When I go to sleep, I play camping sounds on my phone.
Crickets, a crackling fire, owls, and frogs fill the air.
It helps me to dream of when we’d go camping long ago.
Back at Crystal Lake.
Yeah, there was this Jason kid that we harassed and drove into a homicidal fury. He put on a hockey mask and chopped up a bunch of hot teens.
Thank goodness I was a pimply nerd back then. Jason just passed me by without a single look. Dude just snickered. Jerk.
I still came down with poison ivy. Man, did that suck.
Fred and Joey do car maintenance together. They just don’t do a good job of it.
Sure, they offer a money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with their work, but the odds are that you won’t collect on that.
The county’s got a lot of hills and ravines, and if your brakes fail, you’re pretty much a goner whether you’ve got your seatbelt on, or those fancy new airbags going off.
Joey thought Fred was stealing from him. And Fred thought the same as Joey.
Both ended up wrecked in the bottom of Smith’s Gulch, money burning in their pockets.
I never liked green beans. They always made me feel sick.
“I made them, and you’ll goddamned well them!” my mother would shout at me. “They’re good for you.”
“No they’re not!” I’d shout back, and throw up.
Things got nasty as I got older. Then one day, I couldn’t take it anymore. The cops came and found me standing over Mom’s body, screaming and still holding the knife.
The doctors checked me out, head to toe.
“You’re allergic to green beans,” they said. “Clearly a case of child abuse.”
Insanity, schmanity. I was not guilty by reason of allergy.
The judge gave me community service.
So, I’m serving the community in the old folks home.
Cleaning bedpans, washing towels and sheets.
People who have nothing better to do than sit, wait, and pray.
They tell you their stories.
We met in school.
He had the coolest hat.
I’d just come back from the war.
Sometimes, it’s not so nice.
He hit me.
He brought this on himself.
And now they wait. They feel guilty for needing to go home to shower. Or sleep.
I do too, because whatever they leave behind, I’m bringing to the pawn shop.
As I drove through the parking lot, I saw a black cat with yellow eyes and no collar streak from one car to the next.
I know that it wasn’t Bruwyn; he is gone forever. But Bruwyn was a feral kitten, and any black cat I see on the loose is probably a relative of his.
I parked, got out the cat treats, and poured a few out on the curb. Hissing and staring, the cat crept up and ate a few, then ran off again.
If I cannot have my lost son, at least I can honor his family.
I was there when Babe Ruth died.
Thin and frail, there in is bed.
He could barely speak. Barely breathe.
There were boxes of Cuban cigars piled up in the hall, unopened.
Cases of whiskey and bourbon and so much beer, stacked up in the garage.
He could barely speak. Barely breathe.
But he managed to say “Good to see you.”
And it was. It was good to see me.
“One last thing,” I said, and I set aside my scythe.
I got out a card, his rookie season card, and a pen.
He was too weak to sign it.
Do you remember Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood?
Whatever happened to it?
No, not the show. The neighborhood.
He lived near so many interesting people and places.
I guess they all moved away or closed down when Mr. Rogers died.
The local economy went into decline, and the tax base shrunk.
Trolley service had to be cut, which cut off The Land Of Make Believe.
King Friday drained the royal treasury, but to no avail.
Their factory was shut down, and the museum was closed.
I heard there was some kind of revolution there.
But who gives a crap about stupid puppets?
I warned my daughter never to date a guy named Otis.
“You’ll see his name in every elevator. If it doesn’t work out, it’ll drive you crazy.”
“Oh Daddy,” she said. “Don’t worry about me.”
Not only did she not heed my warning, but her Otis had a last name of Ford.
Every Otis elevator…
Every Ford vehicle…
She was a goddamned mess all the time.
She wound up having to flee to some backwards country without elevators or cars.
I send her letters, but she doesn’t answer them.
I’ll just let her be. Time heals everything, right?
Another cemetery walk, her and me.
The preacher said that it’s not the numbers on the stone that matter, but what we put into that dash.
I think he’s wrong about that dash. What matters is the name.
You get that name for only so long. As long as that dash, the preacher says.
But barring an incident or bad workmanship, the stone gets that name for longer than you do.
We walk along the path, reading names.
Getrude… Rosemary… Eunice…
“Betty?” I ask.
She thinks. “No,” she says.
We’ll take a different route tomorrow, unless her water breaks first.
The university built a stadium for a hundred thousand, and DeWayne filled it every game he started.
Brought back 2 championships, too.
He said he wanted to go pro early, and the university said they wanted one more year.
“Or do you want your tutors to talk?”
He stayed another year.
They handed him a degree in finance, but when his pro days were over, he had to declare bankruptcy.
Cars. Jewelry. Houses. Child support. A crooked advisor.
It all brought him down.
What his entourage didn’t steal, the IRS locked up.
He coaches his high school now.