I knew about the wallet.
The wallet had been there for years, just inside the door, in a drawer nobody much used. There was a key drawer above it, but underneath was the stuck drawer, and in it was the wallet, and in the wallet was $2, 627. I knew about that. The keys – well, they were just keys, and maybe there was nothing to make of the way they were sewn into a little bag with some magnets and then hooked to the bottom of the car. I wouldn’t have noticed them at all, except that Dad always had to hook them off the undercarriage before he took the car in for service. If they put it on a lift, the keys would have been pretty obvious, so he slid down on the cement and retrieved them when he thought no one was looking. So that was the keys.
The glasses were a more serious thing, and I didn’t know what to make of them. I found them about a year ago. I was back in the work room off the garage, and there was a big silver suitcase under the bench. The kind you see in movies full of the ransom money, or drugs. It was locked, but I was feeling pretty nosey, and a little resentful about having to come out to Dad’s anyway to do routine maintenance that he could have paid anyone to do. It didn’t really call for my skills. So I got the keys from under the car when I thought he wasn’t looking and opened the suitcase. Twenty-seven pairs of glasses, neatly in rows. It must have been an optometrist’s sample case, ‘cause the foam was cut to nestle each pair securely, but so you could see the designs. They were pretty stylish glasses – some with dark lenses, some with funky plastic frames, some that looked like they belonged to a pharmacist in the ‘70s. Not a fun drug pharmacist, I mean a guy who sold enema packs, and valium. I checked, and they all had the same prescription, more or less.
I wanted to put the keys back under the car, but I’d opened the thread on the little bag, and I really didn’t want the keys to spill out. There were a bunch of those tiny mighty magnets in the bag, and the keys did stick to them, but I was still worried about it so I started to root around for fresh thread. Oh no, I really needed the same thread, ‘cause otherwise he’d see that I’d opened the bag. I was digging way back now, behind the workbench, where Mom’s old sewing stuff was stored. She’d been a quilter, my Mom, and won some prizes, but mostly her quilts were for sleeping under. Anyway, that’s when I opened an oversized fishing tackle box, like the ones she used for threads and notions, and found the lederhosen.
They were really old, the leather was worn and polished, the seat was bent and shiny from use. They were man-sized. In fact, they were Dad-sized. And they were wrapped in fresh tissue paper, almost uncrinkled, it was so fresh. They had just been put there.
Really, upon reflection, I’d never considered the keys and the wallet and the glasses together. They were just separate manifestations of my odd Dad. He was always a kind of a strange man, secretive in his comings and goings. I’d asked him if he had a second family somewhere, once, after Mom died, but he said no. He didn’t even smile funny, or choke, so I believed him, but he had something. Something else. When I saw the Lederhosen, everything came rushing together, and I thought I knew what it was.
Forgetting about his clogged gutters and the bit of wainscotting that had come loose, I knew what I had to do. I began to search for the missing item, the one thing I needed to prove my thesis and, well, really, to know my Dad. I had to find the guitar.
Dad had never played guitar. He picked at the piano, but the piano was Mom’s. He sang cheerfully enough when we were doing Christmas carols, or it was somebody’s birthday. If he had the guitar, if he played the guitar, then the jig was up. I had to find it.
It took me a week. I came every day, first using the chores he’d asked me to do as my excuse, and then I told him my water was turned off while they replaced the mains. That bought me three more days. I went through every box and bag, every corner of every room. Finally I came to him. He was sitting at his desk, pushed back, and pushed back in his chair as well. He looked like The Godfather. “I suppose you’ve come because you are looking for the guitar, and you cannot find it, ” he said. I had never seen his jaw look so heavy.
“Yeah, Dad. Where is the guitar?”
“It’s here. You just don’t know where, … no, you don’t know how to look.”
“So? Where is it?”
“You call yourself my son, but what are you? I’ve never seen you make one good thing happen.”
“Um, Dad, don’t go all tragic chorus on me.”
“What do you care? It’s my guitar.”
He was right, of course. It was his guitar. And when he made his escape, using the keys which opened the valise, but also how many other things? It was a lot of keys. Maybe a chalet? Maybe a modern loft in a tony San Francisco neighborhood, or some Barcelona riverboat. When he made his escape he could be anyone, anyone at all. He didn’t have to be my dad. He was a man with a guitar.
“I’d still like to know. I like guitars,” I said at last.
“It’s hidden in your mother’s piano. Like my musical genius was hidden in your mother. It’s a symbol.”
I went to the piano and opened the top, and there it was, resting gently on the strings. Even resting gently, I thought, that’s bound to mess up the tuning.
Leslie Ingham is a founding member of the Portuguese Artists Colony.
The Portuguese are not noted for their lederhosen.
She is currently at work on a novel.
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