Uncle Murs was the sort of fellow who you couldn’t help but like, even if you might not know why. Ma said he was always worse than broke – he owed folks money. He’d make promises, but when the day came to pay up, he would just shrug his shoulders and pull out his pockets, showing you nothing but holes. But he’d smile at you under his lopsided mustache, and you couldn’t help but pat him on the shoulder of his moth eaten coat and buy him a sandwich and something to drink.
Oh, he meant well, alright. He wasn’t a deadbeat. Uncle Murs just had trouble holding down a job, is all. When Uncle Murs was working construction, some sound took him by surprise, and it made him drop his drill. That smashed up the boards he was standing on, and then he fell down nearly a whole building, banging into steel beams all the way down. When he barely came out with a scratch on him, Ma said he’s the type of fellow who’s held together by rubber bands and foolishness.
I knew better. I saw Uncle Murs once without his shirt on. It was one of the times he was staying in the guest room, and he was just sitting on the bed, staring at a shirt he wore when he was in Europe. He looked like a regular joe, just with some darker stripes of skin covering parts of his back. I figured those were what held him together.
Uncle Murs caught me watching, too, but he just smiled. He said, since he didn’t have any kids, I could have that shirt with the ribbons on it. Uncle Murs said, “You can give it to your son someday, and he can show it in history class, and they’ll say, ‘Well, isn’t that something?’ Because by then there’ll be no more war, not since that big one your Uncle Murs was in.”
I kept the shirt ever since that day, but I never wore it, because there are a bunch of holes in the back. They never seemed to bother Uncle Murs. I guess he didn’t mind people seeing what held him together.