The Cub Scout
All my friends are moving up to Boy Scouts
but my mother doesn’t think I’ll make it
and how could I anyway with a father like mine,
as dumb as they come, he can’t even spell the word camping.
She challenges him to teach me the basic knots
so we study the illustrations in the handbook
nights after he gets home from the butcher shop,
those big hands that cut up sides of beef
unsure whether the rope goes over or under the loop.
At the Scoutmaster’s, we sit around
his formica kitchen table, the fluorescent light
flickering, and I can see my father
begin to sweat as the man pulls out the small rope,
my father already thinking of the words he will use
to haggle with the man when I can’t tie the knots,
the way he haggles with customers who complain
the meat is too expensive, or he put his finger
on the scale while weighing the pastrami.
When we get home, my mother is waiting at the front door
and I think now how I was conditioned to be loved too much
by women with as much self-contempt as she had.