by cheri block
My father Hugh’s right arm could rotate like a Ferris wheel and elongate all the way to the back seat of our Buick Vista Dome station wagon.
This superhuman feat Hugh could accomplish while also driving at a high rate of speed, which in the 50’s, was about 65 mph.
His arm took on Superhero attributes whenever one of his four children riding in the back seat got out of hand. But he was never out of hand because that paddle of his, flat and worn from repetitive use, like an oar in a Greek trireme, would wheel around and whack whichever child deserved it.
Often, the child who had instigated the ruckus by insulting the dignity of one her her younger siblings–Stevie, Cindy, or Jimmie–could predict not only the angle and velocity of the strike but also its crucial timing device, that neurotransmittal moment when A-P=S, an equation which triggered its involuntary motion. This gift of locational prophecy yielded satisfying results when the hand missed its mark and landed insultingly on one of the other passengers, who would scream out–not in pain but in injustice–and thus trigger the giant paddlewheel to speed up, wildly and furtively.
Thank God we were not on the Mississippi River.
My mother Joan seemed oblivious to this commotion as she read her Readers Digest condensed version of Michener’s Return to Paradise.
How could that same flat wedge of pain and insult become dexterious enough to practice dentistry on Monday morning?
I always wondered.