Posted on October 28, 2010


Chapter 3: Clint.©

You marry someone, you think of them as an adult, as grown up. Only very gradually does the child hidden inside start to peek out… sneak out.

Both David and I lost our fathers before we were six years old – his died, mine ran away with his secretary.  So shrinks will tell you that  people lacking father figures don’t learn  how men are suppose to behave. Well I guess from our experience we’d expect them to die or take off. So presumably David should be a health nut and I should freak out every time I see him packing his suitcase.

Mmmh… maybe there’s a bit of truth mixed in with that shrink psychobabble.

However since we both lived with our grandparents we had grandfathers as father figures – both of them being strong silent types. I’m not sure what to do with that so I’ll let it lay where Jesus flang it ?

About 3.30 one afternoon David phoned from his office to say he was bringing Clint, an old friend, home for dinner. Fine, I had a standing rib roast and told him to pick up a bottle of red wine.

I knew that Clint and David had been best friends as kids at school, but that’s about all.

Clint was what? An enigma?  No little gift for the hostess. No complements on the cooking. Addressed most of his conversation to David. Over the years I must have fed Clint what, maybe fifty times? We’d include him in most of our parties. Did he ever invite us out? Never. David would say: “Clint, Philly has stuffed you with good food for years don’t you think it’s about time you took us out for dinner? At least take her out.”

Clint would grin, say it was a good idea, but never did a thing about it. He was the proverbial bachelor. Not effeminate or anything. I told him if he wanted to bring a lady friend to dinner he could. Never did. David said he never knew of any girl friends. Clint got along with guys, a man’s man… but somehow he seemed sexually neutral.

He worked for a big multi-national company. We never did find out what his job was. David repeatedly offered a hundred dollar reward to any of our dinner guests who could find out what Clint actually did – nobody ever claimed it. During his eulogy at Clint’s memorial service David told this story. After, Clint’s boss came up to David and admitted that even he wasn’t sure what Clint did but told us that for some reason the CEO seemed to like him.

Certainly Clint sang the corporate song. David and I are a smidgen left of centre so had endless arguments with Clint about corporate fraud like Enron, and health care, Vietnam, the Wall Street crooks and their outrageous bonuses. David and Clint said terrible things to each other. David: “Clint you’d vote republican if Hitler was running for President.” Clint: “ David you’d vote Democrat if Stalin was running for President.”  “What about Nixon?” “Yeah, what about Clinton ?”  “Yeah, what about….”

They’d rant and rave, insulting each other but somehow remain friends.

Gradually I got the story of how they met and spent their time. It was just after Christmas – the year Dalt Robbins rescued David from Stinky Davis the sadistic and cowardly school principle. Clint’s family arrived from the west coast with Clint ending up in David’s grade eight class. David had a big black Newfoundland dog named Tinker who followed him to school. Even in winter Tinker would curl up in the snow and wait outside. He loved to roughhouse. Clint fell for Tinker. David and Clint became best friends. Clint was the class clown and got the strap twice from Stinky.

As I said earlier it takes a while for the child hiding inside the person you marry to peek out. I’d ask David about his formidable sister Gracie, about Tinker and Clint but would just get snippets. I had to wait for Clint and David getting together and reminiscing to really get to know the boy who became my husband.

Rubber Ice: Moving from the mild west coast to North Dakota, Clint knew nothing about winter in general or rubber ice in particular. In the late fall you get lots of snow then a warm spell, the snow melts forming ponds, then as the cold weather returns the ponds start to freeze, first forming a thin layer of elastic ice – rubber ice. With experience kids learn how to take a run and slide standing up across the ice without breaking through. The trick is to end your slide on the frozen side of the pond not in the middle where the ice is thin. David told Clint the game was see how far out into the center of the pond he could get by sliding on your belly. Clint made a spectacular slide, went through the ice, his cloths started freeze on him and before he was halfway home was walking like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz.

First Fight: As it got colder the ponds froze solid and served as natural hockey rinks. Kids got up at 6 in the morning to play hockey before school and back at it after supper – often using round road apples (horse dung) for pucks. No one wanted to play goal – the road apples were frozen solid. Clint couldn’t skate so he spent time in goal, usually with no more than a couple of rolled up newspapers stuck in his socks serving as goalie pads.

Anyway you weren’t suppose to raise the ‘puck.’

David did…  striking Clint smack on his maleness Apparently this hurts almost as much as childbirth. Clint shoved David head first into a snow bank.

They fight.

No contest.

Clint had two brothers, fighting is their main indoor sport. The only opponent David could beat at this time was Tinker and that’s because Tinker let him. Later David became a lethal fighter, but now a cream puff.

