Flavor Town USA: Kip Knott
Sometimes Clay can’t believe he still lives in the house he grew up in. His dad still lives there, too. Clay and his dad have been hearing a strange sound in the house for well over a month now. They hear it in the morning as they guzzle cups of Taster’s Choice and nosh on microwaved Jimmy Dean’s. They hear it in the afternoon when they tear into Steak-umm sandwiches smothered in ketchup. They hear it in the evening when they slice up a pepperoni Tombstone for dinner. Clay thinks it sounds like death.
“How the hell do you know what death sounds like?” That’s Clay’s dad talking.
“From TV.” That’s Clay.
“You can’t know what death sounds like from the damn TV.” Clay’s dad changes the channel to Matlock.
After his dad goes to bed, Clay takes a flashlight and looks for the sound. He looks everywhere except the basement, where his dad sleeps to keep cool in the Chicago summer. He even looks in the attic, the hottest place in the house. After an hour, he gives up and goes to bed.
Clay dreams about looking for the sound in the crawlspace. It’s dark and spidery in the crawlspace, but Clay’s not afraid because in his dream the sound sounds familiar, like rain. No. Not rain. More like prayers. No. Not quite prayers, either. Bacon frying. It sounds like bacon frying, which makes Clay think of his mother and the home-cooked Sunday breakfasts of bacon, eggs, pancakes, hash browns, coffee cake, and fresh squeezed orange juice she would make when he was a kid.
“It sounds like bacon frying.” Clay and his dad share cold pizza for breakfast.
“No. That’s a damn good sound.” Clay’s dad gets pizza sauce in his beard.
“You’re right.” Clay pulls his mom’s blue-and-white gingham apron off the side of the refrigerator where she left it and throws it at his dad to wipe off his beard.
Later that day, Clay and his dad eat Steak-umms and watch a double-header. During the seventh inning stretch of game one, Clay hears the sound. Clay’s dad plugs his ears and sings “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” along with the crowd.
Clay’s team loses the first game after extra innings. He goes to his room for a snooze before the next game starts. He dreams of the piercing pings of a hammer striking an anvil, something he heard once on an old cowboy TV show.
Clay and his dad split a Tombstone for dinner. Clay’s dad dips his slices in blue cheese dressing.
“It sounds like a hammer hitting an anvil.”
“No. Your grandpa was a blacksmith. I sure as hell would know that sound.”
Clay’s team loses the second game, too, and Clay stomps upstairs to bed. Clay dreams he’s walking in a field of tiny bells like the ones in his mother’s collection behind the glass doors of the curio cabinet beside the TV. Every step he takes rings out crisp and clear before it dies off in the distance.
Clay and his dad spend the next day eating Easy Cheese straight from the can while binge-watching episodes of The Galloping Gourmet from the early 70s.
“I used to watch this with Mom.”
“What the hell’s for dinner?” Clay’s dad gets impatient for dinner whenever the clock hits six.
“We’re all out of everything. No Taster’s Choice. No Jimmy Dean’s. No Steak-umms. No Tombstones.”
“Then you better damn well find something to cook.”
“You know I can’t cook.”
“Your mother. Damn. That’s right.” Clay’s dad has been getting more forgetful this last month.
“Yes. Mom.” Clay hands the can of Easy Cheese to his dad.
“Guess it’ll have to be take-out then, dammit.” Clay’s dad shoots some cheese into his mouth and tosses the phone at Clay.
Clay picks up the phone and presses the call button. He listens to the sob of the dial tone.
Kip Knott is a writer, photographer, teacher, and part-time art dealer living in Delaware, Ohio. His debut collection of stories, Some Birds Nest in Broken Branches (Alien Buddha Press), is available on Amazon. He spends most of his spare time traveling throughout Appalachia and the Midwest taking photographs and searching for lost art treasures. You can follow him on Twitter at @kip_knott and read more of his work at kipknott.com.