schuck. schuck. schuck.
there is a slight tension as the blade first presses the skin, then release as it gives way allow smooth transit through the meat to clap on the cutting board. a thin puddle of juice, pocked with seed forms around the base of the thick red slices of tomato, fresh from the garden behind his house.
through the window, i watch him stare through the screen of the porch, watching two squirrels at play. a slight smile crinkles the leathered skin of his face, the sun highlighting the sparse remains on his quicksilver hair. his days are drawing short, but he doesn't seem to notice.
clink. clink. clink.
rattling the knife in the glass jar of creamy mayonnaise, i spread it thick on a slice of white bread, untoasted so as not to bruise his toothless gums. arranging the tomato, i sprinkle them with salt and pepper, then place them on a plate with a folded napkin.
at twelve, i have tasted the sweet acrid smell of death, having watched three of my four grandparents pass beyond this world. i am here to watch his final days, to help him fade gently. we spend days in his wood shop, his long fingers, well calloused, tutoring me the feel of the smooth grained wood, saw dust and machine oil heavy in the air.
placing the plate on the glass table in front of him, we say grace for one more day we have been given and i watch as he draws a sandwich to his mouth. a trickle of juice runs down his chin as he presses his soft flesh through the textures. his joy is a halo around his face.
swock. swock. swock.
in the afternoon, i carry a steel bucket of golf balls to the field and sit in the shade as he peppers the landscape with white polka-dots. wrapping his hands around mine, he shows me the proper way to hold a club, patient as i send balls in every direction until they begin to fly straight into the blue sky.
it is not death he teaches me, but life, and pleasure in the simple things; the satisfying feel of sweat from an hard days work, a ball well struck and the taste of summer in a tomato sandwich.
This is a Magpie Tale.
Some of my long time readers may remember the stories i have told about my time with my great uncle Lawrence. He is the one I think of with each tomato sandwich I make each summer. This is am amalgamation of several of those posts.