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Turn Your Head and Cough #3
by Jason Torchinsky

I was walking around today, returning from a quick errand at the local pawnshop after a few of my more forgetful and less observant friends from home had departed, when I noticed something. I was at a crosswalk, waiting for the light to give me permission to stroll across my little striped pathway, when, actually reading the light for the first time, I realized that it did not say "DON'T WALK" as I had always assumed, but rather read "DONT WALK". No apostrophe. Go ahead, smarty, check it out. Anyway, I started to think. Surely those fine men and women who hand-crafted this light knew full well that the contraction for "do not" is "don't", with the apostrophe taking the place of the 'o', which, I can only assume, went off to find better work, perhaps as the last letter in a variety of popular children's cereals, and were using the word "DONT" on purpose, as it has meaning of its own.

Using my voluminous, and, of course, large, knowledge of Latin, I reasoned that the word "DONT" is an adverb that means "wildly and carelessly" and proceeded to bolt out into the street, directly in front of a Ford Bronco which sent me sailing through the air into the grillework of two speeding Fiats (actually, I think one was a Triumph). Luckily, fate was on my side as my fall was broken by a large bundle of rusty barbed wire and broken glass. Were it not for my good fortune, I could have been severely injured.

I stood up, proud of myself for determining the true meaning of the pedestrian crossing light as I felt my disjointed ribs floating around in my torso like a half dozen frozen fishsticks in a leather backpack.

I must have blacked out at that point, because the next thing I remember I was wedged into one of those shrubs around the bell tower. Instead of immediately leaving and seeking medical attention, as some so-called "smarter" people may try to do, I opted to remain where I was and ponder something which I had been thinking about for a while. My dad's career.

I remember when I was little I had absolutely no idea what my dad did for a living. I had some facts, though. He worked at a place he called the "office." Periodically, he would mention "contracts" or "accounts." Based on this data, I could reasonably assume that my dad worked with Dagwood Bumstead, of "Blondie" fame, in Mr. Dithers' office, working on contracts and accounts that meant absolutely nothing and seemed to produce even less. Just what business was that Dithers in anyway? Did he have any product? Or a service? Or was it just a business, whose only purpose was to keep our nation's supply of office paper fully loaded with fresh ink and kept in constant, meaningless circulation? Sounds like some sham tax-write off to me. That damn Dithers! Who does he think he's kidding? And Dagwood, he's no better, lazing off, just a pawn, a cog in Dithers' corrupt corporate machine! Why, if he didn't have such a lovely wife and two adorable teenaged kids, I'd...I'd...oh, to hell with it. Someday.

But I digress. And, for that matter, digest. No, I soon realized that my dad probably didn't work with Dagwood, for when I suggested the possibility to him he responded with his characteristically affectionate fist to my gut. Also, Mr.Dithers' office was located in a flat, two dimensional box about three by two inches high, max. Can I call you Max? Good. Anyway, I did some checking and not only is my dad far too large to fit in that space, he is three dimensional, a trait I inherited from him.

As I grew older, my curiosity about my dad's methods of procuring the proverbial bacon (proverbial was always tastier and fat-free) did not abate, but rather grew stronger. My powers of speculation, fueled by the increased wisdom that comes with age and by methanol, improved and I was able to reason out his position with greater acumen. I later began to think that perhaps my father was just blowing smoke by telling me that he worked in an office, that he held some white-collar job; perhaps he was trying to hide the fact that he was a laborer, a blue-collar Joe who worked with his hands.

My mind reeled at the thought. My dad, a working man! Ah, the romance of the blue collar! The smell of sweat, the sinewy muscles, the facility with hands and machines! Though my dad displayed not a single one of these categories, and, in fact, had trouble operating a stapler, I nevertheless held hope.

I began to watch my dad around the house, reasoning that I could infer his career if I noticed what he was good at doing. Though my my beliefs about sitcom writers belie this position, I felt that most people hold jobs in what they are best at. Based on this idea, I came to the conclusion that my dad was employed in the field of paperweight maintenance and repair.

That had to be it. My dad worked for some big paperweight company, and people all over the state would come into his shop to have their paperweights lubricated or have their bearings repacked, or their differential shaft realigned, or any number of those complicated parts replaced that make paperweights do what they do. I presented this idea to my dad as well, and, though he did not inform me that I had guessed correctly, expressed his amusement with my idea by patting me on the head with one of the andirons from our fireplace, again and again.

After that I began to think that perhaps my father was the staff psychologist for the Iranian Army. Or, judging from his quickness of temper, maybe he was a speed bump, or an oar or something. Maybe a professional scratcher at the local fair. Or a veternarian, specializing in plastic surgery. I just didn't know.

Now that I'm in college, things are much different. I came right out and asked my dad what he did for a living. Though his answer, "Blow," did not answer my question, I felt closer to my dad at that moment than ever before. It makes me feel all warm inside just to think about it. Or maybe that's just the 35 burritos I had for lunch. Who can tell? Such are the ways of the heart. Solidarity.

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