John A. Ward

"Where do you come from?"

The first time someone asked me that, I said, "I live in the house next to the garbage can."

We had a lot of collections in those days.  Maybe it was only once or twice a week, but it seemed like a lot, because the garbage men were our friends.Everybody was friendly.  We had a milk man, a bread man and a mail man. We
still have a mail man, but back then he was on foot.

My brother had a special relationship with the garbage man, Phil McCann.P hil gave him presents, trinkets retrieved from the trash.  One was an Indian teepee.  It was made of birch bark that looked like leather, or
leather that looked like birch bark.  I don't remember for sure.

My brother wanted to be a garbage man when he grew up.  He practiced by going around the neighborhood and picking up junk.  He brought it home to my mother like a cat brings home half dead birds and mice.

My mother hated it.  She vowed to break him of the habit.  

One day he brought home an old rusted piece of chain.

She made him take it back and promise he would never do anything like thatagain.  She went over the top.  She was a demoness, Medusa, Lillith andMedea all rolled up into one.

She was Irish on both sides.  I don't mean left and right, or front and back.  I mean maternal and paternal.  She was like a volcano.  She held all the pressure in until it was too much, then erupted and spewed lava and ash everywhere.

My brother would have taken a blood oath if he hadn't blanched in fear.

When Dad got home after work, Mom was still seething in the aftershock.  Sheg reeted him with, "Do you know what your son did?"

Whenever we did anything wrong, we were Dad's sons.

She filled him in on the details of the atrocity.

When she was done, Dad said, "Where's the chain?"

She said, "I made him take it back."

"Send him back out to get it," said Dad, "I might be able to use it in the car."

For years after, my mother told the story, but in the retelling it started with "Do you know what his father did?"

First published: May, 2011
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