Where: 517 East 83rd Street , 10028 New York (United States). When: on 24-12-1964.
Written at 02-08-2011 by Thomas Pryor
Labels - Spotless Cleaners Christmas sleigh riding Central Park Nice Jacket where are my Pants? pants
Friday morning, my friends and I mushed over to Central Park towing our sleds through the middle of the street. Milking the day to the last of the light, we rode every hill until our feet froze. Back from the sleigh ride, I plopped down outside my apartment on the hall stairs and began undressing. Mom refused to let me inside the apartment. She, slush and dog poop were mortal enemies. As I worked my top layer off, I heard my father’s familiar step coming up the stairs.
He mumbled to himself, “Damn, I forgot the suit.” Noticing me, his eye focused on my half untied snow boots. “Tommy here’s the ticket, hurry to the cleaners. I need that suit for the wedding.”
“OOOOOOOOOOhhhhhh,” left my mouth as I dramatized the act of rising slowly. “Go!” Dad ordered.
I death marched down the stairs. Dad behind me, “FASTER they’re going to close in 5 minutes.”
When I got there, Joe, the Spotless Cleaners manager was turning off the lights. Smiling with an edge he opened the door. “Come in Tommy, be quick, I want to get out of here.”
Deed done. I earned a slow walk home. A slow meandering trek through every snow pile between the store and my building. Walking deliberately, I was Hannibal’s elephant moving over the Alps, going knee deep with every step. I moved the suit to the back of my pea coat, resting the hanger’s hook on the back of my collar. This left both hands free for better balance. My serpentine trip created desire paths over each snow pile.
Calculated attention paid to each hill stretched my normal five-minute trip home to half an hour. With the satisfaction of a Sherpa’s job well done, I danced a jig and rang the bell in the vestibule harking my return and an incredible urge to pee. Running up the stairs, Dad greeted me at the door, “Where the hell were you?”
I said nothing, smirked and turned my back, offering Dad his suit from its resting-place on the nape of my neck. I ran into the bathroom, worked off my jeans, long johns, and two pairs of underwear just in time.
When I stepped back into the kitchen. Dad met me face to face at the bathroom door holding up the suit.
“Nice jacket. Where are my pants?”
“Huh,” I mumbled.
“My pants, where are my pants?”
A clothes hanger never had as thorough an examination as the one I put that hanger through. The pants were not on it, in it; on top it, under it. There were no pants. The jacket, the jacket was good. Two sleeves, pressed cleaned, all that. But the pants, the pants made no appearance despite multiple prayers under my breath. I was the baffled volunteer from the audience looking for the rabbit in the hat and finding it unbelievable it was gone.
Dad put his slacks on and said, “Let’s go.”
Down to Hades we descended, third floor, second floor, first floor, no pants. Hallway, no pants. Down the building’s front steps, no pants.
Dad, “So which way did you walk exactly?”
This is where it got tricky. I set a new record for a dramatic pause. My mouth agape, he asked again, “Exactly - where - did - you - walk?
Words failed me. I didn’t even try. I owned too many fruitless experiences responding to similar requests from my father. Trying to answer unanswerable questions, to even begin thinking about opening my mouth. Left with nothing to say I showed him my exact path. Every nuance. Every turn. Every double step. At one point, I did the cha-cha one up, two back, one up. I was possessed. I mirrored my entire walk never measuring how pissed off my path of greatest resistance home was making him. When Dad and I had these special moments an eerie stillness set in. No yelling, no accusations. Only the ‘look’ with sharp orders.
“Stop.” “Go left.” “Here?” “Are you sure you weren’t under any cars?”
Hill after hill we climbed toward the avenue, policing the grounds. Despite the fact, Dad’s pants were charcoal and the streets contained nothing but white snow, he insisted we walk very slowly. You couldn’t miss ‘em.
The cleaners were closed.
Walking back to our building, same story. Every hill walked serpentine with the look and the short barked orders. After one last look under the car directly in front of the house, we entered the lobby and began our ascent to Hades, second floor, third floor, fourth floor, into the apartment. Passing through the door, Dad gave Mom the look and then me one more look for good luck. He went directly over to his jacket on the hanger with the plastic still on it. Dad held it up – then draped it over his arm. Together they resembled Michelangelo’s Pieta. I think he was saying goodbye. It might have been my imagination, but I thought I saw him talk to the jacket.
“We have closed many bars together, old friend.” Dad sighed, “I will miss the way the secretary at Pepsi looked at you, on me, when we did our sales calls.”
Dad said no more about the suit.
Two weeks later, I’m playing in front of my house and Dad comes walking up the street. Getting closer, I see he has on a charcoal jacket.
Oh God, I’m thinking, he bought the same suit again. Not good.
“Hi Dad, is that the suit. It looks great. Did you buy it again?”
“Nope, same suit.” Dad said with a smile, “Every suit comes with two pairs of pants.”
(Previously published in A Prairie Home Companion)