Gerry's beard was on fire again. Battling furiously with his free hand, his grease-soaked glove caught on fire also. Dancing excitedly from foot to foot, he threw down the torch, pulled his other glove off with his teeth and used it to put out the flames. Curious grooming ritual I thought, hurrying over to make sure he was all right.
"Happens all the time," Gerry said as he checked out the torch.
"You really shouldn't use paint thinner to clean your beard," I laughed softly.
"Only thing that will get the paint out," Gerry shrugged apathetically.
I first met Harold and Gerald, the Brothers, while working on my fathers pull tractor. Gerry's stomach protruded comically below his Mickey Mouse T-shirt. Thick black hair almost hiding his belly button, he scratched himself idly while his other hand hovered near his mouth. Occasionally he would pull his hand away from his mouth to spit out pieces of match-stick with a soft pht! pht! sound. While he didn't look clean, he certainly smelled better than Harry. Thinner and clean shaven, Harry seemed to have at least two cigarettes lit at all times. Gesturing expansively with his free hand, he talked quickly and softly in a serious way, contradicting his shabby appearance.
"Well you see it's not really that easy, You've got to do a lot of planning before welding anything onto the frame you know. Don't want a bunch of extra shit hanging off the frame. Got to watch the weight. The stale fetid smell of sweat emanating from his body exceeded that of any locker room I have had the displeasure of being in. Looking over the two men, I judged Gerry weighs at least 250 pounds, much heavier than Harry.
"Who's driving?" I asked in jest.
"Gerry is," Harry said pointing in his general direction.
Turning a striking shade of red, Gerry bashfully beamed a smile only a mother could love.
"Are you sure they left?" my father asked, one hand waved in front of his nose. "I think I can still smell them."
We laughed heartily.
"Why do they call them the Brothers?" I asked.
"They're twins; they do everything together so we just use one word for them, the Brothers.
The Brothers lived in a small one bedroom house. The front door, not functional unless one carries a machete, was overgrown by lilac bushes. Finishing their T.V. dinners as they watched television, they had their shoes off. The pungent aroma burned my nostrils. I accepted a cigarette to block out the smell. Through the open bedroom door, I could see only one bed with two pillows on it. Looking around curiously, I didn't see any place else to sleep.
"I thought I might be able to take a look at your tractor. How are you guys coming?" I asked hopefully.
"Well," Harry said with a peculiar drawn out whine, "I don't know that there's much to look at, yet."
Putting on his shoes and taking the keys from the cluttered coffee table, Gerry gestured for me to follow. Passing the bathroom on the way out of the house, I noticed that it was a uniform greasy gray color except for the bath tub which shone white.
Watching the Brothers work, I gained an insight of how much they relied on each other. Harry would spend hours painstakingly preparing each part to be welded onto the tractor. Each brace gusset or lever was drilled full of lightening holes, made from aluminum, or both. As Gerry welded, Harry would hover above him criticizing his every move.
"Why don't you just have Harry drive?" I asked, fascinated about the extremes they were taking to meet the maximum weight rule for the "B" mini pull tractor class, which they intended to compete in.
"Harry don't drive." Gerry said. Harry suddenly shut up and stared at his feet. Slightly embarrassed, I let the subject drop.
Although many people will judge Gerry by his slovenly appearance and seeming lack of intelligence, I have slowly learned to respect his honesty and child-like innocence. Open and caring, he would never harm another person knowingly. Overlooking their general appearance, I now wait for these qualities to shine through the outer facade of the people whom I meet. No one has passed my tests of time as well Gerald Kopp, a man I will always admire.