[The auction for this Significant Object, with story by Susannah Breslin, has ended. Original price: 50 cents. Final price: $36.88]
I reached my hand into the drawer, withdrew it, and looked at what lay in my palm. “ALL AMERICAN OFFICIAL NECKING TEAM,” the pin read. It was hard to reconcile the words with my father. At this point, he had been dead for nearly 15 years. After he had passed away, my mother and I had stood over the dining room table upon which sat a large box that contained what was left of him. Cremains, the man had called them. My father, I had longed to correct him. Thankfully, my mother had been willing to share what remained of him with me, his only son. My father was a skyscraper of a man — six-foot-five, Ozymandias hands, a brooding forehead — a great man, really — and so, he had left a great deal of himself behind. I dipped a teaspoon into the mound of his ashes and placed three or so tiny shovelfuls into a plastic bag. I fastened the bag with a twist-tie. I put the bag in a small wooden box that smelled faintly of the peach tea it had once held. Later, my mother handed me a bag of his things, which, to be perfectly honest, I had forgotten about — until today, when I spotted it in the back of the drawer, behind my wife’s underwear, and reached into the leather case and pulled the pin from it.
I imagined my father had won his place on the All-American Necking Team sometime during 1953, his senior year at Brooklyn Preparatory. I knew what he looked like back then from photographs: a young man with deep-set eyes undershadowed by dark circles, his long form gangly with the awkwardness of his youth, a thin tie knotted at the base of his bird-like neck. Once, my mother had told me about his penchant for drinking Zombies, about the time in the middle of a party, he had proclaimed, “I’m a tree,” and then fallen flat to the floor, how she had stolen him from another woman older than her, who had a child — and in the remembering, my mother had smiled. But that summer, his father, my grandfather, a frustrated CPA with a roaring temper fueled by an abiding love of Four Roses and the failures of the Brooklyn Dodgers, had fallen dead of a heart attack while taking the IRT subway to work one day, and my father’s life had changed forever. Instead of trundling off to some Ivy League college, he had stayed in Flatbush, enrolled at Brooklyn College, and dutifully taken care of his mother, a woman I’d never met, whose name was Rose.
Looking down at the pin staring up at me like a Cyclops, looking through this portal into a time wherein I was nothing but a flickering flash in one of my father’s constellation of neurons, I wondered who this all-star necker was: my father, a young man not unlike myself, or something else altogether—a man beyond my understanding now relegated to a past that lay on the other side of a bridge where the land was so dark that I could no longer see him.