Home > Musings of a Decorative Ham Man > Musings of a Decorative Ham Man

Musings of a Decorative Ham Man

By Chris Vitiello

By Chris Vitiello

The only grocer in my tiny childhood village was an aged man who operated a small corner store that was often bereft of useful items. The name on the sign was “H.W. Yeast and Sons” but everyone referred to the man as “Old Yeast”.

Dad would say, “Go up to Old Yeast’s and see if he has any hangers. We never have enough hangers in this house. Look at all the clothes that just sit around in torn boxes.” He would hand me some money then and go back to watching small motel girl wrestling on a little television propped up by a phone book.

I would walk up the big hill, past the cramped avenue of derelict shops and houses and finally arrive at Old Yeast’s. There were always a series of wooden boxes out front with a selection of desiccated fruits and vegetables thrown in for effect.

The door had an old cowbell that rang unnaturally loud and then you would wait awhile in the dusty haze until Old Yeast suddenly appeared. It was always a most uncanny entrance for there was no further room from which the little man could emerge and there was no back door. I would always keep my eyes focused directly on the dim area behind the counter but invariably I would be distracted by something– some canned good perhaps or a poorly-presented display case chuck and suddenly the strange figure would be before me in his blood-stained waist apron, immaculate white shirt and short black tie.

“You have not corralled your wardrobe properly,” he said, on that particular day. “You require hangers”.

I could not speak. Old Yeast had read my mind.

“I admire an organized man,” said Old Yeast. “A man who can get dressed in the morning with minimal effort. A series of brisk, yet controlled movements. Only a mongrel would dress out of cardboard boxes.”

He mused on this.

“When the necessary elimination comes, only the organized will survive.”

I stared at a suddenly animated pinwheel sticking out of a tall barrel.

“Dad wants…the hangers,” I said, extending a crumpled bill.

“Oh, yes, well I don’t have any. I haven’t had hangers in years. They’re on order.” And suddenly Old Yeast seemed to disappear. I could no longer locate him in the dim area behind the counter and he did not respond to my calls.

A fog suddenly crept in and it became even darker in the dim shop. I left and walked back down the hill to the disused train station and the lichen-covered stone walls. To my amazement, Old Yeast suddenly appeared before me.

“Can you envision a sort of fierce, uncompromising train that would come along here?” he asked. He stared at the tracks above, a line long out of service. He was patently younger. “This would be a train that would have no earthy destination,” he said again.

“Do you mean…it would be…it would go to the moon?” I asked, nervously.

“No,” Old Yeast said softly. “Space does not exist. I mean a train that would travel to some inner world destination. Some sort of nether region. I don’t really care for groceries.”

The latter comment seemed an afterthought.

We waited by the station for some time. Rain began to fall. I grew agitated. I knew that Dad would be expecting hangers. Or perhaps not. He was a forgetful sort of man.

“It will come,” Old Yeast assured me.

I have forgotten how the day ended.

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