E. Michael Desilets Reads
Jazzing the Accelerator
Snowy mornings were the worst, the old man
clomping in the hallway outside our bedrooms berating us
in unison with the neighborhood wind: Come on, boys,
snap it up. Movie stars, every last one of you.
Up all night, sleep all day. Our eyes
clamped shut, we could still see him, can still
see him now, doing his exasperated flatfooted dance
in his Stetson fedora and Robert Hall topcoat,
his cheap rubbers barely covering his wingtips.
While we were still screening our drool-drenched dreams
he had showered, shaved and moved his bowels:
The Clockwork Dad. You guys should
eat more fruit and follow suit. He'd smell
sharply of whatever scent we'd given him last
Father's Day or Christmas or Anniversary. If we
didn't look alive fast enough he'd prod the bottoms
of our feet with his car keys until our brains
pulsated with patricidal fantasies. Seven sons
united in filial impiety.
Incensed by our lethargy, he'd call each of us
Hey Joe, though none of us was so named:
Hey Joe, you’ve got somewhere to go. And
there were always four or five jalopies
to start up to get us wherever that was. Cursed by
driveway snow, most had, like us, succumbed
to the horror of the broken day. Our father,
under each hood with his few tools—pliers,
screwdriver, hammer, bloody handkerchief—would
bang his magic into carburetors and spark plugs and
alternators and radiators and batteries while we'd
sit sullen and frozen and underdressed
behind steering wheels turning keys
awaiting those totemic words: Jazz the accelerator
and let's get this tin can rolling!
So we'd give it the gas, trying to nap with our right feet
pumping away. The old lady, cleverly sedated by
The Up All Night Creature Feature, would be
snoring away like a movie star, soon to be
upstaged, we hoped, by multiple roaring engines.