Squirrels and Shorts

I came home from work one day to find Dad sitting in the old recliner on the front porch. Yep, we were those people. The people with indoor furniture, outside.

Anyway, Dad was mentally ill, about fifty-eight, with bad health, and a full head of gray hair. He’d worked hard all his life and ate accordingly. When he stopped working, he did not stop eating and as a consequence gained an impressive beer belly. It was so impressive that I asked him one day what it was like to swallow a beach ball.

He was on the porch in that old recliner in a pair of shorts and no shirt. He had his fuzzy, gray haired chest and beer belly exposed in a way I don’t think they ever should have been. I realized as I climbed the stairs that Dad didn’t own shorts. I eyed the ‘shorts.’

He noticed. “What?”

“What did you do to your pants?” I asked. I could feel myself squinting and my lip was curling.

Dad looked down in confusion. “I cut them off.”

“With an ax?” I asked.

He laughed. “No, with scissors.”

“Were they dull?”

He was beginning to get annoyed with the interrogation. “No, not really. Why?”

I looked at his face. He had to be joking. “Why?”

“Yeah, what’s wrong with my shorts?”

The mutilated jeans were made of light blue denim. The legs were cut off in a jagged mess that resulted in fraying and long, white strings hanging down his pale, hairy legs.

“You didn’t cut them straight across,” I said. “Were you wearing them when you did it?”

“Oh, they’re not that bad.”

Yes, they were that bad, but I let it go and headed into the house. He stood up to follow me and I stopped, staring at the ‘shorts.’

“What?” he asked, again.

“Why is one leg four inches longer than the other?”

“They are not,” he said, trying to look down and around his hairy belly.

“Yes they are. One comes mid thigh . . . sort of,” I said, knowing he couldn’t see around his gut. “The other hits your knee in front and goes up three inches in the back.”

“They’re not that bad.”

“Yes, they are, Dad,” I said, shaking my head. I went in the house with him following me. “Mom did you see what he did to his pants?”

She didn’t say anything, just looked pained and kept working on whatever it was she was doing.

“They don’t look that bad,” Dad insisted.

To us the shorts looked like they had been gnawed on by a bunch of rabid squirrels. To him, they were just shorts.