backhand stories the creative writing blog

I wish there were giants. Real, human giants. You know. Twelve feet tall.

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I was watching a program on the history channel the other night and a gentleman was showing his magnificent collection of antique guns and swords. He was most proud of a sword from the 19th century that had been made for a man described as “a lighthouse among lamp posts.” The sword was so long that the six foot tall collector couldn’t unsheathe it in one pull. It had belonged to a Kentuckian that was seven feet, nine inches tall. I would very much like to have been that man’s friend.

I am a non-hugger and I come from a long line of non-huggers. Growing up, I think the hugging stopped when I was five or six years old. Today, when I visit my mother, we hug, but I have to tell you, she’s so tiny and frail that I’m afraid to hug her with much enthusiasm. I find it very unsatisfying as hugs go, and I don’t think she gets much out of it either.

When I was very young I used to love her hugs She’d stoop down, wrap both arms around my waist, and hoist me up with a dramatic groan. Then she’d slip an arm under my bottom and I’d fall into her, my tiny, chubby arms around her neck and my face buried into the top of her cotton dress. I have a sense of that memory at least. Maybe more like a memory of a memory, but complete with the smell of her perfume and the warmth of her skin.

My father was, even by grownup standards, a mountain of a man. He was almost six feet tall and well over 200 pounds, wooly and musky, thunderous and jolly. His hugs I do remember directly. He’d stick his huge hands in the pits of my arms and in one effortless move toss me straight up like a rocket, and then catch me with his arms wrapped around my legs on the way down. My belly was always bare and he’d munch and growl and scratch me with his stubbly beard and I’d howl with delight. He laughed so freely and hugged so well. I think he hugged me for several years after my mother stopped.

What I miss the most about my father’s hugs is the way he smelled. It was a musky, smoky…well, manly smell. It has always been for me the manly smell. I have the same smell, but I rarely catch the odor on myself. Sometimes, in the car on the way to work, I’ll light a cigarette and just for one breath, I’ll catch it: My father’s smell. It’s not just the cigarette. It’s something more. It’s the way the smoke blends with my natural odor and it always makes me think of him. And it always makes me miss him.

It’s been many years since I had a satisfying hug like dad’s. That’s why I wish there were giants.

Like that Kentuckian. Men and women of such height and strength that they can take adults like me and hug us like little children. A man about twelve feet tall and stocky, unshaven and wearing a flannel shirt. He could toss me up and plop me down on his knee facing him, bounce me around a while and make me giggle. “Ride ‘em horsie, down-town. Look out, little boy, you fall doooooown!” He’d grab my wrists and fling me backwards until the top of my head bumped gently on the floor, and I’d giggle wildly. I don’t giggle enough these days. Then he’d pull me into a great smothering hug and I’d just grin and breathe in the manly smell.

A woman, ten feet tall and full-bosomed, wearing a cotton dress, could pull me to her with soft, flabby arms. She could put one hand on the back of my head and push my face into her neck. Her long, full hair could cascade across my face and tickle my nose as I nuzzle in and she could sing in a whisper some old song about her baby boy. And I could close my eyes and go to sleep, completely surrounded by security and love; safe at last. I’d pay good money to sleep like that again.

I’ve never been afraid of giants. The giants I knew in my youth always made me feel special. They always made me feel loved and protected. The giants of my youth, now, as much as then, still make me giggle. I really, really wish there were giants today.

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