Damn truck. Pinion needs replacing. Bug screen’s broken. right now, with my battered hand and six months of inactivity making me feel older and slower and heavier. But lately I’ve been looking forward to the scars.
The pantheon of things I love — remodeled houses, bone-headed dogs, high-country sunrises and people who’ve passed – are so beautiful and so quickly gone. It helps to have something physical to conjure them back. There’s still, for example, a dirt spot the size of a watermelon on a wall in our house where my dog turned in circles before he lay down. I won’t clean it.
Yesterday afternoon I sat on the tailgate and wrote checks for Ramon, Luciano and Crescenciano. “How ees jor feenger?” Ramon asked. He’d seen me days after the accident. I showed him the misshapen, swollen thing, ugly as hell but whole. “Como se dice ‘bone,’” I asked.
“Hueso,” he said. “The hueso es mejor,” I said.
He held out his twist of a thumb, which I’d never noticed. “Como?” I asked. “Weeth a beeg… how you say? A beeg knife.” “Machete?” I asked.
“Yes! Yes!” He pretended to hold something with his left hand and swung with his right. From the look of the scar he’d pretty much filleted it. Crescenciano held up his right hand. The fingers were crossed with deep scars. He tried to make a fist and they curled claw-like, at strange angles.
“I cut theem off,” he said. He made a slicing motion with his left hand, pantomimed reaching beneath a lawn mower, whirling blades, fingers laid flat against the back of his hand. “Now een the cold… No mueve.” He laughed, big and toothy. I turned to Luciano. “Y tu?” I asked. Big, soft Luciano, his face surprised and shy, whipped his hands out of his pockets and turned them over for us.
“No,” he said. “No hay problemas!” Everyone cracked up. That strange tailgate alchemy. I pulled my knife and popped the top off my last Heineken, handed it to Crescenciano. “Como se dice ‘truck,’” I asked.
“Camionetta,” he replied. “Not ‘trucka?’” I asked.
He shook his head. “Thees ees, um… Spanglish,” he said. He took a long draw from the bottle. We stood in silence, done wrestling with the others’ language. The sun turned pink on the rooftops below. The guys hopped in their minvan and tore off up the dirt driveway. I closed the tailgate and got in mi Camionetta, put my bandaged hand on its wheel, and pointed its old bent bumper toward home.