The Fieldstone Review

QandA

Nick Pincumbe recently didn't sit down with one of his personal heroes, Gregory Pincumbe, and didn't ask him this series of burning questions.

Q: Did you like your haircut?

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Q: I mean, swept to one side like that, dark, progressively graying? It never really changed much. Was that more of a utilitarian thing? I know it was longer when you were young. I've seen the pictures, but that just doesn't look right to me. It was before my time. Did that style stop looking right to you after you cut it? Or is that why you cut it in the first place? Because it had stopped looking right?

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Q: Let's shift topics a bit. Did it annoy you that my best friend is a Republican? And a boisterous Republican no less? Did it grate on you at all when Dubya was re-elected? I can't say as I liked it myself and I know that you were into Poli-Sci, and in your failed attempts to run for office, you were always the liberal candidate. Did you want to save the world? I did. Did you give up on it, like me, while you were still a kid?

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Q: And all those times when we drove two days, in the sweatsock of a red Omni with its perpetual French fry stink and that little plastic bucket we were young enough to pee in without embarrassment when it was too inconvenient to stop, down to Orlando for tromps through the corporate jungle of fake felt mouse ears and unenlightening parades of fairy tale icons in oversized, overstuffed costumes, would you rather have been kayaking on the chocolate mousse smooth lakes of northern Minnesota, not always flat on top but usually easy enough to glide through, or hiking wide canyons in Utah that look like some Ancient God's foot prints? Did you get enough chances to experience the deer and the antelope while you were young enough to give them a good chase? Was my childhood a waste to you? You've never given me a reason to think so, and I'm mostly certain it wasn't a waste to me, but I still wonder. Was your childhood a waste to you? Did you ever look back and wonder? Do you still?

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Q: All right, how about this? What did you talk to your friends about when you were a kid? I've seen you put on that fake smile and make small talk at parties, but it always seems so small—did you think that was your real self, or was the real you the one I saw so many times happily minding your own business reading a book until the book turned into an eye mask and you'd turned into a nap on your favorite recliner?

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Q: And did you ever want to be the guy with the loafer soles propped up on a footrest while you read the Times and puffed on Indian tobacco? Should I have gotten you a smoking jacket, dark blue silk with your monogrammed initials embroidered in silver thread on the front pocket? No, you never smoked and you never subscribed to the Times, preferring the local paper, and I never saw you use a footrest, but would you have liked to sometime? Would you have liked to have, just once, run off to Thailand and collected hookers at five American dollars a piece?

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Q: And who was your crush in first grade? Who was the first girl you kissed? The first girl you loved? The last girl you loved? The first or last or only one you ever dropped a tiny frog or slimy toad or grimy worm down the back of the blouse of? Did you still love your wife after twenty years? After five? Do you still love her now?

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Q: When I was young, did I ever tell you I wanted to become a writer? Did you and your wife ever argue about this, when I was alone in bed at night—my bedroom just below yours—exchanging heated whispers about whether or not to squelch my dream for my own good? Or was it enough for you to remind me that you expected better than A-minuses and that I needed a college degree and things to fall back on? I remember you always said that a lot: Something to "fall back on". Did it embarrass you when I saw your old report cards at your mom and dad's house and let you know I knew that most of the time A-minuses would've been impressive for you? Is that why you mentioned that the nuns graded harder?

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Q: And would you have been embarrassed if I'd ever told you how many times I thought in my moments of fear after bedtime prayers that I would have to fall back on you? Would it have made your cheeks flush red to know that just knowing you were there to fall back on was enough to bring on sleep?

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Q: Did you ever stand in front of the closed door of the dishwasher, blink for a second, and forget who you were or what day or year or reality it was, or what you thought was the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, and feel really broken out of everything for a second or maybe, maybe for a second broken into something beyond anything you'd ever known?

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Q: And when I was born, did you ever think "hey, he kind of reminds me of someone I've seen before"?

