And Weesner's novel -- centered in a wrenching father-and-son relationship -- brought me back to a poem by another Flint native, Danny Rendleman, a poet whose depictions of growing up among "shop rats" in the Fifties and Sixties will break your heart. Here's one of my all-time favorites, from Danny's amazing 1989 chapbook from Ridgeway Press, Skilled Trades.
Shooting Nine-Ball With My Father at the Rainbow Bar
This is his second home, my mother says,
and not just for the money he leaves here Fridays.
No phone: no one is ever taking calls. Tonight
I am beating my father at nine-ball
and not just because he is drunk and old.
I'm pretty good, he's finding out, not just
some sissy boy who's always reading, though
pretty drunk, too. We are the last customers
and Trigger, the owner, wants us to leave.
But it's not even last call, and my father wants
one more Corby's on the rocks and one more game,
just about to get his touch back, to break even,
to show his son what's what. But he keeps scratching or
miscuing or missing widely, and I'm up about ten bucks,
but I'm starting to miss some gimme's myself
and not liking it, and beginning to sweat
and fret and wonder why we're here.
But we can't quit, though we know mother
is waiting, we hope, and Trigger is waiting to close up, and
we're going to hurt in some
important places in a few hours.
My father, as handsome as he's ever going to be, and as
fine, leans over as I line up a money shot and says to me,
"Look here, Danny,
how you doing, son?" What we both want from this life won't
come clear for some time.
At that moment, he will be dead and I will be
contemplating a not dissimilar plot ending. We walk out
back to his '57 Oldsmobile and try
to decide who'll drive
as well as the where and why of it.
Not a hero
4 years ago