigged up back of the house. Even when he had his own room in the house Woody built ten years later, Jacky disliked coming inside from the screen cabin.
  Jacky’s a skinny kid; a thin, bluish nose sticks out of a face drawn tight as a drum. He’d eat all day but he never seemed to take on an extra pound. Amiel thought he might be an angel: when he walked his feet hardly touched the ground. He wasn’t still but a punkin when he came to Amiel with the news that he had to make some money. Asa Judkins had him a pile of logs to cut and split. The boy was so little Asa took him on not expecting much. But he seemed to do all right. Alert as a squirrel, he handled the chain saw glibly, and his back was strong, and feet and legs spry. Then Jacky became in demand for cleaning up landings, for barn work, firewood, shed building; and rarely was there a day without work for before school or after. But Jacky’s first love was mechanic work. Any time Woody was up to repairing any damned thing in the garage, even at past midnight, he could expect Jacky, and he didn’t show up just to stand around. “Pa, I know how to do this. I can get in there. I’ll show ya. S’posta just fit in? I got it. Hand me that 3/4 inch box end. Now wa’chado. Okay. I’m right here now. I’ll put her in.” And so on, that’s the way it went. Jacky was so easy to bring up compared to the others, Woody and Amiel wondered if something bad must happen. Then Jacky had to be the first boy of all the kids to get his driver’s license. He had a little problem with the written and he had to take it again. Then he was off driving, and when eventually he passed the driving test, which he did the first time, and he got his license in the mail, he sat down at the kitchen table looking at it and looking at it for an hour. Then he took Skye for a ride into town and he bought her an ice cream. Jacky loved Skye. They were both tough hard working little people.
  Youthful mechanics have a bright, dirty look. When Jacky started buying wrecks to fix up, Woody knew that was not any way to get rich. But Jacky dived into the work, and he was clever about using the metal dump, and soon the junkyard people all knew his name. Jacky was hard and enthusiastic. He didn’t sleep in pajamas; he slept in his rags. Jacky lived in his rags. He didn’t even seem to notice that they were rags. What he wanted was the tools. If he had the tools he could make some money. He learned how to live this way because his parents lived this way. Woody always extolled to the kids the old days when they did not even have electricity. But the sacrifice was worth it. “The sacrifice was worth it, right kids?” Jacky and Skye always nodded and smiled. “Sacrifice is good for you,” Woody said.
  It just so happened on this day Jacky suddenly woke up with the notion that he needed to buy another car. A few days ago a T-bird in Jerry's yard caught Jacky's eye. You can always sell a T-bird looks decent even if it is old. The ones Ford built with the toned down 302 were good cars. Jacky was a fan of Fords, same as his father. His father always owned an F350 four wheel drive. Now Jacky was looking at work similar to his father's, and he needed something rugged in the driveway. If he could make four-hundred on the T-bird, with the money in the bank he ought to be able to find an F350, maybe not a diesel. Prices at the metal dump were up; he had a junker to haul in, but the card he had up his sleeve was a big red oak log had been down since late August. If he could snag it out of the woods with the old crawler, then he could get the T-bird and be working on it by nightfall. Jacky got up before dawn, and he was sitting with Mom and Dad. Jacky happened to mention the red oak, how it was money in the bank.
  “I was gonna pull it out with a couple of others for ready cash,” Woody drawled. “I don't expect to be working a few months this winter.”
  So Jacky eyed the ceiling. “Need ready cash this winter if you ain't working.”
  “Why? What you got in mind?”
  Jacky shrugged. “Nothin' much. T-bird in Jerry's yard take a sticker.”
  “Need a truck. You're old enough now.” Woody was always ahead of Jacky, he was always ahead of anybody.
  “O'Brien said he'd hire me if I could get there,” Jacky said.
  “Okay, Jacky. But you owe me.”
  After breakfast Woody took Jacky aside, out of the way of his mother, “You be careful. That log's up on a steep hillside. Twitch it from the side, and let it fall. If you're in the way it'll take out you and the crawler, too.”
  “I know, Pa.”

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