Authors, Entrepreneurs, and other Creative Individuals Pursuing Their Dreams
Monday, October 27, 8:39 AM
Pretty much expecting it, I turned to the Shimmering Image and asked, “Are you going to ‘poof’ us now?” Before I got an answer, I added, “And, if so, is this a smoking or a non-smoking flight?”
This time the wavering patch of air really did chortle softly. “Yes, Matt, you do have a sense of humor, my son. Better yet, as it should appeal to you, it doesn’t matter if you smoke or not.”
“That’s good, ‘cause I wouldn’t want to —”
“— shit, you did it again!” I was standing next to my car before I could finish saying I wouldn’t want to be any trouble to him. On second thought, since he more than likely anticipated it and read my mind, as I was coming to expect, there was no need to bother telling him/it.
I looked my car over and didn’t see anything wrong, which took a load off my mind. Kadiak de Kodiak seemed undisturbed, so I wasn’t worried.
No, that’s not what I mean. I don’t expect to hear anything from a stuffed bear. However, since he hadn’t been knocked down or stolen, I assumed no one tried to steal anything.
For lack of anything else to do, I stood idly enjoying my cigarette, wondering when I’d get time to read my Union-Tribune newspaper. The Shimmering Image said he wasn’t human, but the way I was brought up you shouldn’t be rude to anyone but a cat. A cat would never know you were being rude. Cats are complete assholes from birth and never seem to change. Matter of fact, there was a study done on them a few years ago. It was determined, since cats act as if they’re better than anyone, pay no attention to problems they cause for others, have a disdainful attitude, and are totally self-interested, cats are, in reality, furry little ex-wives.
Whatever, and whoever, the Shimmering Image might be, he/it isn’t a cat, so it was time for the proper decorum on my part. “Okay, what’s next,” I inquired.
“You’ll have some friends passing by in a few minutes, Matt. Go ahead and enjoy your cigarette. We can wait. You need not worry about entertaining me. I always have things requiring my attention.”
“Makes sense,” I taunted quietly. “A guy who ‘knows everything’ probably has to spend a lot of time reading to keep himself current.”
“Oh? Is that what you think?” the image parried, obviously not fearful of a battle of wits with me.
I suddenly felt I’d just challenged the most famous gunslinger in the West to a gun battle with my stinkin’ little knife against his .45 six-shooter. “Well, don’t you have to do something to stay current? You don’t mean to say you just automatically know every new thing that appears, do you?”
“I wasn’t going to say it that way, Matt, but what you say is true. I told you, I know everything.”
“Oh, yeah? Alright, try this one. At what age did I lose my virginity?”
“October 31st, 1960, a Monday afternoon, at 3:16 PM, your age eleven, not quite two months before your twelfth birthday.”
Perhaps the “thud” was my jaw hitting the ground. “Um, yeah, that was it, alright. If you don’t mind, I’d prefer to keep her name out of it. That okay with you?”
“It speaks well of you, Matt, to know you don’t kiss and tell.” The chuckle wasn’t hidden this time.
“So, I guess you do know everything. How can that be?”
“Because nothing happens without my knowledge.”
This old crap was really wearing thin. “But you say you’re not God, right?”
“Did I ever say I was God, Matt?”
“I’m beginning to think you’re just an invisible attorney, damn it. You always seem to answer a
question with a question, don’t you?”
“Do I, Matt?”
“See! There you go again! Why don’t you —”
“Your friends are here,” he interrupted. “Be careful they don’t catch you ranting with no one around. They’ll conclude you’ve lost your mind.”
“My fr—” I looked over my right shoulder and saw them. What the Shimmering Image said was
true. These nice people were two of the
folks I’d met during my forced sojourn in the park.
I didn’t ever hear their surname. I just knew them as Jim and Jackie. He’s 84 years old. She was his “child bride”. She’s only 78 or 79. He wears a big straw cowboy hat. She always wears what looks like different colored sailor’s caps. They normally wear sporting clothes, polo shirts and slacks for Jim, as an example.
