The last time I saw Knuckles Pittinger, he was mourning the death of his kid brother. That is really not all that unexpected or unusual, as the funeral was only yesterday and I took a long hard look at old Knuckles – I looked long and hard when he was not looking at me. I kind of saw right through that overweight, bald-headed senior citizen with the diamond earring and the wife with no legs. Who on earth wears a pair of shorts to his brother's funeral, anyway? Knuckles Pittinger, that is who. And “mourning” is a quaint word for what Knuckles engaged in. In certain parts of the world I think they describe it, rather, as “kvetching.”
Old Knuckles called himself an old Spam-jockey – a pug-faced man who flew transport planes into Greenland or Iceland or North Dakota or some other God-forsaken place that the Army Air Corps or the Air Force or someone had sent him. I suppose that he called himself a Spam-jockey for the usual reason. A good portion of his cargo had been rations for some Army or Air Force base. Spam-jockey. Spam-jockey. Right after I heard the word I thought what a good name it would make for a band, so I filed it away for future reference. Knuckles just kept droning on and on about all the people he hated, and I just found it painful. I even offered a suggestion - “maybe let go of the hate, Knuckles,” I suggested. He just kept droning on and on and his wife with no legs sat there in her wheelchair and smiled and nodded her head. Don't get your hair too close to those candles, Esmerelda...all that hair spray and your bouffant would go up like the freaking Hindenburg. Oh, the humanity.
So Knuckles, you just droned on about all the people you hate, and your poor dead brother's ashes just sat there on a little rickety table and you could have cared as much if it would have been an ashtray in the cockpit of that old transport plane you flew. I just wanted to slap that bald little head of yours to stop the kvetching, honestly. Or was it the mourning that I wanted to stop? Oh yes, I forget. They are one in the same.
I couldn't help notice, though, that there was something unique about old Knuckles – something about him had changed, and I did not stop to ask him why. There was a small triangular scar below his right ear, and every time he spoke there was a hesitation around words beginning with the letter “b.” Boy oh boy. You had better bet. You better believe it. Another Bourbon?
Finally, as the day drew to a close, looking deep into the dusty beams of light filtering into the funeral chapel, with a look that was a thousand miles away and decades distant, old Knuckles Pittinger cried a single tear and shook like one of those tin spring wind-up toys we used to get for fifty cents at the discount store next to the abandoned radio tower. Wind it up, set it down, watch it shake, shake, shake. Shake like Knuckles Pittinger when he looked at that urn of ashes that used to be his kid brother. For a second he didn't hate anyone anymore.
"Oh Bill...my little brother!”