TAILOR MADE HERO
When I grow up, I’m not going
to be like dad. No way. I’m not going to have bushy sideburns or freaky round granny glasses. I’ll be cool and
Dad owns his own shop. Everyone from
everywhere comes to my dad for a new suit. Everyone. Even the mayor. My dad saw the mayor in his underwear. That’s creepy,
but I guess it’s part of his job. Dad makes everyone’s suit fit perfect. Even dead guys. That’s creepier.
Why do dead guys need a new suit?
Anyway, dad’s shop is all wavy
carpet and fake wood and Frank Sinatra. So not cool. Everyplace are racks stuffed with clothes made by other people that dad
changes to fit his customers. I’m not going to change other people’s clothes. I’m going to design my own
clothes and be a famous designer like John Rocha. Not like dad.
Dad and his assistant, Mr. Yeger,
were in the office at the back of the shop. Dad’s office was dinky with no windows and a big fat steel desk and a teeny
tiny safe full of pictures and thread bobbins and old letters but no money. Dad’s office smelled like Band-Aids and
Dad and Mr. Yeger were sifting through
a mound of pink invoices, but they stopped when I entered. Mr. Yeger gave me a half-wave and scurried out. Dad sat in his
broken chair and smiled at me. I knew that smile. I didn’t like it.
he said, “I’m going to the Garment District next week. So, while I’m gone, it’s up to you to continue
the family tradition. I think you’re old enough, and Mr. Yeger will be here.”
Every year, dad has a special sale.
For every suit he sells, he donates one suit for the homeless men at the Rescue Mission so they can go on job interviews.
Dad was asking me to go and measure the men for their new suits.
“No, dad! Send Mr. Yeger to
New York, he knows what to buy for the store. You stay and
do the Mission. That’s your thing, not mine.”
Dad leaned forward; invoices spilled
onto the floor. “For seventy-five years,” he said, “this has been our thing. Your great grandfather, know
who he was?”
“He was Brandon,” I mumbled to the floor, “like me.”
Dad nodded. “During the Great
Depression, lots of good men were out of work. Your great grandfather helped them. That is your legacy.”
Not cool. I stomped my foot, “Legacy?
Grandma says they were poor when she was little, because great grandpa gave everything away. For supper she only had a boiled
egg. She slept in her winter coat because there was no heat. They were bankrupt.”
I waited for dad to holler. Instead,
he leaned back in his chair and tugged his sideburns. The chair groaned and tilted and dad lurched forward. He spread his
arms like he was going to hug the mannequin propped against his desk. “True,” he said, “they were bankrupt.
But the shop is still here. You have food. You have heat. You even have an Xbox. Why do you suppose that is, Brandon?”
“Well, then,” dad said,
“I expect you will find out why next week.”
Dad smiled. A good smile, not the
The next week, before he left for
Manhattan, dad picked me up from school in his rusted Dodge
van with the words “McClennan & Son Clothier” stenciled on the side. I cringed. Why wasn’t he embarrassed?
When I grow up, I’ll ride in the back of a limo.
I slipped into the passenger seat.
“Tomorrow is Suit Day,”
“My friend Ron says those guys
are all druggies and thieves and bums,” I said.
Dad’s round face scrunched
behind his granny glasses. He looked like Dr. Bunsen Honeydew from the Muppets.
“Can we just go, please?”
“Listen to me, Brandon," Dad
said, "some of the men may have scars or tattoos or no teeth or smell bad, but don’t look at that. Look in their eyes,
Brandon, because they are people, too. Understand?”
I didn’t understand. What did
this have to do with my becoming a famous designer?
The next day, Mr. Yeger and I marched
into the Rescue Mission, armed with a tailor’s tape and a clipboard. There were at least fifty men there, sitting on
their beds, waiting for us.
The first man stood, stripped off
his hoodie and looked down at the floor, the way I did when dad lectured me. His back was scraped and bruised. His fingernails
were long and yellow. I began to measure him and he gently squeezed my shoulder. Mr. Yeger looked scared.
The man said, “I used to have
a son just like you.”
I said, “Well, I hope you get
a job real soon.”
Then the man did something weird.
He started to cry, with everyone watching, and he hugged me. The hair on his face scratched my cheek. He whispered, “Your
dad is a great man.”
I looked into his eyes. He smiled.
Know what? I’m going to be
just like my dad when I grow up.
without the sideburns.
©2008 Lou DiGiuseppe