When I first met them, a little over two years ago, they would come to the park to walk Diesel, a huge black Great Dane who stood 41 inches at the shoulder. He was nearly as tall as the biggest dog I’d ever seen, an Irish Wolfhound who stood 42 inches. Sadly, their dog died of old age, (seven years and a few months), a year ago. They’re really nice people and I enjoy talking with them. Um, I mean, mostly with her.
One out of every ten words “they” speak, comes from Jim. Jackie happily steps up to handle the rest. Still, it’s always fun talking with them.
“Good afternoon,” she greeted me. Jim touched the brim of his hat and gave me a grin.
“Hey, nice seeing you again. How’ve you been?”
“Pretty fair, considering.” She drew it out, as usual.
“Oh?” That was all she needed to be cued to finish her part.
“Well, I’ve been okay, except for occasional flair-ups with my lupus, but it’s not too bad right now. Jim,” she added, “on the other hand, is a bit sore and creaky these days.”
“It’s not that bad,” he revised.
“Is so, you old coot,” she laughed, swatting the back of his arm with the tips of her fingers. “You limped around for three days, and you know it.”
“Maybe a couple,” he edited, giving ground.
“Gee, I hope you didn’t fall,” I questioned, serious in what I said because of his age.
“No, of course not,” he told me, still inclined to defend his manhood like any of us old farts.
“But he sure could have,” Jackie added. “That’s when we thought of you.”
“She thought of it,” Jim corrected, smiling. “I probably would’ve, sooner or later, but it was her idea.”
“What? You want me to fall down for you?”
They both laughed. “No,” she chortled, “we don’t think you’d fall because you have experience in things like this.”
“Okay, now you’ve really lost me,” I admitted. “I’ve had experience in a lot of things, but you wouldn’t know about any of it except what I mentioned, my insurance business.”
“No, we were thinking about your dog.”
“Oh.” That one caught me right between the eyes, so to speak. My last two dogs, from a total of 46 in my lifetime, were Irish Wolfhounds. One was a female I adopted when she was five who died a year later, the
other a male I got as a puppy. He died after six years, seven months and twenty-eight days, but who’s counting?
It blew me away for a solid three days when the girl died. I was treated for depression for a year after my boy passed on. In large part, his death and it’s affect on me are the reasons I became homeless.
I was so unable to focus all that time. My business dropped off to almost nothing. I couldn’t recover in time to avoid losing everything. Not long afterward I was living in my car. It’s nearly impossible to make your way back to civilization and live a normal life again when that happens. I doubted they knew that much about me, so I was puzzled. “How does that tie in with Jim being sore and achy?”
“Well, you see, we just lost a dear friend, Alva Van Der Groot.”
“Good fella, he was,” Jim offered in tribute.
“Yes, he was, and he had no family. Can you imagine that?” she asked me. “Over eighty years old, same as Jim, and he had no one there at the end. No wife, no children, not even brothers and sisters or cousins. No one.” She shook her head, obviously wondering how such a tragedy could occur.
“Not even a wife?” I inquired.
“She died,” Jim tersely advised.
“Six years ago,” Jackie added. “Al … that’s what everyone called him, just Al … spent the last few years alone.”
“Not quite,” Jim added cheerily.
“Right,” she agreed with a big smile. “Which is why we thought of you and came here to see if you were still around.”
“Okay, now I get it,” I chimed in. “You want me to keep Al company out there in the cemetery, right?” Hell, that made as much sense to me as anything else I could think of at the moment.
Jim began laughing quietly, but Jackie got even more serious. “Not hardly! You see, the reason he wasn’t totally alone was he had a dog.”
Okay, that made perfect sense, except for the fact I didn’t understand a damned thing she was trying to say. “So, you want me to take Al’s dog and let it live with me in my car?” I turned to my Trans Am, loaded with pillows, blankets, clothing, different things to eat, and all the sundry tools of daily living. “Uh, Jackie, I’m afraid I don’t have room for a dog. Hell, I couldn’t help you even if it was a parakeet.”
In a more serious vein, I added, “This may sound funny to you, although you folks had a Great Dane, so it should make some sense, but once you’ve had an Irish Wolfhound in your life, you’re kinda spoiled. You don’t want any other breed. I don’t have room for one of them, and I wouldn’t sentence even a mongrel to live the kind of life I have to lead these days.”