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Q: Did you ever like anything I wrote? I saw the books you read—the political thrillers, the nonfiction tomes on history and policy—not quite in the same world as my soft sci-fi and absurd experimentalism. I know sometimes you read them, but I never really got to hear what you thought. What did you think? Was I wrong when I started figuring they just weren't your thing?

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Q: Come to think of it, I can't even remember now if those report cards I saw were from a Catholic school or a public one—which was it? I know you moved around a lot as a kid—is that why you stayed in your last house almost as long as I've been alive? Is that why you spent your career at the place you worked at after college? Is that why you've stayed loyal to your wife?

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Q: Did you know, even as a kid, even as an adult, I could hear you argue? Did you know how many times I took your side in my head before I could remind myself not to take sides? Did you ever think we thought a lot alike? I noticed my sister thinking like you more than once. Did you know that to me, thinking like you always meant being "logical"?

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Q: Did you know I like Batman comic books so much because in a way that grim and silent avenger in the night, who is so often all business, but remains quietly devoted, always getting the job done, is not Bruce Wayne so much as you in my head? And did you think I got obsessively into basketball and football because the sports are that interesting? Did you notice me bringing them up all the times when we ate alone at Boston Market? The Detroit Lions have always sucked and probably always will, but didn't you feel that new free agent acquisitions were better than the silence after how's school, how's work, how are your finances, how long has your car been making that sound?

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Q: Did you ever hear me order something? Like a mushroom and pineapple pizza on the phone or a six-inch roast chicken breast on wheat at a Subway sandwich shop? Did you ever notice, like I did one day, that my formal, “taking care of business” voice, while perhaps not the same pitch, does take on the same tone and inflection I heard so many times in your own?

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Q: What did you tell people about me, at parties? Or even at the office cooler at work? What did you say when they asked how I was doing? Did you ever flip out a wallet with a string of photos as long as your arm detailing all the important birthdays and faux paws of my toddlerhood? Did you ever say you're proud of me? Did you ever tell them how much you worry? Or did you just say I was doing fine, I was down at so-and-so now, doing such-and-such, and leave it at that?

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Q: And what was your favorite book? What was your favorite movie? What was your favorite color? I think I might know that it was green.

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Q: Was your heart ever broken? I know mine was—did you know that? I suppose you must have noticed me, from time to time growing up, as I whined or pined after one girl or another. You never seemed the pining sort to me though – did I strike you as young and foolish or immature and weak? Were you ever young and foolish? Ever immature and weak? Did you understand where my pining was coming from? When I hurt, did you hurt? I could never tell.

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Q: And what did you dream of being when you were growing up? I can't seem to imagine a time before you were well-versed in auto fluid changes and the tax code—did such a time exist? Are those stories of you mopping beer off the floor with your brothers before your parents could get home really true? Were you ever the dreaming sort? I'm a skeptic.

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Q: And did you know that I found a letter you wrote to your daughter, Angela, once? A letter saying what a good job she did of—of all things—reorganizing the linen closet? A letter saying how hard she'd been working at home and at school and how pleased you were with her maturity and her manners and all the rest? Did you know how much your writing was like an office memo? Did you know how many times I read that memo, again and again? How proud you really seemed to be? How proud I felt of her by relation and how proud I felt to know you were a guy who could write such memos?

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Q: Somewhere in that stage where hugs became warm handshakes and "take care", did you forget that I was an overstuffed, oversized version of the little boy that became an airplane when you lifted me by the waist and spun? Or was that kind of info like DVD extras to you? You always went to bed after the movie was over, and it was your wife and Angela and I laughing at the deleted scenes—didn't you like deleted scenes?

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Q: I mean, who doesn't like deleted scenes?

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Q: Maybe you prefer things the simple way? You never seemed like an overly complex man to me, but I could never tell for sure. Did you consider yourself overly complex? Did you have secrets I'll never understand? Things you always wished you'd said?

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Q: Or, things maybe, you wished you'd always said?

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Q: You're not dead, but these are things I know I'll never ask you. Are they things you wanted to ask your father too? Are they things you would have even answered?

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