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Humor Essays

Knock Wood

by (author) Steve Persico

Porcupine's Quill
Initial publish date
Apr 2023
Essays, Personal Memoirs
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2023
    List Price

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Steve Persico's Knock Wood is a hysterical peek inside the mind of an inveterate catastrophizer and an ode to the family foibles that make us the anxious, reckless, bizarre-and beloved-basket cases we all are, deep down.

About the author

Steve Persico is an ad writer turned chief creative officer at one of the world's largest ad agencies. He has published exciting billboards for dental floss and TV ads for dryer sheets and now he's turned his attention to writing something that doesn't need a jingle. He lives in Toronto.

Steve Persico's profile page

Excerpt: Knock Wood (by (author) Steve Persico)

From 'What's That Smell?'

My father has theories. One being, a mug of boiled wine cures all ailments found in all medical journals. Another, wearing a baseball cap too low on your head will nudge your ears outward and over time they'll grow to be stuck that silly way. More? He believes a steak cooked below charred will give you mad cow disease. When in a foreign land, a wallet is safest from pick-pocketers if tucked into your sock. He often lectures on the dangerous combination of large-looped shoelaces and escalators, the perils of unwashed fruit and, the invisible killer, cold air drafts. When I was six, I feared walking by windows in the winter more than I did strange men in long coats who hung around parks.

When he doesn't have a philosophy on a subject, my dad adopts them from others-provided they're just as ridiculous as his own.

'Rub fresh garlic on the bald spots,' John the Barber told him during one haircut.

At the age of eight, my receding hairline wasn't male pattern baldness. It was alopecia. Halfway into the third grade I started shedding McNugget-size, and shape, clusters of beautiful brown hair. By the time I graduated grade school the bare patches began unification, forming territories the magnitude of hamburger patties.

'Nothing to worry about.' John the Barber paused from snipping to continue his lesson with my father. With four fingers pinching a black comb and a raised bejewelled pinky, he modelled small concentrated scrubbing circles in the air. 'Every night, just like this. You see. Garlic. Garlic. Garlic.' You see was his way of saying of course I'm right before he'd ever been validated. It often punctuated wild opinions about Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the Toronto Maple Leafs or something about Indian people moving north from the city into the suburb of Richmond Hill.

My father must have thought John the Barber earned a degree in the healing powers of backyard vegetable gardens between giving mushroom haircuts and straight razor shaves-he certainly wasn't preoccupied with replacing the sun-faded photos of perms taped to the front window of the shop.

That afternoon, my nonna sat me down in the middle of the kitchen and pulverized halved garlic gloves into my head. She rocked back and forth to work the stinging sensation deep into the five layers of my scalp. I watched the Virgin Mary that hung from her neck dance around her floral shirt and occasionally smack me between the eyes. I went to school for two months smelling like a 60-pound Little Caesars breadstick with not a single new strand to show off. Most kids got a lollipop from their barber; I got a complex.

[Continued in Knock Wood...]