The old man nodded towards the workbench without looking up.
The young boy, mostly skin, bones, and floppy hair, gave the chair maker the inshave. Hands, like knotted leather, whittled the last of the spindles. The old man ran his thumb up and down the thin stalks of red oak, and motioned with his fingers.
With an eager smile, the boy handed him a cut of sandpaper. He remembered when his grand pop split the hardwood log. When he let him sit at the shaving horse, and use the drawknife to shape the belly of a red oak into a captain’s chair––his Christmas chair.
Now many years later, the boy, more stout with age, and hair like fine threads of silver, sat in the chair thinking of the man he called Pop. Denied a father’s love, Pop was the one who came off the bench and saved the game for the boy.
Pop was a hardworking, hard drinking man who had three loves in life: chairs, bottles, and the boy. As if that wasn’t enough, for an outdated model of a man, he was a talker.
Good thing the boy was a listener along with a gift for saying the right thing at the right time––sometimes.
“Pop, you sure make beautiful chairs. The best in the whole world.”
“Don’t make chairs, Tommy, I create them. Like people do people.” His eyes peeked from above the rim of his glasses as he grinned.”
And the boy knew it was time to listen.
“Tommy, now then, don’t chairs have arms, legs, and backs, and…” He laughed loud, and slapped the boy on the backside. “…and rear ends? Why, what would we do without their rear ends,” he said, as if it were an answer instead of a question.
The boy laughed, and said, “I love you, Pop.”
The old man smiled, and said, “Chairs are even better than some people, Tommy. They’ll never run away. Never leave you.”
“Like my dad?” the boy said.
With a slight nod, he took the chair off the work bench, put it on the floor, and said, “Merry Christmas, Tommy.”
The boy eased into it. “Feels great, pop. Gee, thanks.”
The old man gave a tender squeeze of the boy’s shoulder. “Chairs are like companions, eh? You know, for the watching, the reading, and the eating.”
“And learning, like in school. They’re good teachers too, right, Pop?”
“Bosh, Tommy, sure, and like I said, chairs are people.” He winked, “They just can’t hear or see.”
“But what about electric chairs, pop? They kill people.” The boy looked down at the floor, and said, “Like my dad.”
With a distant look in his eyes, the old artisan ran his fingers through the thickness of the boy’s hair, and said, “If he wasn’t in the wrong place, Tommy, then he wouldn’t be in the wrong chair, I suppose.” He put a thumb under the boy’s chin, “Its why I made this chair for you, understand?”
The boy nodded.
“Chairs, Tommy, are also for thinking. Before you go running those streets out there, I want you to take time and sit in this chair and think where your headed. Promise?
The boy looked up and crossed his heart.
Now stout with age and hair like fine threads of silver, the boy crossed his heart one last time, and whispered, “Merry Christmas, Pop.”
I dedicate this page to my Pop.