“Oh, we know that,” she explained, waving off my foolishness with a flit of her hand. “You see, Al’s dog was an Irish Wolfhound.” She turned right to face Jim. “When we tried bringing him here for a walk, it was nothing like when we brought Diesel.”
I remembered how their Dane, being older, walked slowly and made it easy for them to keep pace with him. Then I remembered my boy, always out to prove a Wolfhound is four-wheel drive. How he’d get “interested” in something. If you weren’t expecting it, you were dragged on the ground a few feet until he did the courtesy of stopping to let you get back up.
Funny as it might sound, the reaction I had almost made sense. Maybe it shows how pitiful a guy can become after almost four years living alone in a car. Four years without the most wonderful pet and friend I’d ever known. “You want me to walk the dog for you? Um, maybe daily? How many times per day?”
As I said it the thought occurred to me I probably couldn’t afford the gas to make too many trips, not on my terribly limited budget. I was just about to add something like needing at least five bucks a day for gas when they both began to chuckle.
Somewhat out of character, Jim took the lead. “Probably two or three times, plus feeding him, and he’ll need brushing and a bath once in a while.”
I can only imagine the confused look on my face, tempered by problems I wouldn’t be able to overcome. From what he’d said, I’d need to be there multiple times each day. I’d lose my “spot” here at the park, being gone so often. Gas would cost more than I could handle unless I managed to give up eating. It
would be even worse on the weekends when I normally wait from four to nine in a parking lot, then trundle out to the rest area for the night. In short, it wouldn’t work.
“Thanks for thinking of me,” I told them, feeling bad at coming so close only to lose again. “In my situation, I couldn’t do all that driving. You know, with the cost of gas and all.”
Jackie caught on and let it play out a bit more. “Well, it seems to me your cost for gas would go down, not up.”
“Huh? Jackie, all I have is Catholic school math, but how could my costs for gas possibly go down when I’d be doing more driving.”
A voice in my ear said in a near whisper, “You’re really going to like this part, Matt.”
It shocked me so much I flinched, half turning around to my left before I remembered I was the only one who could see or hear the Shimmering Image.
“Are you okay?” Jackie asked with concern. Jim looked at me a bit funny, evidently wondering what the hell was wrong with me.
“Oh, sure,” I lied, trying not to appear like an idiot. “A fly buzzed right next to my ear. It surprised me a bit.”
I heard the Shimmering Image tell me, “Tsk, tsk” at the same time I listened to Jim laugh and watched Jackie smile, happy to toy with me a moment.
“Well, the costs would go down because you’d be driving less. You see, what we have in mind is for you to live in Al’s house. That way, you can take care of the dog.”
Jim interjected, “Unless you don’t want to give up all this,” he teased with a soft chuckle.
“Live there? In that guy’s house?” I tried to grasp the idea, but I couldn’t make it seem real. “Why me?”
“Because you don’t have a place to live,” Jackie said more somberly. “We thought it would be a good idea.”
“Sort of killing two birds with one stone,” Jim added.
“Right,” she went on. “Al left the house to us. He had insurance, so the mortgage is paid off. Plus, with no other heirs, he also left us a little bit of money.”
“Not that much,” Jim countered. “A couple hundred grand, counting his CDs, an IRA, and some cash he had lying around.”
“We’ll pay the utilities,” she told me. “You have a cell phone, don’t you?”
“Sure, but —”
“But nothing,” she said with a trace of severity. “We feel bad every time we see you here, living like this.” She glanced at my car, then looked back at me. “This way, you can take care of the dog and have a place to live. Maybe,” she said in a lower tone of voice, “you could even find a way to, I don’t know, start your business back up.”
“How’s that sound to you?” Jim questioned, eyes focused directly on mine.
“Well, it sounds almost doable,” I confessed.
“Why ‘almost’?” Jackie queried.
“Well, for starters, I don’t know how to find the place,” I answered, getting in my own bit of teasing.
Jim asked me, “Think you could manage to follow us for a couple miles?”
“Maybe, if you don’t drive too fast.”
He winked at me. “I’ll try to go easy on you.”