Old Guys

Good Flannel and Instigation

His eyes sparkled the clearest blue, like the first ray of daylight on a cold Superior wave.  He gave only the slightest nod toward the man with the booming voice beside him. His lips spread into a grin. He shook his head. His eyes never left me. I scribbled furiously — medium blue bic round, trying to capture the ridiculous obsession of his companion with “good flannel,” which is apparently quite difficult to find. He laughed at me. Or at the man beside him. Or at us both.

The other man went on. And on. And on. You cannot find good flannel like that anymore, he said. And where did one find old flannel? And had you ever actually seen flannel made the old way, with sheep’s urine? And did you know they used to tax sheep’s urine in Scotland? And can you imagine having to measure and report your livestock’s urine to the government? And how do you get your sheep to pee in a cup?

But the girl — that girl who’d just walked in — wore crimson and black flannel over a white long-sleeved t-shirt, the flannel rolled up to her elbows, but the white sleeves down almost to her metacarpo-phalangeals. It was exquisite flannel, to be sure. Absolutely exquisite.

He hushed his friend, who had exclaimed, “I haven’t seen flannel that tightly woven since my father ordered from the factory in Chicago and then whooped me for wearing it to shovel manure.” His cheeks turned as red as the flannel, but his laugh was unmistakably delighted. The girl would hear, he warned his brother-in-law, but his smile did not flinch. That’s a good idea, his companion’s face brightened, and he cleared his throat (an absolute unnecessity — everyone had already heard all of the conversation) and asked the girl — where did she buy her flannel?

She blushed and laughed, aware of how aware everyone was. She hesitated, but then boldly grinned her reply: St. Vinny’s.

Daniel looked me square in the eye now, challenging and pleading. “Walter, you know she’s writing all of this down, don’t you?”

Good, he answered — then he would always know where to find the good flannel.



From the shores of Wicket Lake,



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