Buzz and Sadie Word,
16"x20" oilpaint, watercolor, and ephemera
on masonite panel in in vintage framed
by Kenney Mencher
"Pipe Tobacco" by Marlin Bressi
One package of Captain Black, please. Black cherry, if you've got it. Yes, that'll be everything. You know, the smell of Captain Black pipe tobacco really takes me back to when I was a kid. I suppose lots of fathers enjoyed smoking pipes back then. Buzz, my father, certainly did. All the fellows down at dad's office called him Buzz and the nickname sort of stuck.
After all of these years I don't think any of us knew exactly what kind of work he performed at the office. Like other dads, he would exit the house each morning, briefcase in hand and fedora atop his head, leaving behind a trail of Old Spice aftershave which lingered in air for a good five minutes after he left. At precisely ten after six each evening he would return home, kick off his shoes, and smoke his pipe. Over dinner, he would discuss things like the Peterson Account or the Wilmer Account, or the Kinney Account. It was 1955 and I was six years old, so at the time I assumed my father must be some sort of accountant.
Sadie, that was mother's name, was a beautiful woman. Here, look at this picture. I've been carrying it around in my wallet since I was a teenager. It was taken right after the war, before Buzz began working for Mr. Kelleher. A young couple in love, the entire world spread out before them like a banquet. I wasn't even a speck of light on daddy's eye back then. No, I wouldn't come along for a few more years.
Fifty-five was a tough year for the Ward family. Some investments went south and the roof began to leak and mother said that she wanted to join the workforce. Buzz adamantly protested, of course, he being of a generation which believed that a woman's place was in the home. Perhaps mother wouldn't have minded staying at home, if the roof didn't leak so much.
Mother promised that she would stay home, but sometime around February she began squirreling away money, stuffing it inside the tin of sugar in the kitchen cupboard. She did whatever she could to make life better for me and Sis. She gave piano lessons, voice lessons, you name it. Beautiful as well as talented, that was Sadie Ward. She was bound and determined to get a new roof by the end of the year. I suppose women aren't fond of being rained upon in their own homes.
Spring eventually came, slapping the bitter taste of winter from our mouths. Mr. Kelleher's firm was handed the Peterson Account, which must have been quite an important deal for my father. One day, Mr. Kelleher took Old Man Peterson and daddy out to lunch. Those were the days when business was conducted over ribeye steaks and a few stiff martinis.
"Let's go to the Purple Panda Club," suggested Mr. Kelleher. My father balked, of course, because he knew all about that place. Topless waitresses fluttering around like gauzy-eyed butterflies, cigarette trays strapped to their waists. Buzz Ward didn't frequent such establishments. His idea of indulgence consisted of a cigar, a snifter of peach brandy, and perhaps a Dodgers game on the radio.
Buzz Ward, however, knew the Peterson Account was the kind of deal that could make or break Mr. Kelleher, so off to the Purple Panda they went. How red daddy's face must have been upon entering that place! I can only imagine his embarrassment. You know, mother was the only girl he ever kissed?
And how red daddy's face must have been when Old Man Peterson pointed his stubby finger to the stage, his turkey neck wattling as he said, "Sweet fancy Moses! Look at the cantaloupes on that dancer!"
"Why that's Sadie," said Mr. Kelleher. "They say that for a ten-spot, she'll take you in the back and do anything you'd like to her."
Lord, look at the time. How about giving me another package of Captain Black before I go? I have to meet with Mr. Phillips from the parole board. Daddy's been in prison for a long time, and I'm sure he misses his pipe tobacco.