A Friend Remembers: Larry Brockston

Drywall
Here’s mud in your eye, Larry Brockston. Hope it’s hanging good in heaven.

By Al Schwartz | Bass Lake Poet Laureate and former postman to Larry

The Quaking Span Not Taken
(For you, Larry)

While walking through a wood one day
with heart so full of could
did happ’n upon your quaking quay
I knew not if I should
take your path as it did lay
and ford the gentle fjord of would.

A fortnight did I stand in awe
the choice I had to span
to stay and never thus to paw
my way across the only ban
keeping me from what I saw
as hope within the fields of can.

Your boards and uprights rotted there
through weather wet and dry
upon my neck did rise the hair
when thinking of your trail to try
and risk my breath my sacred air
the jumble of why not and why.

My mind found peace through quiet bursts
of oppositions overcome
decisions fell in violent firsts
revealing now the pleasant hum
of silence like cooked bratwursts
I took your trail and ditched my thumb.

I delivered letters for 45 years in and around Bass Lake. That’s how I got to know Larry. Every month I dropped off on Larry’s front porch the usual bills and circulars and other unsolicited garbage that makes up 90 percent of the mail in the system. I delivered his Army rejection letter. Most people on my route got things like “Reader’s Digest” and “The Bass Fishing Report.” But Larry was the only person who received and actually read “Drywall Monthly: The Journal of the National Drywall Foundation.” I know this because if it was late he sicced his pomeranians on me.

As it happened my wife Alma and I were remodelling a room in our house and we needed a person skilled in the hanging of gypsum-based wallboard. I said to Alma, “I know of such a man. His name is Larry Brockston.” She thought I said “Brickston” and asked if he was related to Clem Brickston, proprietor  of the Bass Lake  Inn/Convenience Store. I told her no and that she was not alone in making the mistake. We got a good laugh out of that, I can tell you.

So we hired Larry to hang the wallboard and boy did he do a good job. We became friends. Thick as plasterers, we used to joke. Our children played together. (Not his children, mind you. Alma’s and my children.) Our wives played together as well even though he never married.

Larry was a one of a kind guy. They didn’t even use a mold when they made him. His amoeba-like form and personality defied such calcification.

When I retired, Larry cancelled his mail. He said he couldn’t bear another carrier bringing his beloved drywall magazine. Slowly the cloud of gypsum dust around his house settled over the neighborhood and Larry withdrew. The last time I saw him was in Jolly’s Morgue & Donut. He joked that he was picking out a drawer and a donut. Turns out he wasn’t joking.

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