Clint flipped David down, washed his face with snow, then ran pretending he was afraid David would do the same to him.

David had acquired not only a very good friend but also a new big brother. When Clint was around no one messed with David. As a result he developed into a bit of lippy smartass – a joker at other people expense.

Clint’s older brother Bob was tall, lean and mean. His younger brother Hugh had two moods – giggly or ballistic. Their father, a railway superintendent, away all week,  returned home Friday afternoons just in time to welcome the boys home from school. As they came into the house he’d give each one a solid whack across the head for causing their mother so much trouble during the week, and for doing all the dumb things no one knew about. .

He kept his liquor and carving knives locked in a tall cupboard. The boys unscrewed the back, dulling the knife edges by rubbing the along the basement floor, took sips of whiskey then topped the bottle up with water. Then they’d secure the back of the cupboard with a few screws and push it back in place ready for next time. Yes their father finally got wise and got even, but the boys expected it feeling that  the crime was worth the punishment.

Before Clint entered his life David thought the name of the game was to avoid punishment and pain. After ‘he  got the message that ‘the bigger the game the bigger the pain.’ You don’t like it – but it’s worth it.

Women learn that simple lesson every time we have a baby – big deal.

But I digress.

David hung out at Clint’s house staying for supper once or twice a week. After the meal Clint’s mother, a superb cook, headed next door to the Stinchomes to play cards leaving the boys to do dishes and scrub the kitchen floor – his mother’s mantra: “cleanliness is next to Godliness.”

The boys played Frisbee with the plates. David missed one resulting in a broken window. In no time Bob organized a damage control operation, retrieving a glass cutter from the basement he cut away glass fragments, Hugh swept the floor while Clint rubbed a bar of soap across the kitchen counter and floor picking up glass splinters. Clint said you could hear the bits of glass etching the counter surface. It was early spring and the storm window was undamaged so the boys had time to replace the broken window before their mother noticed. But she did report the countertop etchings so that Friday the boys got an extra swat from their old man.

Although the brothers fought constantly they joined forces when it mattered. They monitored all incoming mail and disposed of any arriving from troublesome sources like the school board.

Of the three Clint was closest to being normal, but when bored he’d trigger trouble which was easy since both brothers were on the verge of being mad most of the time.

Hugh built model planes. Clint launched Hugh’s favorite biplane – with it’s black and gold swastika insignia – out a second story window to see if it would fly. It didn’t. Discovering the wreck and locating Clint in the kitchen carving himself a roast beef sandwich, Hugh borrowed the  knife and threw and threw it.  It zipped through Clint’s pant leg imbedding itself in his right calf.

Hugh’s screaming brought Bob to the scene who summoned  Dr. Stinchome a the dentist living next door who stopped the spurting blood. Bob took off Clint’s shoe, handed it to an hysterical Hugh who poured the blood down the sink, then dropping to his knees scrubbed the bright red stains surrounding Clint’s leg off his mother’s precious kitchen floor.

Clint spent a week in hospital and still walks with a limp due to a damaged tendon.

Hugh wasn’t punished. Clint’s dad decided Clint provoked the attack. No big deal – tit for tat.

What would have been considered a major crisis in most families was accepted as the universe simply unfolding as it should… or would.

Bob, being lazy, was harder to provoke than Hugh. His favorite pastime was snoozing on the living room couch with a newspaper over his face. One of Clint’s favorite pastimes was waking him up by dropping things, slamming doors and from a safe distance shouting endearments. To his regret David witnessed one such occasion. They were upstairs with Clint yelling down at Bob: “Hey Bobby… Bobby baby … you know what you are? … you know what you are? I’ll tell ya what you are… you’re one lazy, ugly hawked-nosed bastard that’s what you are!” No response so Clint kept it up.

They heard the newspaper crumple up.

Clint dragged David him into the bathroom, slamming  the door shut and shoving  the lock in place just as Bob arrived. He sounded quite calm: “Clint, I want to have a word with you face to face. Either unlock this door or I’m going to have to kick it down.”

Clint unlocked the door. Bob knuckle punched Clint twice and David once on the upper arm. The way he does  it completely paralyzes your arm for an hour and leaves it aching for two days.

I’m convinced that if it weren’t for exposure to Clint that David would still be skulking around the edges of life making weird faces. Instead he gradually developed into a confidant – even a cocky – man. OK he’s a bit of smartass, but that’s counterbalanced by the positives. More important, he can make me laugh – at least he can when I’m not the butt of the joke.he’d have a ‘nightmare’ – he’d hear the snake charmer music outside his door.

If you were smart you didn’t mess with Gracie.