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Never More Than Five Percent From Perfect (standard:romance, 3378 words)
Author: RavenwoodAdded: Feb 06 2012Views/Reads: 1651/3857Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
As long as there have been cars, there have been boys in trouble with them. But with a grandfather in on it?

If I were king of the world, every boy would be grandson to James Roscoe
Canyon... or someone much like him. 

Daddy wished to name a child for his father, but that would be rather
odd for either of daddy's girls. There would be a boy, he insisted, and 
when the last of the girls was finishing high school—class of 
'39—mother's tummy swelled again. A tumor this time, she feared. But it 
was me, James Roscoe. The James part was set adrift into never-never 
land, and I was called Roscoe, just like Poppy. 

Somewhere between my third and fourth birthdays, my Roscoe visited
never-never land also, and mother called me ‘Rascal' for quite a long 

Poppy was delighted with my promotion. He confided that his own mother
had called him ‘skunk' until he was near grown. He may have told the 
story soon, but I remember for sure that he told it at the lake when I 
had started school. Lakes were rare on the wheatlands of Kansas, but 
our county was blessed with one. 

He and I sat on the floating pier with our cane fishing poles, and he
pointed out the spot of his baptism. “Like in the Testament,” he patted 
the always-present, worn copy in his pocket. “I was baptized in the Big 
Guy's own baptistery. Most every church in town baptized out here back 
then. A half-day affair, wagons and buggies coming and going.” 

He hesitated, before asking, “Where was I?” 

“You were telling about being called skunk.” I reminded. 

“Thankee, Rascal.” He rubbed my hair. “My bath changed mother more than
it changed me. Leastwise, she never called me skunk again. Now, the Big 
Guy,” Poppy reckoned aloud, raising his brow and his eyes skyward, “He 
knew me both sides of it, and He loved me both sides the same.” 

We stared into the water for a time, but fish weren't interested in
showing themselves or biting. The floats barely moved atop the surface. 

“Them finned devils know that we're not really out here to catch any of
them.” Poppy observed. He leaned back and stretched. “I love you, 
Rascal. If I was to ask you to trot up to the coupe and fetch 
something, would you do it?” 

“Yessir.” I rose to go, but his hand prevented me. 

“I don't want something, son.” He never called me by my name, always
Rascal or son. “I love you, and if I asked you to do something, you 
would do it. After you did it, I wouldn't love you more. That's what 
I'm saying.” 

He'd say things to make me think. He asked me, once, “If, reckon the
bible was written by women, then would God be a she?” 

When I was nine, Poppy retired from the mill; returning soldiers would
need the job. He was seventy. He retired to the garage behind his house 
and I retired there with him for most of the summer daylight. And into 
the nights. Some of the floor was concrete, but most was dirt, smelling 
of the elixir of oil that dripped from that Model A Ford coupe he so 
adored. His hands smelled of oil, too.  Magic hands. Large, but with 
the dexterity of a surgeon's. 

The coupe carried us to the lake more than ever, now that gasoline
wasn't rationed. Poppy called them fishing trips, but we rarely put a 
hook in the water. Just watched the birds and inhaled the aroma of 
wildflowers. One trip, he had two-by-four blocks in the rumble seat. He 
wired the blocks onto the pedals—enough that I could reach them—and he 
let me drive round-and-round in the grass pasture that gently rolled 
upward from the water. The third day, he stood on the running board 
until he could see that I was shifting okay—he wouldn't allow third 
gear yet—and then he stepped off. When he did, I grew a foot taller, 
all of it in my chest. In the mirror, I saw his old felt hat flying 
away and him rolling as though I had been going a hundred miles an 
hour, and I thought that I surely was. Was he dead? 

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