Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Warning From Hank Brummel

On a recent afternoon, I drove to the local hardware store. I had to buy some rock salt to melt the ice covering the brick steps that lead to our back door. Ice clings stubbornly to brick.

Last month, my father-in-law slipped on some ice and landed flat on his back. He couldn't get into his car for 2 weeks. The same thing happened to my father a couple of years ago, except he wasn't so lucky. He broke 4 ribs, punctured a lung, and spent a few nights in the hospital. I still remember visiting him...

From the door of his room I looked in to find him sitting up in his bed, wearing one of those hospital gowns that were designed by armless blind people: the kind that expose your ass when you stand. He was staring idly at the thin gray curtains that separated him from his roommate, an angry old man who was mumbling something about laxatives.

Hospitals gowns, old people and laxatives... Incidentally, all great conversation starters if you ever find yourself burning in hell.

Dad's thoughts seemed scattered. We were at some sort of "teaching hospital" and minutes after I arrived, 8 or 9 doctors stood conferring over a clipboard at the foot of his bed. They were debating the best way to re-inflate my father's lung. Many of them seemed young. My father had this idea that his lung would get better on its own; however, the hospital people wanted to put in a chest pump and re-inflate it for him.

"DT," he whispered to me, "this place is like a veterinary hospital. Of course they want to give me a chest pump! Where else are these kids going to learn how to do this?"

I won't say that he panicked, but my father looked fearful. It was awful seeing him in that condition, and it has stuck in my head. He's not paranoid like I am... actually, quite the opposite. Anyway, he got out of there and his lung inflated just fine: no chest pump.

What's the point of this? Ice has been trying to kill my family for years. As a result, each winter when it shows up on my steps it's a sort of "revenge play" for me to melt it all. Ice isn't welcome at my house; when it shows up, I take it personally.

So, as I was saying... hardware store, rock salt.

The hardware store is always uncomfortably warm and smells of herbicides and fertilizer. The man who works the section by the entrance constantly wears a stoned, glazed-over, look. And, in fact, he is always stoned. In another lifetime, I got heavily into darts and joined a pub's "dart team." Clearly, this topic needs its own post... However, let's just say I really got to know a lot of the local degenerates and "Bob the builder" here was one of them. I asked him where the rock salt was and without looking up from what he was doing, (trying to release a gumball from the gumball machine) he said, "automotive."

So I was on my way to the automotive section when I bumped into Hank Brummel. He was stacking suet blocks into his basket. When he looked at me, his face immediately went dark.

Hank is a celebrated figure around town. He's 95 or so, but you'd think he was 80. He's still very independent and mobile, and you'll see him strolling around in a fashionable cardigan sweater, hair fuller and whiter than a blizzard, waving to everyone he passes and making small talk. I've heard that he developed the first motors for windshield wipers. GM had bought his patent and he became very rich.

Without a greeting, he grabbed me by the elbow and said in a low voice, "Bad times are ahead." I made some hopeful gesture and said, "Barack Obama!"

Hank wasn't impressed. He stood there next to a display of window washer fluid and blinked patiently at me. "DT, we've been building up to this for years and years. It will take years and years for things to get back to normal." He looked thoughtfully at the floor and shook his head. "Even then," he said flatly, "things will just be different." Brummel's eyes grew nebulous. "I mean, it's not for me I worry. I'm going to die soon... hopefully anyway. But I have 30 grandkids to think about."

I knew Hank had lived through the Great Depression and so I asked him, "What do I do if things get as bad as you think?"

He looked right through me with his cloudy old man's eyes and said, "Plant a garden, raise chickens, and buy a gun."

"Jesus, Hank," I said as some nervous laughter escaped, "a gun?"

"Yes, DT. A gun."

And with that, Hank Brummel darted down an aisle full of cabinet hinges and disappeared.

I purchased my rock salt no longer confident that ice was worth all the worry.

7 comments:

Dogwood said...

I recommend this one in 12 gauge, altho the 20 gauge is fine if you've never fired a gun before, and this one.

The shotgun is good for home defense and hunting, while the pistol is a great personal carry weapon.

Both will serve you well.

Anonymous said...

f frank brummel.

Anonymous said...

We miss the RO report!!

mdawsz said...

Only losers buy guns.

Dinosaur Trader said...

Good point, much better to slit your neighbor's throat and steal their cache...

-DT

Dogwood said...

Sounds like someone's Man Card application was denied again. Call me next time mdawsz, I know people.

Anonymous said...

I miss the RO reports but nice writing.