By Joe Manus
When I was 4 my mother met a man.
We were first introduced at an art complex somewhere in the peel of Atlanta’s pulp.
He taught a lapidary class there. He apparently was good at shaping rough, visually discarded stones into the flames that the jewel thief moths flocked to. My broken mother probably had a future ambition of him doing the same to her.
The day I met him, I filled my hands full of cigarette butts from a nearby public ashtray and offered them to him. It was the only gift my little mind could muster to aid in my win of his heart. My dad had been gone for 6 months; fresh fodder to her divorce cannon. I needed this new man to plug the hole in our newly flawed hull.
He took the butts and thanked me.
They had already been lovers. He was already familiar to me from some day past that I could not place. He was already familiar with my mom. He patted her rear as we left the outer vestibule to go inside.
He moved in not long after.
They married at the local courthouse and we drove away from it in a red Malibu Classic with white cigarette stained vinyl. Empty insulin bottles clanged in the floorboard under my feet. He became a husband for the first time in 64 years. He became a father for the first time that day as well.
He had a wonderment of things that moved in with him;
Radio Shack circuit boards with diodes, capacitors, transistors,
a white officer’s dress suit from the Coast Guard Auxiliary that hung in their newly
Better than any of it, he had a large houseboat that he planted in the driveway.
He told me adventures of piloting it to Bermuda, Dominica, and Granada. It had a diving board on its top deck that he would dive off of, into the warm North Atlantic Ocean hundreds of miles from another human.
I played on it those first years. The boat was fantasy fantastic, but the boat’s metaphoric figurehead was this thing I found on it. A strange snorkel that had a trunk that curved back down at the top. It had a yellow ball on the end in a white rigid plastic basket. When you dove under the water past the snorkel’s length, the little yellow ball would float up and seal the tube. It allowed you to go deeper. It kept you alive while you plunged.
I never got to go out in that boat. It had rot that escaped the eyes. He eventually sold it away. Its dry rotted seats and chalky gelcoat were too much of a reminder of what he had once been and how far his time had traveled. I kept the snorkel under my pillow for months after that. I would lay in my bed and pretend I was floating in a sea, watching the underworld dance below me. I felt safe knowing that little yellow ball was there if I witnessed something deeper than my reach.
I knew I could go deeper.
I knew it would keep me alive when I plunged.
Joe Manus is a lifetime resident of the South. He was educated in the public schools of rural Georgia, receiving his high school diploma in 1992. Joe is an award winning furniture designer. He believes in living the best and the worst of the human experience and writing about it.