Glenn G. Coats
In the Heat of July
It is close to 7:30 when I unlock the front door to the shop. I click on lights in the office as well as ones that light up the trucks. The installers and a repairman will arrive at eight and my father will come through the door an hour later.
dust in folds
of the flag
First, I listen for emergency calls left on the answering machine: a car trapped in a garage, a door that came down on a hood, an operator that buzzes when you press the button, an opener that works by itself in the middle of the night (phantom operation). I write up work orders and add the emergencies to wide clips hanging above each employee’s name.
Next, I schedule visits to customers. There are garage door openings to measure, headroom to check, coils to count on a broken torsion spring. I load door samples in my pickup along with a small ladder and box of tools.
Father’s stacks of papers
separate from mine
The men arrive and talk about directions and the distances they will travel. After they leave, exhaust from their trucks and a scent of oil hangs in the garage. I open a few more doors to air the building out.
the pond at the bend
no longer there
By nine o’clock, the July heat is already building. I decide to wait before turning on the air conditioner. Through the screen door, I can hear footsteps in the gravel, voices. I see my father enter the shop with a man who owes him money. My father is a head taller and twenty years older than the man. He is close to him, hunched so they are almost nose to nose. My father is poking a finger at the man and his face is bright red. I can hear him yelling, “You screwed me and I will screw you back, screw you, screw you, screw you. You give me your word. Your word don’t mean nothing, you hear me, nothing!”
I am frozen in my office chair and I half expect my father to haul back and throw a roundhouse right. The man is speechless, so surprised at the anger rising from this quiet man, he can’t say a word. The screaming diminishes and the man leaves the building. My father opens the screen door to the office. He is calm and grinning ear to ear like that dancer on Lawrence Welk. “Bet you never saw your old man like that,” he says.
Father judges customers
by their shoes